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by Alex Grobmam


This book traces the transformation of the United Nations (UN) from an organization that voted to partition the former British Mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states — making Israel a nation state — and then passed a Zionism=Racism (Z=R) resolution to delegitimize and dehumanize that nation.

An Abbreviated History Of Zionism

Zionism — the Jewish national renaissance movement — is one of the most misunderstood examples of modern nationalism. Part of the reason is that Zionism is founded on a paradox. In an attempt to transform the Jewish people into becoming like all the other nations of the world, Zionism sought a contemporary solution to the "Jewish problem" by returning Jews to their ancestral homeland.[1] Although secular Zionist thinkers drew upon sacred Jewish traditions of rebirth and restoration, they discarded or recast anything not connected to restoration, especially religious rituals. Zionism is therefore, again, paradoxically an endeavor to restore the Jew to his historical roots through national revival while at the same time "rebelling against Jewish history"; an effort to re-establish Jewish tradition while redefining Jewish practice and ritual; an effort to enable Jews to live in their own land like every other nation, while stressing the distinctive elements in their history, culture, and society.[2]

Those who initially immigrated to the Yishuv (Jewish settlement in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel) were motivated by a desire for self-determination, liberation, and identity within the context of the liberalism, secularism, modernism, and nationalism unleashed by the French Revolution and the Declaration of the Human Rights of Man.[3] The Enlightenment, an intellectual utopian movement of the 18th century, posited that were logic and reason to reign in society, they would overcome superstition and hatred. As it pertained to Jews, it was supposed to free them from their old ways and enable them to acquire roots in their adopted lands.

The idea that it would usher in an era where bigotry and prejudice would be replaced with tolerance and moderation turned out to be a fantasy. For Jews, it was an especial failure because in the 18th century Jews still lived behind ghetto walls, essentially cutting them off from society at large. Their dress, religious practice, and ways of thinking made them appear peculiar and parochial, and set them apart. Even after the ghetto walls no longer existed, masses of European Jews maintained their Jewish traditions instead of assimilating.[4]

Though Jews had pined for the land of Zion for millennia, Zionism itself did not develop before the 19th and 20th centuries because it was much more than just a response to antisemitism. It was an attempt to create a new Jew based on Enlightenment ideas,[5] but a Jewish return to Zion was more than the emigration of a people to a new land. Zionist settlers did not seek to go to Palestine to dominate another people and exploit the area's natural resources for export. They came to establish settlements and to develop the country. The future State of Israel would have no towns or villages named New Warsaw, New Lodz, New Moscow, New Minsk, or New Pinsk — unlike the New World, where settlements were named for old cities (e.g., New London, New Orleans, New York, New England, and New Madrid).[6] Furthermore, by rejecting Europe and by creating the modern Hebrew language, the Zionists tried to create their own intellectual and cultural energy without imitating or transplanting the old ways. Using biblical (Hebrew) names to affirm control over their geography, they did not consider themselves outsiders or conquerors. Their settlements were tangible manifestations of the Jewish return to the homeland.[7]

Those Jews who settled in the Yishuv came to a land that was sparsely populated and economically underdeveloped, with sizable regions of desert, semi-arid wilderness, and swamps. Before the

British arrived in Palestine at the end of World War I, the authorities in the Ottoman Empire had practicalions, or controls on the construction of private and public buildings. Except for a few roads and a rail line that projected the Ottoman Empire's imperial power, there were few public works projects. Resident Arabs, traditional in outlook, had no interest in new plans for their communities either. Thus, for Herzl and other European Zionists, in addition to its being the ancestral homeland, Turkish Palestine was inviting because of its lack of government account- ability, absence of local Arab initiative, and the "empty landscape."[8]

At this point in history, post-World War I, political pressure caused the international community to endorse the Jewish desire for national self-determination and accepted that the Jewish people had a justifiable claim to return to their homeland. Significantly, in this recognition, the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate under the League of Nations make no mention of Palestinians as a separate and distinct people with their own national rights. The indigenous people were regarded as residents whose political identity was connected to the larger Arab nation.[9]

For the British, the matter was quite clear: Palestine was not a state but the name of a geographical area. This had been reinforced by the indigenous Arabs themselves.

