BY VOTING overwhelmingly to repeal its infamous resolution characterizing Zionism as "a form of racism and racial discrimination," the U.N. General Assembly has finally moved to erase the moral insult it inflicted on Israel 16 years ago and to redeem its own honor.
The anti-Zionism resolution was conceived in Cold War opportunism and enacted in an atmosphere of political cynicism. The Soviet Union, a chief sponsor, saw it as a cost-free way to curry favor with Arab-bloc and other Muslim countries. Meanwhile, Arab oil producers were using their recently gained control over petroleum prices and supplies to win influence in Third World states, including influence over their U.N. votes.
Zionism as a political movement emerged near the end of the 19th century in response to European anti-Semitism. Its motivating dream was to reconstitute a Jewish state in Palestine, nearly two millennia after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. That goal was achieved in 1948 after the General Assembly voted to partition Palestine.
This week's vote at the United Nations was a dramatic indication of how much the world has changed since the mid-1970s. But the vote also showed continuity. Among the opponents of repeal were such despotisms as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam. Opposition from this quarter only added luster to the victory achieved by the measure's backers.