Grapevine: The Voice of Israel

Abba Eban's speeches are now available on disc.

abba eban 88 (photo credit: )
abba eban 88
(photo credit: )
HISTORY BUFFS who want to relive the past can now hear the great speeches of Abba Eban, from the 1948 War of Independence to his dramatic address to the United Nations on the second day of the Six Day War in 1967, on disc. Introduced by Walter Cronkite, the speeches, by one of Israel's most eloquent spokesmen come, in a set of four CDs. Much of what Eban said in the first two decades of the state still has relevance today. The major funding for the project that will serve to remind current and future generations of a time when Israel as a sovereign state could not be taken for granted, along with what it owes to Abba Eban's persuasiveness, was provided by Abigail and Leslie Wexner and the Wexner Foundation, as well as the Jewish Media Fund of the Charles Revason Foundation. The latter was responsible for the production. Eban's widow, Suzy Eban is particularly grateful for the care that was taken in recovering the original recordings of the speeches, and the judicious use of modern technology to ensure that the sound and overall presentation are of the highest quality. She is also grateful for the participation of Cronkite, who aside from being an old friend, was a witness to the events described in Abba Eban's speeches. In his introduction, Cronkite refers to Eban as "the incomparable voice of the State of Israel" and notes that by force of intellect and language, Eban became one of the most admired statesmen on the world stage. Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who is a close friend of the Eban family, was delighted to receive the CDs from the Revson Foundation and in a note to Suzy Eban wrote: "The lucidity of his thinking, the poetry of his words and that magnificent voice have never failed to thrill and inspire me. He was both mentor and friend, and he is often in my thoughts in these troubling days in the Mideast. I will treasure these recordings." Abba Eban, who went to America in 1947 as liaison officer of the Jewish Agency with the UN Special Committee on Palestine and as a member of the Jewish Agency delegation to the UN General Assembly, was subsequently Israel's first ambassador to the United Nations, but had to wait a relatively long time to have the sign where he was sitting changed from "Jewish Agency" to "Israel." Concurrent with his role as Israel's permanent representative at the UN, Eban served as Israel's ambassador in Washington. In 1952, he became vice president of the UN General Assembly, and from 1958 to 1966 was president of the Weizmann Institute of Science, which was a fitting tribute to Israel's founding president, Chaim Weizmann, with whom Eban had worked closely in London, the US and Israel. In 1955, Eban was appointed foreign minister and remained in that position until 1974. From 1984 - 1988, he chaired the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. But even out of office, Eban never stopped being the defender of Israel in the public arena. In November this year, when Israel and Jews around the world will mark the 90th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and the 60th anniversary of the UN resolution on the partition of Palestine, they will also remember the fifth anniversary of the passing of Abba Eban. "IRAQ AS a state may not exist in five years," Prof. Asher Susser, director and senior research fellow of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, told an Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association gathering at the residence of British Ambassador Tom Phillips last Thursday. "It is out of date to speak of the Middle East as the Arab world" because the Arab states no longer determine the regional agenda Susser continued. "Syria is a shadow of itself and has been in decline since the collapse of the Soviet Union." Saudi Arabia, he said, is a wealthy country, "but only half as wealthy as Israel." Susser explained this seeming anomaly by saying that Israel's GDP per capita is $20,000 whereas that of Saudi Arabia is $12,000. In 1980, the situation was reversed with Israel's GDP standing at around $7,000 and that of Saudi Arabia in excess of $20,000. Susser cited this turnaround as one of many changes that have taken place and are taking place in the region. Iran, Turkey and Israel, in addition to outside players, today set the regional agenda, he said, observing that in the past Egypt was the center of everything and Iran was the periphery. "Now Iran is the center and Egypt is the periphery," he said. "We cannot talk about the Middle East for five minutes without mentioning Iran." The war that Israel fought last year in Lebanon said Susser, was the first war against Iran, via Hizbullah. Prior to Susser's address, Ambassador Phillips reiterated Britain's official attitude with regard to the academic boycott against Israel. He's had reason to do that on several occasions lately, and earlier in the day the British Embassy released a statement to the effect that the UK government fully supports academic freedom and is firmly against any academic boycott of Israel or Israeli academics. At the close of the event IBCA chairperson Brenda Katten, noting that most IBCA members made aliya from the UK, asked Phillips to convey their warmest wishes to outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair before he steps down, and to tell him "how much we value his outstanding leadership and statesmanship and his understanding of the complex situation here." Phillips is one of a series of British ambassadors who have entertained IBCA and other organizations and institutions with British connections in the garden of the residence, where according to Katten, "we feel so much at home." CHIEF OF Protocol at the Foreign Ministry Itzhak Eldan was dismayed this week to read a report in Maariv claiming that Israeli diplomats are fed up with a protocol stipulating that when entertaining guests at restaurants abroad that they do so in kosher eateries. Some of the diplomats have complained that kosher restaurants, if they do exist in the cities in which they are serving, are sub-standard and are calling for a relaxation of the rules. Eldan, who soon after coming into office introduced another rule, namely that staff from the Protocol office do not go to the airport to greet a foreign dignitary who arrives on Shabbat or on a Jewish holiday, says that what people do in their private lives is their own business, but when they are representing the state, they must publicly uphold Jewish values. One of his favorite mantras is that "a nation that doesn't respect itself can't expect to be respected by others." Thus anyone acting on behalf of the nation and the Jewish people should not be doing anything that denigrates national and Jewish traditions. Quite a lot of non-Jews are at least superficially familiar with Jewish dietary laws, and when they see a representative of the state violating them, they must surely wonder what else is being violated. n CROATION AMBASSADOR Ivan Del Vechio was chatting with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan when they were joined by two other people. Del Vechio turned to the newcomers to the conversation and enthused about the Turkish coffee he receives at Tan's residence. "It's better than anything you'll ever get in any restaurant," he said. When asked whether he makes it himself, Tan acknowledged that there are occasions on which he's the coffee maker. Whereupon one of the other two people remarked that during a visit to Athens, he had unthinkingly asked for Turkish coffee - and had actually received it. "In some places they give it to you, in others they don't," said a smiling Tan. At which point the fourth member of the group piped up and said: "There are places where it would have been even more embarrassing to ask for it." "Yes, Cyprus," responded the man who'd been in Athens. "No," was the rejoinder. "Armenia." The smile promptly disappeared from Tan's face as he turned away from the two intruders and resumed his conversation with his Croatian counterpart. There was no need to tell them they were excluded. It was painfully obvious. n IN CELEBRATION of the fact that Ghana was the first of the African states to enter into diplomatic relations with Israel 50 years ago, Ghana's Minister of Culture and Chieftaincy Samson K. Bofua came to Israel to participate in the 50th anniversary and Africa Day celebrations hosted by the Foreign Ministry. He came in traditional attire, which left Ghana's Ambassador Nana Owusu-Nsiah with no choice other than to emulate the minister as did other members of the delegation from Ghana, who all wore toga-like costumes. However, the following evening, when Owusu-Nsiah attended the Ethiopian national day celebrations, he looked decidedly different in a beautifully cut Italian-style suit. n NATIONAL DAY events are usually filled with mutual platitudes and indeed on Ethiopia's National Day, Ambassador Fesseha Asghedom and Culture Minister Ghaleb Majadle did exchange the usual reciprocities, but the ambassador could not refrain, after talking about the wonderful progress towards democracy and development that Ethiopia has made since the overthrow of the totalitarian regime, to talk about the tragedy of neighboring Somalia. "It isn't always easy," he said, "and there have been substantial impediments, not all of our making. One major stumbling block, I am sorry to say, has been the regime in Eritrea. A serious destabilizing force in our region for more than a decade, it is now engaged in clear violations of international law. It has been involved in organizing, training and arming terrorist groups against Ethiopia. Most recently, it attempted a campaign of bombing in Addis Ababa, was involved in the Afar hostage seizure and masterminded the massacre in Abule in the Somali regional state when 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese were slaughtered in cold blood. We believe the international community should add its voice to denounce the Eritrean government for its engagement in active terrorism at a time when the rest of the world is united in waging a war on terror." The story, with a few minor changes, sounded very familiar to the Israelis, who have been telling similar tales about the Palestinians for years. Needless to say, Eritrean Ambassador Tesfamariam Tekeste Debbas, who is dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, was not present to answer the charges. Majadle remarked that relations between Ethiopia and Israel extend back to the time when the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon. He noted that the large Ethiopian Jewish population of Israel serves as a human bridge between the two countries. Among those present were Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch Archbishop Matias and a large