Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

United Nations Report: General Assembly Votes to Rescind Zionism Is Racism Resolution

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

United Nations Report: General Assembly Votes to Rescind Zionism Is Racism Resolution

Article excerpt

United Nations Report: General Assembly Votes to Rescind Zionism is Racism Resolution

By Ian Williams

Zionism is not racism, the United Nations determined on Dec. 16, 1991, by an overwhelming majority of 111. The US had decided that if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly. But it took some time to decide whether to do it or not. First, there was the question of rolling up enough votes, and it seems that those who agreed to co-sponsor the deal were told unequivocally that their agreement was to a package which precluded support for any amendments or procedural resolutions.

Once that majority was secured, there was a tactical matter. Jewish organizations were lined up to announce the big push at the beginning of December, but the Bush administration coyly waited until Israeli negotiators had turned up in Washington. The message was that two could play at procrastination.

When the vote came, it made the headlines. Almost totally unreported were the resolutions passed that very morning which condemned Israel for practices which in other circumstances would perhaps be judged racism. By 152 to one (Israel) and with four abstentions, including the US, the Assembly condemned Israel's imposition of laws and jurisdiction on East Jerusalem and deplored the transfer of some countries' diplomatic missions there.

A vote on the situation in the occupied territories was passed by 93 to 27, with 37 abstentions, condemning settlements, land confiscation, diversion of water and imposition of Israeli citizenship on Syrians in the Golan Heights. US delegate Brooks Wramplemeier explained that the US voted the way it did because the text made no reference to the current peace talks, and because the "language and tone had remained unbalanced in its condemnation of one party to those negotiations." The US had also abstained on Jerusalem because its status "must be determined through negotiations among the parties concerned."

Three days later, on Dec. 19, the Assembly passed another resolution on living conditions in the occupied territories by 135 votes for and with only the US and Israel against. The resolution condemned Israeli practices in the territories and the resulting deterioration in living standards among Palestinians.

On the vote to repeal the condemnation of Zionism as "a form of racial discrimination," an Arab diplomat explained to the Washington Report that the representatives of the Arab states at the UN had decided to "go down with dignity." Their only speech was made by Lebanese Ambassador Khalil Makkawi. He stated that the Arab group's purpose was to ensure that "the institutional memory of the UN on Israel's practices does not relapse into coma." He asked how, other than with the word "discrimination," could delegates describe the eviction of people from their homes to make way for Soviet immigrants, or the denial of national rights to inhabitants of the occupied territories.

Almost totally unreported were the resolutions which condemned Israel.

It was indeed dignified. But one couldn't help thinking that an earlier, more determined and more imaginative effort by the Arab group could have combined dignity and success. For example, a compromise resolution could have replaced the now repealed 3379 with one condemning racist practices by the Israeli government.

Eloquence and dignity alone were fruitless in the face of the intensive diplomatic armtwisting of the previous three months, which could as easily have produced a large majority in support of the proposition that black is white or war is peace. …

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