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Let's start by saying up front that the United Nations did a good thing Tuesday by adopting a resolution instituting January 27 as worldwide Holocaust Awareness Day.
Not only did it do good, but it went a distance toward washing out one of the world body's long-standing stains - up until now there had not been one substantive UN resolution or document dealing with the Holocaust.
What must Kurt Waldheim, that former Nazi officer, UN secretary-general and Austrian president whose portrait has pride of place in the UN halls, be thinking today?
It was under Waldheim's tenure from 1972-1981 that some of the most egregious anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli resolutions and documents made their way through the UN system, including the infamous 1975 Zionism is Racism resolution.
It was during Waldheim's tenure that a special Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was set up. This committee is little more than a Palestinian propaganda tool that organizes anti-Israeli meetings, prepares anti-Israeli publications, and drafts anti-Israel resolutions.
This committee has an annual budget of $2,764,200. By contrast, the UN on Tuesday allocated just under $350,000 for two years to implement the Holocaust resolution.
But the anti-Israeli animus that infected the UN during Waldheim's reign did not crawl out of Turtle Bay when he left. It spread to groups like UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Commission, and peaked with the 2001 Durban Conference that turned into an anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic hate fest.
Moreover, since the start of the Palestinian violence in 2000, the various UN organs have been at the forefront of the campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel.
Nevertheless, Tuesday's resolution is an indication of a slight change seeping into the organization's attitude toward Israel and the Jews.
Over the last 18 months the UN - egged on by the Foreign Ministry, which has taken a commendably proactive stance -- has held a conference on anti-Semitism, hosted a Holocaust exhibit, voted Israeli diplomats into positions closed to them in the past and has now even passed its first Israeli-initiated resolution.
But don't crack open the champagne bottles just yet. While welcome, this trend may - as cynics maintain -- be a cheap way for the UN to brush up its scandal-tarnished image.
Our concern is that the Holocaust resolution may now serve the UN as a fig leaf providing cover to continue with its reflexive Israel-bashing. One can imagine accusations now leveled at the UN of an anti-Semitic bias masquerading as "legitimate criticism of Israeli policies" now being rebuffed with the claim, "How dare you, we just instituted Holocaust Awareness Day."
Having said that, there was something refreshing about seeing a resolution on the Holocaust come out of the General Assembly, just as it was pleasant hearing the UN Security Council Friday issue a condemnation of Iran for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's genocidal remarks toward Israel.
Interestingly enough, it was not Israel's ambassador to the UN who linked these comments with the Holocaust resolution. Rather, it was US Ambassador John Bolton.
"When a president or a member state can brazenly and hatefully call for a second Holocaust by suggesting that Israel, the Jewish homeland, should be wiped off the map, it is clear that not all have learned the lessons of the Holocaust and that much work remains to be done," Bolton rightly said.
Much work, obviously, does remain to be done. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan would be wise to start the ball rolling by canceling his upcoming visit to Iran.
Annan said last week he was dismayed by Ahmadinejad's comments. But he should do much more than just issue a statement. He should refuse to go to Iran and shake hands, thereby lending legitimacy, to a man who says proudly and publicly that he wants to do to Israel today what Hitler wanted to do to the Jewish people 65 years ago - wipe it off the map.
The UN did good Tuesday; Annan shouldn't dilute it by going ahead with his misguided trip.
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