Thirteen years ago, the United Nations General Assembly passed by overwhelming vote a Resolution that equated Zionism with racism, something to be condemned by all people and by all nations. It was the high-water mark of public anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism. Does this Resolution have any validity?
What are the facts?
Before deciding whether Zionism can be equated with racism, it's important to determine what Zionism really is. It's the philosophy and the movement whose purpose for almost 2000 years has been to restore Zion, the ancient land of Israel to the Jewish people, as its ancestral national homeland. Through centuries of wars, devastation, exile, dispersion and persecution, Zion never ceased to be the heart of Jewish yearning and survival. It was only as Eretz Israel, as Zion, that this land entered into the historical, cultural and spiritual consciousness of the world.
Jews have lived in the Holy Land since Biblical times and without interruption. They are the original and the oldest settlers. But it wasn't until late in the last century that this love for Zion found expression in a political movement. It was founded by Theodor Herzl, a totally "emancipated" Austrian Jew, a playwright and journalist. His intellect, vision and energy, his personal magnetism and organizational talents gave expression and action to the age-old Jewish longing for Zion. Modern political Zionism was born. The ingathering of the children of Israel into their ancestral homeland had begun.
Sparked by their ancient yearning and by Herzl's vision, tens of thousands of European Jews left for Palestine and transformed it into what Israel is today -- a land of verdant fields, lush forests, productive industries and flourishing cities.
How about "racism?" It is a defamation of the Jewish faith to link it with this evil concept. It is incompatible with the doctrines of Jewish civilization, enunciated over 3000 years ago in the Holy Bible, in which all mankind is traced to a single human being, created by G-d in His own image. The two greatest sufferers from the plague of racism have been the Blacks and the Jewish people. It's only today that this cruel yoke has been lifted from the Blacks. The fate of the Jews, as victims of racism, was even more cruel. Because wherever they lived in the Old World, it was only at the sufferance of their overlords -- always subject to living in ghettos, having no access to education, being restricted to few and humiliating occupations, and always victims of persecution, murder, rape, confiscation and exile.
The suffering of the Jews as victims of racism reached its terrible climax during the Holocaust of the Second World War, perpetrated by the German Nazi machine. The Jews of Europe were liquidated in the most horrible manner imaginable six million of them altogether. The terms "Holocaust" and "Genocide" had to be coined to express this unprecedented disaster, this bizarre expression of hatred and racism.
Racism is totally contrary to Jewish philosophy and Jewish thinking, Jews have been and still are on the forefront of the fight for racial justice in the United States, in South Africa and all over the world. The state of Israel is founded on racial equality. And how could it be otherwise? Close to 60% of the population of Israel are what we would call "non-Caucasians." Can such a state be racist? The question is preposterous and the answer is obvious.
Israel has been and continues to be a leader in policies that attest to its "non-racism." It has pioneered a hugely effective development program in 31 Black African countries. Israel has organized similar development programs in such countries as Thailand, Burma, the Philippines and Singapore. It was among the first countries to take in Vietnamese boat people. Israel has absorbed into its society hundreds of thousands of refugees from all over the world and without any reference to their race. Among them are the Black Jews of India, Oriental Jews from all Arab countries, and most recently more than 10,000 Black Ethiopian Jews who were airlifted to freedom in Israel, in a daring rescue operation.
The disgusting equation that "Zionism = Racism" was foisted on the General Assembly of the United Nations by the Arab nations and by the Soviet bloc. It has no basis in fact. Israel is a multi-racial society in which all races, including the resident Arabs and Druze, are treated equally, are represented in the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), and hold important official and diplomatic positions. For instance, until quite recently, the Israeli Consul General in Atlanta was an Arab. Racism is totally contrary to the tenets of the Jewish religion and to the unwritten constitution of Israel. How does that compare to Israel's accusers? The Soviet block still keeps its Jews in bondage by making emigration difficult and subject to much delay and red tape. The Arabs have for the most part expelled all Jews from their countries and don't even allow Jewish visitors. They were the slave masters of yesteryear and in some cases are reported to practice slavery even today. They are mercilessly exploiting Black Africa and other developing countries by their inflated oil prices. For them to say that Zionism is racism is a travesty and an insult to the intelligence of the world.
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Gerardo Joffe, President