Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 10th, a Day of Infamy at the UN: Zionism is Racism

More than a week ago -- November 10 -- was the anniversary of the lowest point in Israel's experience in the United Nations: In 1975, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 "determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination." The resolution was revoked in 1991 by UN General Assembly Resolution 4686.

The story of this diplomatic battle began with an Arab effort to have Israel expelled from the UN. This initiative was blocked by African states who refused to even consider suspending Israel and by the United States, who threatened to reexamine her participation in the UN (or in other words – stop funding the UN). The new strategy adopted by the Arab countries (with the assistance of the USSR and the Eastern bloc) was to vilify Zionism. They chose the UN's Third Committee on Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian (SOCHUM) affairs. During the discussions of "A decade for action to combat racism and racial discrimination," Somalia proffered 7 amendments. According to these amendments, Zionism was a form of racism, and therefore moral and material assistance to national liberation movements fighting Zionism and to victims of Zionism is mandated, as is investigation into Zionism's (so-called) colonial roots.

The struggle against this proposal was led by Israel's ambassador to the UN, Chaim Herzog (later the 6th President of Israel) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the United States's ambassador to the UN. Both understood that they could not block the vote altogether, due to the automatic majority of Arab and Islamic states (together with the Eastern Bloc), but they could prevent the vote on the amendments. After heated discussions, the committee voted on a new draft forwarded by Somalia on October 15, 1975, which passed 75 to 22, with 26 abstentions, and which included the amendments.

The struggle moved to the General Assembly, and after long, heated discussions full of threats, pressures and maneuvers of all kinds, the vote equating Zionism with racism was successful on November 10 -- 72 against 35, with 32 abstentions and 2 missing. Ironically, the vote was taken on the 37th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

During the debate in the General Assembly, Chaim Herzog gave an historic speech in which he defended Zionism and tore up the official paper of the UN decision. We published the text of the speech in the Hebrew language version of this blog on Herzog's 95th birthday.

Here are some interesting documents (in Hebrew) relating to the affair:

  1. In a general circular dated October 3, 1975, the General Manager of the Foreign Ministry delivers an assessment that the real motive behind the vote in the UN is an effort by Syria and Libya (with the backing of the USSR) to derail the negotiation on an interim agreement between Israel and Egypt (signed on September 1, 1975). (file HZ 5809/1)
  2. Ambassador Herzog is requested not to leave the General Assembly while President Sadat is speaking. Herzog is advised not to respond sharply, but rather in a measured tone if Sadat chooses to deliver a sharp attack on Israel. All this is part of the efforts to promote the process of the Interim Agreement. (file HZ 6813/3)
  3. Herzog offers to highlight speeches of Foreign Minister Yigal Allon and of Defense Minister Shimon Peres on 'Home Rule' for Palestinians, as a positive note during the discussions in the UN. (Also included is a response of David Ramin, an old UN hand in the Foreign Ministry, claiming that 'Home Rule' reeks of colonialism and publishing these ideas will kill the efforts of creating some form of self-rule in the west Bank). (file HZ 6813/3)
  4. A speech by Herzog in which he promises that Israel and the Jewish people will not forget who stood on their side and who did not.

1 comment:

  1. For more on US reactions to UN Resolution 3379, see Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism by Prof. Gil Troy (Oxford University Press, Dec.3, 2012). More at