With Words We Govern Men
Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism
by Gil Troy
Oxford University Press, 368 pp., $29.95
McGill University historian Gil Troy has just written an account of the moment in November, 1975 when the United Nations declared in General Assembly Resolution 3379 that Zionism was a form of racism and the United States, led by Ambassador Daniel P. Moynihan, mounted a loud and politically important protest. Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight against Zionism as Racism deserves and will doubtless receive good reviews, but this piece will not be among them—because I was Moynihan's special assistant during the seven months of his service in the UN trenches, and my husband, Leonard Garment, and I are in Troy's book as both participants and sources. Nonetheless, there are some events to which there can never be too many witnesses.
It is hard to wrap one's arms around the breadth of Moynihan's career. He was born in 1927, abandoned by his father, and raised in Hell's Kitchen, where his mother ran a bar. During World War II he joined the Navy and saw a vastly expanded world. By the late 1940s he had gained a PhD from the Fletcher School at Tufts and a Fulbright Fellowship at the London School of Economics. Returning home, he began his intertwining careers in academia and Democratic politics.
In 1965, as an Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Johnson administration, he wrote a report, titled The Negro Family, which called attention to the role of absent fathers and out-of-wedlock births in America's African-American underclass. The fierce criticism of Moynihan's report began his estrangement from fellow liberals. He became counselor to a Republican president, Richard Nixon, and after that Nixon's ambassador to India. Following his return from India, he wrote an article in Commentary, "The United States in Opposition," which argued that liberal Western nations were outnumbered and outvoted in international forums and must start mounting a vigorous defense of their principles in those places. The article led to his 1975 appointment by another Republican president, Gerald Ford, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.