US and Israel rewrite history of UN resolution that declared Zionism is racism

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“Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination,” reads UN General Assembly Resolution 3379. The measure was adopted 40 years ago, on Nov. 10, 1975, and the majority of the international community backed it. 72 countries voted for the resolution, with just 35 opposed (and 32 abstentions).

Although little-known in the US today (it is remarkable how effectively the US and its allies have rewritten history in their favor), UN GA Res. 3379, titled “Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination,” made an indelible imprint on history.

The geographic distribution of the vote was telling. The countries that voted against the resolution were primarily colonial powers and/or their allies. The countries that voted for it were overwhelmingly formerly colonized and anti-imperialist nations.

Map of the votes on UN GA Res. 3379 (CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons)
Map of the votes on UN GA Res. 3379 (CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons)

The resolution also cited two other little-known measures passed by international organizations in the same year:

  • the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity’s resolution 77, which ruled “that the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure”; and
  • the Political Declaration and Strategy to Strengthen International Peace and Security and to Intensify Solidarity and Mutual Assistance among Non-Aligned Countries, which called Zionism a “racist and imperialist ideology.”

When the resolution was passed, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Chaim Herzog — who later became Israel’s sixth president, and the father of Isaac Herzog, the head of Israel’s opposition — famously tore up the text at the podium.

Herzog claimed the measure was “based on hatred, falsehood, and arrogance,” insisting it was “devoid of any moral or legal value.” Still today, supporters of Israel argue UN GA Res. 3379 was an anomalous product of anti-Semitism. In reality, however, the resolution was the result of international condemnation of the illegal military occupation to which Palestinians had been subjected since 1967 and the apartheid-like conditions the indigenous Arab population had lived under as second-class citizens of an ethnocratic state since 1948.

In 1991, resolution 3379 was repealed for two primary reasons: One, the Soviet bloc, which helped pass the resolution, had collapsed; and two, Israel and the US demanded that it be revoked or they refused to participate in the Madrid Peace Conference.

At the UN on Nov. 11, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and Secretary of State John Kerry eulogized the late Herzog and forcefully condemned the resolution on its 40th anniversary.

In his 2,500-word statement, Kerry mentioned Palestinians just once, and only then as an extension of Israelis. In her remarks, Power did not mention Palestinians at all.

The “right” kind of “national liberation movement”

In his speech, Kerry smeared resolution 3379 as “anti-Semitic” and “absurd.” Kerry called it “a bitter irony that this resolution against Zionism was originally a resolution against racism and colonialism” and lamented that “reasonableness was detoured by a willful ignorance of history and truth.”

Sec. Kerry insisted “we will do all in our power to prevent the hijacking of this great forum for malicious intent” — a fascinating claim, considering how incredibly often the US itself hijacks the UN against the will of the international community, in the interests of both itself and Israel.

Kerry warned about “the global reality of anti-Semitism today” (he made no mention whatsoever of the global reality of rampant, rapidly accelerating, and viciously violent anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and anti-Black racism), and implied that the “terrorist bigots of Daesh [ISIS], Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, and so many others” are part of this larger anti-Semitic trend. One could argue Sec. Kerry downplayed the severity of the present political situation by characterizing these fascistic groups’ violent extremism as rooted in anti-Semitic bigotry, rather than in radicalization under conditions of intense oppression, bitter poverty, and brutal tyranny.

The US secretary of state extolled “Zionism as the expression of a national liberation movement.” The national liberation movements of Vietnam, Korea, China, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, Congo, South Africa, Burkina Faso, and so many more nations, however, did not get such approval from Washington; au contraire, they were mercilessly crushed under the iron fist of American empire. Traditionally, only right-wing and settler-colonial “national liberation movements” have garnered the US’s official approval.

“Why do we Americans care so much about the rights of others being respected?” Kerry asked unprovoked. “Because, in an interconnected world, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He should tell that to the victims of US-backed dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Brunei, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, and, once again, so many more nations.

“Times may change, but one thing we do know: America’s support for Israel’s dreaming and Israel’s security, that will never change,” Kerry proclaimed.

“Legitimacy” and imperial hubris

In her speech at the UN, Power, like Kerry, conflated the heinous Nazi attacks on Jewish civilians in the Kristallnacht with UN GA Res. 3379. Both speakers cited the abominable horrors of the Holocaust several times as reasons to support Zionism, glossing over the fact that Zionism was created in the late 19th century and that the Balfour Declaration dates back to 1917, decades before World War II.

