The UN is going all-out to commemorate this International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, this year. Because the official date of the remembrance is 27 January, which falls on a Saturday, the commemorations will be at 16h30 on Monday afternoon in Geneva, simultaneously with UNHQ/NY, where it will be 10:30 am.
To reinforce the commemoration, the UN General Assembly has just adopted a resolution condemning Holocaust denial. This resolution was co-sponsored by at least 104 of the UN’s 192 member states, and was then adopted by consensus — meaning that THERE WAS NO OPPOSITION, AND NO ONE VOTED AGAINST IT.
The UN General Assembly (GA) first decided in November 2005 to establish this special annual commemoration. At that time, the UN GA adopted a resolution focussing on urging Member States to develop educational programs to “instill the memory” of the Holocaust, in order to prevent its ever happening again. That first UN GA resolution “rejected” any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, but what it “condemned” was “all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, whenever they occur”.
This year’s resolution has fundamentally changed, so that what is “condemned” is any denial of the Holocaust.
Who would dare say anything against such a resolution? Only Iran — the country that some diplomats said was the target of the resolution, for having held a conference in Tehran in December on the holocaust.
Yes, the Iranian representative, Hossein Gharibi, expressed objections, saying “we fully disassociate ourselves from this entire hypocritical political exercise”.
Iran Daily (and only Iran Daily, an English-language newspaper published in Tehran) is reporting that after he spoke in the UN GA, Gharibi “left the meeting in a sign of protest”. http://www.iran-daily.com/1385/2769/html/
But, it must be kept in mind, Iran did not vote against the resolution. It was adopted by CONSENSUS.
The Iranian representative said in the UN General Assembly before the vote that there had been a “mischevous intention” in tabling the resolution.
Could there be any element of truth in this?
Reuters reported on Friday that “the United Nations passed a U.S.-drafted resolution condemning denials of the Holocaust in response to a Tehran conference dominated by speakers questioning the extermination of 6 million Jews in World War Two.
‘We think this is an effective action today to repudiate the Iranian government by the United Nations General Assembly and to have more than 100 countries join us is an effective repudiation to (Iranian) President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s baseless and gross mischaracterization of modern history,’ said [U.S. UnderSecretary of State Nicholas] Burns of the U.N. resolution”. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070126/ts_nm/nuclear_iran_usa_dc_1
In the UN GA, it was the American Acting Permanent Representative, Alejandro D. Wolff, who introduced the draft resolution on behalf of all the co-sponsors. He said before the adoption that “The resolution we are introducing builds on the strong foundation of resolution A/60/7 of 2005 in making clear that all people and all states have a vital stake in a world free of genocide…Those who would deny the Holocaust–and, sadly, there are some who do–reveal not only their ignorance but their moral failure as well. Finally, the resolution urges all member states unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to this end. By so doing, this Assembly places its moral authority, and its political will, squarely behind the very first words of our Charter, ‘to save succeeding generations’.”
After the adoption of the resolution, Ambassador Wolff told the delegations that: “It is shameful that one country decided to reject that consensus
… This Resolution is not about countering free speech or intellectual thought; it is about avoiding future disasters…We take note that this esteemed body adopted by consensus in 2005 a Resolution unequivocally rejecting the denial of the Holocaust as an historical event. We call upon all Member States to follow through on that and today’s Resolution to include measures in their educational systems that underscore the importance of never denying the Holocaust. As Kofi Annan remarked at the end of his tenure, ‘some of the rhetoric used in connection with the issue implies a refusal to concede the very legitimacy of Israel’s existence, let alone the validity of its security concerns…Today, Israelis are often confronted with words and action that seem to confirm their fear that the goal of their adversaries is to extinguish their existence as a state, and as a people’…Indeed, the words and actions of some, in direct violation of the UN Charter, underscore why this Resolution is so important. Just last month, the Iranian regime sponsored a conference questioning the historical fact of the atrocities of the Holocaust. Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad has also called for the state of Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’. That same regime is under UN Security Council sanctions right now to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, in direct violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The confluence of these three forces cannot be viewed abstractly or in isolation of each other. They create a cauldron of conflict that cannot be ignored. Some will cloak their hatred and hidden agenda by invoking the right to free speech and academic freedom. There is a categorical difference between free speech and speech which willfully and maliciously ignores recognized historical facts in order to advance an ulterior agenda…The United States stands firmly opposed to any attempts to deny the Holocaust. This Resolution reinforces that message and we encourage all Member States to take concrete steps to make that message heard. To deny the events of the Holocaust is tantamount to the approval of genocide in all its forms. Today we stand together saying to the world that we will not allow that to happen”. http://www.un.int/usa/07_011.htm
Then, at a “stake-out” of journalists who gathered comments and reaction from diplomats after the GA decision, Ambassador was asked: “Reporter: Ambassador, were you disappointed that there were so few members in the General Assembly hall for this?
