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Britain's Chief Rabbi Warns of Rising Anti-Semitism in Europe - 2001-08-31

As the United Nations conference on racism opens in South Africa, Britain's chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks is warning that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe.

Chief Rabbi Sacks has laid out his views on anti-Semitism in an interview with the British newspaper the Independent.

He says anti-Semitism is flourishing in Austria, France and Russia, and he says he wonders if the world has learned anything from what he calls the "tragic" history of the 20th century.

A spokesman for the rabbi, Jeremy Newmark, says Britain is more tolerant of its Jews than some other European countries. "In the UK (United Kingdom) as of yet we have not seen the scenario that has happened in places like France, Austria and elsewhere, whereby politicians espousing racist, fascist and in some cases neo-Nazi ideas have been elected to parliamentary office in their respective countries," he says. "That hasn't happened in the United Kingdom as of yet."

Rabbi Sacks is boycotting the U.N. racism conference, where he had been invited to join a panel of distinguished world figures.

Mr. Newmark says the conference's position on Israel and the Holocaust offended Rabbi Sacks. "It was clearly not appropriate for the Chief Rabbi to be affording moral credibility to a process that has produced a draft that denigrates the Holocaust, [and] highlights and spotlights the state of Israel as some kind of renegade, rogue nation supposedly perpetrating an ideology of racial superiority," he says.

Mr. Newmark says the Jewish community hopes Britain, the United States and the European Union can have some last-minute influence on the U.N. conference.

He says it is not too late for the U.N. to achieve what he calls "the noble ideal" of setting a world agenda for the fight against racism.