United Nations Security Council chamber 311.
(photo credit: Patrick Gruban/WikiCommons)
At the Organization of American States’ June assembly in El Salvador, we were
told that “every tiny island state in the UN has a vote the size of China.” We
had raised Jewish diaspora concerns regarding the September Palestine status
vote, and, in turn, were invited to visit with government chiefs and foreign
ministers in their respective capitals.
The 15 members of the Caribbean
Community (CARICOM) and the eight members of the System for Integration of
Central America (SICA) are micro-blocs within the 33-state Group of Latin
America and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), which holds 17 percent of UN votes and
two seats on the United Nations Security Council.
That region was vital
for the 1947 resolution on Jewish sovereignty.
To contain attempts to
reverse history, the Wiesenthal Centre has just completed a tour of ten
countries (6 CARICOM and 4 SICA). Our mission aimed to create a core of support
in New York at the forthcoming General Assembly by commending and reinforcing
the political will of those countries sharing Israel’s interests, and providing
arguments for reconsideration among those who support Palestinian unilateral
independence, yet oppose the inclusion of final status issues (e.g. borders) in
As to those determined to see such a resolution pass, in
whatever form, we apprised them of the possible negative repercussions of their
vote, repercussions for which they may be held responsible. As the Wiesenthal
Center’s over 400,000 members speak for a large percentage of world Jewry, we
stressed the probability of a renewed outbreak of global anti-Semitic violence
consequent to a vote that would galvanize radicals in the region and their
cheerleaders in the diaspora.
We claimed that endowment of virtual
Palestinian sovereignty, subject to a Hamas takeover, would be a prize to
terrorism and intimidation thereby threatening world peace. We also argued that
a non-negotiated, one-sided, back-door recognition of Palestine as a “UN
non-member state” – even though it does not maintain effective government in all
its territory – sets a legal precedent, creating a snowball effect for other
regional conflicts where non-state entities assert sovereignty e.g. the Kurds,
ETA in Spain, Chechnya, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the Sahara
Republic and the status of Taiwan and Belize.
Indeed, Belize, considered
both Caribbean and Central American, is a case in point. A Guatemalan spokesman
stated: “Britain imposed the Belize border on us. We cannot allow the UN to
impose a border on Israel.” A Belizean response was to show us their map upside
down, thereby emphasizing the resemblance of their non-negotiated frontiers and –
despite a huge difference of scale – that “both peoples have their backs to the
sea.” Regional policies toward Israel are a function of political, commercial or
ideological affinities with Chavez’ Venezuela. Growing Muslim and diminishing
Jewish communities factors in, as does the appearance of Jihadist support
Guyana and Surinam were the first in CARICOM to recognize
Palestine. While former British Guyana’s population is heavily Pakistani,
formerly Dutch Surinam has large Malay/Indonesian communities.
the desire for regional bloc consensus and aspirations for appointment to
prestigious seats on UN commissions set the vote trading rules.
crossed paths in the Dominican Republic with veteran Qatari Ambassador – now
president-designate of the UN General Assembly – who is both lobbying for the
Palestine unilateral declaration of independence and will be its
He unabashedly told us that his next stop was the EU Foreign
Ministers’ meeting in Poland to address this issue.
We shared with our
hosts published details of Iran’s Shahab 3 missile installation, in construction
on the Venezuela Caribbean coast. With a range of 2,000 kilometers, their
realization that they were in the direct line of fire sparked refreshing
comments. A Dominican official: “Chavez is a troublemaker... Israel cannot lose
a single battle... This vote has no place in international organizations...”; a
Trinidad observation: “Syrian radical groups are present.here... Any recognition
of Palestine must be linked to Palestinian recognition of the Jewish State of
Israel”; a Guatemalan columnist: “Not voicing our position on the vote is in
itself a pro- Israel statement”; a Belizean media analyst: “Some elements in
Belize are claiming that Israel supports Guatemala, but Israel is in a similar
position to ours, fighting for survival”; a Mexican spokesman: “This Palestinian
move follows the expectations created by President Obama’s over-optimistic
declarations on welcoming a Palestinian state into the UN in 2011. In turn, the
Palestinians have promised not to embarrass Obama by forcing a veto in the
Security Council, but the Palestinians love surprises.”
The bottom line
came from a high official of one of the smallest islands: “Recognition of the
Jewish state was already made by the international community in 1947, and is a
fact. There can be no rollback! ... We will not support a biased resolution or
one that blocks a relaunching of the peace process ... Having said that, is this
vote going to help or is it going to be an obstacle to ending the conflict?” The
bargaining in New York is about to begin. Central America/ Caribbean microbloc
politics are a template for the entire UN General Assembly.
the Jewish perspective, we have identified some friendly voices. If they are
silenced or suborned at the Palestine vote or the related “Durban III” travesty
in New York, the UN will be exposed, once more, as an instrument to scapegoat
Israel and to erode Jewish sovereignty.
At each stop on our tour, we
repeated Simon Wiesenthal’s dictum: “What begins with the Jews never ends with
them.” So it was with Nazism, and so it is with jihadist terrorism.
Palestine vote will likewise be a signpost for caution and danger in disputes
and conflicts throughout the international system.Shimon Samuels is
Director for International Relations and Sergio Widder Latin America Director of
the Simon Wiesenthal Center.