American Move to Have Anti-semitism Condemned Defeated in U.N.
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American Move to Have Anti-semitism Condemned Defeated in U.N.

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A United States-Brazilian move specifically condemning anti-Semitism as part of a draft United Nations Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination was overwhelmingly defeated here today.

The American effort was killed through a maneuver by which the General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee adopted a resolution proposed by Greece and Hungary declaring that the Committee “decides not to include in the draft convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination any reference to specific forms of racial discrimination.”

After a day and a half of debate culminated by a series of parliamentary votes, the Committee passed the Greek-Hungarian resolution by a vote of 82-12 with 10 abstentions. Among the 12 negative votes were Israel, the United States and Britain. France abstained.

At the same time that the Greek-Hungarian resolution banned any possibility of a vote on the U.S. -Brazil amendment, it killed also a Soviet sub-amendment which would was a Polish amendment which would have condemned Nazism in the preamble to the draft convention.

The voting on the Greek-Hungarian resolution came late in the afternoon of a session which was opened with a lengthy address by Michael S. Comay, Israel’s permanent representative here, who pleaded for an express condemnation of anti-Semitism as “a social disease.” Mr. Comay in his speech attacked the Soviet Union’s effort to lump together Zionism and anti-Semitism with Nazism and neo-Nazism and attacked the USSR sharply and by name for religious and cultural discriminations against Jewry in the USSR.

Mr. Comay’s specific mention of the USSR by name was unusual, since the custom has been here that attacks of this type against the USSR refer only to “a certain country.” This time, since the USSR was named, the Soviet representative in the Committee, V.M. Chknikvadzc, replied very angrily to Mr. Comay, accusing Israel, in concert with the United States and other countries to “wreck” the entire draft convention and asserting that the Soviet Union follows a policy of “unswerving battle against ignominious anti-Semitism.”


In attacking the idea of bracketing Zionism with anti-Semitism and Nazism as proposed to the Committee in the Soviet sub-amendment, Mr. Comay said: “The bracketing of Zionism with anti-Semitism, Nazism and neo-Nazism represents at best a frivolous and at worst a contemptible maneuver and it is hard for us to speak of it with restraint,” he declared; Zionism is the name of the national movement of the Jewish people.

“My delegation feels proud and privileged to represent in this world forum a small member state which was born out of the Zionist movement. Whether this sub-amendment was put forward for reasons of political opportunism or in order so to complicate the work of the Committee as to achieve the elimination from the convention of the special reference to anti-Semitism, it is an affront to my country and to the Jewish people everywhere.”

Mr. Comay quoted a statement made by a representative of the Soviet Union in the United Nations who had declared, regarding the Palestine question in 1947 that “the Jewish people were striving to create a state of their own and it would be unjust to deny them that right.” The Israeli diplomat said that statement was “surely as clear an approval of and support for Zionism as one could wish to have.”

Asking again why the Soviet Union has seen fit to attempt to have Zionism condemned now, Mr. Comay said that the move may have been an effort “to deflect international attention from a grievous problem which involves their own country.” “The plight of the Jews in the Soviet Union,” he said, “is a very serious one. They are deprived of facilities to maintain their distinctive religion, their traditions, their language and their literature. Synagogues are being closed one after another. The scriptures and prayer books are not allowed to be printed. Rabbis are not allowed to be trained. The production of articles required for worship and ritual purposes has been stopped.”

He noted the ban against Hebrew, the lack of education facilities in Yiddish, the near elimination of all books and periodicals of Jewish content and, “over and above this, a systematic campaign destined to blacken the image of Jews and of Judaism” being maintained in the Soviet press.

Thus, continued Mr. Comay, this Jewish community is the victim of various forms of discrimination which has caused distress not only to Jews throughout the world but to decent and liberal opinion in other lands including many distinguished personalities who cannot be accused of any ill will toward the Soviet Union.

Conceding that of late, the Soviet Union has made “some positive gestures” in regard to the Jews, Mr. Comay told the Committee: “We protest in the strongest terms against the Soviet amendment which lumps Zionism together with such evil and inhuman forces as anti-Semitism and Nazism, of which we Jews have been the chief victims. In the name of common decency I would appeal to the Committee to give its overwhelming support to the Bolivian amendment.” In that amendment, Bolivia has called for deletion of the word “Zionism” from the Soviet proposal.


Before the voting on the Greek-Hungarian resolution, William P. Rogers, the U.S. delegate to the U.N., made a statement in which he told the Committee that “in introducing our proposal for an article condemning anti-Semitism we were motivated by the fact that it is one of mankind’s most serious problems.” Mr. Rogers sharply condemned Soviet anti-Semitism–without, however, mentioning the USSR specifically.

After tracing the history of anti-Semitism, which, Mr. Rogers said, “reaches back over 2,000 years,” and “is one of the deadliest and most persistent forms of racial discrimination known to man,” he said that the U.S. -Brazil proposal would have appropriately highlighted the application of the draft convention to anti-Semitism.

“When the United States spoke to introduce its article condemning anti-Semitism, we pointed out that a group may be destroyed by cultural deprivation. The survival of an ethnic group may be dependent on language, schools, publications and other cultural institutions. My delegation regrets that anti-Semitism remains a threat in certain areas of the world.


“It should be made clear that a state which makes provision for German-language schools for its German minority should not deny Yiddish or Hebrew schools for its Jewish minority; that a state which can permit national and regional organizations for certain ethnic groups should, under the principle of non-discrimination, permit the same for Jews; that a state which permits recognized leaders of every other group to travel abroad to conferences and holy places should not deny that right to Jewish leaders; that a state that finds facilities to publish materials in the language and traditions of some groups should not deny this right to Jewish groups; that a state which issues identity cards to its citizens classifying them by the nationality of the republic in which they live, should not deny Jews the right to the same identification.”

Conceding that in recent months “there has been a degree of relaxation in some of the restrictions previously placed on Jewish life and Jewish worship,” Mr. Rogers said: “We hope these relaxations will be broadened to cover all areas of activity; To suggest that these relaxations are as yet sufficient would be to ignore the thousands of synagogues which have been closed to Jewish worship, the restrictions on the theater and on efforts involving Jewish language and culture and other obstacles placed in the way of Jewish life.”

Mr. Rogers told the Committee that “unfortunately there is anti-Semitism also in other countries. The United States is not without it. But, as we work toward the elimination of other forms of racial discrimination from our national life, we work also to root out anti-Semitism.”

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