retinue of Ethiopian priests. ONE OF the happiest people in the diplomatic community right now is Moldovan Ambassador Larissa Miculet, whose son Eugene - a student at Clark University in the US - will spend a month in Israel studying Middle East politics in a summer course run by Tel Aviv University. Eugene Miculet is delighted to have the opportunity to be so close to the action and to also be able to spend time with his mother who was recently in the US to attend the Clark University commencement exercises. n AFTER FOUR years in Israel, Sweden's popular Hebrew-speaking ambassador, Robert Rydberg, and his wife, Hai, are returning home where he will take up a position in the office of his country's Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The Rydbergs will tonight host a reception at their residence both to bid farewell and to mark Sweden's National Day. They are due to go home in two weeks time, but the ambassador will return briefly in August to wind up unfinished business. He will also be happy to come back to Israel at any time in the future in order to attend receptions for Israeli Nobel Prize laureates, some of which he has hosted himself during his tour of duty. When a colleague asked him what use he will be able to make of his fluency in Hebrew, someone else suggested that Rydberg might have frequent meetings with Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Eviator Manor. Rydberg explained that there might be a problem there, because Manor who is on his second tour of duty in Sweden, having previously served as First Secretary from 1977-1982, speaks fluent Swedish. Either way, they'll have no problem understanding each other. Rydberg who from day one displayed a very pro-Israel stance, was sometimes at odds with the attitudes and policies of his government, but now there is a new government he says, which is interested in enhancing its relations with Israel. This was very evident, he said, in a meeting in Jerusalem on Monday between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, where the two got along extremely well. Sweden's Finance Minister Anders Borg, was also planning to come to Israel, said Rydberg, but since there was no Israeli finance minister in office to greet him, he had to defer his visit until such time as a new Israeli finance minister is appointed. MANY EMBASSIES, for reasons of cost and convenience have cut down on their invitation lists, much to the chagrin of those individuals who have been dropped from lists on which they thought they had a permanent place. The exception to the rule is the Italian Embassy, which appears to have adopted a philosophy of the more the merrier. Part of the reason that they can allow themselves this luxury is the enormous expanse of lawn at the back of the residence where National Day and other large scale events are held. It also helps that there is a wonderful balcony accessible by a staircase from the garden, which serves as a stage so that the ambassador can look out at his guests and address them from a certain height. Thus as always, there were literally hundreds of people mingling on the lawn at the reception hosted by Ambassador Sandro de Bernardin and his wife, Anna. Two of the highlights of the event were the screening of masterpieces of art lent by heads of 26 member countries of the EU plus Italy - for an exhibition in the Salone dei Corazzieri of the Quirinale Palace - and the bestowing of Italian honors on a number of people who in their respective fields have contributed to strengthening the relations between Italy and Israel. Ambassador de Bernardin spoke of his residence as "a small but significant piece of Italy in this country," and in relation to Italy's friendship with Israel, said that Italy has taken on additional responsibilities to help resolve the conflict between Israel and her neighbors, so that the hope for peace in the region can at last be realized. "Get real and ask for the impossible," he suggested, citing Europe as an example of an impossible dream come true. He looked forward to the day when an Israeli state and a Palestinian state could exist side by side in peace and security. Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev Boim pointed to the fact that high level visits by Italian dignitaries to Israel and Israeli dignitaries to Italy were indicative of the bonds of friendship between the two countries. He also expressed appreciation to Italy for sending troops to join the multi-national forces in Lebanon, thereby helping to maintain stability in the region and contributing to the fight against terrorism. Boim also expressed appreciation for Italy's support for Israel's legitimate right to live in peace and security. It would be nice however, if someone would teach him and other ministers as well as some members of the Foreign Ministry that when addressing or referring to the diplomatic corps, the "p" should not be pronounced. Diplomacy is not yet dead and therefore the body of the diplomatic community should most certainly not be pronounced to be the diplomatic corpse. OF THE many projects that David Azrieli has built in Israel in almost quarter of a century, the one that will be associated with him in perpetuity is the tri-tower Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv. The project, consisting of a circular tower, a triangular tower and square tower, was a major influence in the changing Tel Aviv skyline. The first two towers housing