Reuters: The U.N. General Assembly condemned on Friday denials of the Holocaust in a U.S.-drafted resolution responding to a Tehran conference dominated by speakers questioning the extermination of 6 million Jews in World War Two. By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. General Assembly condemned on Friday denials of the Holocaust in a U.S.-drafted resolution responding to a Tehran conference dominated by speakers questioning the extermination of 6 million Jews in World War Two.
The measure, co-sponsored by more than 100 countries, including all Western nations as well as Rwanda, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, was approved by consensus, without a vote. Iran disassociated itself from the action, calling the resolution a political exercise Israel would exploit against Palestinians.
But at least 22 nations left their seats empty in the assembly hall, including Bolivia, Chile and Columbia, who were also co-sponsors. Others not attending or sponsoring included Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, and even Cambodia, itself a victim of genocide, U.S. officials said.
The resolution “condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust” and “urges all member states unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to this end.”
Iran is not mentioned by name although the resolution is clearly aimed at a Tehran conference convened in December by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Most speakers at that event expressed doubt about the Nazis’ mass extermination of Jews.
Ahmadinejad, after coming to power in August 2005, caused an international outcry by terming the Holocaust a “myth” and calling Israel a “tumour” in the Middle East.
Iran’s envoy Hossein Gharibi told the assembly, “In our view there is no justification for genocide of any kind, nor can there be any justification for the attempt made by some — particularly by the Israeli regime — to exploit the past crimes as a pretext to commit new genocide and crimes.”
In response, U.S. acting ambassador, Alejandro Wolff said, “Iran stands alone, in shame, isolated, against the international community.”
“Conferences like those sponsored by Iran are designed solely to polarize and incite hatred,” Wolff said. “To deny the event of the Holocaust is tantamount to the approval of genocide in all its forms.”
Said Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman, “While the nations of the world gather here to affirm the historicity of the Holocaust with the intent of never again allowing genocide, a member of this assembly is acquiring the capabilities to carry out its own.”
“The president of Iran is in fact saying, ‘There really was no Holocaust, but just in case, we shall finish the job.'”
Middle East nations were not among the co-sponsors. But Egypt’s U.N. ambassador, Maged Abedelaziz, said while he agreed with the resolution the world should also speak out against rising “Islamophobia.”
Friday’s resolution was timed to coincide with the General Assembly’s decision in November 2005 to mark January 27 as the International Day of Commemoration of the Holocaust.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin emphasized that Jan 27 was chosen because of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.
Churkin then chastised Estonia, without mentioning it by name, of wanting to move a statue of a Soviet soldier, saying some wanted to “destroy monuments to those who fought against Nazism while at the same time building monuments to those who fought on the side of fascism.”
Up to 1.5 million prisoners, most of them Jews, were killed in Auschwitz alone. A total of six million Jews and millions of others including Poles, homosexuals, Russians and Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis and their allies during the war.
Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Thomas Matussek, representing the European Union, said he was aware that the “unprecedented crime of the Holocaust was committed by Germans and in the name of Germany and from that stems our special responsibility.”