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Troy's Moment: Should America Go Into Opposition?


The Brandeis Brief

February 1, 2013
 

Review of Gil Troy, “Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight Against Zionism as Racism” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

This week, Israel ruffled feathers at the United Nations by becoming the first nation to withhold cooperation from the U.N.‘s Universal Periodic Review of human rights practices. Israel had already informally notified the U.N.‘s “Human Rights Council” that it would “delay” its participation. On Tuesday, it declined to attend the Council’s session on this report. Given the Council’s deplorable record of anti-Semitism—amply documented in the George W. Bush Administration’s report on global anti-Semitism—it is remarkable that Israel would even contemplate participation in a process whose conclusions are virtually fore-ordained. Nevertheless, the Obama administration is publicly pressuring Israel to reconsider. “The United States is absolutely, fully behind the Universal Periodic Review,” the U.S. ambassador to the council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe bluntly admonished, “and we do not want to see the mechanism in any way harmed.”

The United States has not always defended the U.N.‘s abuse of Israel. In the March 1975 issue of Commentary, Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the United States is in opposition to the U.N.‘s regime—and must recognize that reality. “This is our circumstance,” the Moynihan wrote, “We are a minority. We are outvoted. This is neither an unprecedented nor an intolerable situation. The question is what do we make of it? So far we have made little—nothing—of what is in fact an opportunity.” Moynihan was realistic about growing anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism in the world body, and he argued that the United States should resist these tendencies when appropriate. Moynihan’s article became a sensation, attracting hundreds of letters saying the same thing: America should hold its ground, make its case, present alternatives and stop apologizing. More importantly, the article got President Ford’s attention and ultimately landed Moynihan the ambassadorship to the U.N. Under the circumstances, Moynihan’s appointment was a clear signal that the United States would boldly oppose U.N. misconduct when the moment called for it. As it happens, that moment came soon enough.

Gil Troy’s important new book, Moynihan’s Moment, tells the story of how then-Ambassador Moynihan captured world attention by his passionate opposition to the U.N.‘s infamous November 1975 Resolution 3379, which declared that Zionism is a form of racism. Troy, a prominent historian at McGill University, is a brother of LDB’s own director Tevi Troy. In his newest tome, Professor Troy explains how Moynihan inspired American pride by standing up against what he called the U.N.’s “obscene” and “infamous”resolution. Interestingly, Troy reveals that Moynihan was not a particularly strong supporter of Israel before the U.N. vote; but he realized that Israel’s international enemies were corrupt, dangerous, anti-American and anti-Semitic. In his ringing denunciation of the U.N. vote, Moynihan thundered, “The United States rises to declare before the General Assembly and before the world, that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.” Moynihan’s speech was more courageous than many realized, since he lacked support within the Ford State Department or National Security Council. Ironically, Ford’s Jewish Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was far less supportive of Israel in this instance than was the Irish Catholic envoy to Turtle Bay. For this reason, and others, Moynihan paid a price for his boldness in that it would shorten his diplomatic career. At the end of the day, though, it was Moynihan’s bold defense of American values and opposition to anti-Zionism which ignited his political career and catapulted him into the United States Senate.

One of the signal contributions of Moynihan’s Moment is that it shows how Moynihan’s forceful activism transformed what had been a humbling moment in American history. His passionate articulation of American values came at a time when America was reeling from a costly foreign war, a divisive political climate, and a deteriorating economic outlook. Instead of assuming a weakened position in global affairs, Moynihan seized the moment to remind the world of America’s moral leadership. One cannot help but wonder whether similar courage is even possible today, at a time when foreign wars, political climates, and economic stagnation have not produced another Moynihan. Surely the occasion calls for it, as Israel’s continuing conflicts with the U.N. Human Rights Council attest. If another Moynihan should emerge, with the courage to stand for American convictions on a global stage, she or he would do well learn a lesson which Troy nicely attributes to the namesake of this newsletter and its host institution, Louis D. Brandeis, to wit: by standing against anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, one can be a better American, and by being a better American, one can more effectively combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.



 
 
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Campus Anti-Semitism
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Advisory Board Spotlight
 

Gregory H. Stanton
Professor Stanton has received degrees from Oberlin College, Harvard Divinity School, Yale Law School and a masters and doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago. He was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2001-2002).
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