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On the 37th anniversary of the Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), the UN General Assembly declared that Zionism is racism and a form of racial discrimination (Z=R) when it adopted Resolution 3379. The resolution, which passed on November 10, 1975, was part of an organized global campaign by the Soviets and the Arab states to delegitimize the State of Israel, after an abortive attempt to expel her from the UN.

On the same day, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3376, creating 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 diplomatic relations with Israel, and some had never acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. [1]

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, placed anti-Israel hostility in perspective: “What I saw at the Security Council reminded me of what it felt like to be bullied when I was a kid.,,"
The Z=R resolution attracted worldwide attention to Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination.” guaranteeing Israel would be viewed as a racist state the international community would have to confront. Although the resolution was abrogated in 1991, depriving it of legal status, the hostility it generated toward Israel in most UN member nations, and in the UN’s own institutions continues unabated. [2].

No Longer Just a Common Reprobate

Israel was “no longer among the ordinary evil-doers of this world, all of whom at one time or another attack and harm civilian populations, oppress minorities, and institute exclusive immigration laws and monopolistic religious laws.” wrote Ehud Sprinzak, a Hebrew University political science professor. Israel’s crimes were committed “as part of an entire ideological system” and therefore every Israeli government action was racist and “antihumanistic.”

Israel had gone from being a legitimate national liberation movement to one that opposed the rightful aspirations of other nations and peoples. The UN General Assembly provided the stage and a guilt free path, assuming one was needed, for antisemites and antisemitism at the UN [3]

Even more insidious, the resolution went to the heart of Israel’s right to exist, opined Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine. Israel was denounced not only “as an illegitimate entity,” but, “the very idea of a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East (Zionism), let alone the actuality of one, no matter what its boundaries might be, was by definition declared criminal (racist)…. Israel could only cease to be criminal if it ceased to be both Jewish and sovereign—if, in other words, it ceased to exist. Returning to the boundaries of 1967 or even the boundaries of 1948 would make not the slightest difference. For the resolution did not concern boundaries or occupied territories; it concerned the right of a sovereign Jewish state of any size or shape to exist in the Middle East.” [4]

For Yohanan Manor, director of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, anti-Zionism “is more a slogan than an ideology.” Anti-Zionism, anti-Israel and anti-U.S. slogans are the one of the few types of glue that somehow holds together the heterogeneous coalition against globalism.” [5]

The UN General Assembly deliberately branded Israel as illegitimate on the same day it recognized the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
What Z=R effectively did was question the entire basis of the creation of the Israeli State. How can Israel be absolutely legitimate if she came into being in an illegitimate manner? Recognizing Israel as a legitimate entity means that there is “justice in Zionism.” By forcing Jews to reject Zionism as “Jewish nationalism,” the Arabs could deprive the Jews of their national status, leaving them only with a religious identity that gave them no rights to a state of their own, according them inferior status as a people. The ultimate conclusion, accordingly, would be to accept antisemitism on an international basis. [6]

A racist state has “no rights at all, not even the right to defend itself.” observed an ironic Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick, U.S. ambassador to the UN After 3379 was passed, Israel became “fair game for armed ‘liberation.’” The UN General Assembly deliberately branded Israel as illegitimate on the same day it recognized the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). [7]

Sharp Change in Rhetoric

Z=R stood in sharp contrast to the rhetoric heard at the UN in 1947 and 1948, when the future of Palestine was being considered. The theme of self-determination and the need to resolve the question of the future of the Jewish people and “perhaps even their national survival.” was discussed by a number of UN delegations. Typical were comments like those of the Chinese and Czech diplomats:

From Mr. Quo Tai-Chi of China: “The tragedy of the Jewish people, truly a great historic tragedy, cannot but rouse the spontaneous sympathy of the peoples of the entire world. The Jewish people deserves a national home of some sort, deserves a place it can call its own, in which it can live in happiness, free from social and political discrimination and free from the eternal fear of persecution.” [8]

Dr. Jan Papanek, the Czechoslovakian delegate, reminded the council that the British had promised a national home to the Jews 25 years earlier. The Jewish people were now looking to the UN for help in realizing this goal. Sympathy for their plight was not sufficient. Action was needed. “The darkness that has engulfed the Jews for so long can only be dispelled by any ray of light we rekindle here for them.”[9]

Antisemitic Speech Assumed an Institutional Character

After Z=R was passed, antisemitic rhetoric in the UN assumed an institutional character, first under Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, and then successively, under Javier de Perez de Cuellar and Boutros Boutros–Ghali. Numerous annual anti-Israel resolutions and antisemitic outbursts made Israel the object of enmity to the UN majority. Israel was chastised for policies of “hegemonism” and “racism;” for being a “non-peace-loving country” and an “affront to humanity.”

