THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST READ – IT HELPS ME UNDERSTAND MY OWN FEELINGS AS WELL – SPECIALLY AS I LOST A GRANDMOTHER AND AN AUNT TO THE BUTCHER KNIVES (LITERALLY) OF THE UKRAINIAN BANDERA NATIONALISTS IN MILLIE – (THE BUKOWINA OF OLD AND NOW IN THE CHERNIVTSI OBLAST OF THE UKRAINE TAKEN BY THE SOVIETS FROM ROMANIA) – THAT WERE INCITED BY A PRIEST THAT CAME FROM KUTTY (UKRAINIANS LIVING THEN UNDER POLAND BEFORE BEING ANNEXED BY THE SOVIETS), ACROSS THE CHEREMUSH RIVER in 1941. THOSE UKRAINIANS THAT SURVIVED THE WAR ENDED UP IN BRITISH COLUMBIA AS RESPECTED WAR REFUGEES LIKE THE SURVIVORS OF MY MOTHER’S FAMILY ENDED UP IN TORONTO. THE CANADIAN UKRAINIANS MARCHED WITH THE RED&BLACK FLAG THEN NEXT TO CANADA FLAG IN LVIV WHEN I WITNESSED THERE THE UKRAINIAN INDEPENDENCE – AND THEY WONDERED WHY I DO NOT MARCH WITH THEM ALSO. I SAW NOW THOSE SAME RED/BLACK FLAGS ON THE MAIDAN VIA TV.
INTERESTING HOW AVNERY REMINDS US THAT I MIGHT BE A DESCENDENT OF THE UKRAINIAN KHAZARS – PERSONALLY I KNOW THAT FATHER AND ME LOOK LIKE THAT – BUT HE ALSO TELLS US THAT BINATIONALISM DOES NOT WORK, AND THAT NETANYAHU IS BUILDING THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL AS A JEWISH STATE – AND THAT HURTS VERY MUCH. YES – ABSOLUTELY A MUST STUDY ARTICLE.
March 8, 2014
God Bless Putin
BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is very good at making speeches, especially to Jews, neocons and such, who jump up and applaud wildly at everything he says, including that tomorrow the sun will rise in the west.
The question is: is he good at anything else?
HIS FATHER, an ultra-ultra-Rightist, once said about him that he is quite unfit to be prime minister, but that he could be a good foreign minister. What he meant was that Binyamin does not have the depth of understanding needed to guide the nation, but that he is good at selling any policy decided upon by a real leader.
(Reminding us of the characterization of Abba Eban by David Ben-Gurion: “He is very good at explaining, but you must tell him what to explain.”)
This week Netanyahu was summoned to Washington. He was supposed to approve John Kerry’s new “framework” agreement, which would serve as a basis for restarting the peace negotiations, which so far have come to naught.
On the eve of the event, President Barack Obama gave an interview to a Jewish journalist, blaming Netanyahu for the stalling of the “peace process” – as if there had ever been a peace process.
Netanyahu arrived with an empty bag – meaning a bag full of empty slogans. The Israeli leadership had striven mightily for peace, but could not progress at all because of the Palestinians. It is Mahmoud Abbas who is to blame, because he refuses to recognize Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.
What…hmm…about the settlements, which have been expanding during the last year at a hectic pace? Why should the Palestinians negotiate endlessly, while at the same time the Israeli government takes more and more of the land which is the substance of the negotiations? (As the classic Palestinian argument goes: “We negotiate about dividing a pizza, and in the meantime Israel is eating the pizza.”)
Obama steeled himself to confront Netanyahu, AIPAC and their congressional stooges. He was about to twist the arms of Netanyahu until he cried “uncle” – the uncle being Kerry’s “framework”, which by now has been watered down to look almost like a Zionist manifesto. Kerry is frantic for an achievement, whatever its contents and discontents.
Netanyahu, looking for an instrument to rebuff the onslaught, was ready to cry as usual “Iran! Iran! Iran!” – when something unforeseen happened.
NAPOLEON FAMOUSLY exclaimed: ”Give me generals who are lucky!”He would have loved General Bibi.
Because, on the way to confront a newly invigorated Obama, there was an explosion that shook the world:
It was like the shots that rang out in Sarajevo a hundred years ago.
The international tranquility was suddenly shattered. The possibility of a major war was in the air.
Netanyahu’s visit disappeared from the news. Obama, occupied with a historic crisis, just wanted to get rid of him as quickly as possible. Instead of the severe admonition of the Israeli leader, he got away with some hollow compliments. All the wonderful speeches Netanyahu had prepared were left unspeeched. Even his usual triumphant speech at AIPAC evoked no interest.
All because of the upheaval in Kiev.
BY NOW, innumerable articles have been written about the crisis. Historical associations abound.
Though Ukraine means “borderland”, it was often at the center of European events. One must pity Ukrainian schoolchildren. The changes in the history of their country were constant and extreme. At different times Ukraine was a European power and a poor downtrodden territory, extremely rich (“the breadbasket of Europe”) or abjectly poor, attacked by neighbors who captured their people to sell them as slaves or attacking their neighbors to enlarge their country.
The Ukraine’s relationship with Russia is even more complex. In a way, the Ukraine is the heartland of Russian culture, religion and orthography. Kiev was far more important than Moscow, before becoming the centerpiece of Muscovite imperialism.
In the Crimean War of the 1850s, Russia fought valiantly against a coalition of Great Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia, and eventually lost. The war broke out over Christian rights in Jerusalem, and included a long siege of Sevastopol. The world remembers the charge of the Light Brigade. A British woman called Florence Nightingale established the first organization to tend the wounded on the battlefield.
In my lifetime, Stalin murdered millions of Ukrainians by deliberate starvation. As a result, most Ukrainians welcomed the German Wehrmacht in 1941 as liberators. It could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but unfortunately Hitler was determined to eradicate the Ukrainian “Untermenschen”, in order to integrate the Ukraine into the German Lebensraum.
The Crimea suffered terribly. The Tatar people, who had ruled the peninsula in the past, were deported to Central Asia, then allowed to return decades later. Now they are a small minority, seemingly unsure of where their loyalties lie.
THE RELATIONSHIP between Ukraine and the Jews is no less complicated.
Some Jewish writers, like Arthur Koestler and Shlomo Sand, believe that the Khazar empire that ruled the Crimea and neighboring territory a thousand years ago, converted to Judaism, and that most Ashkenazi Jews are descended from them. This would turn us all into Ukrainians. (Many early Zionist leaders indeed came from Ukraine.)
When Ukraine was a part of the extensive Polish empire, many Polish noblemen took hold of large estates there. They employed Jews as their managers. Thus the Ukrainian peasants came to look upon the Jews as the agents of their oppressors, and anti-Semitism became part of the national culture of Ukraine.
As we learned in school, at every turn of Ukrainian history, the Jews were slaughtered. The names of most Ukrainian folk-heroes, leaders and rebels who are revered in their homeland are, in Jewish consciousness, connected with awful pogroms.
Cossack Hetman (leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who liberated Ukraine from the Polish yoke, and who is considered by Ukrainians as the father of their nation, was one of the worst mass-murderers in Jewish history. Symon Petliura, who led the Ukrainian war against the Bolsheviks after World War I, was assassinated by a Jewish avenger.
Some elderly Jewish immigrants in Israel must find it hard to decide whom to hate more, the Ukrainians or the Russians (or the Poles, for that matter.)
PEOPLE AROUND the world find it also hard to choose sides.
The usual Cold-War zealots have it easy – they either hate the Americans or the Russians, out of habit.
As for me, the more I try to study the situation, the more unsure I become. This is not a black-or-white situation.
The first sympathy goes to the Maidan rebels. (Maidan is an Arab word meaning town square. Curious how it travelled to Kiev. Probably via Istanbul.)
They want to join the West, enjoy independence and democracy. What’s wrong with that?
Nothing, except that they have dubious bedfellows. Neo-Nazis in their copycat Nazi uniforms, giving the Hitler salute and mouthing anti-Semitic slogans, are not very attractive. The encouragement they receive from Western allies, including the odious neocons, is off-putting.
On the other side, Vladimir Putin is also not very prepossessing. It’s the old Russian imperialism all over again.
The slogan used by the Russians – the need to protect Russian-speaking people in a neighboring country – sounds eerily familiar. It is an exact copy of Adolf Hitler’s claim in 1938 to protect the Sudeten Germans from the Czech monsters.
But Putin has some logic on his side. Sevastopol – the scene of heroic sieges both in the Crimean War and in World War II, is essential for his naval forces. The association with Ukraine is an important part of Russian world power aspirations.
A cold-blooded, calculating operator, of a kind now rare in the world, Putin uses the strong cards he has, but is very careful not to take too many risks. He is managing the crisis astutely, using Russia’s obvious advantages. Europe needs his oil and gas, he needs Europe’s capital and trade. Russia has a leading role in Syria and Iran. The US suddenly looks like a bystander.
I assume that in the end there will be a compromise. Russia will retain a footing in the coming Ukrainian leadership. Both sides will proclaim victory, as they should.
(By the way, for those here who believe in the “One-State Solution”: Another multicultural state seems to be breaking apart.)
WHERE WILL this leave Netanyahu?
He has gained some months or years without any movement toward peace, and in the meantime can continue with the occupation and build settlements at a frantic pace.
That is the traditional Zionist strategy. Time is everything. Every postponement provides opportunities to create more facts on the ground.
Netanyahu’s prayers have been answered. God bless Putin.
Remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference.
John Kerry Secretary of State
Washington Convention Center
March 3, 2014
Norm, thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you all, 14,000 strong or more. (Applause.) Howard, Howard Friedman and Executive Director Howard Kohr, incoming president Bob Cohen, incoming chairman Michael Kassen, outgoing chairman Lee Rosenberg, and Ambassador Ron Dermer and Ambassador Dan Shapiro. I don’t know where our ambassadors are. Would they – somebody ought to applaud both of them here. (Applause.) There they are. Thanks for your own, Norman.
Let me tell you, it really is an enormous pleasure for me to be able to be here. It’s a privilege. And good to see so many friends, all 14,000 of you – a little frightening to see myself on about eight, nine, ten screens up here – (laughter). The last time I spoke to AIPAC, I joined your national summit in Napa Valley. I did it via satellite. And you were in the vineyards, I was overseas – a different kind of vineyard. So today, I think I’m getting the better end of the deal because I am here with you in person, and your wine selection is a lot more limited this time.
I have to tell you, I had the pleasure of speaking to AIPAC back in the 1990s, it was a great honor, and every time I come here, whether I get a chance to talk to a smaller group during the daytime sessions or otherwise, this is a remarkably inspiring gathering – people from every corner of the country coming together to demonstrate our deep support as Americans for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. (Applause.)
And it is no exaggeration. It’s not just words to say that every single one of you brings here such a special passion to a cause that you so fiercely believe in. And let me tell you something unequivocally: After almost 30 years in the United States Senate, I can tell you that is precisely why AIPAC’s work is in the best traditions of American democracy, and I thank you for practicing it. (Applause.)
I want you to know that in my judgment, these democratic values are stamped in the DNA of both the United States and Israel. But we also share something much deeper than that. Like no other two countries on the planet, against the deepest odds, both America and Israel confidently, purposefully set out to be examples to the world. Think about it. From its earliest days, Israel has always said it’s not enough just to be one of many in a community of nations; Israel has strived since Isaiah’s time to serve as a light unto the nations. (Applause.) And that responsibility to be a light unto the nations sounds actually unbelievably similar to something that we as Americans know is part of who we are, too.
My grandfather ten times over – too hard to count in other terms – was a man by the name of John Winthrop. And he came to what was then the New World, and he came in search of freedom, freedom to worship as he wished. He was a minister. He and his congregants were outcasts, persecuted, heading into a rough and unforgiving land with no guarantee even of survival. And on his way here, he delivered a now fairly famous sermon at sea in which he called on his community to create a city upon a hill in their new home, America.
So whether you call it a city upon a hill or a light unto the nations, it actually means the same thing: being a model to the world. It means having a home that sets a standard, a standard of dignity and a standard of freedom. So the foundation of the friendship between the American people and the people of Israel was actually laid centuries before a single stone was set under the U.S. Capitol or under the Knesset. And looking around this room tonight, it is clear that our friendship has never been stronger. (Applause.)
And I’ll tell you why. Because today, as Israel faces serious challenges to her future, it is America that will stand firmly by her side. (Applause.) I will tell you that with the leadership of President Obama – and you can look it up, you can measure it; this is not an exaggeration, it’s a matter of fact – there has been a complete, unmatched commitment to Israel’s security. The record of this Administration in providing aid and assistance, consultation, weapons, help, standing up in various international fora, fighting, I am proud to tell you, is unrivaled. And the bottom line, pure and simple, has been making sure that Israel has the means to defend itself by itself and defending Israel’s right to be able to do so. That is what we’ve done. (Applause.)
Security. Security is fundamentally what President Obama is committed to. And so too is he committed to using the full force of our diplomacy to resolve the two great questions that most matter when it comes to ensuring the security of Israel: preventing a nuclear Iran and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Applause.)
Now let me start with Iran because I know there are many questions. I know many people – there’s been a healthy debate about the approach. We welcome that. But let me sum up President Obama’s policy in 10 simple, clear words, unequivocal: We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period. (Applause.) Now, I added an eleventh word just for punctuation. (Laughter.)
But I want you to understand there are no if, ands, or buts. This is not a political policy. This is a real foreign policy. And we mean every word of what we say. You have the word of the President of the United States that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. Now, as we said at the outset, and I say it again today, our diplomacy is guided by a simple bottom line: No deal is better than a bad deal. (Applause.) And we absolutely will not accept a bad deal. We are committed to a deal that gets the job done. (Applause.)
Why? Because we get it, we understand it. As President Obama said in Jerusalem, no one can question why Israel looks at the Iranian program and sees an existential threat. We understand it. We understand it in our gut. And we also know something else. This is not some favor that we do for Israel. This is something that is also in the interest of the United States of America, and it’s in the interest of countries surrounding Israel. (Applause.) A nuclear bomb for Iran would also threaten the stability of the region, indeed the entire world. It would produce an arms race among the surrounding countries. There is no way the world is safer anywhere in the world with a nuclear weapon in Iran, and we are not going to let it happen, period, end of story. (Applause.)