Ambassador Wolff: Yes, I was.”
A UN press release says that Israel’s Ambassador Dan Gillerman told the UN GA that “The Holocaust served as a warning to all people of the profound dangers of hatred, bigotry, and racism.” He also said that “Joining the resolution was an affirmation that the Holocaust was not up for question or debate. Its lessons carried such universal weight that they could not be carried solely by the Jewish people.” http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/ga10569.doc.htm
Israel’s YNET News quoted Ambassador Gillerman as saying: “While the nations of the world gather here to affirm the historicity of the Holocaust with the intent of never again allowing genocide, a member of this assembly is acquiring the capabilities to carry out its own…The president of Iran is in fact saying, ‘There really was no Holocaust, but just in case, we shall finish the job.” http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3357341,00.html
Benny Avni reported in the New York Sun on 24 January that “A new U.N. General Assembly resolution to condemn Holocaust denial, largely seen as aimed at increasing Iran’s diplomatic isolation, will not face opposition from a U.N. voting bloc that contains most of the Muslim member states, diplomats said yesterday. America introduced the resolution proposal yesterday afternoon, and it has already received the support of 72 countries that agreed to co-sponsor it…Diplomats from nations in the Group of 77 voting bloc, which represents the world’s poorer countries, said yesterday that while many diplomats are aware the resolution is aimed at isolating Iran, Tehran’s envoys have made little effort so far to lobby against it.” http://www.nysun.com/article/47244
Sohail went to the trouble of submitting a comment to Avni’s article, writing that: “the modern world and especially America advocate the freedom of speech and consider it basic human rights. They are opposed to the blasphemy laws in some of the muslim countries which are aimed at dealing with the people who abuse prophet or holy book. while at the same time holocaust which is a historical event is so dear to them that just denial of holocaust is a crime in their view and you can go to prison for that. this is a big dichotomy in their views and one of those events which create hatred among the common people against west. This ridiculous attitude is deplorable.”
In fact, there is something overwhelmingly difficult in this summoning of institutional power to enforce thinking in a certain particular way. All of Ambassador Wolff’s denials to the contrary, this does seem, at the very least, like an issue of freedom of belief, speech and expression.
Last year’s resolution was much better. It rejected Holocaust denial, but what it condemned was intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against any religious or ethnic group.
There was no global campaign to explain that it was directed, implicitly if not explicitly, against Iran. Iran made no objection or reservation about the first resolution, and Iranian diplomats did not make any remark whatsoever.
It was Egypt’s Ambassador, MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, who struck the only sour note in November 2005, questioning in the GA meeting “Why should there be a remembrance day for the Jews and not for Christians and Muslims? No one had the monopoly on suffering.”
On Friday, the very same Egyptian Ambassador, MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ, was speaking in somewhat different terms: he said “he had joined consensus on the text, stressing once again his strong belief that the Holocaust should be remembered as one of the dark points in the history of humanity. He thanked the co-sponsors, particularly the European countries, for keeping that memory alive and for working to correct those mistakes. Adoption of the resolution today under agenda item 44, â€œculture of peaceâ€, could serve as a sobering reminder that preventing the recurrence of such heinous crimes could only be through the international communityâ€™s intensive efforts to enhance and revitalize the culture of peace, tolerance, co-existence, recognition and prevention of the suffering of others, regardless of religion, ethnicity or belief. He said that the United Nations had a particular responsibility in that regard to promote ethnic dialogue among civilizations, cultures and regions, and to do what it could to prevent the recurrence of such crimes in all parts of the world. The painful memories of the Holocaust should also serve as a repugnant reminder of the need to combat racism, intolerance and xenophobia in all its forms, and serve as a lesson that appeasing intolerant ideologies would cost humanity dearly. The international community should not remain complacent in combating the xenophobic tide growing in many parts of the world, he warned.”
Is he running for office?
In 2005, it was the then-Jordanian Ambassador, ZEID RAâ€™AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN — who was then vying for nomination as an Asian Group candidate to replace Kofi Annan as UN SG — who played the good pupil. He said that: “it was appropriate to have another discussion about the Holocaust in the General Assembly because there should never be a cessation of relevant lessons drawn from that astonishing and terrifying period of human experience. The Holocaust was a different genocide; a genocide where wickedness fell into union with human organization. It was a crime of the most colossal proportions. Sixty years on, it was still difficult for the vast majority of Member States to examine their own national histories, particularly modern histories, he said. It was high time that countries begin to reckon with what in their national memory was distasteful or was perhaps even criminal or terrible…We must of course remind ourselves the extent to which chauvinistic nationalisms or philosophies of negation can be pernicious”, he said.
