By Bruce S. Ticker
PHILADELPHIA — It qualifies as an important event in Jewish history: An international body stands by Israel in its life-and-death dispute with Iran. The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency – described as the nuclear watchdog for the United Nations – censured Iran by demanding that its government freeze operations at a uranium enrichment plant right away. The United States was joined by China, Russia and 24 other countries in voting overwhelmingly for the resolution on Friday, Nov. 27 – two days short of the 62nd anniversary of UN approval to establish the state of Israel.
The IAEA’s vote is the strongest UN action I can recall on behalf of Israel since it was accepted as a member of the General Assembly on May 11, 1949. It holds historical significance in part because of the brutal treatment of the Jews during our 2,000-year diaspora, but especially with recent history as a backdrop. Member states of the UN have probably never stood so staunchly behind Israel since the Jewish state’s very creation.
The UN adopted Resolution 181 to endorse creation of the Jewish state on Nov. 29, 1947, as part of a partition plan for two states, one for Israel and the other for Arabs, according to the Israeli Mission’s Web site. Of course, it did not work out that way as the surrounding Arab nations rejected the plan and invaded Israel. Israel proclaimed its independence on May 14, 1948, turned back the Arab armies and joined the UN nearly a year later.
Relations between Israel and the UN have often been hostile. The UN injected itself into the 1973 Yom Kippur War once Israel was in position to lay siege to Cairo. The world body also pressed for a truce in 2006 before Israel could cause Hezbollah any real damage. Among its many slights to Israel, the UN General Assembly in 1975 adopted a resolutio
n equating Zionism with racism and rescinded it in 1991. It is not historic that the majority of member states undid their previous damage. Still, on Nov. 27, delegates from 27 nations lined up behind Israel to cast a vote for the first time demanding that Iran immediately halt construction of a uranium enrichment facility in Qum, according to The New York Times. By no means is this vote conclusive, but it is a good start. Surprisingly, China and Russia joined the vote, as did such countries as France, Germany, England and Canada. The Times explained that the vote does not go so far as to finding Iran in formal “noncompliance” or violation of its nonproliferation commitments. That would afford strong evidence to support the drive for a new round of sanctions.
The conditions that shaped the IAEA vote are wide open to speculation. It may be that some countries recognized that voting to censure Iran was the right thing to do. We have a president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who repeatedly denied the Jewish people’s tragic history while threatening Israel’s destruction, and his government steadily develops a nuclear program. What gray areas can there be for reasonable people?
Plenty of backroom maneuvering evidently ensued. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and their people were certainly lining up their ducks, even those likely to vote their way, anyway. Obama had met individually with the leaders of Russia and China. Before meeting in Beijing with China’s president, Hu Jintao, two senior National Security Council officials, Jeff Bader and Dennis Ross, were sent to China to make a personal case for the United States’s concern about Iran’s nuclear programs, the Times reported.
One must wonder what carrots or sticks were used. Maybe American officials reminded Russia and China that they could face international trials for alleged human rights abuses, just as the Goldstone report on the Gaza war threatens that fate for Israel. Americans could have promised their help if this kind of situation arose. I wonder if guilt over the Goldstone report was a factor for some of the western nations. There are legitimate concerns over the Gaza war earlier this year, but even some of these countries probably recognize that the upshot of the report was way over the top and tilted too far against Israel.
The IAEA vote resolves nothing at this stage, and Iran’s subsequent defiance underscores that. In addition, the 27 nations that voted in the affirmative are hardly a majority of the U.N. membership itself. However, Israel and its supporters have reasons to take heart. The IAEA vote at least held symbolic importance, and that is historic there.
Bruce S. Ticker is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He may be contacted at BTicker@comcast.net.
NEW YORK (Press Release)—The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194) before the December break.
“The timing for this vote is especially significant. After serious attempts by the United States and other world powers to engage Iran and negotiate an end to its nuclear weapons program, Iran refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program and also announced they would suspend cooperation with the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran continues to race toward nuclear weapons capability and escalate tensions, most recently with its announcement of plans to build 10 additional uranium enrichment plants in response to the IAEA Board of Governors’ November 27 resolution calling on Iran to suspend its nuclear activities,” said Conference of Presidents Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein.
