Gil Troy, former Tel Yehudah camper, madrich and merakez and current member of the new Young Judaea Board of Directors, has a new book out Moynihan’s Moment: The Fight Against Zionism as Racism. Read about the book and an excerpt which includes the role Young Judaea in the struggle against Zionism as Racism. And keep your eyes open for an opportunity to purchase this important book and also support Tel Yehudah.
Description: On November 10, 1975, the General Assembly of United Nations passed Resolution 3379, which declared Zionism a form of racism. Afterward, a tall man with long, graying hair, horned-rim glasses, and a bowtie stood to speak. He pronounced his words with the rounded tones of a Harvard academic, but his voice shook with outrage: "The United States rises to declare, before the General Assembly of the United Nations, and before the world, that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act."
This speech made Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a celebrity, but as Gil Troy demonstrates in this compelling new book, it also marked the rise of neo-conservatism in American politics--the start of a more confrontational, national-interest-driven foreign policy that turned away from Kissinger's détente-driven approach to the Soviet Union--which was behind Resolution 3379. Moynihan recognized the resolution for what it was: an attack on Israel and a totalitarian assault against democracy, motivated by anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. While Washington distanced itself from Moynihan, the public responded enthusiastically: American Jews rallied in support of Israel. Civil rights leaders cheered. The speech cost Moynihan his job--but soon won him a U.S. Senate seat. Troy examines the events leading up to the resolution, vividly recounts Moynihan's speech, and traces its impact in intellectual circles, policy making, international relations, and electoral politics in the ensuing decades.
The mid-1970s represent a low-water mark of American self-confidence, as the country, mired in an economic slump, struggled with the legacy of Watergate and the humiliation of Vietnam. Moynihan's Moment captures a turning point, when the rhetoric began to change and a more muscular foreign policy began to find expression, a policy that continues to shape international relations to this day.
On November 10, 1975, the UN passed a resolution declaring the Zionism is a form of racism. This violation of core UN ideals shocked Americans – Jews and non-Jews alike. But in the weeks before the resolution’s passage, the Jewish community had been oddly quiet. “Where are your bloody Jews,” the outspoken American ambassador to the UN, Daniel Patrick Moynihan asked his Israeli colleague, Chaim Herzog. As I describe in my new book, “Moynihan’s moment: American’s Fight Against Zionism as racism,” Moynihan got the answer on November 11 – and Young Judaeans were part of it.
Many Jewish leaders were nervous when they called a rally in midtown Manhattan against the resolution because they were not sure what the turnout would be. Ed Prince, a New Jersey Young Judaean and at the time a Yeshiva University student, who as the nineteen-year-old president of the North American Jewish Youth Council was the youngest speaker at the rally, remembers that the leaders initially called it a “youth rally,” to provide cover in case they failed to mobilize the 100,000 people they felt they needed to make it respectable.
That day, tens of thousands streamed toward Midtown from throughout the metropolitan area, jamming Seventh Avenue from Thirty-ninth Street to Forty-first Street, spilling over into the side streets. Over three hundred chartered buses brought thousands of protesters from Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, as far west as Pittsburgh. Eventually, more than 125,000 people attended.
Looking at this “sea of people,” Ed Prince felt an “extraordinary shared sense of solidarity—and a sense of danger, a feeling that this was a personal attack on them.” For once, “politics didn’t matter” in the famously fractured American Jewish community. Fear solidified the solidarity.
The President of B’nai B’rith, David Blumberg riled the crowd by exclaiming: “Zionism is beautiful!” The affirming phrase echoed the “Black is beautiful” racial self-esteem movement of the 1970s. Many shouted back—appropriately—“Right On!” Three weeks later, the American Jewish Congress would run a big, bold advertisement in the New York Times, “proud to be jews. proud to be zionists.” Chaim Herzog speculated that the resolution did more to raise Zionist awareness than any speeches ever did.
In addition to sloganeering, many Jews dusted off books written about Israel and Zionism in the 1940s and 1950s, and were eager for new works like Arthur Hertzberg’s impressive collection of original Zionist texts, The Zionist Idea. This Jewish backlash became a consciousness-raising moment.
That week in America, and at the rally, Jews felt the love of their fellow citizens, from the man on the street to the president. The fury against the UN revealed an abiding consensus about core American values during an era of seeming chaos. David Lehrer, a Zionist activist at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill who today heads the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura, could not believe how angry many non-Jewish students were, on a campus with few Jews. Over 1,500 UNC and Duke students signed a petition opposing the resolution, conveying, Lehrer said, “the gut reaction of the American people.” Lehrer presented the petition to President Ford when he visited North Carolina on November 14.
Moynihan’s Moment reminds us of the deep friendship between America and Israel, and between non-Jews and Jews in America. It shows that the American Jewish community mobilized and, for the first time in history, the leading world power of the time denounced anti-Semitism unequivocally. And it teaches us, an essential lesson today, that even when attacked with hate, we should affirm our values with love, shouting “Zionism is beautiful,” as Young Judaeans, as Jews, as Americans, as proud Zionists.