July 17, 2001


Berlin -- Officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center met today with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to discuss growing concerns that next month's UN conference in Durban on racism and xenophobia may be hijacked to deligitimize the state of Israel and marginalize antisemitism and the memory of the Holocaust.

During the one-hour discussion, Foreign Minister Fischer said that Germany rejects any attempt to label Israel as a racist state, adding that "anti-Zionism inevitably leads to antisemitism." The Minister went on to say that he would continue to speak out against Arab anti-Jewish rhetoric as he did last month during Syrian president Bashar Asad's state visit to Berlin.

Addressing the Middle East conflict, the Foreign Minister said that he understood Israeli objections to a Palestinian right of return, noting that if this concept were applied to post-World War II Europe, "it would destabilize the entire continent."

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Center's Associate Dean, and Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Liaison, participated in the meeting with Minister Fischer.

The Wiesenthal Center, an NGO to the United Nations, is the only Jewish organization elected to the international coordinating committee for the upcoming Durban forum. It has consulted on this issue with senior officials in Washington, Paris, Ottawa and Jerusalem. For more information, contact the Centers Public Relations Department at (310) 553-9036.