There will be no Holocaust denial here — not out of fear, but out of conviction. But do I need to be afraid of the reaction to the publication of my thoughts here?
For the record, I find it hard to live in a world where people could do to others what was done to the victims of the Holocaust, which is the Jewish people’s part of the tragedy of World War II.
I also find it hard to live in a world with nuclear weapons, and where the U.S. carries out rendition of “suspects” to places where they face torture, and maintains a terrifying legal limbo in Guantanamo Bay where hundreds of still-innocent-until-proven-guilty persons have been abusively incarcerated, with not much human respect or dignity, nor much hope for any true justice.
Can we say, as many Germans did after the Nazi and Axis defeat, that we did not know?
But, coming back to this UN General Resolution condemning Holocaust denial, can we now also expect to have clear majorities for resolutions condemning denial of Joan Peter’s version of anti-semitism and the birth of Israel, in From Time Immemorial? Should there be a resolution supporting Alan Dershowitz and condemning Norman Finkelstein and his books (The Holocaust Industry, among other works), articles, and interviews? Perhaps the UN General Assembly should also weigh in on the debate over whether former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has gone over the top in latest book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid…
How far is it from here, to book-burning, and worse?
How is it that the UN General Assembly is now deciding what views we should all have, and which views are condemnable?
UNSG BAN KI-MOON said, in a statement issued through a spokesperson after the General Assembly adoption of the resolution condemning Holocaust denial, that he welcomed the decision: “This reflects the prevailing view of the international community. The Secretary-General reiterates his conviction that the denial of historical facts such as the Holocaust is unacceptable. He expresses his strong desire to see this fundamental principle respected both in rhetoric and in practice.
In a separate message, issued for Holocaust Remembrance Day, SG BAN said that “Decades later, the systematic murder of millions of Jews and others retains its power to shock. The ability of the Nazis to command a following, despite their utter depravity, still strikes fear…” http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/sgsm10844.doc.htm
But the adoption of this resolution strikes fear, too…
Because I can’t find the text of the adopted resolution (which will apparently be known as A/RES/61/255, on the UN website, here is the draft of the resolution on Holocaust Denial
The General Assembly,
i. Reaffirming its resolution A/60/7 of 1 November 2005,
ii. Recalling that resolution A/60/7 observes that remembrance of the Holocaust is critical to preventing further acts of genocide,
iii. Recalling further that, for this reason, resolution A/60/7 rejects efforts to deny the Holocaust, which by ignoring the historical fact of these terrible events increases the risk they will be repeated,
iv. Noting that all people and States have a vital stake in a world free of genocide,
v. Welcoming the establishment by the Secretary-General of a programme of outreach on the subject of the “Holocaust and the United Nations,” and further welcoming the inclusion by Member States within their educational programmes of measures to confront attempts to deny or minimize the importance of the Holocaust,
vi. Taking note that 27 January has been designated by the United Nations as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust,
1. Condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust;
2. Urges all Member States unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to this end;
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad — a former mayor of Tehran, reportedly close to the Revolutionary Guards, who used to be called a populist for his modest refusal to adopt imperialist trappings, but who now is facing possible impeachment charges (only a few more majlis members need to sign the preliminary petition to summon Ahmedinejad to face questioning) — has not only fiercely asserted Iran’s right to pursue a nuclear program, but has also questioned the historical accuracy of much of the Holocaust narrative.
[South African President Thabo Mbeki does not believe there is a relationship between the HIV Virus and Aids, so maybe there could also be a UN General Assembly resolution condemning that, too. But then again, South Africa gave up its nuclear programme –actually, it was the white Apartheid regime which dismantled the programme, before the non-racial majority democratic government led by the African National Congress was installed.]
For the record, the Iranian representative told the UN General Assembly that “if the thrust of the draft resolution is to condemn the crime of genocide, the assembly, through a great number of resolutions, has already addressed this concern of grave nature. We, like many other countries, have condemned genocide against any race, ethnic, or religious group as a crime against humanity”.
But, Iran is set as an out-cast, already under UN sanctions, and facing further punishment if it doesn’t do something to improve “confidence” in its actions.
Many Israelis have asked, for the past couple of years, why there is not a military strike against Iran to remove the perceived “threat”.
The American, European, and Middle Eastern press is full of alamrist stories about an imminent attack on Iran, and the possible consequences.
Block by block, an edifice of international justification is being constructed.
