Justice Richard Goldstone’s U.N. report charging Israel of “deliberate attacks” against civilians in last January’s defensive war against Hamas, is just the latest assault to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state and her right to defend herself.
That the U.N. continues to play a central in this effort is not surprising. After failing to defeat Israel on the field of battle, the Arabs chose to employ the U.N. to wage a political war against the Jews.
On November 10, 1975, the 37th anniversary of the Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), the U.N. General Assembly declared that Zionism is Racism and racial discrimination (Z=R) by passing Resolution 3379. The passage was part of an orchestrated worldwide campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel, after her enemies failed to expel her from the U.N.
On the same day the U.N. declared Z=R, the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 3376, establishing an Assembly Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Sixteen of the original 20 members on the Assembly committee did not have relations with Israel, and some had never acknowledged Israel’s right to exist.1
The Z=R resolution initiated a new strain of international antisemitism. Although the resolution was abrogated in 1991, depriving it of legal status, the hostility against Israel it generated in most U.N. member nations-and in the U.N.’s own institutions-continues unabated.
Implications of the Resolution
“In the U.N., words take on a life of their own,” noted John R. Bolton, then Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, “To declare as ‘racist’ the historical and cultural underpinnings of a state is tantamount to branding that state an international criminal, for racism is a crime enumerated in the Genocide Convention and numerous other instruments commonly accepted under international law.’’2
Abba Eban, Israel’s first permanent representative to the U.N. was the man who negotiated her entry into the U.N. and was later Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, believed that this was the first time in history that an international body directed its criticism against ideas and articles of faith venerated by one of its member states-and not against its policies. The U.N. had never endorsed or denounced an “-ism” before. Even at the height of the Cold War, the United States never sponsored a resolution condemning communism, socialism, or any other “-ism.” 3
A racist state has “no rights at all, not even the right to defend itself.” observed Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. After 3379 was passed, Israel became “fair game for armed ‘liberation.’” The U.N. General Assembly deliberately branded Israel as illegitimate on the same day it recognized the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).4
Antisemitic rhetoric in the U.N. was no longer taboo. Diplomatic representatives were free to use antisemitic stereotypes in their speeches, reflecting classical Christian antisemitism in their political attacks against Israel.5
Demonizing Israel has turned it into a physical target for terrorist organizations, and into apolitical target for left wing and reactionary forces. Whether there are fatwa’s (legal rulings by Muslim clerics issued to legitimize suicide terrorism) or there are organizations demanding divestment from Israeli corporations, destruction of Israel-physical, spiritual or economic-is one of the mantras of the day. This is political antisemitism.6
For the majority of the members in the U.N., Israel is a locus of evil deserving of international condemnation-unlike many countries in the U.N. who practice ethnic cleansing, offer no rights to women or the poor, starve their own people for political reasons, and commit genocide.
These same nations, in the halls of an institution that was designed to prevent exactly this from happening, deny Israel her rights even in the courts of international law. Israel is the target of the majority of U.N. sanctions, is vilified by The Hague for defending herself and is singled out by the Geneva Convention as the utmost violator of human rights.7
Political science professor Ehud Sprinzak suggests this deliberate delegitimization leads to gradual erosion of Israel’s stature and ultimately her right to exist. Those targeted are the last to recognize the transformation until the consequences of ostracism become evident. This occurs when remarks by the country’s spokesman are “perceived as irrelevant,” and when the leadership is no longer regarded as worthy of engaging in legitimate discourse with other countries.8
Branding Israel as racist, portrays her as a country that harms civilian populations, oppresses minorities, establishes restrictive immigration laws and religious statutes as part of their ideological raison d’être. Thus, Israel’s wars, its military response to terror and laws passed by the Knesset are racist. A significant danger to Israel is that if this charge becomes a new stereotype through popular culture, the media, literature and daily speech, it will taint the Jewish state and become a part of the legacy of the West.9
No logical argument ever succeeded in disputing the blood libels or any other spurious allegation leveled against the Jews. Limited response to Z=R ensured that anti-Zionist resolutions continued to be passed. To counter the process of delegitimization, the charges have to be seen as a “corruption of language and thought,” a threat to freedom, and a campaign of disinformation orchestrated by the Arabs and their collaboraters.10
1. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, “The U.N.’s Day of Infamy,” The Washington Post (November 11, 1985): A23; Harris O. Schoenberg, A Mandate For Terror:The United Nations and the PLO (New York: Shapolsky Publishers, Inc., 1989), 108-125.
2. John R. Bolton, “Zionism Is Not Racism,” NYT (December 16, 1991).
3. Abba Eban, “Israel, Anti-Semitism and the United Nations,” The Jerusalem Quarterly (Fall 1976): 110, 118.
4. Kirkpatrick, “The U.N.’s Day of Infamy,” The Washington Post (November 11, 1985), A23; Schoenberg, op. cit., 108-125.
5. Avi Beker, The United Nations and Israel: From Recognition to Reprehension (Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books, 1988), 3, 5, 94.
6. Irwin Cotler. “Why is Israel singled out,” The Jerusalem Post (January 16, 2002); Irwin Cotler, “Human Rights And The New Anti-Jewishness,” The Jerusalem Post, (February 5, 2004); Irwin Cotler.” Durban’s Troubling Legacy One Year Later: Twisting the Cause of International Human Rights Against the Jewish People.” Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs Volume 2, No. 5 (August 20, 2002).
8. Ehud Sprinzak, “Anti-Zionism: From Delegitimation to Dehumanization.” Forum-53 (Fall 1984): 3-5.
9. Ibid 7-8.