UN marks 40 years since voting 'Zionism is racism'

UN chief Ban Ki-moon will attend ceremony to mark anniversary of 'anti-Semitic' resolution famously torn up by Chaim Herzog.

Hillel Fendel ,

Chaim Herzog (file)
Chaim Herzog (file)

This week marks 40 years since the United Nations "resolved" that Zionism is a form of racism.

A commemorative ceremony with the participation of UN chief Ban Ki-moon is being held Wednesday, organized by the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN, the Yad Chaim Herzog Association, and the American Jewish Congress.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, family members of the late Chaim Herzog – Israel's ambassador to the UN when the resolution was passed – and other guests will also take part.

The anti-Israel vote was held in November 1975, a year after the PLO was first granted "observer status" in the UN General Assembly.

"A great evil has been loosed upon the world," said then-US Ambassador to the UN Daniel Moynihan in his speech during the debate in 1975. "The United States of America declares that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act."

"The abomination of anti-Semitism has been given the appearance of international sanction," Moynihan said. "The General Assembly today grants symbolic amnesty, and more, to the murderers of the six million European Jews. Evil enough in itself, but more ominous by far is the realization that now presses upon us: the realization that if there were no General Assembly, this could never have happened."

Despite this, 72 nations voted that Zionism is a form of racism, while 32 abstained; only 35 voted against. The sponsors of the bill numbered 25 countries, mainly Arab and Muslim, and the Soviet-bloc countries voted in favor; other supporters included Brazil, India and Mexico.

The resolution was rescinded 16 years later, at the behest of US President George H.W. Bush. Israel had made the retraction a condition for its consent to have a UN observer participate in the Madrid Peace Conference. Even then, 25 nations voted against retraction and 13 abstained; 111 voted in favor.

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said this week, "Forty years ago, a dark chapter was written in the UN’s history, and despite the retraction of the resolution, the hypocrisy and delegitimization against Israel still echo in the halls of this organization."

Danon's predecessor during the "Zionism is Racism" debate and vote, Chaim Herzog – later the sixth President of Israel – tore up the UN resolution on the General Assembly podium.

In what was "one of the most influential speeches in history," according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Herzog said, "For us, the Jewish people, this is but a passing episode in a rich and an event-filled history... [This] is no more than a piece of paper, and we shall treat it as such."

In a form of historic justice, Herzog was Israel's President in 1991 when the UN revoked the original resolution.

Herzog – son of Israel's first Chief Rabbi and father of the present-day leader of the Labor Party - said then that in addition to slandering Zionism and harming both Israel and the Jewish people, "the Resolution proved to be even more damaging to the United Nations itself, hypocritical and untruthful as its action was, and no less injurious to the countries which voted for it in craven submission to falsehood and deceptive propaganda."

He thanked the US, Costa Rica, and other countries that stood fast against the original anti-Semitic resolution.