Nov. 23, 2004
UN resolution decrying religious intolerance includes anti- Semitism

By URIEL HEILMAN
NEW YORK

In a break from tradition, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution Monday condemning anti-Semitism as part of a broader resolution against religious intolerance.

Israeli officials said the inclusion of a reference to anti-Semitism in what has become an annual U.N. resolution on religious intolerance constitutes a historic breakthrough. The resolution passed Monday despite efforts by Arab countries to omit any references to anti-Jewish bigotry amid references to Islamophobia and Christianophobia. In years past, the resolution made no mention of anti-Semitism.

In the resolution, the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly said it "recognizes 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."

In previous years, Israel had abstained from supporting the resolution due to its failure to mention anti-Semitism. Many pointed to the omission as one of many signs that the United Nations is hostile toward Israel and the Jewish people. This year, Israel mounted a concerted campaign to have anti-Semitism included in the resolution, and officials said they were pleased with the inclusive resolution's unanimous passage.

"This was a historic breakthrough for Israel in this organization which very often does not do what it is right," said Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman. "It's been a very, very uphill battle."

Gillerman credited the European Union and the Dutch president of the E.U., Jan Peter Balkenende, for pushing for the anti-Semitism clause in the face of strong opposition from Arab and Muslim countries. He also said Israeli mobilization on the issue, which made it a top priority at the Foreign Ministry, helped overcome Arab efforts to "dilute and poison" the resolution.

"The lesson here is that if they want to they can," Gillerman said of the European countries. "I hope that this resolve of theirs will carry on to other resolutions."