Now, to do that, to achieve this all-important goal, important for America’s security and for Israel’s security, it is crucial that we seizes what might be the last best chance to be able to have diplomacy work, and maybe the last chance for quite some time. Because the reality is only strong diplomacy can fully and permanently achieve the goal. Those who say strike and hit need to go look at exactly what happens after you’ve done that, whether that permanently eliminates the program or opens up all kinds of other possibilities, including Iran leaving the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, not even allowing IAEA inspectors in, not living under any international regimen. That’s a possibility. Only strong diplomacy can guarantee that a nuclear weapons program actually goes away for good instead of just going underground and becoming more dangerous. Only the exhaustion of diplomacy can justify more forceful options if you have to take them in the end.
So we say – President Obama and myself and others – we say let’s seize the diplomatic moment. And that’s what we are trying to do. And the truth is it is strong diplomacy that has actually made this moment possible. And we need to give it the space to work. We need to make sure that if this opportunity were to elude us, it is not because we are the ones that close the window.
Now, I understand the skepticism. I’ve been around this city for 29-plus years as a senator, became chairman of the foreign relations committee, worked with most of the members of your board and with AIPAC and others around the country, and proud to tell you that during that time I had a 100 percent voting record for Israel. (Applause.)
And I’m not coming here to stand up in front of you and tell you that I know that Iran is going to reach an agreement. I don’t know. I don’t know what they’ll do. I don’t know if they are able to make some of the tough decisions they’re going to have to make in the months ahead. But I know that if the United States is going to be able to look the world in the eye and say we have to do something, we have to have exhausted the possibilities available to us for that diplomatic peaceful resolution. Let me make it clear our approach is not Ronald Reagan’s and the Soviets –We’re not looking at this and saying trust, but verify. Our approach is a much more complex and dangerous world – it’s verify and verify. And that’s what we intend to do. (Applause.)
Now, there is very good reason for these sanctions to exist in the first place, and good reason that we have kept the architecture of these sanctions in place. And we continue to enforce it even as we negotiate a comprehensive agreement. In the last weeks, we have announced additional sanctions with respect to individuals who have been tempted to go around it or violate it. We have not changed one piece of the sanctions architecture. And yet we are able to negotiate. Our eyes, my friends, are wide open. This is not a process that is open-ended. This is not a process that is about trusting Tehran. This is about testing Tehran. And you can be sure that if Iran fails this test, America will not fail Israel. That, I promise. (Applause.)
Now, we have taken no options off the table, but so far there is no question but that tough sanctions and strong diplomacy are already making Israel and America safer. The first step agreement, the first step agreement – it’s not an interim agreement, it’s a first step agreement – and the agreement that’s in force today didn’t just halt the advance of the Iranian nuclear program for the first time in a decade; it’s actually rolled it back. And we all remember how Prime Minister Netanyahu highlighted Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium in the 2012 speech at the United Nations. Well, today Iran is reducing its stockpile of 20 percent uranium. And without the agreement in force today, the opposite would have been in effect. The stockpile would have grown even more dangerous, and the amount of breakout time that they have would have grown smaller. Because of the agreement, Iran will soon have to take its entire stock of 20 percent enriched uranium down to zero. Zero. Zero. (Applause.) You don’t have to be a math major to know that Israel is safer when Iran has zero uranium enriched to 20 percent, and that’s what we’ve achieved.
The same independent inspectors who also tell us that Iran has halted its advances on the heavy water reactor known as the Arak reactor, without the agreement in force today, we could not have stopped them making progress on the Arak heavy water reactor, plutonium reactor. Iran has also stopped enriching all uranium above 5 percent, and it has given inspectors daily access to the facilities at Natanz and at Fordow. You know Fordow, you’ve heard about it, that underground facility that was a secret for so long. We’ve never had people in it. But because of this first step agreement, we now have people inside Fordow every single day telling us what is happening. (Applause.)
None of these things would have happened without forceful diplomacy by the United States and our international partners. But now, my friends, we have to finish the job. Like I tell my staff, there aren’t any exit polls in foreign policy. It’s results that count, final results. And that means we have to let forceful diplomacy keep working in order to put this test to Iran.
Now, right now we are carefully – and I mean carefully – negotiating a comprehensive agreement. We are consulting with our friends in Israel constantly. The minute Under Secretary Wendy Sherman finished her last set of meetings in Vienna the other day, she went immediately to Israel, briefed thoroughly on the talks, then went to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and continued to brief and briefed our European partners.
You might be asking: If no deal is better than a bad deal, what does the United States consider a good deal? Well, you have my word – and the President’s – that the United States will only sign an agreement that answers three critical questions the right way. First, will it make certain that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon? Second, can it continuously assure the world that Iran’s program remains entirely peaceful as it claims? And third, will the agreement increase our visibility on the nuclear program and expand the breakout time so that if they were to try to go for a bomb, we know we will have time to act?
Those are the tests. Those are our standards for any comprehensive agreement. It’s that simple. And those objectives, if they’re not met, then there won’t be an agreement. (Applause.) Now make no mistake, make no mistake; we can’t resolve the answer to those questions. It’s up to Iran. It’s up to Iran to prove to the world that its program is peaceful, and the world will hold Iran accountable.
Now, if it turns out that Iran cannot address the world’s concerns, I guarantee you it will face more pressure, Iran will face more pressure, more and more isolation. And Congress will introduce more tough sanctions. And let me assure you – I know Eric Cantor is here, sitting here – I assure you it’ll take about two hours to get it through the House and the Senate and it won’t be delayed and the Congress will have to do nothing more than schedule the vote, because President Obama and I fully support those sanctions under those circumstances. (Applause.)
In the meantime, as I said earlier, we are enforcing every letter of the existing sanctions. I have personally instructed every State Department bureau and mission around the world to watch vigilantly for any signs of the sanctions being skirted. And to any country that wants to trade with Iran with these sanctions firmly in place, the United States will tell them exactly what I have told foreign leaders in no uncertain terms: Iran is not open for business until Iran is closed for nuclear bombs. (Applause.)
Now, strong diplomacy is also essential to another threat to Israel’s security: ending the conflict with the Palestinians, and in doing so, preserving the Jewish and democratic nature of the state of Israel. (Applause.) I’ve had some folks ask me why I’m so committed to these negotiations and why I’m so convinced that peace is actually possible. And they ask, “Why does John Kerry go to Israel so often?” I think I heard Steny Hoyer say he’d been there 13 times, Eric Cantor who’s been there 12 times. I’ve been there more times than that just in the last nine months. (Laughter.) And I’ve been in the Middle East more times than even that in the last months because I don’t always wind up going to Israel.
But apart from the question, I’m surprised because people ask, because apart from my affection for Israel which dates back to my first visit back in 1986, and it just strikes me that it’s the wrong question to ask, why do I go. This isn’t about me. This is about the dreams of Israelis and the dignity of Palestinians. It’s about reconciling two peoples who want at long last to live normal secure lives in the land that they have fought over for so long. It’s about answering King David’s timeless call that we seek peace and pursue it. It’s about fulfilling the fervent prayer for peace that Jews around the world recite to welcome Shabbat. It’s about parents from Tsefat to Eilat who want to raise their families in a region that accepts the nation-state of the Jewish people is here to stay. (Applause.)
Now, it’s not news to any Israeli to hear me say that they live in a difficult neighborhood. Israelis know that better than anyone. No one needs to explain the importance of peace and security to a mother who has just sent her daughter to the army or a son who is waiting for his father to come home from another mission. No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than those who will inherit them for generations to come. And I have seen all of these realities in so many different ways in my travels in Israel, from the rocket casings in Sderot to the shelter in Kiryat Shmona that I visited years ago where children had to hide from Katyusha rockets. I’ve seen it.
My friends, I also believe that we are at a point in history that requires the United States as Israel’s closest friend and the world’s preeminent power to do everything we can to help end this conflict once and for all. Now, that is why America – (applause) – that is why America helped bring the parties back to the table, where, let’s be honest, Israelis and Palestinians have difficult choices to make. And no one understands just how complex those choices are or how emotional they are better than the leaders who have to summon the courage in order to actually make them.
I have sat with Bibi Netanyahu for hours and hours and days and days. We have become good friends. (Applause.) I believe – in fact, he ought to be charging me rent. (Laughter.) I’ve seen up close and personally the grit and the guts of this man and his love of country. And I can tell you with absolute certainty and without question, Prime Minister Netanyahu has demonstrated his courage and his commitment in pursuit of peace with security. (Applause.) He knows that it is the only way for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state; not a bi-national state. (Applause.)
As President Obama said publicly in the Oval Office today, and I quote him: “Prime Minister Netanyahu has approached these negotiations with a level of seriousness and commitment that reflects his leadership and the desire of the Israeli people for peace.”
Thus far, I will tell you also that President Abbas, and I know there are many doubters here – I’ve heard the arguments for 30-plus years, 40 years – that there’s no partner for peace, that Abbas won’t be there, that – both sides, by the way, say the same thing about each other. That’s one of the difficulties we have to try get through here. A very small needle to try to thread in terms of the trust deficit. Thus far, President Abbas, I will tell you, has demonstrated he wants to be a partner for peace. He’s committed to trying to end the conflict in all of its claims, but he obviously has a point of view about what’s fair and how he can do that. Let’s be candid. I know that some of you doubt that. But as Israeli security officials will attest, President Abbas has been genuinely committed against violence, and his own security forces have worked closely with Israel in order to prevent violence against Israeli citizens.
I’ve also spent many hours with President Abbas, and I believe that he clearly understands both the tremendous benefits of peace and the great costs of failure. He understands that in terms of his own people, his own grandchildren, the country he hopes to be able to lead, and in terms of the history that beleaguers all. He knows the Palestinian people will never experience the self determination that they seek in a state of their own without ending the conflict in a solution that delivers two states for two peoples. (Applause.)
And so does Prime Minister Netanyahu. When Bibi looks me in the eye and says, “I can’t accept a deal with Palestinians that doesn’t make the people of Israel safer,” we agree 100 percent. (Applause.) But I argue that there is a distinction between a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon or from Gaza where nothing is resolved, and a phased withdrawal that is negotiated where everything is at least in an agreement resolved.
Now, I learned about Israel’s security on many different trips over there, but one stands out. I was – I’d been a pilot since I was in college and I was on a trip over there. I was having a luncheon at Ovda Airbase with the Israel Air Force. And the colonel who was in charge was – had flown. He was an ace from the Six-Day War. And we were having lunch at the time at Ovda and I had been badgering them to maybe let me go up and fly. And they disappeared at lunch and finally he comes back and he says, “Senator, I hope you don’t eat too much. We’re going flying.” I said, “Wow, great. This is what I’ve wanted.” And we went out, the two of us, drove out to this jet, and he trusted me. We put on our helmets, got in the jet, and he says, “The moment we’re off the ground, it’s your airplane.”
So literally, we took off, I take the stick, we go up, we’re flying around. Next thing I know in my ear he says, “Senator, you better turn faster. You’re going over Egypt.” (Laughter.) So I turned very fast and then I asked him if I could do some aerobatics over the Negev. And I turned upside down and did a big loop and I was coming down, I was looking upside-down, and I said to myself, “This is perfect.” I could see all of the Sinai. I could see Aqaba. I could see Jordan. I see all of Israel below me, each side to each side. Said, “This is the perfect way to see the Middle East upside-down and backwards.” I understand it. (Applause.)
The real point of this story is just to tell you that I can’t tell you the imprint on me, being up there and tiny – almost turning. You had barely space to turn. You get the sense of a missile from here, or a rocket from there, or the threat of war. You understand it’s impossible to ignore just how narrow those borders are, how vulnerable Israel can be, and why Israel’s security is our first priority. We understand that. (Applause.)
That is why, my friends, President Obama sent a four-star general, John Allen, one of the most respected minds in United States military to do something we’ve never done in all the history of administrations negotiating for Israel’s and Palestinians’ future and that is to work with Israelis and Jordanians and Palestinians to make the Jordan River border as strong as the strongest borders on Earth. That’s what makes this effort different from anything we’ve ever done before. With the combination of the best military experience America can offer and the best ideas in the Pentagon and the best technology that we could deliver, we believe we can deliver to Israel security that Israel needs in order to make peace, and President Obama is committed to doing that.
Now we have no illusions. We saw what happened after Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and Lebanon. We all learned lessons from that, I hope. That’s why a negotiated agreement is so important. That’s why the security arrangements that we are helping to design will need to be operationally proven. We’re not doing this on a whim and a prayer. We will never let the West Bank turn into another Gaza. (Applause.)
My friends, we understand that Israel has to be strong in order to make peace. But we also understand that peace will make Israel stronger. Any peace agreement must also guarantee Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland. (Applause.) As Ehud Barak said on this stage last year, a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to stay true to its founding principles – to remain both Jewish and democratic. At last year’s AIPAC conference, he said statehood is not a favor for the Palestinians, and let me reaffirm: He is right; it is not.
Israel also needs peace in order to create greater prosperity. All of you here know the great economic benefits of peace. All of you have already seen what Israel has already been able to build with the forces of the region that raid against it. Just imagine what it will be able to build as a result of peace with Palestinian neighbors. I’ve had the foreign minister of one of the surrounding countries – a very wealthy country and a very smart foreign minister say to me if we make peace – this is under the Arab Peace Initiative and the Arab Follow-on Committee that is following everything we’re doing very closely and supporting it – and they said if we make peace, Israel will trade more in this community within a few years than it trades with Europe today. That’s what we have available to us. (Applause.) And I believe that we need to stand together with a single voice to reject any of the arbitrary unwarranted boycotts of Israel. For more than 30 years, I have staunchly, loudly, unapologetically opposed boycotts of Israel – (applause) – and I will continue to oppose those boycotts of Israel. That will never change. (Applause.)
Every time that Israel is subjected to attacks on its legitimacy, whether at the United Nations or from any nation, the United States will use every tool we have to defeat those efforts and we will stand with Israel. (Applause.)
Finally, peace demands that Israel fulfill its destiny not just as a nation but also as a neighbor. And that begins with the Palestinians, and it extends to the entire Arab League whose Arab Peace Initiative can open the door to peace and normalized relations with 20 additional Arab countries and a total of 55 Muslim countries. The upheaval in the Middle East has shown us all that Arabs and Israelis share some of the very same security concerns. Without the Palestinian conflict to divide them, these common interests can grow into real relationships and transform Israel’s standing in the region. And I just invite you – I promise you these conversations take place. I’ve had them throughout the Gulf region, throughout the Middle East, where increasingly those countries begin to see the possibilities of mutual security interests coming together for all of them against an Iran, against terrorism, against religious extremism. This is a commonality that is a new thread in the region, and I believe it brings the potential of new possibilities.
It is also important to remember that ending the conflict means ending the incitement. President Abbas has called incitement a germ that must be removed. And he has sought our help in order to try to deal with the problem. And I can tell you that with any final agreement it will also include a larger endeavor in order to help people on both sides move beyond a painful past and promote a culture of peace and tolerance.
