U.N. Resolution Denounces Zionism Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

After years of confrontation with Israel, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that Zionism was a form of racism. The move marked a decline in public confidence in the United Nations in the United States and other Western countries that had fought the resolution. The resolution’s reversal in 1991 resulted from political changes around the world but did not end Israel’s difficult relations with the United Nations.

Summary of Event

Zionism is the movement within Judaism that has supported a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel. The creation of a Jewish national state was a way of dealing with the inability of the Jewish people to find political haven even within the nations of enlightened Europe. Zionism achieved its goal with the establishment of the state of Israel following a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in 1947. Israel was established in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, perpetrated by Germany’s Nazi regime. During the war, the Nazis had identified the Jewish “race” as inferior and sought to exterminate the Jewish people. The Nazis, therefore, were guilty of racism against the Jews as well as mass murder rooted in those racist beliefs. United Nations;Zionism General Assembly Resolution 3379, U.N. Resolution 3379, U.N. Zionism [kw]U.N. Resolution Denounces Zionism (Nov. 10, 1975) [kw]Resolution Denounces Zionism, U.N. (Nov. 10, 1975) [kw]Zionism, U.N. Resolution Denounces (Nov. 10, 1975) United Nations;Zionism General Assembly Resolution 3379, U.N. Resolution 3379, U.N. Zionism [g]North America;Nov. 10, 1975: U.N. Resolution Denounces Zionism[02120] [g]United States;Nov. 10, 1975: U.N. Resolution Denounces Zionism[02120] [c]United Nations;Nov. 10, 1975: U.N. Resolution Denounces Zionism[02120] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Nov. 10, 1975: U.N. Resolution Denounces Zionism[02120] Amin, Idi Allon, Yigal Bolton, John R. Bush, George H. W. Herzog, Chaim Moynihan, Daniel Patrick

Ironically, a few decades later the state of Israel would face accusations of racism. During the 1970’s, the international community viewed South Africa and Rhodesia as racist nations to the extent that both regimes strove to maintain a political environment that gave preference to white over black residents through segregationist policies known as apartheid. Israel, meanwhile, became the target of a campaign of isolation after the success of the Six-Day War in 1967, which added considerable territory to the country, much of it traditionally serving as the home for Arabs. In order to find a market for its merchandise, Israel did a fair amount of business with South Africa. This association was one of the factors that led to attempts to label Israel as a racist state.

The United Nations had grown considerably between 1947—when the partition plan that created Israel was passed—and 1975. Most of its new member states had reason to take issue with South Africa or Israel or both. Many African nations, for example, saw Israel as supporting South Africa and thus condoning its policy of apartheid. For their part, Islamic nations around the world resented the intrusion of a Jewish state into territories historically seen as Muslim homelands. In addition, the Soviet Union regarded Israel as a bulwark of American interests in the Middle East. The Soviet allies and nonaligned nations therefore could find common ground in opposing Israel.

One form that this reaction to Israel took was the attempt to revoke Israel’s credentials as a member of the United Nations General Assembly (Israel had never been a member of the Security Council). Idi Amin—the notorious dictator of Uganda, scarcely a model of democratic leadership—gave an impassioned address to the General Assembly calling for the expulsion of Israel from the United Nations and its destruction. The American reaction to this speech was emphatic, suggesting that a decision to revoke Israel’s credentials would lead the United States to reexamine its membership in the United Nations altogether. Nevertheless, the United Nations’ anti-Israel coalition continued to protest against Israel in the form of a resolution introduced by Somalia in the General Assembly. The resolution proposed a campaign against racism around the world. After some reworking, the text of the resolution, while not expelling Israel from the United Nations, declared that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”

The United States, Israel’s staunchest ally in the United Nations, led a fight to point out the absurdity of the resolution. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Patrick Moynihan delivered memorable speeches on the floor of the General Assembly and elsewhere about what a travesty of language and reality the resolution constituted. In Israel, while there was concern about the resolution, there was also a certain sense of relief about its not being a motion of expulsion. As a combination perhaps of Moynihan’s strident tone and Israel’s moderation, however, the diplomatic efforts to avert the passage of the resolution failed, and General Assembly Resolution 3379 was passed by a vote of 72 to 35, with 32 abstentions and 3 absences.

