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Arab States Disavow Anti-Jewish Remarks

September 01, 2002|MICHAEL SLACKMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CAIRO — The 22-nation League of Arab States distanced itself through a spokesman Saturday from anti-Jewish comments made last week at a seminar whose participants called Jews "enemies of all nations" and challenged the Jewish claim to Israel as a homeland.

The conference on "Semitism" was sponsored by a think tank in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, affiliated with the Arab League, and although the league did not have a hand in organizing the event, it sent an official representative. That prompted sharp criticism from U.S. Jewish groups, which said the presence of a respected organization such as the Arab League gave credibility to the charges.

Details of the meeting, organized by the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up, were reported in Saturday's editions of The Times. Initially, the Arab League had declined to comment through the spokesman, who said that it would first be necessary for him to receive a report from the league's representative at the meeting.

"The Arab League does not believe that the Palestinian question or that the problem in the region is a problem between Jews and Arabs," league spokesman Hisham Youssef said Saturday after reading The Times' report. "This is categorically not the case. The question is a question between an occupier and people that are working on ending this occupation."

Youssef said that the league's reputation should in no way be sullied by statements made by others because the gathering was "an academic seminar." He said it was important for the league to participate to present its views, including an explanation that Arabs are Semites and therefore cannot properly be called anti-Semitic.

He also said that the Arab League recognizes Israel's right to exist within its pre-1967 borders.

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