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Monday, May 22, 2006

Israel to boycott conference on Racism, Xenophobia and the Media

The Jerusalem Post is reporting this evening that Israel will boycott a European Union-sponsored conference on "Racism, Xenophobia and the Media" being held Monday in Vienna because the issue of anti-Semitism is not on the agenda.

The conference was organized by the Austrian Foreign Ministry, the European Commission and the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia.

Israel's ambassador to Austria Dan Ashbel and representatives from the other states in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership - the 25 EU members plus 10 countries around the Mediterranean basin - had been invited to attend.

Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, or Barcelona Process, is a framework for political, economic and social relations between the EU and Southern Mediterranean countries. Generally, Israel takes part in the forum's meetings alongside Syria, Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the original description of the conference received in March said that the two-day seminar would deal with racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

However all references to anti-Semitism were removed from an updated description that the Foreign Ministry received on May 11, while a report on Islamophobia in the press was still on the agenda. The Foreign Ministry attributed this change to pressures from Arab countries.

Furthermore, Israeli officials claimed that while representatives of the Arab press had been invited to take part in the conference's panel discussions, no such invitation was extended to Israeli or Jewish journalists. A European official disputed this claim.


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