When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to select Palestinian Arab representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, they adopted the following resolution: "We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic, and geographical bonds."[10]

The purpose of post-World War I's League of Nations was to prepare those liberated from the Turks for independence. Once the indigenous populations demonstrated their ability to assume control, the mandates given to the war's victorious superpowers were supposed to be self-terminating. For the international community, justice for the Arabs meant guaranteeing their economic, civil, and religious rights. Awarding the Arabs any form of self-government within Palestine was precluded by British commitments to the Jews under the Balfour Declaration, which had been incorporated in the mandate of the League of Nations.[11]

The Jewish Connection To The Land

Culturally, during the 18 centuries of Jewish life in the Diaspora, the connection to the land of Israel played a key role in the value system of Jewish communities and was a basic determinant in their self-recognition as a group. Without the connection to the land of Israel, the people who practice Judaism would simply be a religious community, without national and ethnic components. Jews were distinct from the Muslim and Christian communities in which they lived because of their religious be- liefs and practices and the eternal link to the land of their forefathers. That is why Jews considered themselves — and are seen by others — as a minority living in exile.[12]

As Abraham Joshua Heschel, professor of Jewish Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary, explained:

For the Jews and for them alone [the land of Israel] was the one and only Homeland, the only conceivable place where they could find liberation and independence, the land toward which their minds and hearts had been uplifted for a score of centuries and where their roots had clung in spite of all adversity. . . . It was the homeland with which an indestructible bond of national, physical, religious, and spiritual character had been preserved, and where the Jews had in essence remained — and were now once more in fact — a major element of the population.[13]

The Jews did not publicly challenge the occupation of their land by the empires of the East and West. They did so in their homes, sanctuaries, books, and prayers. Religious rituals were instituted to remember the destruction of the temple and the subsequent exile. During times of joy and sorrow, Zion is always part of a Jew's thoughts and liturgy. At least three times a day, observant Jews pray for the redemp- tion of Zion and Jerusalem and for her well-being.[14]

Arthur Balfour
British Foreign Secretary
(Courtesy of Michael Duffy)

When the Muslims invaded Palestine in 634, ending four centuries of conflict between Persia and Rome, they found direct descendants of Jews who had lived in the country since biblical times. Rabbinical leaders there continued to argue about "whether most of Palestine is in the hands of the Gentiles," or "whether the greater part of Palestine is in the hands of Israel." (Such a determination was essential, since according to halacha [Jewish law] if Jews ruled the country, then they were obligated to observe religious agricultural practices in one way, and in another if they were not in control.)[15]

As Muslim hegemony prevailed, major Arab contributions to history originated in Damascus, Mecca, Cairo, and Baghdad. Little came from Jerusalem, indicating the low regard the area held for its captors and its minimal occupation by 16 nAtions United: How tHe United nAtions is Undermining isrAel And tHe west Arabs. Similarly, while the land of Palestine was two percent of the Arab-controlled land-mass, to the Jewish people it was forever the fount of their religion, their homeland.[16]

David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, pointed out that more than 3,000 years before the Mayflower left England for the New World, Jews fled from Egypt. Jews even slightly cognizant of their faith know that every spring Jews commemorate and remember the liberation from slavery and the Exodus from Egypt to the land of Israel. Those who observe the seder (the Passover meal and retelling of the exodus from Egypt), end it with two sentences: "This year we are here; next year we shall be in [Jerusalem] the land of Israel. This year we are slaves; next year we shall be free."[17]

Though bound to its religious foundation, a Jewish State also means "Jewish security. Even in countries where he seems secure, the Jew lacks a feeling of security. Why? Because even if he is safe, he has not physically provided safety for himself. Somebody else provides for his security. The State of Israel provides such security."[18]

Anti-Zionism Becomes International In Scope

For more than 20 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, anti-Zionism was a regional phenomenon — a clash between Arab and Jewish national movements in the Middle East. In the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, the Soviets exploited antisemitism for political purposes, but it was rarely part of international debate until after the Six-Day War in 1967. By the end of the 1960s, and since 1975, anti-Zionism became international in scope. It first appeared in the universities in the West where the New Left, in cooperation with Arab student associations, attacked Israeli policy.[19]

When the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 3379 on November 10, 1975, and declared "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination," it significantly expanded anti-Zionism into the sphere of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and therefore into Third World countries. This was accomplished in a collaboration between the Arabs and the Soviet Union that endowed anti-Zionism with legitimacy and official recognition.[20]

