Thursday, December 12, 2013

Terese Azzam, an Arab-Israeli Woman Artist from Haifa

Haifa International Conference on WMD-Free Zone Middle East Recap

by Odile Hugonot Haber, Co-Chair, MIddle East Issue Committee
Two WILPF women have just returned from the Haifa, Israel and the International Conference for a Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Odile Hugonot-Haber, representing the Middle East (ME) Issue Committee, and Jackie Cabasso, representing DISARM/End Wars, will be available to WILPF-US Branches and their communities with action tools for all of us in the months ahead.
The Haifa conference was organized by a preparatory committee including former members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) and dedicated Israeli anti-nuclear and human rights activists.
Iranʼs nuclear policy has raised the issue of nuclear policy in the Middle East as a whole, including that of Israel itself.
The international community has recognized that the nuclear issue, as well as the issue of weapons of mass destruction generally, is not an internal affair of any state but has implications that reach beyond national and geographic borders, and hence it requires international attention. Different international initiatives for abolishing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction derive from such insights. For example:
1. The great progress in the issue of dismantling the arsenal of chemical weapons in Syria and the commitment to implement the Security Council resolution through cooperation with the Syrian government.
2. The new moderate official Iranian discourse on Iran's nuclear policy, and the Iranian president Ruhani's commitment to cooperate with the international community to promote a nuclear free zone in the Middle East.
Those two developments have created favorable conditions for an effort to breach the wall of indifference erected by the Israeli establishment to block public discussion on the nuclear and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) issue inside Israel.
There is a broad international support, including among the peoples of the Middle East and among the progressive forces inside Israel, for the immediate implementation of the UN general assembly resolution from May 2010That resolution called to hold an international conference in Helsinki under the auspices of the UN to promote the creation of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, which is based on having all the countries of the region—including Israel—joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the treaty on the banning of chemical weapons.
Israel was the only party in the Middle East that decided to boycott the Helsinki conference. Consequently, the conference was cancelled. In an alternative international conference, which was organized by the peace organizations in Finland last December, and attended by the Finnish foreign minister, the representative of the Haifa based Emil Touma Institute concluded: "If official Israel will not come to Helsinki, it remains the task of the peace and progressive forces, in Israel and abroad, to bring Helsinki to Israel." Hence, the idea of an international conference in Israel was born, aimed at strengthening the demand for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. Such a conference would be a continuation of many years of activism towards this goal.
We believe that now is the time to intensify the campaign in Israel on matters of Nuclear Weapons and WMD disarmament, and that the security of the citizens of Israel and the people of the region will not be met by the stockpiling of nuclear bombs and WMDs or by disastrous wars, but rather by disarmament and just peace.
Please let the US press know about this.
For more information, visit

From an Old Nuclear Order to a Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction!