After all these years, my friends, it is really no mystery what the end-game really looks like. I think you know that in your hearts. We understand what the end-game is. I know what peace looks like. When I talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu and others, I think everybody shares this because this is not new. After Camp David and Oslo and Wye and Annapolis and Taba and all of these efforts, what the end-game should look like is straightforward: security arrangements that leave Israelis more secure, not less; mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Jewish people and the nation-state of the Palestinian people; an end to the conflict and to all claims; a just and agreed solution for Palestinian refugees, one that does not diminish the Jewish character of the state of Israel; and a resolution that finally allows Jerusalem to live up to its name as the City of Peace. (Applause.)
It will take hard work. I’m not pretending any of the answers – these are all narrative issues. They’re tough issues. They complicated. But there is a vision of peace, and it takes tough choices on both sides, especially over the coming days. I guarantee you that America, that President Obama and this Administration will be there every day of the week, every step of the way. And we will stand with Israel’s leaders today and with the leaders of the future. And we will ensure that our light shines not just throughout the nations, but throughout the generations.
Leaders like a fellow named Guy – I’ll leave his last name out – but he’s a young Israeli who took part in an exchange program with the State Department, sponsors that brings Israelis and Palestinians together to talk about their histories and their hopes. Guy’s grandparents fled Europe. He was born and raised in Jerusalem. He served in the IDF. And he worked as an entrepreneur in Israel’s booming tech industry. And this is what he said in that program: We respect our past, but we don’t want to live it. We are young enough to dream, to believe that change is possible, and that fear can be defeated.
I think Guy is right. Change is possible. Fear can be defeated. But those are choices we have to make now.
My friends, a few months ago I landed in Tel Aviv and it was the 18th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. I went straight to Kikar Rabin, and I stood with the late-prime minister’s daughter, Dalia, at the site of her father’s murder. And we stood just steps away from where the great general, in the last moments of his life, sang the famous lyrics of Shir LaShalom: Don’t whisper a prayer; sing a song of peace in a loud voice. Don’t say the day will come; bring that day. (Applause.) That is our mission. All of us, in whatever capacity that we can, but just as important our mission is also to raise our voices for peace, and we also need to listen. We have to listen to those who first gave voice to our values, voices that still echo thousands of years later.
He almost – I think it was the first time I went to Israel. I spent a week there and went all over the country and like many first-time visitors, I climbed Masada. I climbed it with a guide – some of you may know him or heard of him, a fellow by the name of Yadin Roman. Yadin, the publisher of EretzIsrael. And our group debated Josephus Flavius’s account of what happened on the top of that mountain, the account of what happened 2,000 years before we were there.
Then Yadin, after we’d had this long debate, made us all vote to determine did it happen as he recounted or was it different. And we all voted unanimously it did happen the way he recounted. He told us to then walk to the edge of the precipice which we did, and to look out across the chasm and to shout, to shout across the ancestral home of the Jewish people. And as we stood where every new Israeli soldier begins his or her service, by swearing an oath to honor that history and secure the future, Yadin instructed us to shout, all at the same time, “Am Yisrael chai.” We shouted. (Applause.) And then I have to tell you, echoing across the chasm in the most eerie and unbelievably unforgettable way were these haunting echoes of “Am Yisrael chai, Am Yisrael chai, chai, chai.” I’ll never forget hearing the echo of those words bouncing off that mountain. It was literally like we were hearing the voices of the souls of those who had perished sacrificing their lives for Israel a thousand years ago. And we were affirming those words, the state of Israel lives. The people of Israel live.
We have to listen to those voices. Those long ago who encouraged us to build a city on a hill to be a light unto the nations, an example to the world, to ensure Israel’s survival. And we have to listen to the voices of young people whose futures depend on the choices that we, the leaders of today, make. It’s for their future that we will give new strength to the U.S.-Israel partnership as AIPAC does like no other organization in our country. It’s for their future that we will come together giving greater voice to the timeless oath and we will remember forever those words and be driven by them: “Am Yisrael chai” will be said generations upon generations into the future because of the work you do and the work we will do together.
Thank you all very much. Honored to be with you. (Applause.)
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Summary? Print In a telephone interview with Al-Monitor, Masoumeh Ebtekar, the head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization, said that many of the plans to address Tehran’s pollution were not implemented under the previous administration.
Iran’s environment VP to Al-Monitor: ‘We lost eight years’
Tehran, the overpopulated and heavily polluted capital city of Iran, is in constant struggle with environmental issues. Among the most drastic and dangerous issues is the city’s ever-present pollution, which worsens in winter, causing schools and offices to close on some days, and prompting officials to caution residents — in particular children, the elderly and sick — to refrain from leaving their homes.
President Hassan Rouhani has invested his hopes in Masoumeh Ebtekar to resolve these issues. Ebtekar, 53, was the first woman to become a Cabinet member and a vice president after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ebtekar, who spent part of her childhood in the United States and attended an American school in Tehran afterward, became a well-known face during the hostage crisis. Due to her fluency in English, she was the spokeswoman and translator for the hostage-takers.
Ebtekar is a scientist and previously served as editor-in-chief of Keyhan newspaper’s English edition from 1981 to 1983. She has written books, articles and scientific papers on her domain of expertise — the environment — and she has also co-written an English-language book, titled Takeover in Tehran: The Inside Story of the 1979 US Embassy Capture, on the hostage crisis and in response to the book Argo.
Under former President Mohammad Khatami, Ebtekar was a Cabinet member and head of the governmental Environmental Protection Organization for eight years. In 2007, she became a Reformist council member for the Tehran City Council, where she served until 2013 while maintaining her position as a university professor.
Following the 2013 election of Rouhani — whose candidacy she supported — there were speculations about her being tapped for the minister of science position. But she again assumed office as a vice president, and returned to head the Environmental Protection Organization.
Ebtekar has received several international awards and has been recognized for her efforts in protecting the environment, though she was also widely criticized for a paper she wrote in 2008, on the grounds that she had copied the material from previously published papers. The journal pulled her paper and apologized, and Ebtekar herself admitted that she had “made a mistake.”
On Jan. 15, she was asked to speak before Friday prayers in Tehran about the topic of clean air. Shortly after, it was announced that her speech was canceled, with no explanation as to why.
I spoke with Ebtekar about serious environmental and pollution challenges in Iran, and most of all, its capital. The interview was conducted over the phone in Farsi, and the following is an English translation.
Al-Monitor:What is the first step in addressing pollution issues in Iran?
Ebtekar: Tracking the root of pollution in Iran creates an in-depth understanding of it. Our society is a transitioning one — one that has, in fact, transformed at great speed from a traditional society dependent on agriculture to an industrialized, oil-dependent urban one. Such a transition requires enough resources to educate people and create the type of culture required for practical urban life, which has not been provided to our citizens, at least not as much as it should have been. Citizens’ cooperation is vital in reducing the extent of pollution.
Al-Monitor: Why, in your opinion, is there insufficient cooperation from Iranian citizens in this regard?
Ebtekar: To cooperate, people need to trust their government. They also need to know the details of decisions and priorities. Another important element is the active presence and effective role of nongovernmental organizations, which is what we in the current administration value greatly. President Rouhani’s focus on ecological issues and related shortcomings is significant; for which I am grateful.
Al-Monitor: You have made 12 trips to different provinces in Iran since you assumed office in the Rouhani administration. In what way do you believe them to have been mostly fruitful?
Ebtekar: One of the matters on which I have focused during these trips and will continue to focus on, is engaging with grassroots organizations and our need to rely on their help. People have generally become more hopeful and expect further engagement and transparency regarding data and planning, which we will provide with the hope of facilitating this cooperation and creating a fruitful mutual relationship in working on environmental issues.
Al-Monitor: Do you have faith in succeeding at improving the pollution in Iran’s bigger cities, most significantly in Tehran?
Ebtekar: The problem of pollution would have been resolvable with proper planning. I had overseen the planning a decade ago, and it was to be carried out over a time period of 10 years, which, for whatever reason, did not happen under the previous administration. Targeted subsidies and planning projects aimed at further improving the polluted air situation of busy cities will hopefully help. We must have faith, and we need to trust collective thinking and cooperation.
Al-Monitor: Are there any cities that have experienced similar problems to Tehran and have succeeded in solving them? Could you benefit from their ideas and experiences in this regard?
Ebtekar: Tehran’s nature is one of the most beautiful in the world, particularly thanks to the Alborz Mountains, which are, at the moment, snow-capped and even prettier than usual. These same mountains, however, act similarly to a bowl surrounding Tehran and obstruct sufficient air flow, thus adding to the amount of pollution.
Mexico City had similar problems in the past. It is also a similar city to Tehran from the viewpoint of urban patterns and structural aspects. They have managed to solve a major part of their issues, and we were making efforts to learn from both their strong and their weak points. All of these efforts were disrupted eight years ago. We need to restart the planning process and act according to the increased number of people living in Tehran.
Al-Monitor: You have criticized Iran’s petrochemical sector, saying that international standards are not met in refining petroleum products, resulting in nonstandard gasoline in cars, which contribute in a major way to the pollution in busy cities. What is the latest on this?
Ebtekar: We have no problem in communicating effectively with the current Ministry of Petroleum. [Oil Minister Bijan] Zanganeh is a very committed, precise and knowledgeable person, and we are working closely with his ministry to make up for lost time and the work on which we have fallen behind.
Our deputies have regular meetings considering such matters. A major problem we have with standardized, or lack thereof, fuel, is rooted in vehicles and their consumption structure. Both imported and domestic cars have some serious shortcomings, of which the auto industry and importers have been warned. Some have requested an extension to correct the failures, but regardless of the amount of time they need to correct these engineering, manufacturing or design issues, we are geared up to take serious action to implement the Euro 4 standards starting this spring.
Ebtekar: There are mixed ideas and feelings about this. There is the potential to create some other problems, even if such a proposal goes through. It’s difficult to predict the extent of benefits such a move would have.
There is, however, no doubt about Tehran’s serious overpopulation, being a city that reached its ecological resource limitations in 1996, and a city where water needs to be imported from other parts of the country, due to its drastic water shortage.
Al-Monitor: Is biking an option for Tehran residents? Do you consider it practical enough to be encouraged?
Ebtekar: There is one district of Tehran — the 8th District — that has bicycle lanes and safety measures for those who wish to rent a bike from the station, pay the rental fee with a credit card and leave the bike in the bike station at a metro stop.
There are some other areas of Tehran in which we are working on providing the necessary amenities and implementing safety measures for cycling — riding conventional or electric bicycles, or electric motorcycles — to become feasible. There are obstacles, though. One is that Tehran, as it is mostly inclined and not flat, could not be considered a cycling-friendly city, generally speaking. The other is Tehran’s high pollution levels, which make the city’s air dangerous to breathe on some days. On such days, being outdoors, and especially exercising, may lead to health hazards, so we strongly discourage such activities.
With AIPAC in town, and having a low-key meeting this year, President Obama tells in public Prime Minister Netanyhu that Time for Peace with the Palestinians is Running Out.Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Netanyahu Monday morning before the meeting with President Obama, and before taking off to Kiev.Vice President Biden will see Mr. Netanyahu after that.
Obama’s message to Netanyahu on peace with Palestinians: Time is running out.
In unusually blunt interview with Jeffrey Goldberg on eve of meeting with prime minister in Washington, U.S. president asks whether Netanyahu is ready to ‘resign himself to permanent occupation of West Bank.’
WASHINGTON – In unusually blunt language, U.S. President Barack Obama said his message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday will be that time is running out for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. Obama’s remarks came in an interview with Bloomberg news agency journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that was published Sunday night.
Goldberg wrote that Obama was more blunt and direct than ever regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The president said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was the most moderate leader Israel would encounter in the foreseeable future. Obama, according to Goldberg, gave the impression that Netanyahu was the one who had to be flexible in order to advance the peace talks.
“There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices,” Obama said. “Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”
Netanyahu was due to land in Washington on Sunday night. He is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Monday morning prior to his meeting with the president. After meeting with Obama, Netanyahu is to meet with Vice President Joe Biden. On Tuesday morning he is due to address the annual convention of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, after which he will fly to Los Angeles.
Before taking off for Washington, Netanyahu tried to relay a harsh message on his upcoming meeting with the U.S. president: “I’ll stand firm on the State of Israel’s crucial interests, first and foremost the security of the citizens of Israel,” he said. “In recent years, the State of Israel has been subject to pressures, but we have pushed through the storm and the regional tempest, and that’s how it will continue to be.”
‘If not now, when?’
In an hour-long interview conducted with Goldberg at the White House on Thursday, Obama said his question to Netanyahu regarding the Palestinians will be, “If not now, when?” Another will be: “And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?”
Obama stressed during the interview that if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach.” He added: “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”
During the interview Obama spoke out strongly against the Netanyahu government’s settlement policy and warned of the consequences that failure in the peace negotiations Israel’s international standing, and on the United States’ ability to protect Israel in the institutions of the UN.
“The U.S.’ friendship with Israel is undying,” said Obama, but added: “If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction – and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Obama said. “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”
During the interview, Obama expressed his support for Secretary of State John Kerry and his efforts to reach a framework agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Kerry reports to him almost once a week on the progress in the talks and sometimes asks for instructions, Obama said. He noted that he has spoken little on the subject in recent months since he thinks it would make Kerry’s mission even more difficult.
“We are coming to a point, though, over the next couple of months where the parties are going to have to make some decisions about how they move forward. And my hope and expectation is, despite the incredible political challenges, that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abbas are able to reach past their differences and arrive at a framework that can move us to peace,” said Obama.
Relating to the warnings Kerry made on the rising threat of a boycott against Israel, Obama said: “With each successive year, the window is closing for a peace deal that both the Israelis can accept and the Palestinians can accept — in part because of changes in demographics; in part because of what’s been happening with settlements; in part because Abbas is getting older, and I think nobody would dispute that whatever disagreements you may have with him, he has proven himself to be somebody who has been committed to nonviolence and diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue. We do not know what a successor to Abbas will look like.”
The president also said he is convinced that would be willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to provide the security arrangements Israel requires. “For us not to seize that opportunity would be a mistake,” he said.
“We don’t know exactly what would happen. What we know is that it gets harder by the day. What we also know is that Israel has become more isolated internationally. We had to stand up in the Security Council in ways that 20 years ago would have involved far more European support, far more support from other parts of the world when it comes to Israel’s position. And that’s a reflection of a genuine sense on the part of a lot of countries out there that this issue continues to fester, is not getting resolved, and that nobody is willing to take the leap to bring it to closure,” said Obama. “And as long as those security needs were met, then testing Abbas ends up being the right thing to do.”