numerous shops, restaurants, offices and movie theaters have been operational for several years. The square tower, which will also include the newest Crowne Plaza Hotel, which is scheduled to open in November, was inaugurated last night as part of Azrieli's 85th birthday celebrations. Construction of the third tower was delayed due to a prolonged dispute with the Tel Aviv Municipality. Although this is the only Azrieli project that bears his name, it should be remembered, that Azrieli who is on a regular commute between Canada and Israel, pioneered covered shopping malls in this country. The first was the Ayalon Mall in Ramat Gan. Azrieli has since built several malls in different parts of the country and is completing one in Modi'in, which unlike his previous projects, will include residential space in addition to commercial and office space, so that people who rent the apartments will have shopping and entertainment facilities under the same roof, and may also make use of the services offered by some of the offices. Some of the residents may even find employment in the complex meaning that they will seldom be far from home. What Azrieli may not be remembered for but for which he certainly deserves credit is for adding a new word to the Hebrew language. After he completed his first mall, he tried to think of appropriate Hebrew terminology. Even though it was a covered market in comparison to the booths in open markets, he didn't want to call it a shuk. Since people obviously came there to buy, he looked for a word that was related to koneh, the Hebrew word for buyer, and coined the word, kanyon. According to Menachem Einan, the president of the Azrieli group, the word has become generic and is also used now in Cyprus and Turkey to refer to shopping malls. LONG ASSOCIATED with the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Ronald S. Lauder was last week the recipient of an honorary fellowship. Lauder, who is currently running for the presidency of the World Jewish Congress, provided the funding for the IDC's Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy. Lauder is a former diplomat who served as US ambassador to Austria, during which time he became increasingly aware of the large pockets of Jews in Eastern Europe who knew little or nothing of their heritage. This prompted him to found a network of schools and educational projects that have brought literally tens of thousands of Jews back to Judaism. Not all have become observant, but now they are familiar with their Jewish roots and are in a position to make informed choices. ISRAEL BROADCASTING Authority personnel, whose jobs may be on the line, put all cares to the wind on Friday, when they accepted an invitation issued by IBA spokesperson Linda Bar to attend a screening of the Hebrew version of the highly rated BBC series, Planet Earth, which is due to be shown on Channel One, providing that restrictive efficiency measures currently being considered are not undertaken. Benny Rozanski, who is in charge of the IBA's film division, was pleasantly surprised by the huge turnout that included children and spouses of IBA employees. In fact, there were so many people that there wasn't enough room in the auditorium of the Biblical Zoo and they had to have a second screening for those who could not be accommodated the first time around. Seen at the first showing was Nitzan Chen, who heads the Channel One news department. When he first saw the series, said Rozanski, he was under the impression that Israel had been excluded for the usual political reasons. But then as he perused the roller, he discovered a marvelous stag fight at Ein Gedi with the most dramatic locking of horns. This was one of the episodes that he decided to share with his colleagues last Friday. UP UNTIL recently, the photo of the May 1972 rescue operation on the Sabena plane hijacked by Black September on a flight from Vienna to Tel Aviv, showed Ehud Barak in the white overalls of an aircraft technician when he and an elite commando unit stormed the plane and killed two of the hijackers. Standing next to him in the photo was Danny Yatom, who was invariably omitted or blurred whenever the photo was published. Over the years Yatom, a former deputy chief of staff and later head of the Mossad, asked Barak why it was that everyone knew about Barak's heroism but not about Yatom's. To which Barak replied: "We're not allowed to publish your face or your name. No one is supposed to know who you are." Those days are long past, and Yatom, who at a press conference on Monday announced his support for Barak in the Labor Party leadership contest, displays the photograph in his office in the Knesset, and now makes sure that everyone knows who else was in the picture. POLITICAL ADVISER to the president of Israel Avi Granot is a career diplomat who is due to take up his post as ambassador to Finland some time in the summer. Granot was one of close to 30 diplomats who this week participated in a meeting with representatives of Israel's business community who want to broaden their export markets. At the meeting, he was asked when he's leaving Beit Hanassi. "When Colette moves in and decides who she wants as a political adviser," he replied. Does he really think she has a chance? As a former colleague of many years standing, he did not discount the possibility that Avital, who was a veteran, high-ranking diplomat before going into politics, might win the presidential race.