Wednesday, 18 January 2017 04:23:48 (AST)

National·Features

Israel wants improved relations with the Caribbean

Israel wants improved relations with the Caribbean

By Kenton X. Chance

JERUSALEM, Dec. 20, CMC — For many Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals, the word Israel is akin to thinking of “God’s chosen people” who have been prosecuted throughout the ages.

And while the Bible states in Psalm 135:4 “For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession”, present day Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, makes no such claim.

Only two per cent of Israel’s population are Christians, with Judaism (74.8%) being the dominant faith, followed by Islam (17.6%).

Many CARICOM countries still view Israel as the aggressor in the decades-old conflict with Palestine dating back to 1948. But Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesperson at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hoping that the 15-member CARICOM grouping would consider other information when arriving at their positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Speaking to a group of eight CARICOM journalists in Jerusalem last week, Nahshon noted that CARICOM has a tendency to vote en bloc and some of the countries have made clear their position on the Arab Israeli conflict.

Visits to Old Jerusalem is a popular pilgrimage among Christians from all over the world. (Photo: CMC/IWN)

“CARICOM together represents a political and diplomatic weight in world affairs. We see it at the United Nations, we see it in other organisations,” he told the journalists, who were brought to Israel on a tour sponsored and organised by Fuente Latina, a registered U.S. non-profit organisation that claims it is not affiliated to any government.

Fuente Latina says its objective is to educate Latino audiences about Israel and the Middle East by providing factual information and analysis for the Spanish language media.

The tour, which ran from Dec. 10 to 16, was the first that Fuente Latina had organised for journalists from CARICOM to visit Israel, which, along with Taiwan, are said to be the two countries to organised the most media tours to their jurisdictions.

Nahshon, who is also head of the press bureau at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that Israel was one of the first countries to help Haiti, a CARICOM member, following the earthquake of 2010, building a field hospital and sending police troops to assist.

In mid-November, Israel became the first country to earn the World Health Organization’s (WHO) highest ranking for its field hospital unit of the type it set up in Haiti.

But by the end of that same month, the United Nations would vote for adoption of six resolutions on Palestinian and Middle East issues, ranging from Jerusalem to the United Nations special information programme on the question of Palestine.

The eight CARICOM journalists visited a number of historical sites in Israel, including Nazareth. (CMC photo)

The conflict between Israel and Palestine, known commonly as the Arab Israeli conflict, began in the 1940s after the end of World War II and the end of the Holocaust, in which six million Jewish people were murdered.

Jews, who have clamoured for their own country, have long considered Palestine, their traditional home. This partitioning occurred when Britain withdrew from its mandate of Palestine and the United Nations proposed partitioning the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs.

But a series of wars between both sides since then has seen Israel controlling more land than it did in 1948 amidst accusations of heavy-handedness against the Palestinians, including blocking crucial supplies to the Gaza strip.

Israel, for its part, has said that Palestine refuses to accept its right to exist and that many of its actions are in its own security interest.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been among CARICOM countries to express at the United Nations strong objections to the action of Israel against Palestinians.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in September, where Palestine is a permanent observer, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, lambasted the “impotence of learned helplessness and the tyranny of fossilised inaction”, which he said has allowed for “the continued and manifestly unjust exclusion of many nations from the promise of an integrated world.

“The people of the State of Palestine are victims of this impotence, despite overwhelming recognition of Palestine and the obvious need for an independent, contiguous, internationally-supported state, living in peace alongside it’s Israeli neighbours,” said Gonsalves,

“With each passing day, and with each land-grab and illegal settlement by Israel, a two-state solution becomes ever more remote, and instability in the Middle East becomes all but guaranteed,” he added.

But Nahshon said that Jerusalem is not trying to create divisions with CARICOM — an economic and political union — but wants “to talk to the bloc, to talk to the countries, to make them change their minds.

“And we believe that by seeing reality, it will contribute to a change of mind,” he said in response to a question regarding what Israel wanted from CARICOM.

“There is a lot of ideology behind this, which is, frankly speaking, old-fashioned and yesterday’s news,” he said, mentioning specifically Cuba, and Venezuela.

In 2009, Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador in Caracas and seven embassy staff members to protest Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Caracas said then it had “decided to break off diplomatic relations with the state of Israel given the inhumane persecution of the Palestinian people”.

In 1973, Havana broke off diplomatic relations with Israel as then president, Fidel Castro, was running for president of the Non Aligned Movement.

But the Israeli spokesman said last week that the actions of Havana and Venezuela are “yesterday’s news”.

“Those guys don’t understand the way the world has been evolving and changing. They do not understand the challenges of tomorrow. They are still stuck in the challenges of yesteryear. They are still in the logic of cold war, which does not make sense anymore.”

