German president announces conference to focus on anti-Semitism

Jerusalem Post (Israel), June 22, 2003

Berlin is to host a conference on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and the means to quell it, German President Johannes Rau announced here Sunday.

Rau, at the conclusion of a luncheon meeting with President Moshe Katsav at Beit Hanassi, told reporters that Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had reported to him on Israel’s concerns about anti-Semitism and the need for action.

The upshot is an international conference next year under the patronage of Rau, who invited Katsav to join him and who hopes not to limit the patronage to the two. It is important that a major international body should also be the patron of such a conference, said Rau who came here from Jordan, where he attended the World Economic Forum.

His principal reason was to open an Ashdod exhibition of “Persecuted Art in Europe in the 20th Century.” The paintings belonged to Jacob Bar-Gera, a friend of Rau’s who died in January, and his wife Kenda, the curator of the exhibition. The Bar-Geras moved from Israel to Cologne some 30 years ago.

Reporters asked Rau whether there is a comparison between Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and the way Jews were treated during the Holocaust.

Rau said that he found any comparison with the Holocaust “unacceptable.”

As for the peace process, Rau is in favor of the road map, which he said represents a solution for both sides.

Germany is interested in working with the US to advance the road map and to bring peace and security to the region, he said.

Katsav told Rau that Germany and the EU can do more to advance peace by giving the Palestinian Authority an ultimatum that all political support will be withdrawn unless the violence is halted.

When asked whether Germany has made the distinction between classic anti-Semitism and the current surge of anti-Semitism that is more in the nature of anti-Zionism, Rau said that Germany is exploring numerous initiatives to rid itself of both anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.

His calendar, he said, is full of appointments with representatives of organizations and institutions that are fighting these evils. The majority of Germans, he said, are neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel, but he conceded that not all Germans have learned the lesson of the past.

Before leaving Jerusalem for Ashdod, Rau went to the site of the bombing of the No. 14 bus, where he laid a wreath in memory of the victims.

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