General Assembly resolutions called for military, economic and diplomatic sanctions that would have left the country vulnerable militarily, economically and politically. A review of UN General Assembly documents, UN media coverage, and diplomatic activities show how annual and special UN conferences became venues for anti-Israel excess. Though the resolution has been rescinded, the antisemitism it unleashed remains rampant. [10]

Abba Eban, Israel’s first permanent representative to the UN, who negotiated her entry into the UN 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.”[11]

The UN’s inability to decide whether to be moral or practical, was labeled by Abba Eban as a “malaise,” which he ascribed to the UN’s failure to decide what it “wants to be,” and for not examining “its central purpose or its predominant technique.” Is the UN “an instrument for solving conflicts or an arena for waging them?”

Eban believed the UN had “fallen between the diplomatic principle and the parliamentary principle,” and the two “cannot be reconciled. The diplomatic principle tells my adversary that he must seek agreement with me. The parliamentary principle tells him that he does not need agreement at all, he can mobilize votes for my defeat and humiliation. Defeat, victory, majority and minority, have no place within the diplomatic principle, they are quite legitimate within the parliamentary principle.”

The parliamentary principle is not useful in the UN “where passions can rage without fear of consequence….” Anyone who exhibits irresponsible behavior or votes recklessly in a national parliament is held accountable for his actions since it affects his country’s well- being. In the UN there is no such restraint or inhibition. [12]

A Bunch of Bullies

In discussing the UN’s anti-Israel bias, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, placed this hostility in perspective: “What I saw at the Security Council reminded me of what it felt like to be bullied when I was a kid. I have no patience for bullies. They were kicking Israel just because—without facts. For me, it was disgusting… So I started talking about other issues going on in the Middle East, and then eventually Israel-bashing changed. Ambassadors got embarrassed after getting called out. Over time, it started to stop, but I think we have a long way to go.”

She found that “If you actually go into the quiet corners of the UN, most countries don’t hate Israel, most envy Israel.” [13]

Dr. Alex Grobman is a historian and author of The Palestinian Right To Israel. He co-authored Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened And Why Do They Say It? .A Hebrew University-trained historian, he is senior resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East


[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] Yohanan Manor, To Right A Wrong: The Revocation of the UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 Defaming Zionism (New York: Shengold Publishers, Inc., 1996), 4, 8-9.; see also Gil Troy, Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 6, 20-21, 63-64; 122-123;Thomas A. Idinopulos, “The Zionism and Racism Controversy: Historical Perspective on the Issues,” The Christian Century (January 28, 1976): 68-72; David Harsanyi, “The United Nation’s War Against Israel,” Capitalism Magazine (May 27, 2002).

[3] Ehud Sprinzak, “Anti-Zionism: From Delegitimation to Dehumanization,” Forum-53 (Fall 1984): 5-7; see also John R. Bolton, “Zionism Is Not Racism,” The New York Times (December 16, 1991); Moynihan, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, A Dangerous Place (New York: Berkley Books, 1980), 169, 173-175; “Dear Ambassadors,” NYT (November 10, 1975):27; advertisement of the Zionist Organization of America, “Zionist answer to the Racists in the UN,” The New York Times (November 2, 1975) Week in Review: 6.

[4] Norman Podhoretz, “The Abandonment of Israel," Commentary, (July, 1976): 23.

[5] Communication with Yohanan Manor (May 23, 2005).

[6] Yehoshafat Harkabi, “Arab Positions on Zionism,” in Zionism and the Arabs ed. Shmuel Almog (Jerusalem: The Historical Society of Israel and the Zalman Shazar Center 1983), 189-191.

[7] Kirkpatrick, “The U.N.’s Day of Infamy,” op.cit. A23; Schoenberg, op. cit. 108-125.

[8] Jacob Robinson, Palestine and the United Nations: Prelude to Solution (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1947), 236, 241.

[9] Ibid. 241.

[10] Avi Beker, The United Nations and Israel: From Recognition to Reprehension (Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books, 1988), 3, 5, 94.

[11] Abba Eban, “Israel, Anti-Semitism and the United Nations,” The Jerusalem Quarterly (Fall 1976): 110, 118.

[12] Ibid. 116-117.

[13] Nikki Haley interviewed by Hillel Neuer https://unwatch.org/nikki-haley-interviewed-by-un-watchs-hillel-neuer (April 19, 2019).