Nauru on Our Side

It's a country smaller than Sderot, yet it opposes an Israeli withdrawal from the territories. How Micronesia sets its Middle East policy.

Jerusalem hadn't known such joy since the day everyone crowded around radio receivers and breathlessly followed the historic UN vote on November 29, 1947 that led to the founding of the state. Fifty-nine years later, not only did Micronesia and Palau and the Marshall Islands vote together with the United States and Australia against the wicked proposal to condemn Israel for its occupation of the territories. Nauru did, too. Yes, yes, you heard right - Nauru. What drama. I placed a call to Marlene Moses, Nauru's UN ambassador, to thank her for her country having stood by my country in its time of difficulty. A total of 157 countries had called on Israel to withdraw from the territories, and only six had stood by us, including the Republic of Nauru. Her Excellency relayed the message that she would call me back.

In the meantime, the computer at the Foreign Ministry found that this was not, in fact, the first time that Nauru had taken such a stance. In the past it had also voted against proposed anti-Israel resolutions in the UN. It's hard to keep track of all these proposals, said Micha Ronen, director of the Pacific Division in the Foreign Ministry. There are perhaps 20 of them at every session of the General Assembly. Sometimes the ambassador from Nauru isn't present at the vote and has to be located, and it has also happened that she abstained and later changed her vote to "no."

Everyone knows our friend Micronesia, says Ronen, who has also been tapped to serve as nonresident ambassador to Nauru and next week is due to present his credentials to President Ludwig Scotty. It occurred to me that the event might justify an interview with the president himself; when the ambassador returned my call I'd ask her how to arrange such an interview. Meanwhile, I tried to call his office.

Yes, it's a country, I insisted to the operator from Bezeq international's information service. She had been working there for years and no one had ever asked her to connect them with Nauru. It's a country? Yes, a small one. And it supports Israel. You're kidding, the young woman said. It supports Israel? Yes, though it's even smaller than Sderot. That doesn't matter, said the operator, as long as it supports us. The telephone connection to Nauru is out of order. The operator promises to make a special effort, perhaps via Australia. It didn't work. Later, I read on the Foreign Ministry website that there are no telephones in Nauru. The president must have a phone, though. The ambassador will surely know how to reach him.

Nauru, an island in the Pacific Ocean, is the smallest republic in the world. The world factbook on the CIA website says that, as of a few months ago, the population there was 13,287 - mostly Christians. No one knows where they came from, because their language is not similar to any other language in the region. The local supermarket belongs to man by the name of Oppenheimer. If the name is any indication, perhaps there is a Jewish community there. There are also two Israelis - pediatricians Hadar and Danny Yardeni. She writes a nice blog from there, which the Foreign Ministry publishes on its website. They took a satellite phone with them but it doesn't help much. I wasn't able to ascertain whether the good work done by these two Israeli doctors was enough to tip Nauru's Middle East policy in favor of Israel's policy in the territories. I'll ask the ambassador, when she calls me back as promised, or President Scotty himself.

It's not easy these days for the president; his country has known better times. Once, it was rich in phosphates. But foreign countries and companies took it all, leaving much of its territory barren. First it was the Germans (in 1888); then during World War I the Australians conquered it and the Commonwealth instituted a Mandate there, as the British did in Palestine. The Japanese conquered the island in World War II - in a "brutal occupation," according to the CIA website. After World War II, the island became a UN protectorate, and in 1968 it gained independence.

President Scotty, 58, formerly served as speaker of the Parliament, which consists of 18 members. On the 30th anniversary of its independence, Nauru was accorded UN membership, and ever since, it has had to formulate a policy concerning the goings-on in this remote, and apparently quite crazy, country called Israel that for some reason is always quarreling with its neighbors, who are called Palestinians. When Nauru's ambassador calls me back, I'll ask her how they decide there in Nauru to support, for example, Israel's refusal to return East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. In any case, they have other things to worry about. Ever since the phosphates were depleted, conditions have deteriorated in Nauru; it depends on assistance from Australia.

Dr. Hadar Yardeni, a pediatrician at Ha'emek Hospital who is in Nauru on behalf of the Foreign Ministry and the Israel Medical Association, writes about the water shortage on the island; every night the supply is shut off for a few hours. The same is done with the electricity. There is a hospital, but medicines are in short supply. Her blog reminds me of the Australian television series "Embassy," but it doesn't shed any light on how the politicians in Nauru decided to oppose a resolution calling on Israel to dismantle the settlements it has erected in the West Bank. For a moment, I entertained a thoroughly arrogant colonialist sort of idea: Was it possible, I wondered, that Nauru automatically votes as Australia does?

