Brazilian President Signs Petition Condemning anti-Semitism

SAO PAULO - President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed a petition condemning anti-Semitism and its resurgence and calling for the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution denouncing anti-Jewish acts.

The petition was signed Friday in Brazil's capital, Brasilia, during Silva's meeting with Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress.

The New York-based organization is campaigning to get world leaders to sign the petition and support a resolution condemning anti-Semitism at the upcoming General Assembly session which starts next month.

"It was the first time ever that a Brazilian president signed an official declaration condemning anti-Semitism," Rabbi Henry Sobel of Sao Paulo's Jewish Congregation said by telephone. Sobel was part of the 13-member delegation accompanying Singer.

For Singer, the meeting with the Brazilian president was "an historic victory in our ongoing global struggle against anti-Semitism," according to a statement issued by the organization in New York after the meeting with Silva.

"President Lula's [as Silva is often referred to] support on behalf of his country will no doubt have reverberations throughout the region and around the world," Singer's statement said.

At the first-ever UN seminar on combating anti-Semitism in June, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the 191 UN member states to follow the lead of the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and adopt a resolution condemning all anti-Semitic acts and attacks and declaring that political developments, in Israel or elsewhere, can never justify anti-Semitism.

A resolution condemning anti-Semitism was introduced at the General Assembly last year, but Ireland withdrew it because of Muslim and Arab opposition.

This year, there are "several nations vying for the opportunity to introduce the resolution," Pinchas Shapiro, Deputy Director of the World Jewish Congress, said on Friday in New York.

He said the World Jewish Congress was "cautiously optimistic that the resolution would be approved.

"There is still a lot of work to be done and we do not underestimate the opposition to this," Shapiro said. "It's important to the Jewish people, to us as an organization and, we are discovering, to democratic countries around the world."

Last week, Singer presented the petition to Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, who signed it in Buenos Aires, Sobel said. Next week Singer will take the declaration to Mexico where he is scheduled to meet President Vicente Fox.

With the support of Kirchner and Silva, Shapiro said, "we believe .... we will be able to approach Latin American and Caribbean countries and have them support this resolution as well."

Sobel said the visit was part of a worldwide campaign to "alert international public opinion of the worst resurgence of anti-Semitism since the Holocaust." He cited the recent increase in anti-Semitic attacks and vandalism in France, Germany, Argentina "and even in the United States."

"Anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem," Sobel said. "It is a world problem for it begins attacking Jews but quickly spreads to undermine the foundations of democracy."

The petition drafted by the World Jewish Congress' president, Edgar Bronfman, and signed by Kirchner and Silva states that anti-Semitism "is once again on the rise throughout the world. Jews are attacked in the street. Synagogues, schools and other Jewish institutions are desecrated, bombed and burned while anti-Semitic rhetoric flows freely from government officials, religious leaders and members of the media."