On November 10,1975, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning Zionism as racism. Led by Arab states, the resolution passed with 72 votes in favor, 32 abstentions, and 35 votes against.
Most of the votes in favor came from the Communist bloc and countries carved out of states formerly controlled by imperialistic empires. So the national movement espousing a state for the Jewish people, carved out of the British Empire, was voted to be racist by countries established in the same way.
This hypocrisy was condemned severely by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then the U.S. ambassador to the UN, and by Israel’s Chaim Herzog, who decried the fact that the resolution was introduced on the eve of the 37th anniversary of Kristallnacht. ”It is indeed fitting that this draft … should come up for debate on this day which recalls one of the tragic days in one of the darkest periods of history,” Herzog said. “It is indeed fitting that the United Nations, which began life as an anti-Nazi alliance, should … find itself on its way to becoming the world centre of anti-Semitism. ”
After his speech, Herzog unceremoniously tore the paper containing the text of the resolution. Sixteen long years later, the UN revoked the resolution.
It’s instructive to note which states voted against the revocation; the list includes virtually all the Arab states, as well as Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. All are exemplars of tyrannical rule.
And now, three decades, later we’re witnessing the Zionism-is-racism canard displayed literally every day. After Israel’s genocidal neighbor, with a charter that notes its commitment to annihilating Israel and Jews everywhere, attacked it with 4,000 rockets, that neighbor, Hamas, is celebrated in mass rallies all over the world. Placards calling for Palestine from Sea to Sea, which would eliminate Israel as a state; labeling Israel as genocidal and an apartheid state, and positing Zionism as a tool of white colonialism and therefore racist, abound. Simultaneously, violent attacks against Jews in New York and Los Angeles by pro-Palestinian demonstrators caused shockwaves within the Jewish community.
When coupled with defaming “whiteness” as inherently racist and requiring daily “al chaits”; defining Jews as “whites” and therefore not deserving full-throated sympathy; and declaring that the Jewish State was born out of white imperialism to displace a “dark” indigenous population, it’s no wonder that Israel is used as a cudgel in social media, academia, and the press. Characterizing Israel as an apartheid nation is almost a reflex in BDS debates in colleges, mainline Protestant church national conventions, and increasingly in teachers’ unions and other unions, once traditional friends of the Jewish state.
This calls for a united front in the Jewish community. There was a recent effort to hold a rally against anti-Semitism in Washington. The idea originally was conceived by a right-of-center Zionist group. The only requirement for sponsorship was that a group had to be Zionist. More than 100 groups signed up, including all the religious denominations and legacy organizations. But as reported in the Forward, when Israel was included in the rally’s program, J Street, Truah, and Americans for Peace Now declined to participate. Hadar Susskind, head of Americans for Peace Now, said: “We’ve seen a push that started with the right but has encompassed a large, large breadth of the community to very intentionally conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. It’s quite likely that you’re going to see a lot of that there.”
So Jews are attacked because of Israel’s actions against Gaza, Israel being defamed as an apartheid state is increasingly gaining currency in left-wing circles, the Nazi-lite Hamas is now championed as the protector of the Holy Mount and the Palestinian people — and conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a rationale for not participating in a Jewish rally? Even the U.S. State Department accepts this conflation as anti-Semitic. Besides, Israel is the homeland of almost half of world Jewry. If they’re threatened, that’s not anti-Semitic. As the child of Holocaust survivors, I know too well that if the British Peel Commission recommendations of 1937 had been implemented for a Jewish state, hundreds of thousands if not millions of European Jews could have been saved.
The double standard applied against Israel is breathtaking. More UN resolutions condemning Israel have been passed than against all the world’s worst human rights abusers, including Russia, which seized the Crimea from Ukraine; China, which herds millions of Uighur Muslims into concentration camps and vanquished Hong Kong; Cuba; North Korea; and all the despotic countries, which are too numerous to mention. Are any of them on the hit list of BDS campaigns on college campuses?
What other country’s right to defend itself against vicious rocked attacks is condemned for responding to an enemy that uses civilians as shields, inevitably resulting in unintended civilian casualties? What other country is savaged for its military “occupation” of territory seized in a defensive war and was rebuffed four times for its offer or concurrence with a Palestinian state by war, intifada, and deafening silence?
Despite the hardships of Israeli military control, the standard of living in the West Bank is among the highest in the region. And Israel’s land for peace offer in Gaza was greeted by rocket attacks and incendiary balloons by an implacable enemy.
There is much diversity of opinion on how to move forward on future peace plans. Certainly Israel has made its share of mistakes, as chronicled by its free and vibrant press. But facts can’t be changed with today’s fashions.
We’re losing the war in social media, and the New York Times is obsessed with demeaning Israel, as it made clear by its publication of an anti-Semitic cartoon. Abe Rosenthal must be turning over in his grave. A recent poll shows a frightening distance to be traveled with young Jews, 25 percent of whom view Israel as an apartheid nation. We need to make Zionist education a priority for all our institutions. We need to galvanize the hundreds of thousands of Birthright Israel alumni to engage in the social media wars defending Israel against the vicious lies that spread like a virus on the internet. We need Israel to step up its public diplomacy and use its technological prowess to educate young minds.
The drumbeat of “Zionism is racism” is haunting us in too many sectors of our society. Is it too much to ask for a united Jewish front to address this scourge.
If not now, when?
Max L. Kleinman of Fairfield was the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest from 1995 to 2014 and he is the president of the Fifth Commandment Foundation.