The United Nations on Thursday adopted an Israeli resolution that condemns denial and distortion of the Holocaust, the Nazi genocide that killed nearly six million Jews and millions of others.
Adoption of the resolution by the 193-member General Assembly, co-sponsored by Germany and supported by the United States and Russia among many others, took place against the backdrop of rising antisemitism globally, punctuated by an attack on a Texas synagogue less than a week ago.
Israel and other sponsors called the resolution necessary because of the profusion of misinformation and ignorance about the Holocaust and events surrounding it, especially among the young.
The General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus — meaning it was approved without a country-by-country vote. Only Iran, Israel’s most ardent adversary, objected.
The resolution’s passage amounted to an unusual, albeit symbolic, diplomatic victory for Israel at the United Nations, where the narrative is often perceived by Israelis to be biased in favor of Palestinians’ aspirations for their own state.
Diplomats said it was only the second time since Israel’s founding that the General Assembly had adopted an Israeli-backed resolution. The first was in 2005, when a resolution on establishing International Holocaust Remembrance Day was approved. That day, Jan. 27, commemorates the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet soldiers in the final days of World War II.
The vote on Thursday had been scheduled to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, the 1942 lakeside gathering where high-ranking Nazi leaders devised what they called the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question,” a plan to exterminate Jews. A third of the world’s Jewish population, including 1.5 million children, would die under their organized policy of gassing, shooting and slave labor in Auschwitz and at other concentration camps established by Hitler’s Nazi regime.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and a grandson of Holocaust victims, said in formally introducing the resolution that although the atrocities had been highly documented, “we now live in an era in which fiction is now becoming fact and the Holocaust is becoming a distant memory.”
Mr. Erdan said only about half of the world’s population had even heard of the Holocaust, and that some believe the events were a “complete myth.”
Amplified by social media, Mr. Erdan said, “Holocaust denial has spread like a cancer — it has spread under our watch,” which had made the General Assembly resolution necessary.
The resolution reaffirms that the Holocaust “will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice.”
It expresses concern about “the growing prevalence of Holocaust denial or distortion through the use of information and communications technologies,” and urges all U.N. members to “reject without any reservation any denial or distortion of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to this end.”
The resolution also commends countries that have “actively engaged in preserving those sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labor camps, killing sites and prisons during the Holocaust, as well as similar places operated by Nazi-allied regimes, their accomplices or auxiliaries.”
It also urges all U.N. members “to develop educational programs that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide” and urges “social media companies to take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion.”
The United Nations already undertakes a number of educational efforts to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial, largely through the work of UNESCO — the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Last year, for example, UNESCO and the World Jewish Congress signed an agreement with Facebook directing users searching for Holocaust terms to an information website they created, aboutholocaust.org.
Eliot Minchenberg, director of the UNESCO office in New York, said a similar agreement could soon be signed with TikTok.
He also said the new U.N. resolution would “definitely give us more support, and maybe leverage, when it comes to engaging member states” in the effort to educate people about the Holocaust, noting that in many countries, its history is not taught in schools.
“We shouldn’t be surprised if kids don’t know,” he said.