Speaking about his relationship with Netanyahu, Obama praised the prime minister, saying: “What is absolutely true is Prime Minister Netanyahu is smart. He is tough. He is a great communicator. He is obviously a very skilled politician. And I take him at his word when he says that he sees the necessity of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think he genuinely believes that.”
As to the political sensitivity of the Palestinian issue in Israel, he said: “I also think that politics in Israel around this issue are very difficult. You have the chaos that’s been swirling around the Middle East. People look at what’s happening in Syria. They look at what’s happening in Lebanon. Obviously, they look at what’s happening in Gaza. And understandably a lot of people ask themselves, ‘Can we afford to have potential chaos at our borders, so close to our cities?’ So he is dealing with all of that, and I get that.”
“What I’ve said to him privately is the same thing that I say publicly, which is the situation will not improve or resolve itself. This is not a situation where you wait and the problem goes away. There are going to be more Palestinians, not fewer Palestinians, as time goes on. There are going to be more Arab-Israelis, not fewer Arab-Israelis, as time goes on,” said Obama.
“And for Bibi [Netanyahu] to seize the moment in a way that perhaps only he can, precisely because of the political tradition that he comes out of and the credibility he has with the right inside of Israel, for him to seize this moment is perhaps the greatest gift he could give to future generations of Israelis. But it’s hard. And as somebody who occupies a fairly tough job himself, I’m always sympathetic to somebody else’s politics,” he said.
Obama also said he has yet to hear a convincing vision of how Israel can remain a Jewish and democratic state without a peace agreement with the Palestinians: ”Nobody has presented me a credible scenario.”
“The only thing that I’ve heard is, ‘We’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing, and deal with problems as they arise. And we’ll build settlements where we can. And where there are problems in the West Bank, we will deal with them forcefully. We’ll cooperate or co-opt the Palestinian Authority.” And yet, at no point do you ever see an actual resolution to the problem.”
”And so if I’m thinking about the prime minister of Israel, I’m not somebody who believes that it’s just a matter of changing your mind and suddenly everything goes smoothly. But I believe that Bibi is strong enough that if he decided this was the right thing to do for Israel, that he could do it. “
Speaking about the situation in the world today, Obama said “where international cooperation is needed in order to deal with those threats, the absence of international goodwill makes you less safe. The condemnation of the international community can translate into a lack of cooperation when it comes to key security interests. It means reduced influence for us, the United States, in issues that are of interest to Israel. It’s survivable, but it is not preferable.”
Obama: We can stop Iran from achieving nukes
Obama rejected the claim that his foreign policy – including his decision to attack in Syria in response to the Assad’s use of chemical weapons – broadcasts weakness. He told Goldberg that it was his threats of attack that convinced Assad to give up his chemical weapons, and that sparked Iran and Russia to put pressure on the Syrian leader to do so.
Obama said he thinks Iran is taking seriously the possibility the United States could attack its nuclear facilities if the talks with the P5 + 1 powers fail: “ We have a high degree of confidence that when they look at 35,000 U.S. military personnel in the region that are engaged in constant training exercises under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past, that they should take my statements seriously. And the American people should as well, and the Israelis should as well, and the Saudis should as well.”
“Now, that does not mean that that is my preferred course of action. So let’s just be very clear here. There are always consequences to military action that are unpredictable and can spin out of control, and even if perfectly executed carry great costs. So if we can resolve this issue diplomatically, we absolutely should.”
Obama added that he believes the ongoing negotiations could indeed stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons: “And if we have any chance to make sure that Iran does not have nuclear weapons, if we have any chance to render their breakout capacity nonexistent, or so minimal that we can handle it, then we’ve got to pursue that path. And that has been my argument with Prime Minister Netanyahu; that has been my argument with members of Congress who have been interested in imposing new sanctions. My simple point has been, we lose nothing by testing this out.”
ladimir Putin, the Russian President and autocrat, had a plan for the winter of 2014: to reassert his country’s power a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He thought that he would achieve this by building an Olympic wonderland on the Black Sea for fifty-one billion dollars and putting on a dazzling television show. It turns out that he will finish the season in a more ruthless fashion, by invading a peninsula on the Black Sea and putting on quite a different show—a demonstration war that could splinter a sovereign country and turn very bloody, very quickly.
Sergei Parkhomenko, a journalist and pro-democracy activist who was recently detained by the police in Moscow, described the scenario taking shape as “Afghanistan 2.” He recalled, for Slon.ru, an independent Russian news site, how the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, in 1979, under the pretext of helping a “fraternal” ally in Kabul; to Parkhomenko, Putin’s decision to couch his military action as the “protection” of Russians living in Crimea is an equally transparent pretext. The same goes for the decorous way in which Putin, on Saturday, “requested” the Russian legislature’s authorization for the use of Russian troops in Ukraine until “the socio-political situation is normalized.” The legislature, which has all the independence of an organ grinder’s monkey, voted its unanimous assent.
Other critics of Putin’s military maneuvers in Ukraine used different, but no less ominous, historical analogies. Some compared the arrival of Russian troops in Simferopol to the way that the Kremlin, in 2008, took advantage of Georgia’s reckless bid to retake South Ossetia and then muscled its tiny neighbor, eventually waging a war that ended with Russia taking control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
In a recent Letter from Sochi, I tried to describe Putin’s motivations: his resentment of Western triumphalism and American power, after 1991; his paranoia that Washington is somehow behind every event in the world that he finds threatening, including the recent events in Kiev; his confidence that the U.S. and Europe are nonetheless weak, unlikely to respond to his swagger because they need his help in Syria and Iran; his increasingly vivid nationalist-conservative ideology, which relies, not least, on the elevation of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had been so brutally suppressed during most of the Soviet period, as a quasi-state religion supplying the government with its moral force.
Obama and Putin spoke on the phone today for an hour and a half. The White House and Kremlin accounts of the call add up to what was clearly the equivalent of an angry standoff: lectures, counter-lectures, intimations of threats, intimations of counter-threats. But the leverage, for now, is all with Moscow.
The legislators in the Russian parliament today parroted those features of modern Putinism. In order to justify the invasion of the Crimean peninsula, they repeatedly cited the threat of Ukrainian “fascists” in Kiev helping Russia’s enemies. They repeatedly echoed the need to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine—a theme consonant with the Kremlin’s rhetoric about Russians everywhere, including the Baltic States. But there was, of course, not one word about the sovereignty of Ukraine, which has been independent since the fall of the Soviet Union, in December, 1991.
If this is the logic of the Russian invasion, the military incursion is unlikely to stop in Crimea: nearly all of eastern Ukraine is Russian-speaking. Russia defines its interests far beyond its Black Sea fleet and the Crimean peninsula.
Marina Korolyova, the deputy editor of the liberal radio station Echo of Moscow, told Slon.ru, “I am the daughter of a military officer who went in with the troops that invaded Czechoslovakia, in 1968. Today’s decision of the President and the Federation Council—I feel the pain personally. It is shameful. Shameful.”
It is worth noting that, in Moscow, the modern dissident movement was born in 1968, when four brave protesters went to Red Square and unfurled a banner denouncing the invasion of Prague. Those demonstrators are the heroes of, among other young Russians, the members of the punk band Pussy Riot. This is something that Putin also grasps very well. At the same time that he is planning his vengeful military operation against the new Ukrainian leadership, he has been cracking down harder on his opponents in Moscow. Alexey Navalny, who is best known for his well-publicized investigations into state corruption and for his role in anti-Kremlin demonstrations two years ago, has now been placed under house arrest. Navalny, who won twenty-seven per cent of the vote in a recent Moscow mayoral ballot, is barred from using the Internet, his principal means of communication and dissidence. The period of Olympic mercy has come to an end.
It’s also worth noting that, in 1968, Moscow was reacting to the “threat” of the Prague Spring and to ideological liberalization in Eastern Europe; in 1979, the Kremlin leadership was reacting to the upheavals in Kabul. The rationale now is far flimsier, even in Moscow’s own terms. The people of the Crimean peninsula were hardly under threat by “fascist gangs” from Kiev. In the east, cities like Donetsk and Kharkov had also been quiet, though that may already be changing. That’s the advantage of Putin’s state-controlled television and his pocket legislature; you can create any reality and pass any edict.
I spoke with Georgy Kasianov, the head of the Academy of Science’s department of contemporary Ukrainian history and politics, in Kiev. “It’s a war,” he said. “The Russian troops are quite openly out on the streets [in Crimea], capturing public buildings and military outposts. And it’s likely all a part of a larger plan for other places: Odessa, Nikolayev, Kherson. And they’ll use the same technique. Some Russian-speaking citizens will appear, put up a Russian flag, and make appeals that they want help and referendums, and so on.” This is already happening in Donetsk and Kharkov.
“They are doing this like it is a commonplace,” Kasianov went on. “I can’t speak for four million people, but clearly everyone in Kiev is against this. But the Ukrainian leadership is absolutely helpless. The Army is not ready for this. And, after the violence in Kiev, the special forces are disoriented.”
Just a few days ago, this horrendous scenario of invasion and war, no matter how limited, seemed the farthest thing from nearly everyone’s mind in either Ukraine or Russia, much less the West. As it happens so often in these situations—from Tahrir Square to Taksim Square to Maidan Square—people were taken up with the thrill of uprising. After Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev, the coverage moved to what one might call the “golden toilet” stage of things, that moment when the freedom-hungry crowds discover the fallen leader’s arrangements and bountiful holdings—the golden bathroom fixtures; the paintings and the tapestries; the secret mistress; the lurid bedrooms and freezers stocked with sweetmeats; the surveillance videos and secret transcripts; the global real-estate holdings; the foreign bank accounts; the fleets of cars, yachts, and airplanes; the bad taste, the unknown cruelties.
The English-language Kyiv Post published a classic in the genre when it reported how journalists arriving at the “inner sanctum” of the mansion where Yanukovych had lived in splendor discovered that he had been cohabiting not with his wife of four decades but, rather, with—and try not to faint—a younger woman. It “appears” that Yanukovych had been living there with a spa owner named Lyubov (which means “love”) Polezhay. “The woman evidently loves dogs and owns a white Pomeranian spitz that was seen in the surveillance camera’s footage of Yanukovych leaving” the mansion.
But that was trivia. Masha Lipman, my colleague in Moscow, sketched out in stark and prescient terms some of the challenges facing Ukraine, ranging from the divisions within the country to the prospect of what Putin might do rather than “lose” Ukraine.
Putin’s reaction exceeded our worst expectations. These next days and weeks in Ukraine are bound to be frightening, and worse. There is not only the threat of widening Russian military force. The new Ukrainian leadership is worse than weak. It is unstable. It faces the burden of legitimacy. Yanukovych was spectacularly corrupt, and he opened fire on his own people. He was also elected to his office and brought low by an uprising, not the ballot; he made that point on Friday, in a press conference in Rostov on Don, in Russia, saying that he had never really been deposed. Ukraine has already experienced revolutionary disappointment. The Orange Revolution, in 2004, failed to establish stable democratic institutions and economic justice. This is one reason that Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister, newly released from prison, is not likely the future of Ukraine. How can Ukraine possibly move quickly to national elections, as it must to resolve the issue of legitimacy, while another country has troops on its territory?
Vladimir Ryzhkov, a liberal Russian politician who no longer holds office, said that the events were not only dangerous for Ukraine but ominous for Russia and the man behind them. “It’s quite likely that this will be fatal for the regime and catastrophic for Russia,” he told Slon.ru. “It just looks as if they have taken leave of their senses.”
What we ask is whom do represent the black clad military people that took over Crimea? Are they representing a new force or their old Russian military. We see a way out if the lack of insignia means that there is a new force being born.
FIRST CLEAR CASUALTY – THE SOCHI G8 MEETING THAT BECOMES IMPOSSIBLE WITH RUSSIA AT WAR.
SO – IT IS NOW CLEAR THAT SOCHI IS NOT THE PUTIN PLANNED RUSSIAN GOLD MINE.
Ukraine PR Says UN Charter Brutally Violated, Meeting Format Fight.
By Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press Follow Up
UNITED NATIONS, March 1 — As the UN Security Council on Saturday afternoon held its second emergency meeting in as many days on Ukraine, that country’s Permanent Representative Yuriy Sergeyev stopped and told the press it is now a Russian “aggression” and that the UN Charter has been “brutally” violated. Video here.
He said an appeal is being made to the US, France, UK and China, under the rubric of non-proliferation; he said there is still time, before Russian president Vladimir Putin signs the order for military moves in Crimea.
Then the Security Council “suspended” for ten minutes; Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin emerged and said some members of the Council are trying to change the format of the meeting, that Russia agrees with the format proposed by Luxembourg, which took over today as Council president.
After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s envoy Robert Serry spun the contents of a closed door Security Council consultation on Ukraine on which there was no agreed outcome, Ban himself did the same on Saturday.
Could Serry go to Crimea? Hours before Serry through the spokesperson had said no. But the purpose of the UN TV theater is to get this spin “on camera” – that’s the role Falk’s UNCA is playing.
Also Ban said he is going to speak with Putin soon. Will his spokesperson take question, this time with notice, on that?
On February 28, Serry’s impartiality as “UN” envoy on Ukraine was called into question, on camera, in front of the UN Security Council by Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
Note to correspondents: Statement by Mr. Robert Serry, Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General, at the end of his mission to Ukraine
Kyiv, 1 March 2014
Following the consultations in the United Nations Security Council yesterday, the Secretary-General requested me to go to Crimea as part of my fact-finding mission. I have since been in touch with the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and have come to the conclusion that a visit to Crimea today is not possible. I will therefore proceed to Geneva, where I will tomorrow brief the Secretary-General on my mission and consult with him on next steps.
In Crimea, I would have conveyed, also on behalf of the Secretary-General, a message for all to calm the situation down and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate an already-tense environment.
It became very clear from yesterday’s Council consultations that the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine is not to be called into question. This is a time for dialogue and to engage with each other constructively.
Note to correspondents: Statement by Mr. Robert Serry, Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General, at the end of his mission to Ukraine.
March 1, updated — After the Ukraine open meeting then consultations of the UN Security Council took place, Council president for March Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg came out and read a short statement.
Inner City Press asked her if this was a mere “elements to the press,” not even an agreed Press Statement. This seems to be the case. She politely answered, but not why China and the ten elected members did not speak in the open meeting.
Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Lyall Grant about the Budapest Memorandum — has it already been violated, including by the Western IMF side, in terms of economic coercion? Is it just a superseded document summoned up for pragmatic reasons now?