Cold-warrior liberal journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave, writing for UPI, has written a commentary piece on 25 January from Washington, saying that “In Israel, the perception, clear across the political spectrum, is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is plotting a ‘second Holocaust’ against Israel by way of a nuclear weapon lobbed by missile into an Israeli city.”
So, is it worth going to war because of what the present Iranian President says?
The Jerusalem Post carries a regular column by Caroline Glick, a journalist who was “embedded” with US military units invading Iraq in 2003 — she may have also had another accreditation at the time, from an American newspaper. Her current piece, Column One: Making the case against genocide, is previewed on the Jerusalem Post’s homepage with the following teaser: “All Ahmadinejad’s coalitions and evil intentions cannot help him against a roused Jewish people”.
In the article, Glick blasts the present Israeli government for working against Israeli interests. She writes that: “A proper Israeli foreign policy would serve to check and undermine Iran’s international maneuvering. It would work to bring about Iran’s delegitimization and isolation in the international community. It would work to dry up Iran’s bank accounts and so unravel the stability of the regime and then act to overthrow it through popular insurrections. An effective, coherent foreign policy would be aimed at building solid international coalitions in which Israel could be part of an international military effort to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations. Or, at the very least, it would prepare international public opinion for a unilateral Israeli military campaign against Iran…There is a small group of prominent Israelis who currently serve in no official capacities who are privately acting to delegitimize and isolate Iran internationally. Members of this group include opposition leader and former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Sharansky, former IDF chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon, MK Dan Naveh and former UN ambassador Dore Gold. These men are pushing to have Ahmadinejad indicted under the Genocide Convention for inciting to genocide by calling for Israel’s destruction. Many also work tirelessly to explain the magnitude of the Iranian nuclear threat not only to Israel, but to the entire world.
On the economic warfare front, Netanyahu is waging a one-man war – and rather successfully at that – to push forward an international campaign to divest from companies doing business with Iran. A study conducted by the Washington-based Center for Security Policy showed that US public employee pension funds are heavily invested in such companies. Divestment from these companies could potentially cause hundreds of billions of dollars in losses for Iran. [Is there really this much American business activity in Iran?] There are a significant number of prominent public figures – both Jewish and non-Jewish – in the world that fervently wish to join forces with Israelis to defend against Iran and the forces of global jihad more generally. A number of them participated in the Herzliya Conference…Under the morbid influence of the Iran discussions at Herzliya, this week I paid a visit to Yad Vashem’s new museum. On display were several copies of Der Stuermer – Josef Goebbels’s infamous anti-Semitic propaganda organ. What was most striking about the caricatures that pictured Jews as monkeys and monsters in human form was how stupid and primitive they were. If we had had the power then to respond to the demonization campaign that paved the way to Birkenau and Babi Yar, we could have defeated it. But we did not have the power then.”
Another opinion article in the same edition of the Jerusalem Post, entitled “Rattling the Cage: Against a preemptive Holocaust, by Larry Derfner, says: “Almost imperceptibly, the debate in Israel over what to do about Iran’s nuclear development has gone over the edge. The unthinkable is now not only thinkable, it’s speakable, it’s writeable, it’s doable. In the last few weeks or so, it has become acceptable, legitimate, to argue for an Israeli nuclear first strike to knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities…So, as most Israelis seem convinced that Iran will inevitably nuke Israel once it gets the capability, which is expected to happen sometime within the next decade, the Israeli nuclear option has made its public debut. IF YOU READ the ‘talkbacks’ on The Jerusalem Post or Haaretz Web sites, not to mention the radical right-wing blogs, the idea of nuking Iran has been boiling in the minds of more than a few people, Jews and gentiles, for a long time. But this idea has now traveled beyond the boundaries of the crackpot Right, and is reportedly on the menu of options for dealing with Iran that the IDF is preparing to put at the government’s disposal…Yet a lot of Israelis…have become so unhinged by Iran’s nuclear program and Ahmadinejad’s threats that they can only imagine one possible future, and it is Israel’s extermination. So for them, Israel has the natural right to do whatever’s necessary to prevent that future from occurring, and if the only thing that will do it is a nuclear attack on Iran, then a nuclear attack on Iran it must be. After all, the overwhelming consensus here is that a nuclear Iran is a risk that Israel cannot allow itself to live with…[But, if Israel acted pre-emptively against Iran] Millions of Iranians would be killed. Let me repeat that: Millions of Iranians would be killed. By Israel. By Israel acting not in response to an attack, but in response to general threats of a future attack. What would such an act be? It would be genocide. It would be a holocaust. Those who think they can see into the future might try to call it a ‘preemptive holocaust.’ But a holocaust it would be.” http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1167467824712&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull