OECD Conference Delays anti-Semitism Resolution Over Wording

Delegates from Great Britain, the Netherlands demand that xenophobia appear before anti-Semitism in resolution's text.

Amiram Barkat Agencies
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Amiram Barkat Agencies

A conference on racism sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Cordoba, Spain failed to approve a joint declaration condemning "racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia" Wednesday after some delegates demanded that xenophobia appear before anti-Semitism in the resolution's text.

Delegates from Great Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium demanded the change at the two-day conference, which opened Wednesday. No agreement was reached Wednesday, but a source close to the negotiations said the declaration would probably read in accordance with the demand of the delegates from the three countries.

Before the conference opened, the delegates from the three countries had demanded that the agenda not be limited to anti-Semitism, as the Spanish hosts had originally intended. The three argued that Islamophobia and xenophobia were more serious problems in present-day Europe than anti-Semitism. Subsequently, it was agreed that the first day of the conference would deal with anti-Semitism and the second day with other aspects of racism.

Last year's conference, and a prior one in Vienna, focused exclusively on anti-Semitism.

The U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, Stephan Minikes, said there is "still too much opposition" within the OSCE to dealing with anti-Semitism and treating it as a separate problem.

Most of the heads of Jewish organizations present left Cordoba shortly after addressing the conference. Israel was represented by Deputy Minister of Education, Culture and Sport Michael Melchior and the head of the Foreign Ministry's Diaspora and religions department, Nimrod Barkan.

Kicking off the meeting, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps gives the world an opportunity to renew its fight against all forms of anti-Semitism. "Unfortunately, far from having definitively vaccinated our societies, the experience and memory of the Holocaust have not been enough to eliminate attitudes and manifestations that clearly attack the dignity of Jews," Moratinos said.

Moratinos said that in Medieval times, the southern Spanish city of Cordoba was a flourishing place where adherents of Islam, Judaism and Christianity lived side-by-side in peace. "If in the past, it was possible to live together in harmony, we must not resign ourselves into thinking that it is impossible today, he said.

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