“Should the IRPSA legislation pass the House, it has the potential to seriously impact the Iranian economy. The prospect of the sanctions in this bill and the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which overwhelmingly passed the House in October, are essential to pressing Iran, the leading violator of human rights and state sponsor of terrorism globally, against pursuing a nuclear weapons capacity. We thank House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and all the co-sponsors for introducing this bill and for moving it through the committee. We urge all the members of the House to maintain the momentum and pass the bill this month. We hope the Senate will act on the sanctions bill before it during December as well. We recognize that Congress is focused on other issues of importance, but we should not allow this critical issue that affects the security of our country and the world to be delayed,” the leaders said.
Preceding provided by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
JERUSALEM–Israel attracts attention like a magnet. Some years ago, at the height of the Cold War, there were said to be more foreign correspondents in Jerusalem than in any other capital except Washington and Moscow.
The weight of Muslims in international forums assures a chronic rate of condemnations. Being the Holy Land contributes to the attention coming from the “religion soaked” United States. Europeans are responding to their Christian roots when they pay attention to Israel, as well as following the lead of whoever is speaking for the United States.
There is no shortage of religious doctrine and moralism in what comes to my mailbox. I read interpretations of Holy Scripture that correspondents are certain bode ill or well for Israel, or well after a severe testing by worldly powers orchestrated by the Almighty. All this is said to follow a plan that I do not see in the Bible (Hebrew Bible or New Testament), but is clear to those who perceive it.
Other correspondents condemn Israel for violating their moral codes. Typically they avoid any clarification of what they mean by right and wrong.. Most are oblivious to the multiple nature of moralities, the complexities in judging a whole country, or its government, in the context of the pressures on them, or the norms as defined by the behaviors of other countries.
A comparison between Israel and the United States is instructive. To be sure, there are no two democracies that are more different. One is huge and rich, and one tiny and on the border of well-being. One is obsessively multi-cultural and the other more nearly homogeneous. One is governed by a president and legislature separately elected for fixed terms, and the other a parliamentary regime where the government’s tenure depends on the continued support of the legislature. The current enemies of one are a half-world away from its homeland, and the enemies of the other are no more than a bus ride of an hour or two from the center of its country.
With all these differences, it is appropriate to compare the United States and Israel as the most active of the democracies in pursuing national security. Israel allocates close to 10 percent of its gross national product to national defense, and the United States between three and four percent. For most other democracies the figure is a bit more than one or two percent. http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/statab/sec30.pdf
Among the founding myths of the United States is the slogan of “no entangling alliances.” That sentiment prevailed from the time of George Washington to the era of World War II, and was prominent in the arguments of those who opposed joining the League of Nations. The theme of autonomy continued in the country’s insistence on a veto for important decisions of the United Nations, and more recently in its refusal to accept agreements for environmental controls, human rights, or the rights of the child that would place its activities under the decisions of an international body. The United States has the economic and political weight to insist that its soldiers be judged only by American military courts.
The damage done to civilians and infrastructure by the American military is greater in absolute terms than that done by the Israeli military. Only part of the difference derives from the larger forces employed by the United States. The numbers are contentious, and do not reflect only deaths directly attributed to the actions of troops. Conservative estimates place the numbers killed in Iraq since the American-led invasion in 2003 at over 100,000, and those in Afghanistan since 2001 at over 20,000. http://www.iraqbodycount.org/
Other estimates are more than 10 times as great.
Total deaths associated with recent Israeli military actions are in the range of 2,500 for civilians and fighters killed in Lebanon and Gaza, combined.
Although the body counts are higher for American than Israeli actions, one has to look hard to find the United States being condemned by international forums or the most prominent of the non-governmental organizations. It is not American but Israeli political and military figures who are chary of traveling abroad lest an activist judge signs an order to arrest them for violating what is said to be international law.
Reasoned efforts to compare Israel’s military actions to the those of the United States have not quieted the most intense of my correspondents. It is no surprise that individuals motivated by religion or morality have little tolerance for relativism. Absolutism is their language. It does not diminish their condemnation if other countries, even their own, do what is similar or greater in the direction they consider to be immoral.
Neither does an argument about differential threat impress the critics of Israel. Some of them are certain that the country was born in sin, and continues to violate what they describe as right. Some accusers may derive inspiration from old condemnations of Jews as violators of the Lord. Insofar as foundations of western morality derive from the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, some may think that Jews should be judged by the highest standards, no matter what other people have done, or are doing. Contemporary conceptions of anti-Semitism focus not so much on accusations of Christ-killers or blood libels (although those charges have not disappeared), but on judging Israel by standards higher than used for other countries.