samedi 7 décembre 2013, par La Rédaction
(By Issam Makhoul *)
The International Haifa Conference for a Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) is being held in an extremely important international situation. This international conference is the first of its kind in Israel. It is being held at the right time, in the right place, and revolves around the right question, which is the most pressing question regarding the future of the peoples of the region.
It so happens to be, that the conference is being held just a short time after the historic agreement was reached in Geneva between Iran and the Six Powers. This conference is also held just a few months after the agreement on dismantling the Syrian Chemical weapons arsenal ; an agreement that was reached as part of a diplomatic process, which put a stop to the aggressive war plans of the United States against Syria.
We did not plan in advance that the conference will be held so close to the signing of these two important international agreements, but this proximity further emphasizes the importance of holding the Haifa Conference, and highlights the relevance of the call that will be issued from this historic conference : The security of Israel will not be safeguarded by disastrous war threats, but by achieving a political solution, in the framework of a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East.
This is the new wind that is blowing from Geneva, this is the new wind that is blowing from the agreement reached in Syria about their Chemical weapons arsenal, and this is the wind blowing on all the peoples of the region and the world in this day and age. For this message to be realized, all sides are needed to attend the UN-sponsored Helsinki Conference on a WMD and Nuclear Weapons’ Free Zone in the Middle East.
This conference aims to bring to the Israeli people the message that its security, its peace and prosperity will not be met through disastrous wars, through hundreds of nuclear warheads stored in Israel, through German-made nuclear submarines, through US manufactured nuclear cruise missiles, or through a French-made nuclear reactor in the southern Israeli town of Dimona. Peace and security can be achieved through a complete nuclear disarmament in the Middle East, through the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction, and through adopting a sincere policy that aims to achieve a just peace with the Palestinian people and with all the countries of the region. This is the option that the Israeli government tries to push aside and prevent from materializing.
It is interesting to note that while Israel constantly repeats the mantra on the supposedly existential threat that hangs over its head – if and when any of the countries in the region will attempt to come in possession of nuclear weapons – at the same time, it is the first to oppose the idea of a Nuclear-Free zone in the Middle East.
Our Conference reveals the fact, that more and more activists and organizations, both in Israel and abroad, who support nuclear disarmament in the Middle East, are coming to adopt the call we put forward last December in Helsinki. There, in the Alternative Helsinki Conference – which was convened after the Israeli government has boycotted the official Helsinki Conference – we’ve put forward the challenge : If Israel will not come to Helsinki – then Helsinki will come to Israel, and with it – the message of a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East. This is what’s happening here today.
What characterizes the activists and the organizations which have convened here today, in a much broader coalition than ever before seen in Israel, is that they recognize the borderline which separates between the old nuclear order and the new anti-nuclear order.
It seems that what worries Prime Minister Netanyahu the most, is not the possibility of an Iranian nuclear bomb – which is dwarfed by the Israeli arsenal of 200 nuclear warheads – but rather he is worried by the role that Iran begins to play, that of a key regional player which can no longer be isolated. If the question is who will isolate whom – then clearly Netanyahu’s hand is inferior. Contrary to what this government says, the Geneva agreement did not undermine the security of the Israeli citizens. What was undermined is his political line of non-stop threats of regional war.
Instead of addressing the question of how to destroy the Iranian nuclear project by military means, the real interest of all peoples in the Middle East, including the Israeli and Iranian peoples, is to safeguard their security, not through nuclear arsenals and wars of aggression but through denuclearization of all states in the region. The opposition to the nuclear threat cannot be a selective issue and should not be handled with double standards.
Today humanity has reached a turning point. The old nuclear order which was created with the dropping of the U.S. nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has come to a dead end. The peoples of the world, including the peoples of the Middle East, have to choose between two options : Either, more and more countries, who are willing to do so and have the capability, will join the nuclear club, or humanity will choose to live in a world free of nuclear weapons.
It is interesting to note, how Israel claims that the problem is not with nuclear weapons per-se, but with nuclear weapons supposedly "falling into the wrong hands, into non-democratic hands". Yet in the past two weeks, much had been published about the cooperation between the Israeli government and the Saudi Kingdom – the very democratic and very responsible kingdom – with both sides trying to put barriers to the success of the agreement reached in Geneva.
What is clear now, and becomes clearer every day, is that more and more forces in the world are challenging the "right" of a handful of states to have a nuclear monopoly, and are refusing to subject themselves to this reality. The centers of nuclear tensions through out the world revolve around nuclear countries, including Israel, that insist on maintaining their monopoly, on the one hand, and countries that are challenging this monopoly, on the other. This insistence on nuclear monopoly, in the Middle East in particular, jeopardizes the cause of world peace and the well-being of the peoples in the region.
What is certain is that an Israeli war initiative against Iran will not be a war of survival for Israel, as we are told by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Rather, it will be a war in defense of Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the Middle East.
Most Israelis also beginning to see, that no option exists for a one-sided monopoly in the Middle East over nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. If such weapons exist in the Middle East, they will not be in the exclusive possession of one party. Thus, the existence of huge amounts of nuclear weapons in Israel, not only does not deter other states from developing these weapons, but actually motivates them to attempt to obtain them and other non-conventional weapons in response.
That’s why we believe, unlike the Israeli government, that the last Geneva agreement could be a historical turning point in handling the nuclear question in the Middle East.
Dear Comrades, Dear friends,
When the Israeli leadership is being pressured to join the initiative for making the Middle East a nuclear free zone, it responds with arguing that Israel will only agree to discuss this matter, once a comprehensive and stable peace will be achieved in the area. This misleading argument is grounded on the notion that the Israeli nuclear arsenal is actually a pre-condition for achieving peace in the region. It is an Israeli deception, another illusion we must thoroughly reject.
The Israeli government wishes to reverse the political agenda in the region, raising the fore the Iranian question, at the expense of the Palestinian question and its peaceful solution. The rights of the Palestinian people, the continuing occupation, and the expansion of the settlements – all of these questions are pushed to the back.
In fact, the Israeli government’s refusal to advance towards just peace and political solution, its constant threats of war and regional aggression, its denial of the national rights of the Palestinian people, its contempt towards UN resolutions and international law, its continued expansion of settlements and deepening of the occupation – all these are made easier Israel’s nuclear monopoly on the one hand, and the political backing that is provided by the US on the other hand. Therefore we say that the Israeli refusal on the nuclear question – consolidates its refusal on the political question.
The Israeli equation must be turned on its head : not the comprehensive peace in the region is the pre-condition for nuclear disarmament, but on the contrary – the nuclear disarmament and complete halt of all plans to develop nuclear weapons throughout the region, including Israel and Iran, must be a very essential part of achieving peace.
On February 2nd, it will be 14 years since the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – has officially held a plenum discussion regarding the Israeli Nuclear policy. This discussion, held on my initiative, was only made possible after I appealed to the Supreme Court and insisted on my right to raise this issue in the Knesset, and on the right of the Israeli public to be allowed to witness this very important discussion. Although the Presidium of the Knesset has given the discussion the green light, following the court ruling, it was not at all clear and certain that the discussion will actually take place.
Some rightwing Members of Knesset has welcomed this discussion with hysterical screams, acting as if I was slaughtering a sacred cow. That was an historic day for the anti-nuclear struggle, in Israel and abroad. If it was not for the Speaker of the Knesset, Abraham Burg, who was bravely committed to allow this message to be heard – it was not at all certain that the discussion could have been possible.
I have always appreciated the honesty and determination of Burg, but it did not cross my mind that 14 years later, we will be partners in organizing the first international conference in Israel for a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East.
This conference is the conference of the brave ones. Of those who tell the truth to the peoples of the region. Of those who wish to build a secure future for citizens of Israel, for the countries of the region, and for the world. Of those who aspire for a future without Weapons of Mass Destruction, a future of Peace.
(07-12-2013 - By Issam Makhoul)
* Speech by former MK Issam Makhoul (Hadash), chairperson of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies, during the conference for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, Haifa, December 5th 2013.

Pour vous inscrire à notre liste de diffusion "Assawra"
faites la demande à l’adresse :

Non au terrorisme de l’Etat d’Israël

For A Nuclear and WMD-Free Middle East Prof. Naomi Chazan

On Iran, Israel's best option is the truth by Naomi Chazan*

posted on Monday, 25 November, 2013
Israel stands in almost complete isolation in its opposition to any international arrangement on the prevention of the nuclearization of Iran. It is at loggerheads with the rest of the world-and especially with the United States-not over this shared goal, but about how it should be achieved. While the major powers will be reconvening in Geneva in a few days to firm up a treaty that might go a long way towards this end, Prime Minister Netanyahu is bent on blocking any such agreement-insisting on tightening those very sanctions he opposed in the past while maintaining an open military option.
Israel's contrarian stance, especially after its success in placing the threat of a nuclear Iran at the forefront of the global agenda, makes little sense. By rejecting any form of accommodation, it runs the risk of being totally marginalized on the international stage and finding itself seriously at odds with its remaining allies. It may also be sustaining an untenable status quo in the Middle East, thereby contributing directly to the perpetuation of ongoing instability in the region. And, most importantly, it will actually be doing nothing to harness the Iranian nuclear threat. Thus, this strategy, despite its populist appeal to broad segments of the Israeli population, is leading absolutely nowhere.
Israel presently has an unusual opportunity to take advantage of the current conjuncture to pursue an alternative strategy: one which will promote its objectives and provide significant possibilities for constructively changing realities in the region. It can declare that it is reconsidering its own nuclear strategy and that it is willing to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and entertain the possibility of establishing a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Such a move could be the game-changer that would blaze the way to a different regional environment and for greater security for Israel and its neighbors.
Israel's own nuclear program has been intentionally shrouded in secrecy since its inception over fifty years ago. Its purpose is twofold: to equip Israel with the ultimate defense in case of an overwhelming effort to bring about its destruction (the doomsday scenario) and to present a powerful deterrent to any country considering such a possibility. For years, Israel has therefore consistently denied that it possesses any nuclear capacity, although the extent of its non-conventional weapons arsenal has been extensively documented.
This policy of "constructive ambiguity" has had two main outcomes. Domestically, it has precluded any debate on Israel's nuclear program -one of the very few topics that has not been seriously aired in Israel's extremely boisterous public domain. Attempts to publish information have been met with strict censorship (to this day almost all knowledge on the topic depends on foreign sources); efforts to nurture discussion have, with few exceptions, been stonewalled; and, to press home the point, anyone raising the issue has been viewed as the worst kind of traitor (vide Mordechai Vanunu). In this environment, it is hardly surprising that a virtual taboo exists on the topic in political discourse.
Externally, the strategy of ambiguity led Israel to shun the NPT and to refuse any suggestion that it be a party to its oversight provisions. Together with Pakistan, India, South Sudan and North Korea (who withdrew in 1993), it is one of a handful of states which have remained outside the most widely-subscribed arms control agreement in the world (190 countries today are signatory to the NPT and subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency). This policy may have served Israel well during the Cold War era. But in the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has kept Israel outside the global consensus and severely limited its ability to affect international currents in this most sensitive of areas.
Israel's obstinacy regarding the NPT, not to speak of discussions of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East (so emphatically articulated by Prime Minister Netanyahu in recent statements), stems from two main sources. First, Israel, like many other countries, jealously guards information on its military capabilities and is understandably reluctant to open its stockpiles to any external scrutiny. Second, it is justifiably suspicious of the sources of the demand that it become a party to the NPT, which have come particularly vociferously from the most virulent of its opponents (such as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani). These suspicions cannot be easily allayed. They should not, however, be transformed into what they have become today: a substitute for a policy that will advance Israel's interests and potentially alter the contours of the Middle East.
The advantages of an Israeli initiative to join the NPT as a first step towards establishing a region devoid of weapons of mass destruction may far outweigh the natural reluctance of its present leadership. Such a move could enhance Israel's long-term security by actually increasing its deterrent capacity. Since Israel's strategy of constructive ambiguity no longer has any credibility, allowing international oversight would make the extent of its defensive capability palpably evident to all. It may also encourage discussions on weapons reduction which, by highlighting the dangers inherent in employing the Samson option (once seriously considered by Moshe Dayan during those fateful first days of the Yom Kippur war), could yet lead to the removal of some of the most acute strategic threats to Israel's existence.
Thus, regionally, this kind of overture can go a long way to re-positioning Israel in its immediate geo-political setting. By pointing the way towards a different kind of interaction between the countries in the area and reviving the potential ingrained in the Arab Peace Initiative (thereby setting the foundations for a much-needed realignment), it can help assure Israel's place as an integral part of a truly new Middle East.
Unquestionably, such a proactive step would also enhance Israel's now seriously tarnished global image. By accentuating the frightening moral dilemmas associated with nuclear and chemical warfare and helping to forge binding international norms in this field, Israel can put itself in a position to positively influence global events. In the specific context of the Iranian nuclear program, in all probability such a move would do more to rein in the prospect of nuclearization than any further spate of protests or dire warnings. It would also change the rules of the game and open horizons for different forms of cooperation in the future.
Israel can control its own destiny. It cannot do so by barricading itself in its tiny enclosure or by detaching itself from global currents. Now is the time to display the courage needed to jettison a strategy based entirely on military obfuscation and adopt in its place one which uses transparency as a stepping stone to a safer Israel in a more secure world. Joining the NPT and opening the door for creating a region free of weapons of mass destruction may be the main avenue for surviving and achieving some sanity in the 21st century. The first step in this direction is to launch what has been consciously avoided for years: a serious public discussion on one of the most existential subjects facing the state and its citizens before it is too late.
Prof. Chazan former MK