The first secretary in the Australian Embassy, Jonathan Chew, gently but firmly set me straight. Nauru is an independent nation, he explained to me. He could assure me that Australia does not dictate to independent nations how to vote in the UN. Australia opposed the draft resolution this time, too, as it has before, because it felt that it was not sufficiently balanced and therefore would do nothing to promote peace, and Australia, of course, supports efforts to promote peace. Evidently, this is also the view of the United States, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Nauru. At least half the people of Israel support the main points of the UN resolution, as does the vast majority of the people on the planet, but it's nice to know, that we have friends and that we're not alone.

I called New York again. Ambassador Moses promised again to return my call, but I didn't hear from her. In diplomatic parlance, I believe this sort of behavior is referred to as "an unfriendly act." Nauru taxpayers, take note.

One day, Mao Tze-tung was informed that the IDF had invaded China and Mao, so the famous story goes, wanted to know which hostel they were all staying in. But, as we know, the State of Israel represents at most half of the Jewish people, and if the Chinese know what's good for them, they ought to think about their future relations with both Israel and the Jewish people. They do know, apparently, since they are currently translating a strategic document published by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.

The institute is headquartered in Jerusalem; it rents space in the Sherover mansion, once considered the most elegant home in Israel. The institute has a budget of $2 million a year, which comes in equal parts from the Jewish Agency and from individual donations. It seeks to formulate a "policy of the Jewish People" in various areas. The 104-page document is entitled "China and the Jewish People - Ancient Civilizations in a New Era." The author is Dr. Shalom Solomon Wald, a 70-year-old scholar who lives in Paris.

The starting premise won't knock anyone off his chair: "China is again becoming a superpower." The continuation is more surprising: For the first time in history, China will directly influence the fate of the Jews and therefore the Jews must formulate a Jewish policy toward China. As part of this, they must explain the interests and outlooks that the Chinese and the Jews have in common, including "geopolitical and global issues."

The Chinese do not have "an official basket of requests," says Wald, "but it appears that many Chinese believe that the Jews could do something for them." They believe in the global influence of the Jews, says Wald, who suggests that a "permanent delegation of world Jewry" be established in Beijing.

Wald cites a certain fault: The Jewish People haven't always properly appreciated the possibilities inherent in connections with China. In World War II, about 20,000 European Jews found refuge in Shanghai; many more could have been saved this way, but Jewish leaders were reluctant to send Jews to China, because they didn't view it as part of the civilized world. Quoting from a Yad Vashem publication, Wald cites one Jewish leader in Germany who said: "It is more honorable to suffer a holy death in central Europe than to become extinct in Shanghai."

The modern Chinese word for Jew - Youtai - was introduced in the 1830s. In China, wealth, success, influence and power are ascribed to Jews; they know about the Judaism of Marx, Freud and Einstein; they also know about Jesus, about the great length of Jewish history, and many have also seen the movie "Schindler's List."

Chinese newspapers denounced the pogroms in Kishinev, Russia; in 1903, a Chinese poet named Chen Tianhua wrote: "My heart goes out to the wandering Jew who has no home to return to." In 1920, several stories translated from Yiddish were published in China. Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Chinese Republic, was a Zionist.

Hatred of the Jews came to China together with Christian missionaries; in the 1930s, the anti-Semitic "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was translated into Chinese. In 1953, the authorities rejected an appeal by the Jews of Kaifeng to be recognized as a separate nation. Wald was in China and upon his return, he wrote: "The Chinese do not have and have never had a clear answer to the question of who is a Jew."

Most of his practical suggestions focus on the dissemination of Jewish culture in China, including by means of the Internet. He proposes that $1 million a year be invested for this purpose. There is something endearing about this strategic paper, akin to the tale of the mouse that roared; he mentions a famous sentence that was once broadcast as part of the daily press roundup on Israel Radio, which began: "The newspaper Letzte Neues warns the People's Republic of China this morning ..." The cover to Wald's report features two pictures - one of the Western Wall and one of the Great Wall of China. Work on the paper took about a year and cost around $100,000.

I found it on a friend's recommendation - a sign that the Jerusalem municipality put up on Agrippas Street, listing, as usual, information about the expansion of the street, and undersigned by countless planning and building organizations - all for the citizen's benefit, of course. The public relations doctrine of such signs mandates that they must promise the citizen that this project will improve his life, and that they apologize for the temporary inconvenience caused him. This sign goes even further: "Thank you for the suffering" - it proclaims in large letters, spurring one to reflect on the sadomasochistic relations between government and citizen. Evidently, the government longs to cause the citizen pain, and when it gets an opportunity to do so, then the citizen deserves all due thanks. Or maybe the government expects the citizen to thank it for the suffering that it is causing him. Take your pick.