In a final declaration ending the two-day conference, a 55-nation group of European, North American, and Central Asian countries unanimously condemned "all attacks motivated by anti-Semitism or by any other forms or religious or racial hatred or intolerance, including attacks against synagogues and other religious places, sites and shrines."
The conference, sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), declared "unambiguously that international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism."
But that was as close as the delegates came to meeting demands by some Jewish non-governmental organizations to equate criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism.
Transforming goals into reality
Bulgarian Foreign Minister and current OSCE Chairman-in-office Solomon Passy spoke of a "historic conference" that set important goals. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (photo) appealed to all present to work hard on turning those goals into reality. The goals include a commitment to teach children about combating anti-Semitism, and to promote remembrance of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis. Governments also pledged to collect and submit reliable information about anti-Semitic and other hate crimes.
The location of the conference in Berlin, where the Nazis planned the extermination of Europe's Jews, gave rise to several impassioned speeches, both from Holocaust survivors and German politicians.
Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and survivor of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, said it was symbolic that a conference aimed at ending anti-Semitism was being held in Berlin. But he also spoke of his alarm that anti-Semitism continues to thrive across the continent.
A recent EU report said anti-Semitic incidents increased in five EU nations in 2002-2003. The sharpest rise was in France, where the escalation of the Middle East conflict is seen as fuelling an upsurge of anti-Jewish attacks by extremist Muslim groups.
Germans have "special responsibility"
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said that because the Holocaust had been planned in Germany, Germans have a special responsibility to combat anti-Semitism. He also called for an "open dialogue that would create ties between people of different cultures and religions."
In that context, Schröder said that he hopes for a peaceful and just solution to the Middle East crisis. Germany, he said, would continue to be one of the parties mediating in the conflict. The chancellor added that while criticism of the Israeli government should not automatically be equated with anti-Semitism, there has to be a clear boundary between having a rational argument about Israeli politics, and unacceptable hatred against Israel and Jewish people.