Holocaust resolution shows signs of Israeli stature in the U.N.

united nations | Sixty years after the United Nations was founded on the Holocaust’s ashes, Jewish leaders are hailing the passage of a Holocaust commemoration resolution in the General Assembly as an important step forward for Israel.

The document, called “Holocaust Remembrance,” was passed by consensus this week following speeches by representatives of more than 20 nations, including Israel, the United States, Germany and Poland.

Co-sponsored by 104 member nations, the measure is the first Israeli-initiated resolution the General Assembly has ever passed.

“It’s a good day for the Jewish people at the United Nations,” said Amy Goldstein, director of U.N. affairs at B’nai B’rith International. “It demonstrates that it is possible for the United Nations to seriously address the basic human rights of the Jewish people.”

In introducing the resolution, Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Dan Gillerman — who in June became a General Assembly vice president, Israel’s first in more than 50 years — said the resolution was particularly significant because it represents the first time the United Nations has adopted a Holocaust-related resolution.

“The U.N. bears a special responsibility to ensure that the Holocaust and its lessons are never forgotten and that this tragedy will forever stand as a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice,” he said.

The move is the latest in a series of steps that observers say indicate a new U.N. openness to Israel and Jewish concerns.

In September, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed a summit of world leaders in the General Assembly shortly after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Insiders said Sharon received a much warmer reception in New York than anyone could have imagined just two years ago, when the intifada was at its height.

Over the past year, the United Nations has convened a daylong conference on anti-Semitism and the General Assembly held a special session to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan attended the opening of the new Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem, the first time a U.N. head traveled to Israel.

Yad Vashem and American Jewish groups welcomed the Holocaust resolution’s passage.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that two or three years ago he would have considered it unlikely that a Holocaust resolution could pass the General Assembly.

This week’s move grows out of several developments, he said, including broad support for Israel’s Gaza withdrawal and backing from Annan.

The “overwhelming support” with which the document passed sends “an important message,” Hoenlein said.

“It’s the last days of the survivors, and this will help ensure that their voices will be heard,” he said.

John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the resolution doesn’t mean Israel has gained full acceptance at the United Nations.

“While the Holocaust occurred 60 years ago, its lessons are no less relevant today,” he said.

“When a president or a member state can brazenly and hatefully call for a second Holocaust by suggesting that Israel, the Jewish homeland, should be wiped off the map, it is clear that not all have learned the lessons of the Holocaust and that much work remains to be done,” he said on the U.N. floor.