ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF
ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS
PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Knesset Session Marking 40 Years Since the Late President Chaim Herzog’s Speech to the UN
Source: PMO, 1-5-16
Chaim Herzog was one of our preeminent delegates and representatives to the United Nations. The 40 years that have passed since the dramatic day of November 10, 1975, did not blunt the impression of deep polarization that characterized that day. On the one hand, the United Nations displayed an unprecedented low moral standard, and on the other hand is Ambassador Herzog’s proud and admirable stand.
I will start with the UN Resolution which stated, and I quote, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. Any reasonable person understood that Zionism was not the only target of this ridiculous attack. Those poisonous arrows equally, and in fact first and foremost, targeted the State of Israel, which is the embodiment of the Zionist idea.
These two targets were perceived as a single one. The Arab countries, the producers of petroleum, were hostile towards Israel since the day of its establishment, and they joined forces with the Soviet Union. They brought countries from Asia and Africa into their ranks and brought their slanderous campaign to its peak, which only intensified after our victory. Their failure to defeat us on the battlefield through the use of arms jumpstarted a new effort to try and undermine the just and moral foundation for Israel’s existence, thereby gradually leading to the country’s destruction.
It was an absurd group – an absurd display and an absurd group. A group of anti-democratic countries that trample on human rights, encourage terrorism and that are infected with anti-Semitism. This group was terribly hypocritical in vilifying Israel – a democratic country that upholds freedom and democracy as sacred values and extends its hand in peace to all its neighbors.
There was another party that provided a platform for this libel about racism – I am talking about the United Nations naturally. The United Nations was formed after World War II to promote friendship among the nations and prevent tragedies similar to the ones that had transpired during the years of the war.
Unfortunately, the United Nations quickly transformed into an organization that reinforces the divisions between countries and blocs. In many cases, not only did it not facilitate conflict resolution, it deepened conflicts by adopting resolutions that almost always sided with only one side, that of tyranny versus democracy. This is what the automatic majority in the UN means and it was true in this case as well. The outrageous comparison between Zionism and racism was a turning point, not so much in the history of the UN, but rather in the history of global anti-Semitism.
Until then, hatred of Jews found expression in different countries or lands, for instance in medieval England, Spain during the inquisition, France during the Dreyfuss trial, Ukraine and Russia during the waves of pogroms and in Germany and Europe during the horrifying years of the Holocaust. However, this case created a new situation. It was the first time that our enemies used a global mechanism, a worldwide mechanism, a respected international mechanism which is supposed to represent the entirety of humanity to delegitimize and dehumanize the Jewish state.
Throughout the decades, our enemies described us as the adversaries of humanity, disinheritors of nations, murderers of children and poisoners of wells. Thirty-five countries objected to this characterization and voted against the UN resolution. They well understood the absurdity in calling the Jewish state racist. Four decades later, we are still deeply grateful to them.
They were led by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was one of our strongest and staunchest supporters. He stated very clearly that Israel is a democracy, and the fact of the matter is that tyrannical regimes take advantage of every opportunity to destroy the thing that threatens them most, namely, democracy. Moynihan, who was a very special man, stood by the side of another very special man, our ambassador to the United Nations.
Herzog’s speech to the UN in response to those who initiated the resolution denounced the denouncers. He first mentioned Kristallnacht in Germany, which preceded the annihilation of our people and occurred on exactly the same day 37 years beforehand. Herzog condemned the hatred and ignorance, the arrogance and the slander which were the foundations for the resolution comparing Zionism to racism. He promised, and I quote, “This episode will strengthen Zionism while weakening the UN.”
Tearing up the resolution at the UN podium was an act of planned spontaneity. It was a repetition of an act by his father, Rabbi Herzog, who tore up the White Paper as a public protest during the British Mandate against its restrictions. Chaim Herzog’s profound words stirred empathy for the Zionist cause throughout the Jewish world. The impression made by his speech remains to this day. I can add that it also affected me deeply. I spoke to Chaim Herzog on many occasions, including prior to his term as the Israeli Ambassador to the UN and also during my tenure. I went to see him for some Biblical discourse with someone whom I considered a great rabbi in telling the truth about Israel.
Nine years after he made his speech, I stood at the podium in the UN and delivered my inaugural speech under similar circumstances, though not identical. Iran, supported by Libya and Syria, submitted a proposal to expel Israel from the organization. Chaim Herzog’s devotion, his allegiance to the truth and his profound knowledge of the justness of our path inspired me to say similar things. I said: “We all must decide on which side we belong.
We can continue tolerating the attempts to turn this organization into a parody of itself. We can let it deteriorate until it resembles one of the ridiculous parliaments that gather in Damascus, Tripoli and Tehran, whose representatives, not surprisingly, are the living spirit behind today’s attempt to expel Israel; or alternatively we can tell them: Please check your fanaticism at the door.”
Those years were characterized by an effort to overturn that despicable resolution, an effort that intensified later. Indeed, at the end of 1991 the resolution was overturned, 16 years after it was adopted. The end of the Cold War resulted in the decline of the ideological conflict between the Soviet bloc and the Western countries. It introduced other changes in the international sphere that enabled overturning that UN resolution. Members of Knesset, I would like to mention the obvious: Even after it was overturned, we did not achieve peace and tranquility, far from that. The hostile attitudes towards Israel in UN institutions continue to this day.
There are parties in the UN who condemn us every opportunity they have. The pattern of automatic voting against Israel continues. Over the past year, the UN General Assembly adopted close to 20 resolutions against Israel, compared to only one against Iran, for example.
The same distortion exists in the UN Human Rights Council, which stands out in its discriminatory attitude towards us. Since the establishment of the Council in 2006, millions of people have been massacred around the world or have fled conflict, but this Council adopted 61 resolutions against Israel, more than all the resolutions it adopted against all the other countries combined.
This absurdity is very clear and it has nothing to do with what we do or do not do. As a country that upholds the rule of law, we do not fear legitimate criticism, but when it comes to the UN, its tendency to slander Israel is obsessive, distorted and immoral. Not only is it doing us an injustice, it also abandons those who truly suffer the evils of tyranny, aggression and terrorism, those whom the UN disregards. In fact, it is Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, which defends itself against vicious terrorism, that is strongly condemned.
We saw this just recently following the defensive military operations that were forced on us: Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge. The UN condemned us, initiated investigations against us, and thereby abuses its role and provides support for terrorism.
This distorted reality will not discourage us. Our roots are stronger than any lie or slanderous incitement. Members of Knesset, I must reiterate that many countries in the world realize this. A strange duality exists here. On the one hand, they vote for these ridiculous resolutions and on the other hand, they wish to cooperate with us. This is a dramatic transformation in the nature of our relations with the countries of the world. Powerful countries like China, Japan, India, Russia, African countries and Latin American countries wish to learn from our experience in fighting militant Islamic terrorism and from our technological capabilities in so many diverse areas.
Our relations with these countries are growing stronger, and I tell their leaders, “It is time that our good relations will also be reflected in your votes in the UN.” This message is beginning to sink in. We should repeat it in our meetings with foreign representatives. This has already begun to occur in some important votes, including the impressive majority of countries that voted against resolutions singling out Israel in the International Atomic Energy Agency and in several other votes.
As for the UN – there is still a long way to go.
That moment when Chaim Herzog tore up those false allegations against us engraved on our memories. It demonstrated his profound belief in the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, truth over the lie. We believe that, in the end, the people of Israel will prevail and Chaim Herzog played an important part in preserving this belief.