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When Daniel Moynihan Stood Tall at the UN

An interview with historian Gil troy on his new book, “Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight Against Zionism and Racism.”
Daniel Moynihan

Daniel Moynihan

Right, that’s one of his classic lines. Moynihan was fighting a double fight. On the one hand, he was fighting the Third World, the Soviets, and American diplomats who were appeasing them. But he was also fighting the Left. He was a man of deep liberal principles, and he sees this New Left breaking away from core liberal values of universal ideals and human rights. It’s one of the things that scared him about the 1960s.

On December 16, 1991, the UN officially reversed itself and “revoked the determination contained in its resolution 3379.” What led the UN to change its mind?

This is a great and important story today when we so often get discouraged. Everyone told the Jewish community that the General Assembly does not repeal resolutions. The General Assembly had never gone back on any of its resolutions.

But Moynihan, Israeli President Chaim Herzog, Ronald Reagan, Bibi Netanyahu, and the American Jewish community pushed. They didn’t succeed, but they kept on trying. David Harris of the American Jewish Committee called it “nudnik diplomacy.”

And then under George H. W. Bush, in a remarkable moment of bipartisanship, the resolution was repealed. The Soviet Union was weeks away from falling, and the Jewish community cleverly framed this as a declaration of independence of Soviet influence. They made this a moment of healing, and it worked.

Resolution 3379 was passed 37 years ago and repealed 21 years ago. Why should anyone care about these events today?

Three reasons. First, it’s an inspirational moment. It teaches us that activism counts and that we can win this fight.

Second, unfortunately the great big lie that Zionism is racism lives, and we have a responsibility to understand it.

And the third reason is that we have to learn some of the lessons of the book. One is that we saw this tremendous support on the part of the American people for Israel and the Jewish people in 1975. That’s a unique bipartisan relationship, and it’s not manipulated by a lobby. It’s what I call grassroots, not Astroturf. So we learn that the fight against the delegitimization of Israel must be a core value that unites left and right. It should not be a right-wing issue. It must be a left-right issue.

Editor’s note: Elliot Resnick’s recently-published interview collection – “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” – is available on BrennBooks.com and Amazon.com; in bookstores; and through The Jewish Press.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


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