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Resolution on Anti-semitism Brings U.N. Around Full Circle

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A decision by the United Nations this week to consider anti-Semitism as a form of racism returns the world body to its roots on the human rights front.

The General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution to list anti-Semitism among other concerns to be investigated by a special U.N. monitor on racism, including racial incidents and discrimination “against blacks, Arabs and Muslims,” xenophobia and “Negrophobia.”

The Dec. 9 resolution came on the 50th anniversary of the U.N.’s genocide convention and one day before celebrations of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of which were inspired in large part by the systematic murders perpetrated by the Nazi regime.

“Yesterday, this assembly reaffirmed that all forms of racism, including anti- Semitism, must be defeated in the struggle for human rights,” U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan said at the ceremonies commemorating the human rights document.

“To the United Nations, this anniversary is more than a milestone,” Annan said. “It is a mirror that reflects how far we have come and how long we have to go.”

Although the issue of specifically listing anti-Semitism was raised in Geneva several years ago, according to Israel’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Aaron Jacob, the Dec. 9 resolution is the first to specifically mention of anti-Semitism by the 185-member General Assembly.

In November 1975, the General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” The resolution was repealed in 1991, against the opposition of most Arab member-states.

In March, at a meeting in Jerusalem of the World Jewish Congress’ Israel Council on Foreign Relations, Annan had denounced all forms of anti-Semitism and called the 1975 resolution on Zionism “lamentable.” The resolution’s adoption was “the low point in relations whose negative resonance even today is difficult to overestimate,” he said.

Jacob called this week’s decision a “welcome development,” one that was championed by the “intense efforts” of Jewish organizations in pushing for the resolution.

Turkey was also instrumental in overcoming the objection of Arab and Muslim member-states to the inclusion of the term in the resolution, originally put forth at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

The idea for a U.N. official to monitor forms of racism, including anti- Semitism, was the brainchild of Morris Abram, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva who now chairs U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based affiliate of the WJC.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called the General Assembly’s action “long overdue.” In a statement, Foxman said the move is “particularly significant” in light of the fact that in 1995, the U.N. omitted “specific mention of the Jewish victims of World War II in a United Nations declaration marking the 50th anniversary” of the war’s end.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was the first human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations.

Raphael Lemkin, the international lawyer who coined the term “genocide,” pressed for the treaty’s adoption by the General Assembly in 1948.

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