Morals are important in politics. One should not pursue any goal, even one as important as physical security, without calculating its costs in human life and well being, as well as the more mundane considerations of economic outlays and environmental impact. However, simple assertions of one’s most intensely held feelings cannot be the sole guide to behavior. The point is most obvious when intense people proclaim their contrasting views of what is right, or what God ordains.
Israelis who chafe under disproportionate criticism can take counsel from some founding doctrines of the United States. The creators of the democracy widely perceived as a model for the world were suspicious of the people. According to Federalist Papers #10
Americans continue to find protection from the rabble in the Separation of Powers. Likewise Israel. The separation between White House and Congress helps to lessen the madness that can come from any one institution. The complexity of Europe means that demonstrations in the streets or universities are filtered through institutions with several layers before they can affect concrete actions.
Nasty e-mails, screaming crowds, elected demagogues, and out of control professors are worrying, but they do not break my bones.
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO—My 2-year-old grandson Sky took Nancy and me on a tour of the animal world over the weekend. We didn’t go to the Zoo or to Sea World, although Sky loves both these tourist attractions. Instead we went to several places that in his young eyes may seem almost as large and nearly as wonderful: to the front yard of our neighbors Bob and Alisa Lauritzen, to the visitor’s center of the Mission Trails Regional Park, and to my computer, where we viewed You Tube video selections of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
Bob and Alisa own four live cats, as well as an outdoor sculpture of another cat. The lawn also has other stone animals, including a mountain lion, rabbits, turtles, an egret, and now that the Christmas season is approaching, they also have up some wire reindeer. Sky ran from one to the other, naming them. One live cat ran just as quickly – in the other direction.
Next, we bundled into the car and drove to the visitor’s center, which Sky knows so well that at a full run he can name the animals, over his shoulder. On the path to the visitor’s center are displays that as you pass them will emit animal sounds: “Snake … Deer… bird…’nother bird … lizard… quail… ‘nother snake… up there an eagle,” Sky informs, hurrying to get to the front door.
He makes a beeline to the floor near the gift counter, where he finds all kinds of stuffed toy animals. These too he inventories… “rabbit… I think a dog (yes it was)… a duck, a horse, lady bug, penguin…” He’s satisfied to examine them, and doesn’t ask to keep them. The dark corridor up to the second floor, with more animal sounds, awaits. “That’s a coyote!” he says. “And a lion!” I also hear an owl, but Sky’s little legs already have carried him to the second floor, where stuffed real animals are within reach.
He wasn’t able to name the bobcat, but next to it was “a coyote!” which he immediately recognized. And beyond it, “a mountain lion!”
I snapped photos as quickly as I could, because Sky clearly was headed for the door to the second floor landing outside, which would take him down the stairs, past the replica of the flume that once carried water from this area to Mission San Diego, and past a Kumeyaay dwelling known as an ewaa (ah-wah), to the amphitheatre, where there are three animal sculptures.
Sky likes to narrate what he is doing, so as we descended to the amphitheatre, he announced “we’re going down the stairs,” and as he hugged the sculpture of another coyote, he said, “I’m saying cheese.”
“What’s this?” asked grandma, pointing to what a sign explained was a dusky-footed wood rat.
“I’m thinking!” said Sky.
He never did indentify the rat, however, and he ignored a large sculpture of a mountain lion, as he went to the bottom of the amphitheatre to watch water flowing from the flume into a small pond. Then back he scrambled up the stairs, narrating that “I’m climbing!” He tripped, fell, got up and reassured his grandparents “I’m okay,” and as if to prove it, added: “I’m running around.”
Trying to keep up with him unsuccessfully, I realized what a big difference there is between the ages of 64 and 2.
After ducking into the Kumeyaay house, then running along a pathway on the perimeter of the amphitheatre that took us back to the front of the visitors center, Sky seemed satisfied that he had visited most of his outdoor animal friends.
But there still were animals to see on my computer once he was indoors. Sky climbed up on my lap, announced he wanted “Old MacDonald” and then pointed in turn to approximately six different selections of the song. His favorite is one sung in studio by Phil Collins, who is joined by numerous celebrities—among them Jewish community members Goldie Hawn and Kevin Kline—who make the appropriate sounds for the animals enumerated in the song.
The celebrities look much younger on the video than they do today, especially the two Hughs –Laurie and Grant. Check the video out, you can’t help but laugh at the antics of Bishop Desmond Tutu and Whoopi Goldberg.
Sky doesn’t just like animals, he adores them. I have a feeling that animals always will be a big part of his life. Perhaps he will follow in the footsteps of his Israeli godfather, Yoni Peres, and become a veterinarian!
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World