(November 10) - Twenty-five years ago today, the late Chaim Herzog, stood at the podium of the UN General Assembly and ripped in two the resolution that body was about to pass, the infamous "Zionism is racism" resolution. Ambassador (later president) Herzog predicted that the odious resolution would mark a "turning point," not for Israel, but for the UN. He also pointed out that Kristallnacht, the night of the Nazi rampage against the Jews of Germany, occurred on the same day, 38 years before.
It is tempting to view the "Zionism is racism" resolution as a relic of a bygone era. Indeed, that resolution marked a period in which America seemed to be losing the Cold War. This was the time of the ignominious US withdrawal from Vietnam, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the rise of Soviet-backed "national liberation" movements.
By contrast, the 1991 revocation of the "Zionism is racism" resolution by the General Assembly symbolized the reversal of this era of American retreat, the utter collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the emergence of the US as the world's sole superpower.
But even though the Cold War is safely over and gone, a sinister thread connects this day in 1975, and even the Nazi menace that emerged so viciously on this day in 1938, with our own time: the technique of the "big lie." It was the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, of course, who noted that big lies can paradoxically be believed more easily than smaller lies, because of the human inability to completely dismiss arrogance backed by power. The UN's 1975 attempt to delegitimize the national movement of the Jewish people was a classic example of the big lie technique, writ large on the world stage.
The depressing thing is that, 25 years later, Yasser Arafat has largely succeeded in pulling a similar stunt. Just weeks after being internationally isolated for rejecting peace negotiations at Camp David, Arafat regained the high moral ground in international eyes by compounding rejectionism with violence.
The cynicism behind the Zionism is racism resolution, in fact, pales beside that of Arafat today, who does not shy away from pushing Palestinian children into the crossfire to die in front of television cameras. Here we have the big lie technique at its most gruesome - sacrificing children to gain propaganda points and avoid making peace.
The other thread connecting the current moment with the UN in 1975 is the reemergence of antisemitism as a global phenomenon. The UN resolution was an example of crass antisemitism in institutionalized form. Today, a wave of antisemitism has struck the Diaspora in the wake of the Palestinians success in transmogrifying an armed attack against Israel into a "tanks vs. stones" attack against Palestinians.
The ease with which the world can flip from praising Israel's desire for peace to burning synagogues is somewhat breathtaking, and demonstrates that we have not progressed since 1975 as much as it seemed a short time ago.
Israel should respond to this new-old reality by reviving some of the spirit of defiance that characterized Chaim Herzog's classic 1975 speech to the General Assembly. On that day, Herzog told the delegates, "I stand here not as a supplicant. Vote as your moral conscience dictates to you. For the issue is neither Israel nor Zionism. The issue is the continued existence of this organization, which has been dragged to its lowest point of discredit by a coalition of despots and racists."
The US, for its part, did not respond with the same degree of resignation that it sometimes shows today for lopsided anti-Israel resolutions. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the retiring senator from New York who was then America's UN ambassador, did not mince words: "The United States... does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act."
The big lie Israel faces today must be met with similar fortitude, and with the internal unity that any base libel against Israel and the Jewish people should generate. The truth is that the hand that Israel stretched out in peace was not met by a hand from the other side, but a hail of bullets.