Lyall Grant acknowledged that some time has passed. From the UK Mission transcript:
Inner City Press: The Budapest memorandum. There’s been a lot of talk about it. It requires the UK, Russia and France to seek immediate Security Council action if there’s a threat of force, so is this the end of your duties, or do you have a duty to defend Ukraine? And it also seems to commit the UK and others to refrain from economic coercion, so some people have been saying that on both sides, the economic coercion factor has been played. Has this memorandum been complied with since ‘94, or is it just pulled out at this time as a convenient document?
Amb Lyall Grant: Clearly, this document has become very relevant in the last few days. We believe that the first step should be a meeting of the signatories of the Budapest memorandum, as Ukraine government has suggested should take place. Proposals have been made for a meeting of the three signatories as early as Monday, but so far Russia has not agreed to that meeting.
Lyall Grant also said his prime minister David Cameron spoke with Vladimir Putin and his foreign secretary William Hague will be in Ukraine on Sunday.
Inner City Press asked Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson of Russia’s critique of envoy Robert Serry “getting played,” and of the leaked (US) audio about former US now UN official Jeffrey Feltman “getting” Ban to send Serry to Ukraine.
Eliasson said Serry is an international civil servant, but that the UN is not mediating, he is only a go-between for now. Will that change?
US Samantha Power came out, saying another things that President Obama is suspending participation in the preparation for the G8 in Sochi. She took only two questions; it was not possible to ask her about movement on loan guarantees, or her view of the US’ duties under the Budapest Memorandum. So it goes at the UN.
BRUSSELS – Ukraine’s embassy to the EU has detailed Russian military movements in Crimea, saying operations to seize control began one week ago.
The Ukrainian embassy, in a two-page note circulated to EU diplomats on Friday (28 February) – and seen by EUobserver – cited seven “illegal military activities of the Russian Federation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine.”
Going back to February 21 and 22, it says Russia moved 16 BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers of the 801st Marine Corps brigade from the Russian naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea, which it leases from Ukraine, to the Crimean towns of Kaha, Gvardiiske, and Sevastopol.
It notes that on 23 February three BTR-80s moved from the base to the town of Khersones.
On 26 February, 10 armoured vehicles from the 801st brigade moved “into the depth of the Crimean peninsula towards Simferopol.”
On 28 February, 12 Mi-24 Russian attack helicopters flew from Anapa in Russia to the Kacha airfield in Crimea “despite [the fact] clearance was granted only for 3 helos.”
The same day five Il-76 Russian military transport planes landed at Gvardiiske with no clerance at all, while 400 Russian troops from the Ulyanovsk Airborne Brigade moved to Cape Fiolent, near Sevastopol.
The Ukrainian document says that also on Friday: “Belbek airport (Sevastopol) was blocked by an armed unit of the Russian Fleet (soldiers with no marking but not concealing their affiliation). Simferopol airport occupied by more than 100 soldiers with machine guns wearing camouflage, unmarked but not concealing their affiliation to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”
It adds that Captain Oleksandr Tolmachov, a Russian Black Sea Fleet officer, led a group of 30 soldiers who blocked the Sevastopol Marine Security detachment of the State Border Service of Ukraine.
Speaking in Kiev on Friday, Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said: “They are provoking us into an armed conflict. Based on our intelligence, they’re working on scenarios analogous to Abkhazia, in which they provoke conflict, and then they start to annex territory.”
He added: “Ukraine’s military will fulfill its duties, but will not succumb to provocation.”
He also said Russia’s actions violate the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, signed by Russia, the UK, Ukraine, and the US.
Russia in 2008 invaded Georgia saying Georgian forces had fired on its “peacekeeping” troops in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia. After an eight-day war, Russia retreated from Georgia proper, but entrenched its occupation of South Ossetia and a second breakaway entity, Abkhazia, in what is widely seen as a way of blocking Georgia’s EU and Nato aspirations.
The Budapest document obliges signatories to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.” It also says they “will consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.”
There is no shortage of consultations.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin on Friday phoned the British and German leaders and EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy.
Lithuania, which currently holds the UN Security Council (UNSC) presidency, also called a meeting of UNSC ambassadors in New York.
Statements coming from the Budapest signatories echo the terms of the agreement.
A spokesman for British leader David Cameron said he told Putin “that all countries should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.” US President Barack Obama said on TV “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, Sweden, a close US ally, corroborated Ukraine’s accusations. “Obvious that there is Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Likely immediate aim is to set up puppet pro-Russian semi-state in Crimea,” Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said.
The Polish foreign ministry noted: “Any decisions that will be taken in the coming days, including of military nature, could have irreparable consequences for the international order.”
The UN meeting in New York did little to calm nerves.
Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, told press afterward: “We are strong enough to defend ourselves.”
Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said all Russian military activity in Crimea is “within the framework” of a 1997 Ukraine-Russia treaty governing the use of its Sevastopol base.
Churkin added the EU bears “responsibility” for events because three EU foreign ministers – from France, Germany, and Poland – on 21 February signed a deal between Ukraine’s ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, and opposition MPs which says he is to stay in power until December.
Yanukovych fled Kiev the next day when Kiev protesters rejected the agreement and threatened to storm his palace.
Churkin accused the EU of fomenting the revolution by criticising Yanukovych for refusing to sign an EU association and free trade treaty and by sending VIPs to Kiev to mingle with demonstrators. “They emphasize sovereignty. But they behave as if Ukraine was a province of the European Union, not even a country, but a province,” he said.
For his part, Andrew Wilson, an analyst at the London-based European Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, who was in Kiev during the unrest, told EUobserver on Saturday the Budapest accord should not be seen as a Nato-type treaty which obliges signatories to use military force
But he noted that the 1994 memorandum poses Cold War-type questions.
“Are we [the West] going to send a warship through the Bosphorus?” he said, referring to the channel which leads from the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea and Crimea.
“These kind of questions were asked in the Cold War: Would America be willing to lose Detroit [in a Russian nuclear strike] to save Berlin? Later it was about Vilnius [when Lithuania joined Nato in 2004], now it’s about Simferopol. Budapest is not Article 5. But if we are being logical, it does offer security guarantees and it is still in force,” he added, referring to the Nato treaty’s Article 5 on mutual defence.
Crimea is a majority ethnic Russian region which became part of Ukraine in 1954.
Its local parliament this week elected a new leader, pro-Russian politician Sergiy Aksyonov, who called a referendum on independence on 30 March.
The ethnic Russian population made up 49.6 percent of Crimea in 1939. It currently makes up some 58 percent, after Stalin deported its Armenian, Bulgarian, Jewish, German, Greek, and Tatar minorities during World War II. But Russians are in a minority in nine Crimean districts.
Recent updates to the CIF Voices (blogs), videos and news articles on CIF projects:
Snakes, Tomatoes, and Other Take Aways from the Asia-Pacific Dialogue on the GCF Martha Stein-Sochas, CIF AU, Feb 26 Last week at the Asia-Pacific Dialogue on the Green Climate Fund (GCF), I heard many helpful suggestions and ideas from private sector participants on the GCF’s future Private Sector Facility, which aims to provide financing for climate action in the private sector. But no advice was more powerful than that of Paul Needham, President and Co-founder of Simpa Networks, who related to us the need to move quickly, take risks, and be catalytic.
Lessons from the field on CIF results monitoring and reporting Emmanuel Kouadio, CIF AU, Feb 14 For the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), understanding the tangible results of its funding is essential to learning and accountability. It has been no small task to make monitoring and reporting (M&R) a reality across the four programs and 48 countries that comprise the CIF. But this year, 2014, all CIF pilot countries will report on results and annually thereafter.
——————————- World Bank, Government of Samoa Launch Climate Resilience Program World Bank, February 6 “The World Bank is committed to helping small island states manage pressing risks from natural disasters and climate change,” said Drees-Gross. “Through the Climate Investment Funds, we are proud to support Samoa in critical efforts to increase the resilience of coastal communities and infrastructure, which could help protect their very survival as well as long-term development.” Keeping Partnership Strong as PPCR Planning Turns to Action in Samoa Litara Taulealo, Ministry of Finance, Samoa, Feb 18 Last week the government of Samoa and the World Bank announced the launch of a new project to support climate change adaptation measures for coastal communities. Our Enhancing the Climate Resilience of Coastal Resources and Communities Project, supported by $14.6 million from the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), will assist 45,000 Samoans in coastal communities in adapting to climate change and climate variability, protect coastal infrastructure, and increase awareness about climate change impacts and adaptation activities among communities, civil society, and government entities.
Drawing lessons from Turkey’s energy use, emissions and fuel mix Sandy Ferguson, EBRD, Feb 5 One thing jumps out when looking at the Turkish Sustainable Energy Financing Facility (TurSEFF) report: with the right combination of financing, one can achieve substantial changes in energy use, emissions, and fuel mix in middle income countries.
Transforming Waste to Energy in Nepal Nepal is part of the larger effort to expand energy access and markets for renewable energy in the world’s poorest countries. Today, Nepal is using SREP to develop large-scale commercial, institutional, and municipal bioenergy projects
Menengai Geothermal Power Plant in Kenya Africa Express stopped in Kenya to learn more about geothermal power development at Menengai. SREP $25 million is supporting development of Menengai which envisions 120 wells injecting 400 megawatts of electricity into the national grid
Open Call to Private Sector CIF AU, Feb 20 Access over $65 million in concessional financing set aside for innovative private sector projects in PPCR and SREP pilot countries. Proposals being accepted until March 31 (SREP) and April 30 (PPCR). Read more.
Rooted in Learning, Growing with Results CIF AU, February 17 2013 was a year of growth for the CIF. The 2013 CIF Annual Report highlights emerging results, key lessons learned, and the momentum we are building for climate-smart development.
USELF Boosts Ukraine’s Renewable Energy Sector EBRD, February 14 The first phase of the EBRD’s Ukraine Sustainable Energy Lending Facility (USELF) will deliver 200 GWh of renewable energy through an innovative combination of EBRD commercial financing, dedicated technical assistance support and
“Their Mothers, their Fathers” – or maybe even ours - a movie that tries to promote thinking about the triteness of the reality of an evolution of crime as a worm that eats into what looks like civilized normalcy.
These days in New York we host the Carnegie Hall Festival “Vienna City of Dreams” which is a celebration of culture of the last 100 years which is in effect the time-span since the break out of WWI on June 28, 1914, and as a matter of fact includes also WWII.
To above Festival The Calgary, Alberta, CHUMIR FOUNDATION for Ethics in Leadership contributed a three events Symposium – “Vienna’s History and Legacy of the Past 150 Years” – and this morning coincidentally I received the Uri Avnery mailing about the German Film “THEIR MOTHERS, THEIR FATHERS” that is being shown in Israel. We find it all connects – and we start looking into this by bringing here the Uri Avnery article.
Also, these days the Peace Islands Institute, which is connected to a Turkish Cultural Center, had its own events in New York of which one – linked – without mentioning it – to the previous mentioned events – it was a panel on Intergovernmental Relations among Balkan Nations & The EU with the participation of the Ambassadors to the UN from Bulgaria, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia, chaired by the President of the Federation of Balkan American Associations, that followed a similar earlier event that included Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia but never looked at Slovenia or Austria. Then the same Peace Islands Institute followed on its studies of the three Abrahamic religions with a first inroad into Muslim – Buddhist understanding after quite successful previous activities into ethics of Muslim -Jewish mutual acceptance. These days such are events happening in New York.
March 1, 2014
Their Mothers, Their Fathers
IT IS the summer of 1941. Five youngsters – three young men and two young women – meet in a bar and spend a happy evening, flirting with each other, getting drunk, dancing forbidden foreign dances. They have grown up together in the same neighborhood of Berlin.
It is a happy time. The war started by Adolf Hitler a year and a half before has progressed incredibly well. In this short time Germany has conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France. The Wehrmacht is invincible. The Führer is a genius, “the greatest military strategist of all times”.
So starts the film that is running now in our cinemas – a unique historical document. It goes on for five breathless hours, and continues to occupy the thoughts and emotions of its viewers for days and weeks.
Basically it is a film made by Germans for Germans. The German title says it all: “Our Mothers, Our Fathers”. The purpose is to answer the questions troubling many of the young Germans of today: Who were our parents and grandparents? What did they do during the terrible war? What did they feel? What was their part in the horrible crimes committed by the Nazis?
These questions are not asked in the film explicitly. But every German viewer is compelled to ask them. There are no clear answers. The film does not probe the depths. Rather, it shows a broad panorama of the German people in wartime, the various sections of society, the different types, from the war criminals, through the passive onlookers, to the victims.
The Holocaust is not the center of events, but it is there all the time, not as a separate event but woven into the fabric of reality.
THE FILM starts in 1941, and therefore cannot answer the question which, to my mind, is the most important one: How could a civilized nation, perhaps the most cultured in the world, elect a government whose program was blatantly criminal?
True, Hitler was never elected by an absolute majority in free elections. But he came very close to it. And he easily found political partners who were ready to help him form a government.
Some said at the time that it was a uniquely German phenomenon, the expression of the particular German mentality, formed during centuries of history. That theory has been discredited by now. But if so, can it happen in any other country? Can it happen in our own country? Can it happen today? What are the circumstances that make it possible?
The film does not answer these question. It leaves the answers to the viewer.
The young heroes of the film do not ask. They were ten years old when the Nazis came to power, and for them the “Thousand-Year Reich” (as the Nazis called it) was the only reality they knew. It was the natural state of things. That’s where the plot starts.
TWO OF the youngsters were soldiers. One had already seen war and was wearing a medal for valor. His brother had just been called up. The third young man was a Jew. Like the two girls, they are full of youthful exuberance. Everything was looking fine.
The war? Well, it can’t last much longer, can it? The Führer himself has promised that by Christmas the Final Victory will be won. The five young people promise each other to meet again at Christmas. No one has the slightest premonition of the terrible experiences in store for each of them.
While viewing the scene, I could not help thinking about my former class. A few weeks after the Nazis’ assumption of power, I became a pupil in the first class of high school in Hanover. My schoolmates were the same age as the heroes of the film. They would have been called up in 1941, and because it was an elitist school, all of them would probably have become officers.
Half way through the first year in high schooI, my family took me to Palestine. I never met any of my schoolmates again, except one (Rudolf Augstein, the founder of the magazine Der Spiegel, whom I met years after the war and who became my friend again.) What happened to all the others? How many survived the war? How many were maimed? How many had become war criminals?
In the summer of 1941 they were probably as happy as the youngsters in the film, hoping to be home by Christmas.
THE TWO brothers were sent to the Russian front, an unimaginable hell. The film succeeds in showing the realities of war, easily recognizable by anyone who has been a soldier in combat. Only that this combat was a hundredfold worse, and the film shows it brilliantly.
