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Mideast Debate Continues at Racism Conference - 2001-09-03

The showdown continues between Arab and Israeli delegations at the World Conference Against Racism. The head of the Israeli delegation says a group of Arab nations has "hijacked" the World Conference Against Racism.

Mordechai Yedid says the conference declaration contains fundamentally anti-Semitic language, even though the formal equation of Zionism with racism has been removed. "To criticize policies of the government of Israel - or of any country - is legitimate, even vital; indeed as a democratic state, many Israelis do just that," he said. "But there is profound difference between criticizing a country and denying its right to exist. Anti-Zionism, the denial of Jews the basic right to a home, is nothing but anti-Semitism, pure and simple." Mr. Yedid says many of the nations that have been attacking Israel have horrible human rights records of their own.

Just a few hours after he spoke, the head of the delegation from Yemen took the podium to renew calls for condemnation of Israel. Yemeni Foreign Minister Ali Al-Anisi called upon the world to put an end to what he called Israeli discrimination not just against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, but against its own Arab-Israeli citizens. He said, "Such practices oblige us to call upon the conference to condemn these racial acts in a clear way, and for the conference also to equate Zionism with racism." Mr. Al-Anisi said the international community has a duty to protect the Palestinian people.