(This article is published in Mondoweiss.)
is a form of racism and racial discrimination,” reads UN General Assembly Resolution 3379. The measure was adopted 40 years ago, on Nov. 10, 1975, and the majority of the international community backed it. 72 countries voted for the resolution, with just 35 opposed (and 32 abstentions).
Although little-known in the US today (it is remarkable how effectively the US and its allies have rewritten history in their favor), UN GA Res. 3379, titled “Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination,” made an indelible imprint on history.
The geographic distribution of the vote was telling. The countries that voted against the resolution were primarily colonial powers and/or their allies. The countries that voted for it were overwhelmingly formerly colonized and anti-imperialist nations.
The resolution also cited two other little-known measures passed by international organizations in the same year:
- the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity’s resolution 77, which ruled “that the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure”; and
- the Political Declaration and Strategy to Strengthen International Peace and Security and to Intensify Solidarity and Mutual Assistance among Non-Aligned Countries, which called Zionism a “racist and imperialist ideology.”
When the resolution was passed, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Chaim Herzog — who later became Israel’s sixth president, and the father of Isaac Herzog, the head of Israel’s opposition — famously tore up the text at the podium.
Herzog claimed the measure was “based on hatred, falsehood, and arrogance,” insisting it was “devoid of any moral or legal value.” Still today, supporters of Israel argue UN GA Res. 3379 was an anomalous product of anti-Semitism. In reality, however, the resolution was the result of international condemnation of the illegal military occupation to which Palestinians had been subjected since 1967 and the apartheid-like conditions the indigenous Arab population had lived under as second-class citizens of an ethnocratic state since 1948.
In 1991, resolution 3379 was repealed for two primary reasons: One, the Soviet bloc, which helped pass the resolution, had collapsed; and two, Israel and the US demanded that it be revoked or they refused to participate in the Madrid Peace Conference.
At the UN on Nov. 11, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and Secretary of State John Kerry eulogized the late Herzog and forcefully condemned the resolution on its 40th anniversary.
In his 2,500-word statement, Kerry mentioned Palestinians just once, and only then as an extension of Israelis. In her remarks, Power did not mention Palestinians at all.