The older brother, a lieutenant, tries to shield the younger one. The bloodbath that goes on for four more years, day after day, hour after hour, changes their character. They become brutalized. Death is all around them, they see horrible war crimes, they are commanded to shoot prisoners, they see Jewish children butchered. In the beginning they still dare to protest feebly, then they keep their doubts to themselves, then they take part in the crimes as a matter of course.
One of the young women volunteers for a frontline military hospital, witnesses the awful agonies of the wounded, denounces a Jewish fellow nurse and immediately feels remorse, and in the end is raped by Soviet soldiers near Berlin, as were almost all German women in the areas conquered by the revenge-thirsty Soviet army.
Israeli viewers might be more interested in the fate of the Jewish boy, who took part in the happy feast at the beginning. His father is a proud German, who cannot imagine Germans doing the bad things threatened by Hitler. He does not dream of leaving his beloved fatherland. But he warns his son about having sexual relations with his Aryan girlfriend. “It’s against the law!”
When the son tries to flee abroad, “aided” by a treacherous Gestapo officer, he is caught, sent to the death camps, succeeds in escaping on the way, joins the Polish partisans (who hate the Jews more than the Nazis) and in the end survives.
Perhaps the most tragic figure is the second girl, a frivolous, carefree singer who sleeps with a senior SS officer to further her career, is sent with her troupe to entertain the troops at the front, sees what is really happening, speaks out about the war, is sent to prison and executed in the last hours of the war.
BUT THE fate of the heroes is only the skeleton of the film. More important are the little moments, the daily life, the portrayal of the various characters of German society.
For example, when a friend visits the apartment where the Jewish family had been living, the blond Aryan woman who was allotted the place complains about the state of the apartment from which the Jews had been fetched and sent to their death: “They didn’t even clean up before they left! That’s how the Jews are, dirty people!”
Everyone lives in constant fear of being denounced. It is a pervading terror, which nobody can escape. Even at the front, with death staring therm in the face, a hint of doubt about the Final Victory uttered by a soldier is immediately silenced by his comrades. “Are you crazy?”
Even worse is the deadening atmosphere of universal agreement. From the highest officer to the lowliest maid, everybody is repeating endlessly the propaganda slogans of the regime. Not out of fear, but because they believe every word of the all-pervading propaganda machine. They hear nothing else.
It is immensely important to understand this. In the totalitarian state, fascist or communist or whatever, only the very few free spirits can withstand the endlessly repeated slogans of the government. Everything else sounds unreal, abnormal, crazy. When the Soviet army was already fighting its way through Poland and nearing Berlin, people were unwavering in their belief in the Final Victory. After all, the Führer says so, and the Führer is never wrong. The very idea is preposterous.
It is this element of the situation that is difficult for many people to grasp. A citizen under a criminal totalitarian regime becomes a child. Propaganda becomes for him reality, the only reality he knows. It is more effective than even the terror.
THIS IS the answer to the question we cannot abstain from asking again and again: How was the Holocaust possible? It was planned by a few, but it was implemented by hundreds of thousands of Germans, from the engine driver of the train to the officials who shuffled the papers. How could they do it?
They could, because it was the natural thing to do. After all, the Jews were out to destroy Germany. The communist hordes were threatening the life of every true Aryan. Germany needed more living space. The Führer has said so.
That’s why the film is so important, not only for the Germans, but for every people, including our own.
People who carelessly play with ultra-nationalist, fascist, racist, or other anti-democratic ideas don’t realize that they are playing with fire. They cannot even imagine what it means to live in a country that tramples on human rights, that despises democracy, that oppresses another people, that demonizes minorities. The film shows what it is like: hell.
THE FILM does not hide that the Jews were the main victims of the Nazi Reich, and nothing comes near their sufferings. But the second victim was the German people, victims of themselves.
Many people insist that after this trauma, Jews cannot behave like a normal people, and that therefore Israel cannot be judged by the standards of normal states. They are traumatized.
This is true for the German people, too. The very need to produce this unusual film proves that the Nazi specter is still haunting the Germans, that they are still traumatized by their past.
When Angela Merkel came this week to see Binyamin Netanyahu, the whole world laughed at the photo of our Prime Minister’s finger inadvertently painting a moustache on the Kanzlerin’s face.
But the relationship between our two traumatized peoples is far from a joke.
THE 90 year young URI AVNERY NEVER ENDED HIGH-SCHOOL BUT HE IS NON-DISPUTABLE ISRAEL’S GREATEST JOURNALIST AND MOST FAMOUS EX-MEMBER OF THE KNESSET (PARLIAMENT). WHO COULD SAY WHAT GERMANY LOST – IF NOT FOR HITLER – HE WOULD HAVE HIMSELF BEEN NOW A SECULAR COMPLETELY ASSIMILATED GERMAN?
With Russia growling over the downfall of its ally running Ukraine and still protecting its murderous ally running Syria, there is much talk that we’re returning to the Cold War — and that the Obama team is not up to defending our interests or friends. I beg to differ. I don’t think the Cold War is back; today’s geopolitics are actually so much more interesting than that. And I also don’t think President Obama’s caution is entirely misplaced.
The Cold War was a unique event that pitted two global ideologies, two global superpowers, each with globe-spanning nuclear arsenals and broad alliances behind them. Indeed, the world was divided into a chessboard of red and black, and who controlled each square mattered to each side’s sense of security, well-being and power. It was also a zero-sum game, in which every gain for the Soviet Union and its allies was a loss for the West and NATO, and vice versa.
That game is over. We won. What we have today is the combination of an older game and a newer game. The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today “is between those countries who want their states to be powerful and those countries who want their people to be prosperous,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins.
The first category would be countries like Russia, Iran and North Korea, whose leaders are focused on building their authority, dignity and influence through powerful states. And because the first two have oil and the last has nukes that it can trade for food, their leaders can defy the global system and survive, if not thrive — all while playing an old, traditional game of power politics to dominate their respective regions.
The second category, countries focused on building their dignity and influence through prosperous people, includes all the countries in Nafta, the European Union, and the Mercosur trade bloc in Latin America and Asean in Asia. These countries understand that the biggest trend in the world today is not a new Cold War but the merger of globalization and the information technology revolution. They are focused on putting in place the right schools, infrastructure, bandwidth, trade regimes, investment openings and economic management so more of their people can thrive in a world in which every middle-class job will require more skill and the ability to constantly innovate will determine their standard of living. (The true source of sustainable power.)
But there is also now a third and growing category of countries, which can’t project power or build prosperity. They constitute the world of “disorder.” They are actually power and prosperity sinks because they are consumed in internal fights over primal questions like: Who are we? What are our boundaries? Who owns which olive tree? These countries include Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Congo and other hot spots. While those nations focused on state power do play in some of these countries — Russia and Iran both play in Syria — the states that are more focused on building prosperity are trying to avoid getting too involved in the world of disorder. Though ready to help mitigate humanitarian tragedies there, they know that when you “win” one of these countries in today’s geopolitical game, all you win is a bill.
Ukraine actually straddles all three of these trends. The revolution there happened because the government was induced by Russia, which wants to keep Ukraine in its sphere of influence, into pulling out of a trade agreement with the European Union — an agreement favored by the many Ukrainians focused on building a prosperous people. This split has also triggered talk of separatism by the more Russian-speaking and Russian-oriented eastern part of Ukraine.
So what do we do? The world is learning that the bar for U.S. intervention abroad is being set much higher. This is due to a confluence of the end of the Soviet Union’s existential threat, the experience of investing too many lives and $2 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan to little lasting impact, America’s rising energy independence, our intelligence successes in preventing another 9/11 and the realization that to fix what ails the most troubled countries in the world of disorder is often beyond our skill set, resources or patience.
In the Cold War, policy-making was straightforward. We had “containment.” It told us what to do and at almost any price. Today, Obama’s critics say he must do “something” about Syria. I get it. Chaos there can come around to bite us. If there is a policy that would fix Syria, or even just stop the killing there, in a way that was self-sustaining, at a cost we could tolerate and not detract from all the things we need to do at home to secure our own future, I’m for it.
But we should have learned some lessons from our recent experience in the Middle East: First, how little we understand about the social and political complexities of the countries there; second, that we can — at considerable cost — stop bad things from happening in these countries but cannot, by ourselves, make good things happen; and third, that when we try to make good things happen we run the risk of assuming the responsibility for solving their problems, a responsibility that truly belongs to them.
Alexander Scherbatyuk, 46, was shot by police snipers Thursday as he and fellow Afghanistan War veterans led the protest’s bloody struggle against Berkut government riot police.
At the height of the violence in Kiev’s Independence Square Thursday, dozens were killed and hundreds wounded when police snipers were deployed to the hilly rises surrounding the plaza. A government inquiry is set to investigate the use of police force.
According to The Daily Mail, troops of riot police fell to their knees in a Monday night rally and “begged forgiveness” for excessive force against antigovernment protesters. Others have taken their weapons and fled in anticipation of the investigation’s results.
Scherbatyuk and other Afghanistan War veterans first became involved in the protest movement after riot police brutally beat unarmed students in the first round of public upheavals three months ago. In subsequent months Scherbatyuk drilled and organized protesters in anticipation of another violent stand.
Scherbatyuk’s body made the eight-hour journey from Kiev, where he had spent the past several months deeply involved with the protest movement, to his family in Chernivtsi, where it was received by his wife and two children.
David Benish, head of the World ORT Representative Office for CIS, Central Asia, Caucasian States & Baltic States, attended the funeral Sunday outside Chernivtsi’s Museum of Bukovinian Jewish History and Culture. He estimates some 10,000 came to pay respects before the body, with a kippa placed upon it in a visual and unusual reminder of the victim’s Jewishness, was taken to the city’s central cemetery.
One of Scherbatyuk’s two children, Dan, is a ninth grader at the Chernivtsi ORT school. “Dan is an excellent student. When he started at the school he didn’t know anything [Jewishly]. Now he speaks Hebrew, he knows about Judaism and Israel,” Benish told The Times of Israel Tuesday after arriving mid-day from Kiev.
The Scherbatyuk family received initial financial support of 10,000 Ukrainian hryvna (approximately $1,000) from World ORT to cover immediate costs and Benish has approached donors for continuing support.
Benish is also reaching out for donations to defray the private armed security companies the four Ukraine ORT schools have employed. With the “significant unquiet” in the state, World ORT feels the safety of the children is top priority and paid out of pocket for the emergency school guards.
“Right now there’s no gunfire, but there’s a huge problem of personal security… there are potential problems with xenophobia — hopefully not anti-Semisitm, but in such chaos, things like this rear their heads,” said Benish.
From Rio+20 to the birthday of Silent Spring, this year’s sustainability milestones mark decades of effort, writes John Elkington. Now the agenda is shifting its focus to the large-scale remodelling of capitalism.
Some people raised their eyebrows when, in a 2009 study called “The Phoenix Economy”, we concluded that the world was not in a simple recession, nor even in a double-dip variant, but instead that it had entered one of those periodic, fundamental restructurings of the global economy that take decades to work through. The drivers this time around, we argued, include the obsolescence of an increasingly global economic model that has served us fairly well since World War II, coupled with an accelerating shift of at least some parts of the global economy to Asia, and particularly to China.
But we also spotlighted a growing interest in what some call “sustainable capitalism” – an appetite for change that is so far very poorly represented in the UN-led climate conferences in places like Copenhagen and Durban.
For an idea of what this might mean in practice, it will be well worth taking a look at the “Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism”, due for launch shortly by Generation Investment Management—and which has already been spotlighted in The Wall Street Journal by Generation’s founders, former US vice-president Al Gore and former Goldman Sachs investment banker David Blood.
Unfortunately, as we noted in 2009, history suggests that a prolonged downturn is needed if we genuinely want to burn out the old economic mindsets, business models and technologies, and open up the space for new ones better adapted to the conditions of the twenty-first century. Now, as we enter 2012, it is worth taking stock and considering whether there is much evidence, either way, of progress towards the Phoenix Economy. “We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking,”
Blood and Gore argue in their Wall Street Journal article. “The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanisation, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.”
But what do they suggest business leaders – what we might call the Global C-Suite – do next?
They recommend “five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation.”
First, they encourage CEOs and other senior business leaders to identify and account for the growing risk from “stranded assets”. These are risks “whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account – for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.” We have been here before, they note. The true value of subprime mortgages was recognised very late in the day and mortgage-backed assets had to be repriced in short order.
Second, they call for mandatory integrated reporting, something that is now being pushed by the International Integrated Reporting Committee. “Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies,” they say, “access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG [environmental, social and governance] performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.”
Third, they call for an end to the practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. “The quarterly calendar frequently incentivises executives to manage for the short-term,” they conclude. “It also encourages some investors to overemphasise the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies’ issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.” Fourth, and a strongly linked point, they see a critical step to be the better alignment of senior executive compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. “Most existing compensation schemes,” they warn, “emphasise short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realised and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling, multiyear milestones for performance evaluation.” And, fifth, there is a growing need to incentivise and reward long-term investing with “loyalty-driven securities”. The logic here is that “the dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete ‘standard model’ of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.” To counter such short-termism “companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years.” An immensely turbulent 2011 is being followed by a year marked by an extraordinary number of sustainability milestones. Most obviously, we have the UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit. Then there will be the twenty-fifth anniversaries of the Brundtland Commission report, Our Common Future, and of SustainAbility, the company I co-founded in 1987. But there’s more. Many will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of 1972’s The Limits to Growth study which first laid out the “Peak Resources” agenda, and the fiftieth of 1962’s Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book that sparked the Environmental Revolution.
Some will find it strange that businesses like Generation Investment Management are now signalling the next round of the sustainability agenda, but as the focus shifts to the large-scale remodelling of capitalism for the new century, this feels like the logical trajectory for the next 20, 25, 40 or 50 years.
We found above posting while looking up for the original Al Gore and David Blood article in the Wall Street Journal that was sent to us by a new friend we met at a Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce Panel on “2014 Brazil Economic and Political Outlook.” On that meeting we will report later – but for now we will just follow up on a clip our new friend sent us.
That original Gore and Blood article had several WSJ versions – starting November 5, 2008 – and the most recent one was:
A Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism
How businesses can embrace environmental, social and governance metrics.
ByAl Gore and David Blood
December 14, 2011
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, when the United States was preparing its visionary plan for nurturing democratic capitalism abroad, Gen. Omar Bradley said, “It is time to steer by the stars, and not by the lights of each passing ship.” Today, more than 60 years later, that means abandoning short-term economic thinking for “sustainable capitalism.”
We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking. The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanization, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.
Before the crisis and since, we and others have called for a more responsible form of capitalism, what we call sustainable capitalism: a framework that seeks to maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process.