After the First World War, the Arabs expected Greater Syria — which included Palestine and Lebanon — to become a vast, united, and sovereign Arab empire. Instead, the French and the British divided the area into what the Arabs considered "irrationally carved out" entities that became the present-day states of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Trans-Jordan (later Jordan), Iraq, and Israel. The Arabs were outraged that a "non-Arab embryo state in Palestine" had been inserted into an area where it would never be accepted. They claimed that this shattered their dreams of unification and impeded their search for a common identity.[21]

The fight against a Jewish homeland became an integral part of their struggle "for dignity and independence." Israel's existence, they claimed, "implied that not only a part of the Arab patrimony, but also parts of Islam, had been stolen. For a Moslem, there was no greater shame than for that to happen." The only way to eliminate this deeply felt affront — this "symbol of everything that had dominated them in the past" — was to rid the area of "imperialist domination."[22]

Zionism has been branded as the official enemy of the Arab national movement, but Arab governments have long been accused of using the Arab-Israeli confrontation to divert attention from their own critical domestic social and economic problems. When confronted, they respond that if this were not a real concern, it would not resonate so strongly among the Arab masses.[23] Bernard Lewis, professor emeritus at Princeton University, the dean of Middle Eastern scholars in the West, says Arab fixation with Israel "is the licensed grievance. In countries where people are becoming increasingly angry and frustrated at all the difficulties under which they live — the poverty, unemployment, oppression — having a grievance which they can express freely is an enormous psychological advantage."[24]

The Israeli-Arab conflict is the only local political grievance that can be openly discussed. If the population were permitted freedom of speech, Lewis believes that the obsession with Israel would become far less important. Like most people, Arabs are concerned about their own priorities. For the Palestinian Arabs, who view themselves as the permanent victims, the main issue is their struggle with Israel. If Arabs in other countries were permitted to focus on their own problems, they would do so.[25]

For Arabs, the attempt to blame Western imperialism is nothing more than an excuse to attack Israel, as another historian asserted: "For decades the Arabs have been obsessed by memories of past glories and prophecies of future greatness, mocked by the injury and shame of having an alien and despised race injected into the nerve center of their promised pan-Arab empire, between its Asian and African halves, just at a time when the colonial powers had started their great retreat from their colonial possessions in Asia and Africa."[26]

To lessen their feelings of shame for losing every war against Israel, the Arabs attributed the success of Jewish settlement in Palestine and the Israeli military triumphs of 1948 and 1956 to Western imperialism. As the representative of the Great Powers, Israel became the Arabs' scapegoat whenever they became frustrated in their attempt to transcend "centuries of social, economic, and cultural development, and catch up" with the West. This anti-Israel fixation precipitated a methodical "Manichean metaphysic, the focus of an entire philosophy of history, with the Jew as the devil incarnate from the days of patriarch Abraham himself till his assumption of the role of the linchpin of an American-Imperialist-Zionist world-plot against the Arab world, the Socialist Commonwealth and all colonial peoples."[27]

The Six-Day War

The crushing defeat of the Arabs in the 1967 Six-Day War shattered this fantasy and accentuated Arab humiliation, since the Israelis won without the backing of any imperialist nations. Arab rage was exacerbated by the casualty rates in Israel's favor — about 25 to 1 — and by the number of prisoners of war Israel captured. At least 5,000 Egyptian soldiers, including 21 generals, 365 Syrians (30 of whom were officers), and 550 Jordanians were taken. Only 15 Israelis were held as POWs. Arab military hardware losses were in the billions of dollars — most of it coming from Soviet Bloc countries.[28]

Israel's Minister of Defense during the Six-Day War,
Moshe Dayan, 1967
(Courtesy of Israeli Government Photo Office)

Civilian casualties were minimal: Israelis estimate that 175,000 Arab noncombatants fled the West Bank to Jordan; Jordanians claim that number is 250,000. Though the Israelis did not initiate the Arab exodus, they did not attempt to stop it. The refugees were not encouraged to return, but Moshe Dayan, Israel's Minister of Defense, stopped the practice of preventing them from crossing back to the West Bank a week after the war, after observing ambushes and concluding that they were inhumane.[29]

Israelis wanted to resolve the 1948 and 1967 refugee problem — to be determined when a comprehensive peace agreement would be negotiated. The Arabs rejected the offer and insisted that the refugees be allowed to return, unconditionally, and receive compensation. Yet, in the summer of 1967, when Israel agreed to allow Arabs to come back to the West Bank, only a handful returned.[30]

