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Israel Concerned About Human Rights Discrimination - 2002-03-20

An Israeli official is complaining that his country is being discriminated against at the annual session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. But he also said Israel intends to pursue efforts to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior has accused the U.N. Human Rights Commission of "institutionalized discrimination." He said Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories are being examined in a special session of the commission. He said no other country at the meeting is being treated this way.

He also says actions by the Palestinians are not taken into account, because under the U.N. system only human rights records of states are examined.

The deputy foreign minister spoke after a report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Israel and the Palestinian Territories singled out Israel's military occupation as the source of the continued violence.

But Rabbi Melchior said despite its concern that Israel is being discriminated against, it will do its best to ensure the session succeeds.

He also announced Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders are meeting Thursday in Jerusalem to follow up on talks that took place in Alexandria, Egypt earlier this year. The leaders are discussing how their faiths must confront terrorism and lead their people back to the road to peace.

"If we do not also create a religious legitimacy for peace, for accepting the other, if we do not create that, we will solve nothing," Rabbi Melchior says.

Rabbi Melchior says if religious leaders can go back to their congregations with the message of peace and the need to rebuild trust, then peace will have a stronger foundation.

The deputy foreign minister also says Israel is looking positively at a Saudi peace initiative, but is waiting for the upcoming Arab summit in Beirut to see what form it finally takes shape.

The plan calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from all Arab land occupied in the 1967 Mideast war in return for normalization of Arab ties with Israel.