The B’nai B’rith offices house many of our organization’s artifacts from previous eras. One such artifact is the Zionism is Beautiful B’nai B’rith button (pictured), from a time when walking around with a political button on a coat or a bag was more fashionable. The pin was a direct and unambiguous response to the U.N. General Assembly’s infamous vote on resolution 3379, which declared that Zionism, the national movement for self-determination by the Jewish people in our ancestral homeland, was a form of racism and racial discrimination.
This shameful resolution, passed 40 years ago this month, was rock bottom for the U.N. in its blind moral hypocrisy when it comes to matters relating to Israel. The U.N. had turned into an environment hostile to Israel long before this vote, but this vote was the nadir of the relationship. The recovery from this low point was slow and is still very far from complete.
Only 28 years earlier, the General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution proposing that mandate-era Palestine be partitioned into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Yishuv—the Jewish pre-state institution—accepted the resolution and declared the independence of the State of Israel. The Arab states rejected the resolution and launched a war seeking to annihilate the fledgling Jewish state.
By passing a resolution declaring Zionism as racist in 1975, the General Assembly was now on record that the national aspirations of the Jewish people were no longer legitimate.
It took 16 years to remove that blight from the record. The General Assembly officially rescinded the resolution in December 1991, after much diplomatic effort by Israel, the United States and other allies, along with B’nai B’rith International and the worldwide Jewish community. It remains one of the few resolutions to ever be officially revoked. The resolution’s shadow of outright bigotry, however, will forever remain as a stain on the U.N. and continues to influence proceedings at the world body to this day.
A mere decade following the repeal of 3379, the world again confronted undisguised anti-Semitism at a U.N. forum at the 2001 Durban World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), which notoriously devolved into an anti-Israel hatefest. The NGO conference at Durban opted to include the vile “Zionism is racism” lie in the NGO conference’s memorandum, which led to the memorandum’s rejection as unacceptable. The official declaration of the conference, however, mentions only Israel; no other member state was deemed worthy of inclusion in the document, which is still used at the U.N. as barometer for member states on “progress” in fighting against racism. B’nai B’rith, as the largest Jewish delegation at the WCAR, led by then B’nai B’rith International President Richard D. Heideman, was witness to, and spoke out forcefully against, the hijacking of a U.N. forum for the purpose of anti-Semitism.
And since Durban, the U.N. drumbeat against Israel has continued unabated. Resolution after resolution excoriates the state of the Jewish people, the sole true democracy in the Middle East. It is difficult to grasp the full extent of this sickness, as the obsession with Israel manages to infect many of the U.N.’s institutions, not just overtly biased General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. Meanwhile, conflicts far more deadly—even genocides—have raged throughout the world and received scant attention at the General Assembly compared to the obsessive focus on Israel.
I keep the pin at my desk and look at it with pride as a reminder of B’nai B’rith’s historic and continuing role at the U.N. We speak the truth to the U.N. in the face of hatred towards Israel or ignorance about it. When the U.N. passes a repulsive and ludicrous resolution equating Zionism and racism, B’nai B’rith speaks up and lets the world know that this is an outrage and a complete moral inversion. Zionism is the return to our national home from forced exile after enduring a nearly 2000 year Diaspora experience often marked by rampant discrimination and recurrent violence. Zionism is a millennia-old fulfillment of the Jewish people’s hopes and prayers. Zionism is beautiful!
Indeed, it is anti-Zionism—the denial of the Jewish people to the right to self-determination that is guaranteed to all other peoples of the world—that is a form of blatant racism and discrimination. The world should mourn whenever institutions are commandeered to pass evil resolutions that inscribe anti-Semitism in the international record.
Oren Drori is the Program Officer for United Nations Affairs at B’nai B’rith International where he supports advocacy and programming efforts that advance B’nai B’rith’s goals at the U.N., which include: defending Israel, combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and promoting global human rights and humanitarian concerns. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2006. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
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