South Africa has once again failed to co-sponsor a United Nations resolution on Holocaust remembrance. Last month the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at the annual general conference, passed a historic resolution calling on the organization to help combat Holocaust denial. Although the resolution was passed unanimously by consensus, 65 countries (including 4 African states) chose to show their explicit support by co-sponsoring.
Why is it that countries like Oman, who do not even recognize the existence of the State of Israel, can sponsor the resolution and not South Africa? What excuse will Pretoria try peddle this time? On the last 2 occasions, the government claimed it was an administrative oversight and regretted the mistake. Well this is now strike number 3 and pathetic excuses just are not going to cut it.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) after their last meeting with the Department of Foreign Affairs assured us that a new understanding had been reached. The politics of influence they promised would ensure that this sort of thing does not happen again. This vote is just a further indication of the bankruptcy of their strategy.
It is interesting to contrast South Africa’s continued refusal to support Holocaust resolutions in international arenas with its dramatic policy change on Burma. Last month, the government finally agreed to allow the military Junta’s brutality to be discussed at the UN Security Council. It had previously claimed that the issue did not represent a threat to international peace and security and thus was not relevant for that forum. So what made the difference? The public outcry over its original Burma vote! If the Jewish community had mobilized the same public anger over the Holocaust issue, it is very likely that there would have been a similar change in the government’s behavior. But we did not. We chose rather to whisper softly softly our displeasure and accept lame excuses.
Teddy Roosevelt used to describe the secret to diplomacy as ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’. The key of course is the big stick. For without it, speaking softly just results in no-one hearing!
Countries co-sponsoring the resolutionThe Commission recommends that the General Conference adopt in extenso with a view to its inclusion in the Records of the General Conference, Volume I (Resolutions), the draft resolution contained in paragraph 6 of the Annex of document 34 C/49 submitted by Australia, Canada, Israel, Russian Federation and the United States of America and co-sponsored by Albania, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, 34 C/78 – page 9 Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ukraine and Uruguay, as amended by the Commission.