Such sustainable capitalism applies to the entire investment value chain—from entrepreneurial ventures to large public companies, seed-capital providers to institutional investors, employees to CEOs, activists to policy makers. It transcends borders, industries, asset classes and stakeholders.
Those who advocate sustainable capitalism are often challenged to spell out why sustainability adds value. Yet the question that should be asked instead is: “Why does an absence of sustainability not damage companies, investors and society at large?” From BP to Lehman Brothers, there is a long list of examples proving that it does.
CorbisMoreover, companies and investors that integrate sustainability into their business practices are finding that it enhances profitability over the longer term. Experience and research show that embracing sustainable capitalism yields four kinds of important benefits for companies:
• Developing sustainable products and services can increase a company’s profits, enhance its brand, and improve its competitive positioning, as the market increasingly rewards this behavior.
• Sustainable capitalism can also help companies save money by reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency in the supply chain, and by improving human-capital practices so that retention rates rise and the costs of training new employees decline.
• Third, focusing on ESG metrics allows companies to achieve higher compliance standards and better manage risk since they have a more holistic understanding of the material issues affecting their business.
• Researchers (including Rob Bauer and Daniel Hann of Maastricht University, and Beiting Cheng, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim of Harvard) have found that sustainable businesses realize financial benefits such as lower cost of debt and lower capital constraints.
Sustainable capitalism is also important for investors. Mr. Serafeim and his colleague Robert G. Eccles have shown that sustainable companies outperform their unsustainable peers in the long term. Therefore, investors who identify companies that embed sustainability into their strategies can earn substantial returns, while experiencing low volatility.
Because ESG metrics directly affect companies’ long-term value, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, foundations and the like—investors with long-term liabilities—should include these metrics as an essential aspect of valuation and investment strategy. Sustainable capitalism requires investors to be good investors, to fully understand the companies they invest in and to believe in their long-term value and potential.
We recommend five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation:
• Identify and incorporate risk from stranded assets. “Stranded assets” are those whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account—for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.
That’s exactly what occurred when the true value of subprime mortgages was belatedly recognized and mortgage-backed assets were suddenly repriced. Until there are policies requiring the establishment of a fair price on widely understood externalities, academics and financial professionals should strive to quantify the impact of stranded assets and analyze the subsequent implications for investment opportunities.
• Mandate integrated reporting. Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies, access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.
This enables companies and investors to make better resource-allocation decisions by seeing how ESG performance contributes to sustainable, long-term value creation. While voluntary integrated reporting is gaining momentum, it must be mandated by appropriate agencies such as stock exchanges and securities regulators in order to ensure swift and broad adoption.
• End the default practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. The quarterly calendar frequently incentivizes executives to manage for the short-term. It also encourages some investors to overemphasize the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies’ issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.
• Align compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. Most existing compensation schemes emphasize short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realized and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling multi-year milestones for performance evaluation.
• Incentivize long-term investing with loyalty-driven securities. The dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete “standard model” of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.
To push against this short-termism, companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years. This would attract long-term investors with patient capital and would facilitate both long-term value creation in companies and stability in financial markets.
Ben Franklin famously said, “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.” Today we have an opportunity to steer by the stars and once again rebuild for the long-term. Sustainable capitalism will create opportunities and rewards, but it will also mean challenging the pernicious orthodoxy of short-termism. As we face an inflection point in the global economy and the global environment, the imperative for change has never been greater.
Mr. Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, is a former vice president of the United States. Mr. Blood is managing partner of Generation Investment Management.
Sent: Sunday, February 21, 2014 12:37 PM Subject: Fwd: FW: KERRY’S BROTHER CAMERON WRITES A LETTER
While we were traveling last week, an Israeli Knesset member accused my brother of anti-Semitism and a group of rabbis said he is waging “war on God.” I wrote this op-ed in response on the plane back; it appears (in Hebrew) in today’s Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s widest circulation paper. Since it discusses our trip, I thought it might interest you:
By Cameron Kerry
Last week at this time, I was in Terezin, Czech Republic, at the 18th Century fortress where the Nazis gathered Jews from Czechoslovakia, Austria,Germany, and other countries for the tragic journey to death camps further east. I joined a group from the Boston synagogue, of which my wife is the lay head, in traveling to Europe to celebrate Torah scrolls miraculously saved from Czech synagogues during World War II and restored 50 years ago. Both of my daughters became a Bat Mitzvah reading from a scroll rescued from the Bohemian town of Blatna, from which 26 Jews were transported to Terezin and none survived.
At Terezin, I walked along the banks of Ohre River and joined other members of our temple in saying Kaddish at the place where the Nazis poured out the cremated remains of some 22,000 inmates who died at Terezin. These presumably included the remains of my paternal great-uncle Otto Lowe, who died at Terezin in 1942. He, along with his sister Jenni, was transported to Terezin in 1942. Jenni was soon sent to die at Treblinka.
These experiences and their deeply personal meaning for my family make it all the more disturbing that some have recently suggested that my brother, John Kerry, had expressed “anti-Semitic undertones” in his pursuit of a framework for negotiations, and some even suggested that he “has declared war on God.” Such charges would be ridiculous if they were not so vile.
My family’s experience with anti-Semitism and oppression runs deep. On another visit to the Czech Republic last fall, I visited the town where my grandfather Frederick Kerry was born Fritz Kohn. A few years before emigrating to America, while serving in the military, my grandfather converted from Judaism to Catholicism because of anti-Semitism in the ranks. In memory — and in honor — of the Kohns, I planted a tree in my grandfather’s town.
This experience is not limited to the side of the family with Jewish roots. My mother – a Bostonian – was living in Paris training to become a nurse when World War II broke out, and she was among the mass of refugees who escaped the city in front of the Nazis. The sister she left with was later interned for helping the resistance in the south of France, where her activities included helping Jewish families get out of the country. My grandparents’ home was occupied by the Nazis and later destroyed by them because it offered an artillery spotting post in battles with Patton’s army.
All this is part of my brother John Kerry’s DNA. His earliest memory is of holding our mother’s hand as, soon after the war, she walked in tears viewing the ruins of that house. With my father serving his country in the State Department, our family took up a posting in Berlin with bombed, burned out, and shot-up buildings still visible across Europe. My brother embraced my own conversion to Judaism when I got married. He has been part of our family mitzvot. He was present when my daughters read from the Blatna scroll and helped to raise the chairs in which they were paraded on the dance floor.
I recall when he came home from his first visit to Israel with friends from the Boston Jewish community, more than thirty years ago as a young Senator: he spoke vividly of flying an Israeli military jet over the country and realizing how it was possible to cross the country in a matter of moments. Today, his determined work on Middle East peace is informed by an abiding sense of the need to secure Israel as a home for the Jewish people. For years since that first visit, he has engaged passionately with a wide variety of leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and across the region to understand the way to peace. He also maintained a 100-percent pro-Israel voting record during his nearly three decades in the U.S. senate.
It is this deep involvement that has led to the conviction that Israel’s long-term security requires a two-state solution — that, in the face of the inexorable forces of security, demographics, and geography, Israel cannot sustain occupation of the West Bank and remain both democratic and Jewish. It is the same conclusion that such resolute defenders of Israel as Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon reached and that Prime Minister Netanyahu is confronting now.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Lieberman, and Ambassador Dermer were courageous in their defense of my brother’s motives. We can all debate the effectiveness of security measures, the delineation of borders, arrangements for East Jerusalem, and other real issues among the parties, but there is no truth and no good that can come by calling into question John Kerry’s good faith toward his own heritage. Israel and the Jewish people deserve better than that.
The Post reports: “The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a resolution demanding that Syria immediately halt attacks on civilians and allow unfettered humanitarian access to besieged areas and across neighboring borders, threatening unspecified ‘further steps’ if the government does not comply. The action marked the first time Russia has agreed to a binding resolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since the conflict in his country began nearly three years ago. China, which vetoed three previous resolutions along with Russia, joined in approving the measure.” This is a cruel joke, and for Russia which has supported Bashar al-Assad, a cynical one.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, talks to his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, prior to the opening session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January. (Michel Euler/Associated Press)
Mind you — to reach this empty gesture took “lengthy negotiations over the past week.” In order to accommodate the Russians, in fact, the agreement had to be as tough on the rebels as it was on Assad. (“To secure Russia’s agreement, sponsors of the resolution agreed to include specific demands for opposition fighters to cease their own violations of human rights international law, to condemn terrorism and to drop a demand that government violators be referred for prosecution to the International Criminal Court.”) The last is an abomination; if ever a pack of murderers should be prosecuted for war crimes it is Assad and his cohorts.
So now the message to rogue states is: If you use WMD’s against your own people, you might have to very sloooowly give part of your treasure trove back. And if you continue to kill thousands by other means, you need not worry about prosecution for war crimes. The complete lack of seriousness – geopolitical and moral — is quite striking:
The United States and other strong advocates acknowledged a lack of specific enforcement tools in the resolution, which instructs U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to report back on compliance within 30 days. But U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and others noted that the threat of “further steps” is far stronger than language in previous, vetoed measures and said it commits the council to take action.
What happened to Power’s doctrine that the United States should use force to stop mass human rights atrocities? You need more than words, she acknowledges but actions now can be just words. No, really: “‘A resolution is just words. It is implementation that matters, and that’s what we are starting to measure right now.’ Language committing the council to further actions, she said, is a ‘significant hook, a significant commitment by the parties on the Security Council.’” You wonder if even she can believe such double talk.
And in calling for further political negotiations, this following the failed Geneva talks, the Obama administration itself signals that it has lost touch with reality. Reality, of course, does not include the fantasy that a decade of war is “ending.” It does not permit the United States to shrug its shoulders and declare it merely wants to “nation build at home.” And reality means that when you dawdle for three years, do not take swift and forceful action to back nonjihadi rebels and do not exact a price for use of WMD’s, the country will descend into chaos, sending a stream of refugees pouring into surrounding countries.
Even more troubling than the lack of a Syria policy that could pass the laugh test is the impression this certainly makes with the mullahs in Tehran. They by now consider the United States to be gullible and all too eager to make a deal that will mask Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. Seeing the Syrian sideshow must convince Iranian negotiators that any fig leaf will do for the United States to end remaining sanctions.
Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams this week warned that we should be wary of just such a deal with Tehran. In a press call he explained, “My biggest worry is that the administration is desperately committed to the appearance of a foreign policy success and that they will therefore agree to a deal and claim that it’s a great deal, but it will not actually do much to retrain and limit the Iranian program.” If that wasn’t obvious before, surely our farcical approach to Syria would leave little doubt that the United States is unwilling to back up what it says with hard power. We seem to be systematically undercutting what credibility we have, first with the interim deal and now with our feckless approach to Syria. Abrams worries, “The more immediate problem is, there’s very strong Iranian rhetoric now suggesting that any terms like those that, for example, [Iran experts] seem to me to be talking about would be acceptable to Iran, and Iran may think that it is seeing a weakened P5-plus-1 unity, it is seeing a weakened American determination to maintain the sanctions, in which case we’re in for, at the very least, an extremely tough negotiation and, at worse, no deal.”
So there you have it. “Smart diplomacy” detached from a willingness to use U.S. power (economic and military) serves as a green light for rogue regimes to continue their bad behavior. To the extent there are any “moderates” in Iran (I personally think the notion is absurd, but let’s assume so for purposes of discussion), then our weakness only undercuts them and enhances the stature of so-called hard-liners. (“I think that you need to show that bad behavior on the part of the Iranians will hurt Iran. I don’t think that, for example, weakening our position so that we give gifts to the so-called moderate [President Hassan] Rouhani or the so-called moderate [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif, who just visited the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh. I don’t think that’s the way to do it. I think the way to do it is to show that we have a united front at least of the E.U.-3 plus the United States and that Iranian refusal to compromise will be punished by very heavy additional sanctions.”)
All of this suggests the administration, having lost its credibility, will find it difficult to get it back, which in turn will make the situations in Syria and Iran worse. It should also serve as a reminder to opponents on the right and left of a muscular foreign policy that refusal to confront real dangers when they are manageable results in fewer options and greater threats to U.S. security down the road. This is no way for a super power to behave.
A flyer for a Feb. 28-March 2 anti-Israel event at NYU titled “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel, and Palestine,” hosted by the American Studies Association’s president-elect. Photo: Facebook.
JNS.org – The American Studies Program at New York University (NYU), with the support of American Studies Association (ASA) President-Elect Professor Lisa Duggan, is set to hold a two-day anti-Israel conference.
The Feb. 28-March 1 event, titled “Circuits of Influence: U.S., Israel, and Palestine,” comes “following an unprecedented wave of public dialogue in response to the American Studies Association’s recent endorsement of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” according to an event flyer.
The ASA voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions last December. Since then, about 200 universities have condemned the move.
The flyer says the conference seeks to address the “convergence between international justice movements and emerging scholarly directions within the increasingly transnational field of American Studies.”
Duggan, who teaches in NYU’s department of social and cultural analysis, in a Facebook post describes the event as a “kick ass” conference that will feature speakers solely from the anti-Israel perspective, such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. The event registration page directs all questions on the conference to NYU.
Additionally, Duggan wrote on her Facebook, “PLEASE DO NOT post or circulate the flyer. We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention. Feel free to share it with friends, colleagues and grad students though.”
Truly impressive how she promotes open discourse with statements like “PLEASE DO NOT post or circulate the flyer. We are trying to avoid press, protestors and public attention. Feel free to share it with friends, colleagues and grad students though.” Useful idiots all.
This is the kind of person we have teaching our children? When is she planning to grow up?
But the reasoned approach and solution to the entire problem makes sense. And that the anti-Jewish stance of the neighbours too, would vanish, as would their one-sided attitude toward the exclusion of the displaced, self-exiled Arabs from into inclusion into their society! Imagine, Palestinian Arabs actually being in a position to sustain themselves instead of being held in camps, often prisoners of their own self-serving leaders.
Bulldozers are set to demolish a building in Mecca situated right above the site believed by scholars to be the birthplace of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
The Saudi Binladin Group, which is charged with redeveloping the historical area, plans to raze a small library on the site in order to build a modern complex which would include a presidential palace and imam’s residence.
The demolition would take place just steps away from Mecca’s Masjid al-Haram, or Grand Mosque, which surrounds the Ka’aba, one of Islam’s holiest sites.
The project, whose details were published by The Independent Friday, will bring about yet more changes to the landscape of a holy city which has seen massive redevelopment, damaging ancient and sacred structures.
The cost of this latest redevelopment project, which has yet to be approved, was estimated by The Independent at billions of dollars.
