UN Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism Called 'Historic' by Israel

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - European support for including condemnation of anti-Semitism as part of a religious intolerance resolution by the United Nations was an "important" development, Israeli officials said on Tuesday.

The resolution passed unanimously -- 177 votes in favor -- in the General Assembly's third committee on Monday despite strong Arab and Muslim protests against the mention of anti-Semitism.

Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Dan Gillerman, called passage of the resolution an "historic breakthrough for Israel" at the U.N.

The annual resolution is traditionally sponsored by the European Union, said Ronny Leshno Yaar, Israel Foreign Ministry deputy director general for the U.N. and international organizations.

This past year, Israel broke the consensus by abstaining from supporting the resolution because it excluded any reference to anti-Semitism, Yaar said.

The Arab and Muslim bloc, which includes non-aligned states, has an automatic majority in the General Assembly. Voting, therefore, is usually stacked against Israel.

This year, Israel, the European community and other nations mounted a concerted effort to include a reference to anti-Semitism, Yaar said. On Monday, the Arab and Muslim bloc proposed its own text for the crucial paragraph, but the Europeans stood their ground, and the alternate text failed.

The resolution says that the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly "recognized with deep concern the overall rise in instances of intolerance and violence directed against members of many religious communities in various parts of the world, including cases motivated by Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Christianophobia."

"It's an important move for the Europeans," said Yaar. "They should get credit for the way they negotiated the resolution and insisted on not changing the text."

Yaar said it was a matter of principle and showed that when the Europeans insist on a principle, they can achieve their goal.

Significant change

Israel often sees European countries in the Arab world's court. For years, Israel refused any European participation in the peace process for fear that it would tip the balance out of that nation's favor.

Anti-Semitic acts in Europe, which has a growing Arab and Muslim population, have increased sharply since the Palestinians launched their terrorist war against Israel. A majority of these attacks have been linked to anti-Israel sentiments.

Earlier this week, an Orthodox Jewish man was shot and killed in Antwerp, Belgium, in what appeared to have been an anti-Semitic attack. Hundreds of other incidents have occurred throughout Europe, ranging from attacks on synagogues and cemeteries to threats and attacks against Jewish people.

Israel and international Jewish leaders have encouraged European politicians to take a strong stand against anti-Semitic violence and to teach against it in their schools.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, called the resolution a "very positive development" and "a step forward."

"The most important point is the determination of the European Union countries not to give in to the Arab [representatives] to water down [or alter the resolution]," Zuroff said. "This is a significant change."

According to Zuroff, the significance has more to do with the Europeans than with the U.N. While America has always been concerned and at the forefront of the battle against anti-Semitism, he said, Europe has not.

"If this marks a change in the attitude of the European Union and its use [of the world body]," Zuroff said, "then it is extremely important."

"It's about time," said Laura Kam Issacharoff, director of the Anti-Defamation League in Jerusalem, about the resolution. "This was an important initiative."

While in and of itself the initiative might not have an impact on anti-Semitism worldwide, Issacharoff said, the U.N. did make a statement, and the fact that the vote was unanimous was also significant.

"It also gives tools to the U.N. General Assembly to deal [with anti-Semitism]," Yaar said.

He said he expects the resolution to receive the same support when the vote comes up in the plenary session.

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