Thursday, November 27, 2014

Canada opposes UN bill opposing glorification of Nazism

Last Friday, Canada along with the U.S. opposed a resolution that was meant to combat glorification of Nazism. The only other country to vote against the resolution was Ukraine.

The resolution was put forward by Russia and a number of other countries. The entire resolution can be viewed here. Part of the resolution claims to be for “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” There were 55 abstentions including many EU countries. This Lithuanian source explains some of the reasoning behind some of the abstentions. There were 115 countries in favor of the resolution including India, Iran, but also Israel.
 While the Russian motion was no doubt in part motivated by its claims that far-right neo-Nazi groups were powerful actors in the new Ukrainian government, it is surprising to me that the US and Canada voted against the bill. It seems purely a political move designed to try and discredit the Russian motion. What it does is discredit those who voted against the motion. Narrow as the motion is, it still expresses positions that both Canada, the United States, and the Ukraine actually all support. The Ukrainian vote is particularly significant since it suggests that approving the resolution would alienate the very right-wing neo-Nazi groups that the motion is directed against. Ukraine therefore voted against the motion to avoid alienating these groups. No doubt Russia hoped for just such a result. The US and Canada apparently will do anything that would irritate Russia.
Even Israel voted for the resolution parting company with its big supporter the United States. The Ukraine objected to the resolution because the country also suffered under Stalinism and felt that passing the resolution would minimize that suffering. This seems a bit bizarre. One cannot resolve to oppose one evil because others are not mentioned. The Canadian objection has a family resemblance to that of the Ukraine but is much more bizarre: But Canada objected because the resolution has a “narrow focus” and it draws on the controversial declarations of the 2009 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which Canada regards as anti-Semitic. Surely Canada should support a resolution that combats attempts to glorify Nazism even if the focus is narrow. Given that the content of the resolution opposes Nazism, how is it anti-Semitic? Canada claims it voted against the resolution because it is anti-semitic. How is it Israel did not vote against it? Maybe Obama told Harper how Canada should vote. Usually Canada supports the Israeli position.
The Jerusalem Post has an interesting comment by Dr. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem:“There is a very strong tendency in post-Communist Europe to try to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust and to try and minimize crimes by local Nazi collaborators, to equate Communist crimes and suffering of Communist victims with Nazi crimes during the Shoah and to glorify local heroes who fought against the Communists even though some of them were actively involved in collaboration with the Nazis and mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust." Zuroff claims that many former Soviet countries, have tried to rewrite history with the Ukraine being among " the worst of them". The appended video also discusses aspects of the situation described by Zuroff.
Germany abstained from the resolution. This is somewhat surprising given that Germany is usually anxious to ensure other countries understand it rejects its Nazi past. Other countries such as Britain and France who suffered at the hands of the Nazis also abstained. The Russians, not surprisingly, expressed regret that not all countries supported the resolution. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said: "The fact that the US, Canada and Ukraine voted against, while delegations from EU member states abstained in the vote on this draft resolution, which was supported by an overwhelming majority of the UN member states, is extremely regrettable...Ukraine’s position is particularly dispiriting and alarming. One can hardly understand how a country, the people of which suffered their full share of the horrors of Nazism and contributed significantly to our common victory against it, can vote against a resolution condemning its glorification."