By GIL TROY
Thirty five years ago, on November 10, 1975, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, America’s Ambassador to the UN proclaimed: “The United States does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.” The “infamous act” was Resolution 3379, calling Zionism racism, slandering one form of nationalism, Jewish nationalism.
That same day, Israel’s Ambassador Chaim Herzog, carrying the dignity of 4,000 years of Jewish history, declared: “I stand here not as a supplicant. For the issue is neither Israel nor Zionism. The issue is the continued existence of this organization, which has been dragged to its lowest point of discredit by a coalition of despots and racists. You yourselves bear the responsibility for your stand before history. We, the Jewish people, will not forget.” Herzog then ripped the resolution to shreds.
The 1975 UN resolution set a template for attacking Israel and Zionism using liberalism and human rights rhetoric. Arabs learned, that before a lazy, complacent world, they could mask sexism and homophobia, terrorism and dictatorship, and their continuing rejection of Israel’s right to exist behind a smokescreen of rhetoric treating the national struggle between Israelis and Palestinians as an expression of Jewish racism, colonialism, and imperialism. This New Big Lie was so potent it would outlast its Soviet creators, derail the UN, hurt the cause of human rights – and make Israel what the Canadian MP and human rights activist Professor Irwin Cotler calls the "Jew among nations.”
Fortunately, Moynihan and Herzog also set a template for defending Israel and Zionism. They labeled this propaganda ploy an assault on democracy and decency. They predicted, accurately, that by targeting Israel and the Jewish people the UN would sacrifice its credibility and demean its most important currency, the language of universal rights developed after World War II.
Still, being right can feel lonely. On the day of their heroism, Moynihan and Herzog felt indignant but abandoned. Moynihan felt pressure from his fellow diplomats and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to be more “diplomatic,” meaning appeasing. Herzog felt pressure from Israel’s Foreign Ministry not to take the UN too seriously. Even the American Jewish community was slow to react, initially.
This week at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, it was also easy to feel lonely. The first day of the conference, two back-to-back sessions examined the modern campaign to delegitimize Israel. Despite the excitement of 5,000 Jewish do-gooders gathering together, despite the appearance of The Rev. Dr. Katherine R. Henderson, President of Auburn Theological Seminary, who has heroically challenged her fellow Presbyterians to stop delegitimizing the Jewish state, despite the new $6 million Israel Action Network being launched to be proactive not just reactive, the panel discussion I participated in with Dr. Henderson gave me battle fatigue. I resent that 62 years after Israel’s founding, Israel is the only country in the world on probation. I bristle at the self-righteousness of the apartheid-libelers, gleefully quoting Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, each of whom has sloppily echoed the apartheid lie – albeit only once – stupidly echoing this word which does not apply to Israel because whatever “apartness” Israel imposes is not based on racial distinctions but national conflict.
I felt even more fatigue as I left New Orleans hours after arriving, flew to Atlanta, arrived shortly before midnight, took a 6:30 a.m. plane to Toronto, then connected to Ottawa.
Fortunately, there I found the Parliament building glowing with the spirit of Chaim Herzog as 140 latter-day Pat Moynihans convened the Ottawa Conference on Combating anti-Semitism. These legislators, representing 53 countries from six continents, are leading lights helping redeem a world constantly flirting with a terrible darkness. “There has been a globalization of the problem of Anti-Semitism,” Professor Cotler observed, “but there is also a globalization of parliamentary concern.”
I had the honor of presenting to an interparliamentary working group exploring campus anti-Semitism. The legislators were sophisticated, sensitive to university sensibilities, appreciating the importance of free speech, academic freedom, and the legitimacy of criticizing Israel. They also agreed that all students must feel safe and not scorned. They wanted to embed the fight against anti-Semitism in the broader quest for mutual respect, open intellectual inquiry, and academic integrity. “Discrimination is discrimination,” said one MP. We all shared the indignation – also expressed at the GA – that the unholy alliance of Islamists and misguided leftists tried making Israel so toxic as to justify blatant cases of hatred on supposedly hyper-tolerant campuses as long as they targeted pro-Israel Jews.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was particularly Moynihanesque. Harper said that “when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.” He admitted that “at the United Nations or any other international forum, the easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker.’ But as long as I am prime minister,” he vowed, “Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.”
Harper and his guests recognize anti-Semitism as a gateway to hatred, opening up portals of perversity that threaten Jews first, then others. They refuse to let this evil fester. We should join their fight, and catapult from the interparliamentary coalition against anti-Semitism to the intraplanetary coalition against aAnti-Semitism and for thriving democratic values.
This article appeared originally in the Jerusalem Post. Gil Troy’s next book will look at Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Zionism is Racism Resolution, the fall of the UN and the rise of Ronald Reagan