At the same time, the Arabs persecuted and tormented their own Jewish residents. Jews were attacked in Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco. Synagogues were burned and Jews were arrested and detained. In Damascus and Baghdad, Jewish leaders were fined and imprisoned, and 7,000 Jews were expelled after their property and most of their belongings were confiscated. Eight hundred of Egypt's 4,000 Jews were arrested, including the chief rabbis of Cairo and Alexandria. The UN and the Red Cross did nothing to intervene on their behalf.[31]

Despite this treatment of Jews in Arab lands, the 1.2 million Arabs under Israeli governance did not experience any systematic mistreatment. Looting and vandalism were reported in some areas, but the Israelis repaired whatever damage they found. Though Jordanians had destroyed synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem and used the tombstones from the Jewish cemeteries on the Mount of Olives to pave roads and use in latrines, Moshe Dayan participated in the Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Perhaps the greatest trauma for the Arabs was that Israel had conquered 42,000 square miles — and was now three-and-a-half times larger in size than before the war.[32]

Anti-Zionism entered the international scene when Israel and Egypt reached political rapprochement after the Yom Kippur War by signing an interim agreement on September 1, 1975. That agreement emphasized, "The conflict between them and in the Middle East shall not be resolved by military force but by peaceful means."[33]

Concerned that this might lead to peace, the Soviets, Syria, and the PLO tried to exclude Israel from international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), like UNESCO, "for having transgressed the United Nations Charter, and having failed to adopt its resolutions." When this strategy failed, they began to question Israel's legitimacy and discredit and condemn Zionism in the UN, and to internationalize their propaganda against her.[34]

Political Antisemitism

Irwin Cotler, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, wrote:

Traditional anti-Semitism was the denial of the right of individual Jews to live as equal members in a society. The new anti-Jewishness is the denial of the right of Jewish people to live as equal members in the family of nations. . . . All that has happened is that we've moved from discrimination against the Jews as individuals to the discrimination against the Jews as a people.[35]

Courtesy of Eli Hertz

Demonizing Israel has turned it into a physical target for terrorist organizations, and into a political target for left wing and reactionary forces. Whether there are fatwas (legal rulings by Muslim clerics that routinely legitimize suicide terrorism) or there are organizations demanding divestment from Israeli corporations, destruction of Israel — physical, spiritual, or economic — is one of the mantras of the day. This is what Cotler calls political antisemitism.[36]

For the majority of the member states in the UN, Israel is a locus of evil, deserving international condemnation — unlike many countries in the UN that practice ethnic cleansing, offer no rights to women or the poor, starve their own people for political reasons, and commit genocide.

These same nations, in the halls of an institution that was designed to prevent exactly this from happening, deny Israel her rights even in the courts of international law. Israel is the target of the majority of UN sanctions, is vilified by the International Court of Justice at the Hague for defending herself, and is singled out by the Geneva Convention as the utmost violator of human rights.[37]

It has been suggested that this deliberate delegitimization leads to gradual erosion of Israel's stature and ultimately her right to exist. Those targeted are the last to recognize the transformation until the consequences of ostracism become evident. This occurs when remarks by the country's spokesman are seen as irrelevant, and when the leadership is no longer regarded as worthy of engaging in legitimate discourse with other countries.[38]

Branding Israel as racist portrays her as a country that harms civilian populations, oppresses minorities, and establishes restrictive immigration laws and religious statutes as part of its ideological raison d'etre. Thus, Israel's wars — its military response to terror and laws passed by the Knesset — are racist. A significant danger to Israel is that if this charge becomes a new stereotype through popular culture, the media, literature, and daily speech, it will taint the Jewish state and become a part of the legacy of the West.[39]

How does one respond to such charges? No logical argument ever succeeded in disputing the blood libels or any other spurious allegation leveled against the Jews. Yet, limited response to Z=R ensured that anti-Zionist resolutions continued to be passed. To counter the process of delegitimization, the charges have to be seen as a "corruption of language and thought," a threat to freedom, and a campaign of disinformation orchestrated by the Arab states and the Soviet Union.[40]

This book examines the initial reactions to the Z=R resolution by the United States, Israel, and others, the political and cultural environment at the UN, and the provocative roles played by Arab states, the Former Soviet Union (FSU), African nations, and NGOs in the new war against the Jews.

End Notes

1. Abraham I. Edelheit, The History of Zionism: A Handbook and Dictionary (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000), p. xv.

2. Ibid.

3. Shlomo Avineri, The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State (New York: Basic Books, Inc. Publishers, 1981), p. 5, 13.