An Israeli Defence Force spokesperson speaks with CARICOM journalist about 10 kilometres from Isreal’s border with Palestine. (Photo: CMC/IWN)

He said the conflict is “not about who is right or wrong”, but about “adopting to the new challenges, to the new issues which concern us all and in those new issues, there is no place for black and white”.

Nahshon said that in the era of the cold war, a country was either for one side or the other.

“We live in a world in which — you will pardon me for the reference — we live in 50 shades of grey. Nothing is black and nothing is white in politics, in diplomacy, in economy; globalisation is a phenomenon, you know, that we need to cope with and deal with and I think that having those clear cut ideas without knowing exactly what is it you are talking about is not necessarily a good idea.”

He said that Israel would love to receive high-raking visitors from the Caribbean, including prime ministers, important ministers, and parliamentarian, adding that the Middle Eastern country has been extending such invitation for a number of years.

“I think that it is extremely important,” he said, noting that Jerusalem has an ambassador to the Caribbean, based in New York, who moves between the island and “tries to have as much contact as possible”.

He, however, noted that no Caribbean country has an embassy in Israel, adding that the fact that CARICOM nations do not have representation in Israel “is an obstacle because it means that you will receive your contact second hand or the information second hand”.

Nahshon said that if a country has an ambassador in Rome who is also accredited to Jerusalem, Israel would not be the top priority.

“And that’s quite normal and we are missing a lot. And that’s why your visit is important because it is one more bridge that we are trying to bridge that we are trying to bridge,” he said, adding that he would like to see a visit of Israeli journalists to the Caribbean, saying this is “also extremely useful”.

“They associate the Caribbean with wonderful cruises and vacations. They have no idea that there is a whole wide world out there with economics and politics and culture and society with challenges, etc.”

Israeli soldiers and civilians walk through a market in Jerusalem. (Photo: CMC/IWN)

Nahshon is convinced that CARICOM leaders would be inclined to change their position on the Arab Israeli conflict if they visit Israel.

“I think that the more that decision makers from the Caribbean will be exposed directly to the reality here, they more they will have a clear picture of the situation. That’s what I am saying. I am saying come and visit… Come here, see the situation, talk to people and then it will give you a better understanding of what is happening here.

“Living far away and saying those guys are good and those guys are bad, it doesn’t make sense. You need to see for yourself what is the reality, how complex is this reality,” Nahshon said, appealing also to the religious beliefs of CARICOM nationals, saying that Israel is one of the few safe places for Christians in the Middle East.

“I think that if you are a Christian person and if your Christian beliefs are important to you, you also need to look at wider picture of the situation of Christians in the Middle East, which are being persecuted, which are an endangered and persecuted minority, whereas you see that in Israel the situation is totally different. So these are demonstrations of the fact that when you are far away, sometime you have a bit of stereotypes, they don’t always correspond to reality.”

He told reporters that he believes in reality, adding that “reality is always nuanced.

“I believe deeply that in this conflict with the Palestinians that the Israelis are right but it does not mean that I think that the Palestinians are wrong. I think that from a Palestinian point of view, they are certainly right. And I think this is the tragedy of this conflict.

“This is a conflict between two rights. We have the right to have our own country, here. And the Palestinians also have the same right. And this is why the only way to reach a peaceful agreement is by compromise.”

The one-week visit to Israel included tours to the Old City of Jerusalem, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and other places of historic importance. It also included a tour to a number of technological start-ups in Tel Aviv, dubbed the “Start Up City” and a stop at a site about 10 kilometres from the Israeli-Palestinian border.

Guyanese journalist Gordon Moseley, who was among the eight CARICOM journalist on the visit here, has described Israel as a beautiful country, saying Tel Aviv is “a shocker”.

“When you hear about Tel Aviv, it’s always some reporter reporting from a war zone. But now you have been able to experience Tel Aviv — really beautiful; Jerusalem, of course, with the rich history behind it, extremely nice place to be,” Moseley told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) adding that he still wanted “to hear the other side” as it relates to the political situation in the Middle East.

“I’ve heard this side. I would have to hear the other side to really have a final decision on how I see things here. But they have made their case,” he said, noting however that he was pleased to see that Arabs, Jews and Christians were living together in Israel.

“Everyone appears to be living as one, at least in Jerusalem and Old Jerusalem in the old city where we were. So that is a good thing,” he told CMC.

IWN Conversations

9 thoughts on “Israel wants improved relations with the Caribbean

  1. kalikcrick says:

    Who made the map for the current Israel and Palestine? Palestine was NEVER a country. why don’t any country in the area take them in? Why not go to Jordan where more than half of the population traces their roots to lands claimed by Israel..

