The watershed resolution, agreed to on Tuesday by acclamation after two days of speeches, intends to make the new “International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust” a symbol against genocide for future generations.
“I feel moved and privileged to present this historic resolution today, as an Israeli, a Jew, a human being and the child of Holocaust victims,” Israel’s UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman said in introducing the measure.
Accused of bias
The 191-member assembly has often been accused of anti-Semitism and an anti-Israel bias. The Holocaust was largely ignored until last 27 January, when the assembly commemorated the 60th anniversary of Moscow’s liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called the measure “a very significant step in the war against anti-Semitism” and said the “UN has finally recognised the importance of learning its lessons and has at last related to Israel as being equal among nations”.
A total of 104 nations from around the world sponsored the measure, but some expressed reservations.
Several Islamic nations, including Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia said they supported the resolution but atrocities against Christians and Muslims deserved equal attention.
“We believe no one should have the monopoly on suffering,” Egyptian Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said.
Jordan’s UN Ambassador Prince Zeid al-Hussein called the Holocaust “a crime of the most colossal proportions” that was inflicted on European soil by Europeans against Europeans.
But he said it should not be used as a moral justification for the “continued domination of one people by another”, an obvious reference to Israel and the Palestinians.
Lessons of genocide
The resolution, proposed by the United States, Israel, Russia, Australia and Canada, rejects any denial that the Holocaust took place. It urges members to “inculcate” future generations with the lessons on the genocide.
Germany’s UN Ambassador Gunter Pleuger called the Holocaust “the very darkest chapter in the history of Germany”. Austria, Romania and France recalled their history of collaboration with the Nazis.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is to establish an education program, called the Holocaust “a unique evil, which cannot simply be consigned to the past or forgotten”.
China used the occasion to recall atrocities committed by Japan’s invasion before and during the second world war and hoped Tokyo would “draw on lessons from history.” Japan said its mistakes “must be remembered” and that it was no longer a military power.