Marking 40 years since Chaim Herzog tore up the “Zionism is racism” resolution before the United Nations, Secretary of State John Kerry vowed to resolve to “do all in our power to prevent the hijacking of this great forum for malicious intent.”
He also said the “Zionist dream” of Israel “as a Jewish democracy” won’t be realized without a peace deal with the Palestinians.
The event was organized by the nonprofit Yad Chaim Herzog and Israel’s Mission to the UN. In addition to Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon was there along with Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, and Herzog’s sons opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Brigadier-General (Res.) Michael Herzog.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recorded a video that was played at the event, saying the high point of the distinguished service of the late ambassador and president was the speech in which he tore up the resolution. “His response to that UN obscenity was both right and just,” Netanyahu said. “Because that resolution was designed to undermine the very legitimacy of Israel. And this just 30 years after the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust. So the very organization that was born in the fight against Nazism had betrayed its own sacred mission.”
“But the truth has to be said: Israel still faces systemic discrimination at the hands of the United Nations…. The president of Iran calls for the annihilation of Israel; the UN — deafening silence. The Palestinians walk away from peace talks, the UN blames Israel. In fact, singling out Israel for condemnation at the UN is so common it’s become banal — I suppose, to borrow a phrase, we’d call it the banality of evil.”
Kerry said in honoring Herzog they were celebrating “an Israeli leader who stood against the tide, and who spoke the truth with historic clarity and brilliant eloquence.”
Kerry added that he watched Herzog’s speech on YouTube the previous evening. “I will tell you, as somebody who has given speeches for a long time, these were remarkable speeches,” he said.
“It was a bitter irony that this resolution against Zionism was originally a resolution against racism and colonialism, two evils the condemnation of which could have easily been voted for in this body. But that journey to reasonableness was detoured by a willful ignorance of history and truth.”
After heaping praise on Daniel Patrick Moynihan for supporting Herzog on that day, Kerry went on to stress that “too many outside this room fail to recognize the global reality of anti-Semitism today.”
“Too many fail to realize that a witch’s brew of old prejudices and new political grievances and economic troubles and nationalism combine to create dangerous new openings for extremism. So Herzog and Moynihan together have left us a major responsibility to continue to tell the world that anti-Semitism is as abhorrent and vile today as it was in 1975,” he said.
“…Truth summons us and unites us in common action against anti-Semitism. But make no mistake. Bigotry isn’t just a matter of a threat to Israel or to the Jewish people. It is a danger to all religions, and to all who believe in freedom. That is why truth must unite us in the struggle against violent extremism and against the terrorist bigots of Daesh, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, and so many others, and similar groups throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.”
Kerry decried hate that is taught, noting that “in too many places ignorance is abetted by corruption and by the failure of leadership and governance, and a difference of religion or race or creed or culture, of homeland or sexual orientation are somehow seen as threats by too many people. In truth, they ought to be celebrated for enriching our societies through their diversity.”
And, of course, Kerry worked in a plug for the peace process that has been an Obama administration priority.
“And it is why we remain unwavering in our pursuit of a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, because the vision of Israel itself is one for a Jewish state founded in democracy. And the only way to have that democracy is to have that peace,” he said.
“The Zionist dream embraces the concept of Israel as a Jewish democracy, a beacon of light to all nations. And that dream can only be upheld by two states living side by side in peace and security. And we all know, from years of discussion and effort, this is not an impossible dream.”