This week marks 40 years since the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution, with impeccably ill-timing, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht -- November, 10, 1975. This resolution, being one of the very few to later be repealed by the UNGA (in 1991), was condemned by the great Chaim Herzog, who delivered one of the most empathic speeches by any Israeli leader after the resolution passed.
“For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper and we shall treat it as such,” Herzog so eloquently stated before physically tearing up the resolution on the UNGA podium.
Resolution 3379 was originally supposed to condemn racism and neocolonialism when it was drafted, but a group of UNGA member states slyly included a provision that categorized Zionism as a form of racism and neocolonialism. Historically anti-Israel nations, such as the Soviet bloc states and Arab countries hailing from the Middle East, coalesced around the new version of the resolution in an effort to undermine Israel.
While UNGA resolutions hold no binding legal ramifications, and are more symbolic than anything, some would argue that General Assembly Resolution 3379 paved the path for modern antisemitism, and at the very least, created a token around which anti-Israel nations could gather.
Herzog, who sought peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians for the duration of his career as an Israeli ambassador and later as a beloved president, argued that this resolution willfully questioned the Israelis’ right for self-determination, and refused to go down without a fight. So he stood in front of the UNGA and delivered the most famous address of his life, but to no avail.
Unfortunately, much of the world -- including the 72 member states who voted in favor of the resolution -- failed to see the implicit hypocrisy in denouncing the single free Middle Eastern nation as a neo-colonialist and racist state, especially as the bulk of support for the resolution came from historically oppressed and colonized states (such as those from the USSR).
Ultimately, the UNGA realized the mistake they made and the damage caused by this resolution -- which some would argue derailed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians at a crucial time, shortly after Yasser Arafat’s olive branch speech to the UN -- and revoked Resolution 3379 in 1991. It was just the second UNGA resolution to be repealed at that time.
While Herzog went on to become one of the most esteemed presidents in Israeli history, the precedent set by Resolution 3379 unfortunately still lingers at the UN, where the UNGA continues to draft anti-Israel resolutions and the UN Security Council exhibits clear bias against Israel, to this very day.
The UN, which originally rose from the ashes of World War II and the Holocaust to promote peace and prosperity, has evidently lost sight of one of its quintessential founding goals: to make sure nothing like the horrid nightmare that befell the Jews ever happens again on this Earth. With Israel still cast under a harsh condemnatory light -- exhibited by growing support for the BDS movement and constant scrutiny over its presence in the West Bank and Gaza -- it is unfortunate that we cannot tout much progress since the days that Zionism was equated with racism and neocolonialism. The one thing we can do on this day is pay respect to the late, great Chaim Herzog, one of the most adored political leaders that Israel may claim as its son.
Thank you for all you did for Israel, Chaim, and may your message of peace and tolerance serve as an everlasting memento to your historic career. Rest in peace.