    • Lostpet says:

      I do not know if you are just kidding or if you are being serious. The modern day Israel is an artificial creation. Palestine was a country, Check the pre- 1945 maps and you will even find coins with the word “Palestine”. Before 1945, Israel NEVER existed until the Balfour Declaration where England “sold” Palestine although it did not belong to them.

  2. JMK says:

    Sigh.

    This article should have come with a “sponsored post” disclaimer. You paint a glowing picture of Isreal without acknowledging the role that both the Israel state and Hamas play in dragging and escalating the current conflict.

    Moderate Israelis and the majority of Palestinians (and the majority of informed, rational thinkers worldwide) want a peaceable two-state solution, but any discourse on the matter is dominated by the Israeli state who wants a one-state solution where the area is completely Israeli controlled. Hamas and other Arab extremists want a one-state-solution that is fully Palestine and have instigated a lot of the conflict. But who is suffering here? The moderate Palestinians who have been displaced, and dying at such faster rates. They are caught in this conflict without even near to Israel’s military capabilities to fight back or defend themselves. This then empowers Hamas to recruit more young Arabs who are justifiably angry at the inequalities in this conflict. The history of conflict is so, so important but you glaze over it in this piece.

    It’s worrisome that as journalists (particularly the Guyanese you mentioned) you were surprised by Israel’s beauty and conditions. While others have the luxury of being uninformed or misinformed by Western-led media, it doesn’t take a lot of research to know that Israel is, for example, one of the world’s most innovative countries and has a technologically advanced economy. As an oil-producing state with significant US aid and support, they have the wherewithal to invest in dominating global leading perspectives on a two-state solution and in “changing hearts and minds” around the globe, through aid and sponsored visits.

    While our CARICOM nations notoriously sell out our ideals for votes globally, I am so happy that we have been a voice registering dissent on what is happening to the Palestinian people. It’s not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic to even honestly acknowledge the unevenness in this conflict and the genuine reasons for why it may not end until the Palestinians are completely displaced or are completely killed out.

    Finally, biblical birthright aka “God willed the land to the Israelis” is NOT an appropriate approach to international relations in this time. It is not a sane or diplomatic justification for displacing people who have lived on the land for generations. I don’t know what else to say… it’s really frustrating when that argument is used in Israel’s defense. If I need to explain why this is a problem then it’s pointless to do so.

    Hopefully, you will post this response. I’d like to encourage Vincentians reading the article to look for unbiased explanations of the Israeli-Palestine conflict and maps of how the Palestinian territory has shrunk since the 1940s. Haven’t they given up/ compromised enough?

    • Lostpet says:

      Hamas was created by Israel and it would not still exist except for the aggression Israel uses against the Palestinians.

  3. C. ben-David says:

    The Jews of the Old Testament and their contemporary descendants are almost unique — perhaps even literally unique — in having a written “title deed” given directly by God to the greatly reduced lands they are currently occupying in the state of Israel, being robbed of the rest from ancient times right up to the present day because of systematic anti-Semitism, a form of racism that our our own black people suffer from up to the present time.

    The boundaries of Greater Palestine are somewhat unclear (see http://www.jewish-history.com/palestine/boundaries.html); but what cannot be contested is that the people who today call themselves “Palestinians” are a spurious ethnic group composed of Moslem Arabs whose ethnic identity goes back less than 30-40 years and whose traditional identity was to their religion, tribe, clan, and lineage. Fifty years ago, none of these people self-identified as Palestinians.

    The term Palestine was a place name given to the region by the ancient Romans. It was never a local ethnic label. Nor is it in any way related to the biblical term “Philistine.”

    In short, the true and original Palestine were the Jews of the Roman colonial province with that name (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_name_%22Palestine%22).

    Don’t accept my word for any of this. Just do some reading of your own to discover the bogus nature of all the anti-Israel propaganda.

    If you do so, you will quickly find that the only “real” present-day Palestinians are the Jews of Israel which is why I-man have proudly adopted an Israeli pseudonym.

    • Lostpet says:

      You make a very good point that others always miss. The original Israel which was never a country only a district, although Palestine was a country, began where the ancient Palestine existed. And where the ancient Israel was supposed to exist (although no evidence has ever been found that it actually did exist as is claimed today) is where the modern day Palestinians recently lived, until Israel has now successfully taken most of it. Strange that no archeologist has ever found evidence that Israel ever existed. The Israelis of today mostly all come from Eastern Europe, Russia and “Turkish” lands and have gradually been immigrating to Palestine to fulfil the Zionist dream or Eretz Israel mainly conceived at the turn of the last century to bring the Khazars there to supplant the Arabs. Palestine was certainly a country but functioned more as a tribal union. They had coinage and a unity council that made laws that were enforced. Israel never had this until the artificial state was created in the 1940s

  4. skeckpalmer says:

    I am amazed how little the world has done, to save women and children, from the Israeli bombs falling on innocent people in Gaza. Today the figures are 800 Palestinians killed, close to 2000 in hospitals, and only 7 Israelis dead and half of that number was killed by Israel itself. This is no war: It a massacre and the world has not seen the end of this kind of behaviour.

