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US Dedicated to Combating Anti-Semitism, says Ashcroft - 2003-11-07

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says the United States is dedicated to combating anti-semitism, as well as discrimination against people perceived to be of Middle Eastern descent. Mr. Ashcroft addressed the the annual conference of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League.

Mr. Ashcroft says the Bush administration is serious about confronting anti-Semitism. He says one example is President Bush's condemnation last month of former Malaysian President Mahathir Mohamad's remarks at a meeting of Asian leaders, charging that "Jews rule the world by proxy."

"This administration believes that acts of anti-Semitism must be confronted, condemned and denounced," he said. "After touring Auschwitz, President Bush stated unequivocally, and I am quoting, 'when we find anti-Semitism, be it in Europe or anywhere else, mankind must come together to fight such dark impulses.'"

The attorney general made his remarks to the annual meeting of the Anti-Defamation League, which was founded 90 years ago, to expose worldwide anti-Semitism and combat hate crimes and discrimination in the United States.

In its annual report, released late last month, the ADL said anti-Semitism is on the rise in Arab and Muslim nations. The group cited a controversial new Arab television series based on the notorious anti-semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, along with scores of cartoons printed in the Arab press, as examples of stereotypical depiction of Jews controlling the world.

Many of the illustrations show negative images of Jews and Israelis as snakes and Nazis, and promote stereotypes that first emerged in Medieval Europe.

Mr. Ashcroft says respect for the civil rights of all ethnic and religious groups is a fundamental American value.

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, Mr. Ashrcoft says, the U.S. government has investigated more than 500 incidents of violence or threats against people perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.

"The justice department has assisted in 120 prosecutions, and we have brought charges against 18 individuals, and, so far, our conviction rate has been 100 percent in seeking to protect the integrity of all individuals, those who might be discriminated against in the aftermath of September 11," said John Ashcroft.

Mr. Ashcroft defended the USA Patriot Act, which expands government's powers of surveillance and detention. Critics say it threatens civil rights. But the attorney general says it has been a successful tool in the war against terrorism.

He said the United States has charged 286 people with terrorism-related offenses, and has secured more than 150 convictions or guilty pleas.