Amb. Power — a serial warmonger and veteran blame-dodger — did what she did best: rewrote history in the favor of US imperialism. She called the resolution “1975 smearing of Jews’ aspirations to have a homeland” and insisted multiple times that resolutions like 3379 “threaten the legitimacy of the UN.”

Like Kerry, Power conveniently forgot to mention that, when it comes to the halls of the UN, there is no other rogue state as blunt as the US, which regularly spits in the face of the international community, defying UN resolutions, violating the UN Charter, and breaking international law when it sees fit.

Power’s speech exposed the fault lines in the contentious (to put it mildly) relationship between the US and the UN — that is to say, between the US and the international community. Such tensions are not the fault of the UN; the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of Washington, with its doctrinal “American exceptionalism” and the flagrant disregard for international law that so frequently accompanies such imperial hubris.

UN machinations

In their speeches, both Kerry and Power also thanked Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon, who was described by an Israeli Labor Party lawmaker as “a right-wing extremist with the diplomatic sensitivity of a pit bull” and who proposed legislation that would, in his own words, have the Israeli government “annex the West Bank and repeal the Oslo Accords.” Amb. Danon insists that God gave the land of historic Palestine to the Jewish people as an “everlasting possession” (while forsaking the US). He also told the Times of Israel that the “international community can say whatever they want, and we can do whatever we want.”

Netanyahu addressed the session with a video message. He claimed that Israel, which has for years led the world in violating UN Security Council resolutions, “continues to face systemic discrimination here at the UN.” In a January 2013 statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, the Russell Tribunal calculated Israel had defied a bare minimum of 87 Security Council resolutions.

The Russel Tribunal also crucially noted “that Israel’s ongoing colonial settlement expansion, its racial separatist policies, as well as its violent militarism would not be possible without the US’s unequivocal support.” The tribunal pointed out that Israel “is the largest recipient of US foreign aid since 1976 and the largest cumulative recipient since World War II” and that, between 1972 and 2012, the US was the lone veto of UN resolutions critical of Israel 43 times.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined Kerry, Power, and Netanyahu in the echo chamber, albeit with a bit more subtlety. “The reputation of the United Nations was badly damaged by the adoption of resolution 3379, in and beyond Israel and the wider Jewish community,” he said. Unlike the others, Ban condemned not just anti-Semitism, but also “wide-ranging anti-Muslim bigotry and attacks [and] discrimination against migrants and refugees.”

Although the Israeli government accuses the UN of bias, the evidence demonstrates the opposite. Secret cables released by whistleblowing journalism organization WikiLeaks revealed that the US and Israel worked hand-in-hand with the UN and Sec.-Gen. Ban in order to undermine investigation into and punitive action on Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.

“Something colonial”

The real victim of the 40th anniversary event was the truth — and, of course, as it was four decades ago, the Palestinians. Yet, while UN GA Res. 3379 was repealed, the truth cannot be revoked. Zionism was and remains an unequivocally racist movement — just like any other hyper-nationalist and ethnocratic movement.

None other than the founding father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, recognized this elementary fact. In a 1902 letter to Cecil Rhodes — a diamond magnate and white supremacist British colonialist with oceans of African blood on his hands — Herzl, writing of “the idea of Zionism, which is a colonial idea,” requested help colonizing historic Palestine.

“It doesn’t involve Africa, but a piece of Asia Minor, not Englishmen but Jews… How, then, do I happen to turn to you since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial,” Herzl wrote. “I want you to… put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan.”

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And colonial considerations were responsible to a large extent for the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Shocked by two Turkish attacks on the Suez Canal during World War One, Britain wanted to put a buffer between the Arab states and that strategically vital canal. Hence approval of Zionist colonization in that region next to the canal. Divide and conquer. This is discussed in Eugene Rogan’s recent The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the… Read more »

A rose by any other name is still a rose.

re “The real victim of the 40th anniversary event was the truth — and, of course, as it was four decades ago, the Palestinians.”

Thanks for this report, though it is, like so many here, a depressing one. The Palestinians are the principal victims, (and as you say, “the truth”), but American citizens have been victimized too, in a significant, albeit less obvious way.

I’ve never examined the history of the UN declaration, but it’s long been obvious that the condemnation of it as antisemitic was meant to intimidate critics of Zionism and prevent Israel from being compared to other settler colonialist countries.

Spanish High Court issues arrest warrants for Netanyahu and six Israeli ministers: Arrest warrant has been issued for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Avigdor Liberman and 4 other ministers by the Court of Spain. The law suit was started by Spanish citizens who were present on the Mavi Marmara with the Israeli attack upon the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31, 2010. The Israelis responsible for the crimes commited have had an arrest warrant… Read more »