4. George L. Mosse, Germans and Jews (New York: Grosset and Dunlop, 1970), p. 42-76. Many Jews, particularly on the left, were influenced by the ideas of the Russian revolution that all oppressed nations should unite in their fight for emancipation against a common enemy. Jacob L. Talmon, Israel Among the Nations (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970), p. 142.

5. Avineri, The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State, p. 5, 13.

6. S. Ilan Troen, Imagining Zion: Dreams, Designs, and Realities in a Century of Jewish Settlement (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 7-9, 55, 142.

7. Ibid., p. 151-152, 158.

8. Ibid., p. 70, 90-91, 159.

9. Eli E. Hertz, Reply, Myths and Facts, 2005, p. 24. See Yehoshua Porath, The Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion, Volume 2 (London: Frank Cass and Company, 1977),

p. 81-82.)

10. Ibid.

11. Troen, Imagining Zion: Dreams, Designs, and Realities in a Century of Jewish Settlement, p. 44; Yosef Gorny, Zionism and the Arabs:1882-1948 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 82; Michael J. Cohen, The Origins and Evolution of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1987), p. 64-65.

12. Avineri, The Making of Modern Zionism: The Intellectual Origins of the Jewish State, p. 3.

13. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Israel: An Echo Eternity (New York: Farrar, Straus, 1967), p. 57.

14. Ibid., p. 55, 61-67.

15. Yaacov Herzog, A People That Dwells Alone (New York: Sanhedrin Press), 1975.p. 33; Ibid., p. 57. While Jewish settlement in recent times began in 1881, in the 3rd and 4th centuries, Pal- estine was probably the largest and most significant Jewish community in the world. Benjamin of Tudela, Saadia Gaon, Maimonides and Judah Halevi were there from the 12th century and Nachmanides from the early 13th century. Rabbi Estori Ha-Parhi, author of Kaftor va-Ferah, demonstrates how, since biblical times, Jews have lived on the land continuously.

16. Heschel, Israel: An Echo Eternity, p. 59.

17. The Jewish Case Before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine (Jerusalem: The Jewish Agency For Palestine, 1947), p. 63, 65.

18. Ibid., p. 68; David Ben Gurion, "Ben-Gurion and De Gaulle: An Exchange of Letters," Midstream (February 1968), p. 12. 19. Yohanan Manor, "Anti-Zionism," (Jerusalem: World Zionist Organization, 1984), p. 8.

20. Ibid.

21. Saul Friedlander and Mahmoud Hussein, Arabs and Israelis: A Dialogue (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1975), p. 6, 18, 21.

22. Ibid., p. 9, 34.

23. Ibid.

24. "Islam's Interpreter," The Atlantic Online (April 4, 2004), Online.

25. Ibid; Friedlander and Hussein, Arabs and Israelis: A Dialogue, p. 32-33, 36.

26. Talmon, Israel Among the Nations, p. 169-170.

27. Ibid., p. 170.

28. Michael B. Oren, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 305-306.

29. Ibid., p. 306.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid., p. 306-307.

32. Ibid.

33. Manor, "Anti-Zionism," p. 9-10.

34. Ibid., p. 10.

35. Irwin Cotler, "Why Is Israel Singled Out?" The Jerusalem Post (January 16, 2002), Online.

36. Ibid; see also Irwin Cotler, "Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness," The Jerusalem Post (February 5, 2004), Online; Irwin Cotler, "Durban's Troubling Legacy One Year Later: Twisting the Cause of International Human Rights Against the Jewish People," Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs, Volume 2, Number 5 (August 20, 2002), Online.

37. Ibid.

38. Ehud Sprinzak, "Anti-Zionism: From Delegitimation to Dehumanization," Forum-53 (Fall 1984), p. 3-5.

39. Ibid., p. 7-8.

40. Ibid., p. 9-10.


Dr. Grobman is author of "Battling for Souls: The Vaad Hatzala Rescue Committee in Post War Europe" [KTAV] and co-author of "Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened?" (University of California Press, 2000)

This article is the Introduction of Grobman's most recent book: Nations United: How the United Nations is Undermining Israel and the West. It was published by Green Forest, AR: Balfour Books in 2006.
ISBN-13: 978-0-89221-674-1; ISBN-10: 0-89221-674-3
Library of Congress Catalog Number: 2006935625 For additional information, contact New Leaf Press at


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