“The last remaining historical site in the kingdom is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, probably the most important site to the Muslim and Shia community around the world,” The Independent quoted Irfan al-Alawi, a historian and executive director of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, as saying.
“Most people are not even aware there are plans now to destroy it.”
The Saudi royal family has welcomed redevelopment projects in the holy city, even at the cost of destroying relics considered to be holy by pilgrims. The Saudi regime believes the relics encourage idol worship.
WE POST THIS FOR THE SAKE OF IMAD BORNAT AND THOSE THAT GATHERED IN HATRED AT THE UN FEBRUARY 19th IN AN EFFORT TO CELEBRATE THE HATRED COMMODITY BEING MARKETED WITH THE HELP OF THE UN INSTITUTION. SEE – EVEN MJ ROSENBERG THINKS YOU ARE A BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES – THE RATIONAL THING TO DO IS TO DEAL WITH THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL RATHER THEN HELP ENLARGE ON THE HATRED OF JEWS. SEE OUR POSTING ON COMMODITIES THAT LEADS TO THE REALIZATION OF THIS HATE COMMODITY. FOR ME IT ALL HAPPENED IN ONE DAY. (Pincas Jawetz, editor SustainabiliTank)
The Arrogance of Americans Boycotting Israel.This will be a short one as I only choose to make one point. I make it as someone who absolutely supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) as applied to the West Bank. Even if I deeply desired a seltzer machine, I would not buy the one manufactured in occupied territory.
However, I do not support boycotting Israel itself because, although I have no problem at all about applying collective economic punishment on settlers and the loathsome settlement enterprise, I do not feel that way about Israelis in general. I am not anti-Zionist. I am, for lack of a better term, a liberal Zionist. I want the Jewish state to survive and prosper which is impossible so long as it maintains its colonial and oppressive regime in the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza.
But all that is beside the one point I need to make today.
Where do Americans come by the sheer gall of demanding sanctions on all Israelis when they themselves have never been subjected to sanctions for the crimes of our government? After all, if every Israeli including old socialist kibbutzniks, school kids, and opponents of the occupation, deserve to pay a personal price for an occupation they may not support, shouldn’t all Americans pay a price for American crimes that Israel could not match in a hundred years?
Start with the Iraq war, a war engineered by American politicians and their neocon cheerleaders that killed (in addition to almost 5,000 Americans) at least 500,000 Iraqis. Then there is Afghanistan which, thanks to our glorious efforts (read Charlie Wilson’s War) fell to the mujaheddin and ultimately the Taliban and which is now a killing field where American drones kill whoever we suspect is allied with the crazed religious extremists we helped install there. And, of course, there was Vietnam. where the U.S. was responsible for millions of dead. And the coups we engineered in Iran, Chile and Guatemala and the death squads we supported in El Salvador. There was the Nixon administration’s enthusiastic support for the Pakistani slaughter of hundreds of thousands in, what is now, Bangla Desh.
I could go on and on. But I won’t because you get the point.
And the point is this: who are we to support punishing all Israelis for the crimes of their government when we ourselves are equally complicit in the crimes of ours?
Nonetheless, I do not believe that all Americans should be punished for those crimes although I would love to see the perpetrators in the dock. Just not the ordinary people I know who had nothing to do with any of this.
In short, Americans who get so self-righteous about Israel should look in the mirror. Or move to Denmark or any of those other countries whose crimes do not dwarf anything Israel has ever done.
Physician, heal thyself.
And, Israel, end the damn occupation because, whether I like it or not, the boycott movement against Israel itself is getting stronger every day. What kind of lunacy would jeopardize Tel Aviv to preserve the right of a bunch of lunatics to live in Hebron?
The Women’s International Forum is pleased to present
”The UN Role in the Chemical Weapons Issue in Syria:
An Insider’s Perspective”
Ms. Angela Kane
UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
Date: Thursday, February 20th 2014
Time: 1.15 pm – 2.30 pm
Venue: UNHQ Room 3 CB – ENTRANCE AT 47th STREET GATE
Ms. Angela Kane of Germany assumed the position of High Representative for Disarmament Affairs in March 2012. She provides the Secretary-General with advice and support on all arms control, non-proliferation and related security matters and is responsible for the activities of the Office for Disarmament Affairs.
Ms. Kane has had a long and distinguished career in the United Nations. In addition to substantive assignments in political affairs, peacekeeping and disarmament, she has held various managerial functions, including with financial and policy-setting responsibility. She served as Under-Secretary-General for Management from 2008 – 2012.
From 2005 to 2008, Ms. Kane served as Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, a core function related to the prevention and resolution of conflicts. Her geographic responsibilities included all regions except Africa. Her field experience includes Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), a special assignment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and postings in Indonesia and Thailand.
Ms. Kane also held the positions of Director in the Department of Political Affairs and Director in the Department of Public Information. She served as Principal Political Officer with former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and worked with the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for the Central American Peace Process. Ms. Kane worked on disarmament issues for several years and was responsible for the activities of the World Disarmament Campaign.
8 January 2014 – In March 2012, Angela Kane of Germany was chosen by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, heading the office that promotes nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and supports disarmament regimes involving other weapons of mass destruction. It also promotes disarmament efforts in the area of conventional weapons, particularly small arms which are the weapons of choice in contemporary conflicts. - See more
8 January 2014 – In March 2012, Angela Kane of Germany was chosen by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, heading the office that promotes nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and supports disarmament regimes involving other weapons of mass destruction. It also promotes disarmament efforts in the area of conventional weapons, particularly small arms which are the weapons of choice in contemporary conflicts. – See more at:
UN News Centre: Ms. Kane, 2013 seems to have been a very active year in the field of disarmament. What would you identify as some of the most important accomplishments?
Angela Kane: I think 2013 was a very memorable year for disarmament. First of all in April, we saw the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty and this had been some six, seven or eight years if not longer in the making and we had a conference which did not reach agreement. At year’s end we have 115 countries that have already signed it, and 9 ratifications. That is a really fantastic achievement. We only need 50 ratifications for the treaty to come into effect, and we expect that if it doesn’t happen by the end of 2014 it will certainly happen in 2015.
UN News Centre: Ms. Kane, 2013 seems to have been a very active year in the field of disarmament. What would you identify as some of the most important accomplishments?
Angela Kane: I think 2013 was a very memorable year for disarmament. First of all in April, we saw the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty and this had been some six, seven or eight years if not longer in the making and we had a conference which did not reach agreement. At year’s end we have 115 countries that have already signed it, and 9 ratifications. That is a really fantastic achievement. We only need 50 ratifications for the treaty to come into effect, and we expect that if it doesn’t happen by the end of 2014 it will certainly happen in 2015.
Another historic development was over the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Syrian Government had come to the Secretary-General to ask for an investigation of an incident that took place Khan al-Assal near Aleppo. The Secretary-General accepted that request. He received similar requests from other Member States and this was an effort that resulted in the finding, by an investigation team, that chemical weapons had in fact been used on a large scale in the suburb of Damascus called Ghouta and several other smaller incidents as well. And it also resulted in Syria acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention and ridding itself of the chemical weapons it had at its disposal.
– See more at:
Please join the Foreign Policy Association for a lecture on the chemical weapons in Syria with Ms. Angela Kane. Angela Kane has served as the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs since March 2012. She provides the Secretary-General with advice and support on all arms control, non-proliferation and related security matters and is responsible for the activities of the Office for Disarmament Affairs. The event is part of the James McDonald Lecture on Humanitarian Intervention.
DATE: Thursday, December 5, 2013
TIME: 5:30 PM- 8:00 PM
LOCATION: Hearst Tower, New York City
Then from the “Stake Out” in front of the UN Security Council doors – by the UK Ambassador to the UN:
Q: Actually it seems that the P3, I mean the P3 you left the stakeout for Churkin to say whatever he wanted to say and no one showed up just to give a different version of the story so why did you give him this opportunity to accuse the opposition of using chemical weapons and the second time actually he talked about (indistinct) so are you avoiding talking about this?
A: Not at all. I’m talking about it now, but I am very happy to leave it to the good sense of journalists when the Flat Earth Society comes out with its arguments. I don’t think any one takes those arguments seriously. There were elements of the Iranian regime itself that admitted that the Syrian regime carried out the 21st August attack. I think it is only the Russian Federation and the Syrian regime itself that it is still arguing publicly that the Opposition is responsible in some sort of act of provocation. It’s fantasy, frankly, and rewriting of history by the Russian Federation.
Q: Is the Security Council going to call for a further Mission to look into who is responsible, because Angela Kane and Ake Sellsrom had mentioned that obviously that was not in their mandate and obviously the UN would have to take further steps to look into that. Did the Security Council talk about that?
A: I don’t think so, but a couple of Security Council Members including myself did say that we need to look at the UN mechanism, because at the time of the Iraq war, the report by the UN did make attribution on the chemical weapon use. It was as a result of that, that the mechanism changed and the mandate narrowed so that in future investigations they would not draw conclusions on culpability. We think that that is wrong and where there is evidence of culpability than a UN investigation should make that conclusion clear, but that will require a change in the mechanism and I, and a number of other Council Members, made that point and that is something that we will be taking forward with the Secretariat.
The event is behind us and we found it very instructive – also extremely important was that Ms. Kane reminded us that some 130,000 people were killed in Syria with conventional weapons and bombs – all this while the UN is tied up with niceties about government sovereignty? No mention whatsoever about THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT. Could the UN follow at least its own decisions?
David Lee, CEO of Shakr Media spoke at The Korea Society on Korea and Startups.
David Lee is the founder & CEO of Shakr Media, the Seoul & SF-based startup that makes great video accessible to everyone. David has built an international development team in Seoul, while raising $2.75M in venture capital from both Korean & U.S. investors including NHN Investment and 500 Startups.
Under David’s leadership, Shakr has appeared as a presenter at Techcrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield in Beijing, and has earned top honors at beLAUNCH 2013 in Seoul and beGLOBAL 2013 in Palo Alto.
Attention to South Korea becoming the next Global Hub for Tech Startups comes from Alan McGlade of Forbes Magazine:“American business has long led the way in high tech density or the proportion of businesses that engage in activities such as Internet software and services, hardware and semiconductors. The US is fertile ground for tech start-ups with access to capital and a culture that celebrates risk taking. Other countries have made their mark on the world stage, competing to be prominent tech and innovation hubs. Israel has been lauded as a start-up nation with several hundred companies getting funded by venture capital each year. A number of these companies are now being acquired by the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google. Finland and Sweden have attracted notice by bringing us Angry Birds and Spotify among others. But a new start-up powerhouse is on the horizon – South Korea.”
Bloomberg News recently published the Bloomberg Global Innovation Index and ranked South Korea first among all nations by comparing a group of indicators such as research & development capability, productivity, tech density and patent activity. South Korea’s ranking is not a surprise. In recent decades, South Korea has transformed into an economic heavyweight, having systematically applied substantial resources to research and development. As a result, South Korea has become the world leader in patent activity, and information and communication technology. The country has the highest broadband penetration in the world at 97 percent and is a leader in broadband speed with an average peak connection of close to 50 megabits per second.
Increasingly young technologists are fueling a fledgling start-up scene that is led by mobile game developers and social media innovators. This is complemented by entrepreneurs returning from overseas with an eye on conquering the globe. These entrepreneurs are coming back with a sense of how to take on the US market, a greater willingness to assume risk, and an interest in building things that aren’t just made for Korea. This has attracted the notice of American technology companies. Google has taken an active role in nurturing South Korean companies, introducing their favorites in the US to help them build a global profile. A company called Sparklabs was formed a little over a year ago with offices in Seoul and San Francisco to incubate Korean start-ups.
It is logical for South Korea to follow this path. The country is smaller than the state of New York, is not rich in oil or other natural resources, and has limited agriculture and manufacturing capacity. Korean’s must promote technology and innovation to be competitive as a nation since it is not enough to just contend on cost or scale. While the South Korean Chaebols, or large family-controlled corporate groups, focus on exporting and manufacturing, there is a clear recognition that South Korea needs to have a more diverse economy. Thus, the tides are shifting towards supporting smaller businesses and promoting entrepreneurship.
Many of the fundamentals are already in place. Just as Samsung transformed the consumer electronics business, Korean start-ups are poised to have an explosive impact on digital media and services.
To me the most interesting thing I heard from Mr. David Lee was his description of the recent evolution of the Korean psyche – it is really based on the fact that the country developed so much in the last 20 years and the fact that the young people have taken ownership of this success. He said that “they feel they own the story and are proud of it” and that this is the secret of their success. This success is here – in he Palo Alto and New York City High Tech region and in the fact that many of these young people go now back to Korea and are ready to be creative at home.
Sounded interesting – and led me to decide the following day to go and have lunch – under the New York Restaurant Week plan – at the newest high-quality Korean Restaurant in town – the Kristabelli (near Fifth Avenue at 8 W. 36th Street). As expected – the place filled up with young Koreans.
The lower cost these two weeks was seemingly what brought in this clientele. They came not just because it was an eatery – but seemingly to enjoy their time there. It is al these little dishes and close attention to the food that stretched out my lunch for nearly two hours. The three course meal ($25)
Gujeolplan (an Emperor’s Assortment of nine different thinly sliced sauteed vegetables and beef served with blini stile small crepes, a rib eye cut small barbeque with lots of additives and some blini in a vinaigrette liquid, and a terrific ice cream bread pudding for desert – and paired with three containers of Korean wines ($15) – a rice wine infused with sweet potato vodka, a black raspberry wine and a plum flower wine. Quite interesting when one thinks that 20 years ago Korean immigrants in New York were known only as vegetable marketeers and for finger-nail cosmetic stores.
Thinking of our website and the fact that from start I had Korea as one of the promising Nations on my homepage – I feel totally justified. Further, obviously, helped by the US originally, now I think that further advancement by Korea calls for a more independent policy by South Korea. It is obvious that all powers – China, Japan, India, the US, Russia – have no interest in the reunification of Korea – but the Koreans themselves ought to keep Germany in mind and learn from the German experience that through re-unification they have a chance to grow. This is simply a question of an internal market that makes them independent of the vagaries of a global market. Forget any kind of revenge – just work hard to supply the unending needs of a backward North Korea like Germany did for East Germany. This will then bring Korea into the front line of the emerged powers and the real competitor with China in its region.
Further – looking up the maps – North Korea borders Manchuria of China – the Jilin and Liaoning Provinces and there is an Autonomous Prefecture for Koreans at the border – Yanbian – in the Jilin Province. The kind of place that might someday lead to conflict. Also, the islands in the Yellow Sea (Korea Bay and Bohai Sea) were divided amicably between North Korea and China in 1962 as per the ethnicity of the inhabitants. This again may eventually be disputed.