    The Axis of Evil
    America can now add another name to the axis of evil nations. Israel has joined the group because of its recent attack on Gaza. Israel believes it can wipe out Hamas and silence a people fighting for their very life and survival. This will never happen, because the Palestinians are willing to give their life, using the suicide vehicle, to achieve their aims.
    The problem has to do with lands: Lands that Israel has stolen from the Palestinians. The world has been silent while Israel kept taking more of the Palestinians lands.

    Joe Biden
    Joseph Biden prediction that Obama will be tested in his early presidency was correct. The irony is that no US enemies are involved, just its friend – Israel.
    Israel has used Obama’s words about protecting his little girls to invade Gaza. It has used that pretext to invade Gaza for political reasons. The same pretext several former US presidents used to get re-elected for a second term. I hope Obama’s change include a move away from this farce. People’s political ambitions cannot give way to fair and democratic treatment for all people and nations on this planet.

    Hillary Clinton
    Obama’s problem is Hilary. She has her eyes on the presidency in 2016 and will try to keep the New York Israeli backers on her side. She would not reign-in Israel aggression towards it poor neighbours. Justice in the US and around the world takes second place to democracy, accountability, and partiality. This has caused leaders like Ben Laden to step forward and seek justice by any means necessary. He is no different from the leaders of Israel who killed Palestinians children to satisfy their greed for more Palestinians lands. Until the world become a fairer place for all people and nations to co-exist: there will be no peace. As a matter of fact Israel has just created another set of suicide bombers with its invasion of Gaza. The children who live through this terrible episode will grow up with revenge on their minds. I may not live to see it, but there will be a blood bath in the Middle East before long.

    Nuclear Iran
    Iran will be a nuclear power in the Middle East. Israel latest killing spree has given Iran the green light to defend itself. How can the world ask Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions? There is no way the world can ask Iran to do that now – and why should they? There must be a strong nation to counter-balance Israel’s aggression towards it weak neighbours.
    The poor excuses used by the US and other countries to deter Iran from its nuclear ambition have lost its steam. Pakistan and India are enemies with nuclear power and yet they avoid starting a war, no matter what disturbances are created on their borders. The world has seen what Israel can do to a poor country and there has to be a deterrent to stop their aggressions.

    Barak Obama
    Israel realizes that Barak Obama may look at the Israel/Palestinian conflict in a different light. He knows the suffering the Palestinians have endured for over fifty years. He cannot shut his eyes to the suffering caused by Israel’s aggressive and dishonest behaviour. The world looks to Obama to create a peaceful world during his presidency. He has a reputation as a peace maker. Israel has drawn a line in the sand for Obama. His job is to draw another line and stick with it.
    If he plays his cards straight and pressure Israel to release the lands it has stolen, then there can be a few years of peace. There will never be full peace, because Israel will never give up all the lands it has stolen, and the Palestinians will keep fighting to the last man to regain its stolen lands.
    Who win?
    It may take several generations before Israel is driven completely out of Palestine, but it’s inevitable. America will lose it hold as the most powerful nation, and China will step in to help the Palestinians. Israeli will find itself on the receiving end when the tide changes. They would be wiped out, because most of the Arab nations would have achieved nuclear technology. This would change the equation and the balance of power will shift into the hands of Israel’s enemies.

  5. skeckpalmer says:

    Now it’s all coming together and I was dead on when I wrote my piece on the previous blog. Every point I made on the previous blog is listed on the above document. This proves I was right when I stated that Israel was trying to buy CARICOM vote and support in the UN. This article proves beyond a doubt that Israel is trying to cover it evil deeds by inviting journalists from CARICOM countries.
    I don’t often agree with Ralph, but this time I have to take my hat off to him for standing-up to Israel and its behaviour against the People of Palestine. A closer look at this guy’s bigoted and obnoxious ranting shows he cares nothing about the Palestinians. That’s why Obama never supported Israel desire to totally get rid of Iran nuclear program. Some nation has to be able to keep Israel in line and that’s where Iran comes in. I will definitely post my entire Blog later.

    • Lostpet says:

      Ralph has a decent Foreign Policy, when he is not begging for loans. Although Ralph is lost in economics he does have ‘heart” in foreign policy….with the exception of St Kitts.

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iWitness News is the leading source of daily and breaking news and current affairs information from and about St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We were founded in February 2009 by Kenton X. Chance, a career journalist and adhere to the highest standards of journalism.