Many of the member states of the General Assembly may have seen the resolution as a precursor to the recognition of a Palestinian state, but that did not come to pass. The Security Council in December of 1975 recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), but that was as far as it went. Israel had avoided the worst consequences as far as membership in the United Nations was concerned, although the coalition of anti-Israeli nations may have hoped for a more decisive result. The resolution served as the target for much rhetoric for politicians in Israel and the United States. Chaim Herzog, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations during the passage of the resolution, informed his colleagues in the General Assembly that Adolf Hitler would have felt at home among them. Yigal Allon, then foreign minister of Israel, warned that attacks on Zionism were the precursor to attacks on Jews around the world.

For almost a decade after the passage of the resolution, the Israeli government did not place efforts to have it revoked at the top of its international agenda—partly the result of a recognition that such efforts at the United Nations would certainly bring up the issues of both the creation of a Palestinian state and the rights of Arabs living within the lands captured during the Six-Day War. Negotiations with Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt led to the creation of the first pact between Israel and an Arab state in 1978, and there may have been an intention to see how that peace would hold before coming back to the floor of the General Assembly.

Then, in the mid-1980’s, a campaign to reverse the resolution began in Israel and the United States. The issue may have had more priority attached to it in the United States, where the hope was to reverse the impression of Soviet domination in the halls of the General Assembly. The campaign gathered steam as the end of the Soviet Union approached, with the collapse of the Soviet-backed regimes in Eastern Europe. The disappearance of South Africa as an apartheid state reduced the rancor felt toward Israel on the African continent. The success of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 also brought about a temporary rapprochement between the United States and some of the Arab countries in the Middle East. U.S. president George H. W. Bush devoted increasing attention to the issue as his term progressed, and State Department official John R. Bolton represented the administration’s views on the United Nations to Congress. In 1991, the resolution to revoke the determination of Resolution 3379 was passed by a margin of 111 to 25, with 13 abstentions. Its having come with 86 sponsors bore witness to the changes and to the lack of suspense on that occasion.

Significance

The passage of Resolution 3379 created both false hopes and real disillusionment. Arab nations—eager to remove Israel from the map and unable to enlist the aid of the Security Council as a result of the American veto power—could not go further in that direction and instead had to turn to transforming the Palestine Liberation Organization into a faction with land to govern.

In the United States, there had always been a current of anti-U.N. feeling, and many of those who viewed the United Nations negatively hoped that the resolution would make American membership in the United Nations seem more of an embarrassment than a benefit. Although the future would witness other cases in which the United States felt that it was handling an issue without much support, the view of the United Nations probably reached its nadir with the passage of Resolution 3379.

Memory of the resolution continues to haunt Jews around the world. Those who see the Holocaust as an expression of racism find the identification of Zionism with racism as the worst parody of justice in the twentieth century. In 2006, former President Jimmy Carter published his book on the Palestinian situation, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, whose subtitle again invoked the notion of Israeli racism. The negative reaction within the Jewish community in the United States bore witness to the extent to which the equation of Zionism with racism by the world’s deliberative body had not been forgotten. United Nations;Zionism General Assembly Resolution 3379, U.N. Resolution 3379, U.N. Zionism

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Beker, Avi. The United Nations and Israel: From Recognition to Reprehension. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Press, 1988. Provides the full text of many of the Security Council resolutions that preceded and followed the General Assembly resolution.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carter, Jimmy. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Notable for the way in which Resolution 3379 has been brought up to criticize both the book’s contents and its title.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Givet, Jacques. The Anti-Zionist Complex. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: SBS, 1982. Like many books from the decade after the passage of the resolution, an attempt to explain the attitudes that made the resolution possible.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Manor, Yohanan. To Right a Wrong: The Revocation of the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3379 Defaming Zionism. New York: Sheingold, 1997. Detailed attempt to allot credit and blame with regard to negotiations before and after the initial resolution and its revocation.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Qureshi, Muhammad Siddique. Zionism and Racism. Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Publications, 1981. Criticism of Jewish claims to the land of Israel from biblical times and of Israeli treatment of Arabs in the twentieth century.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Segev, Tom. The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust. Translated by Haim Watzman. New York: Henry Holt, 2000. Points out how the Israeli use of Holocaust references in dealing with the Arabs increased after the resolution.

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