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A Nuclear-Free Middle East Means a Nuclear-Free Israel


November 20, 2013
Jackie Cabasso / Western States Legal Foundation & The Preparatory Committee for the International Conference in Israel

The Haifa conference is being organized by a Preparatory Committee including former members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) and dedicated Israeli anti-nuclear and human rights activists. It is, to my knowledge, the first such conference ever organized in Israel, where it is "illegal" for Israeli citizens to publically state that Israel has nuclear weapons -- unless they add, "according to foreign sources."

SPECIAL to Environmentalists Against War

"For a Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East"
Jackie Cabasso / Western States Legal Foundation

(November 19, 2013) -- It is an honor for me to have been invited to join the International Advisory Committee for an historic international conference in Israel, "For a Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East," to be held in Haifa, December 5 -- 6, 2013. The Haifa Conference will be followed on December 7 by an international symposium in Ramallah, where Palestinian and Arab groups from around the region can participate.

The Haifa conference is being organized by a Preparatory Committee including former members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) and dedicated Israeli anti-nuclear and human rights activists. It is, to my knowledge, the first such conference ever organized in Israel, where it is illegal for Israeli citizens to publically state that Israel has nuclear weapons -- unless they add, "according to foreign sources."

Needless to say, the organizers of this conference are incredibly brave, and they deserve broad international support and participation -- especially from Israel’s biggest ally and enabler, the United States. I am making plans to attend.

This conference could not be more timely, coming on the heels of the breathtaking diplomatic resolution to the chemical weapons crisis in Syria, and on the eve (hopefully) of a long-awaited diplomatic breakthrough in the Iranian nuclear stalemate.

Establishing a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East offers a concrete alternative to endless suspicions, tensions, conflicts and risks of wars in one of the world’s most volatile regions. Just starting negotiations, in and of itself, would serve as a valuable confidence building measure among the states in the region.

As you know, the parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty unanimously agreed in the final outcome document the 2010 Review Conference to convene an international conference to begin discussing a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East by the end of last year. The conference was tentatively scheduled to take place in Helsinki, Finland in December 2012.

However, the US State Department announced on November 23, 2012 that the Helsinki Conference "cannot be convened because of present conditions in the Middle East and the fact that states in the region have not reached agreement on acceptable conditions for a conference," declaring: "We would not support a conference in which any regional state would be subject to pressure or isolation."

The statement was referring to Israel, the only nuclear-armed state in the region, and not to Iran, which had announced its intention to participate in the Conference.

At an alternative international conference in Helsinki organized by Finnish NGOs last December, Issam Makoul, a former member of the Israeli Knesset, and the first member to ever raise a question in the Knesset about Israel’s nuclear stockpile, declared: "If official Israel will not come to Helsinki, it remains the task of the peace and progressive forces, in Israel and abroad, to bring Helsinki to Israel."

Hence the idea of an international conference in Israel was born, aimed at strengthening the demand for a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East.

The rationale for the conference is articulated beautifully in the conference Call to Action, which is attached. The Conference Registration Frm, also attached, provides additional details.

Time is short, but I urge you to consider coming to Haifa for this historic Conference, and to share this information with others who may be interested and able to attend. I also encourage you to send messages of solidarity to the Conference, which I will be happy to collect and deliver.

For peace and justice in a nuclear free world,
Jackie Cabasso

Jacqueline Cabasso Executive Director Western States Legal Foundation Working for Peace & Justice in a Nuclear Free World, www.wslfweb.org www.disarmamentactivist.org www.facebook.com/WesternStatesLegalFoundation Twitter@JackieCabasso



An International Conference in Israel
"For a Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East" -- December 5-6, 2013


The question of nuclear policy and the need to discuss it openly has become a cardinal issue worldwide as well as in Israel. Paradoxically, the focus of the government of Israel and its various apparatuses on Iran's nuclear policy has raised the issue of nuclear policy in the Middle East as a whole, including that of Israel itself.

The international community has recognized that the nuclear issue, as well as the issue of weapons of mass destruction generally, is not an internal affair of any state but has implications that reach beyond national and geographic borders, and hence it requires international attention. Different international initiatives for abolishing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction derive from such insights. For example:

1 -- The great progress in the issue of dismantling the arsenal of chemical weapons in Syria and the commitment to implement the Security Council resolution through cooperation with the Syrian government.

2 -- The new moderate official Iranian discourse on Iran's nuclear policy, and the Iranian president Ruhani's commitment to cooperate with the international community to promote a nuclear free zone in the Middle East.

Those two developments have created favorable conditions for an effort to breach the wall of indifference erected by the Israeli establishment to block public discussion on the nuclear and WMD issue inside Israel.

There is a broad international support, including among the peoples of the Middle East and among the progressive forces inside Israel, for the immediate implementation of the UN general assembly resolution from May 2010.

That resolution called to hold an international conference in Helsinki under the auspices of the UN to promote the creation of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, which is based on having all the countries of the region -- including Israel -- joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the treaty on the banning of chemical weapons.

Israel was the only party in the ME that decided to boycott the Helsinki conference. Consequently, the conference was cancelled. In an alternative international conference, which was organized by the peace organizations in Finland last December, and attended by the Finnish foreign minister, the representative of the Haifa based Emil Touma Institute concluded: "If official Israel will not come to Helsinki, it remains the task of the peace and progressive forces, in Israel and abroad, to bring Helsinki to Israel".

Hence, the idea of an international conference in Israel was born, aimed at strengthening the demand for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. Such a conference would be a continuation of many years of activism towards this goal.

The coming together of peace and human rights organizations from abroad, and the widening support among peace and progress forces within Israel, could turn such conference into a landmark in the struggle for nuclear disarmament in the Middle East. It could be a real and viable alternative to the war plans, and to the calls for a disastrous attack against Iran.

Believing that now is the time to step up the Israel-based campaign for WMD disarmament in the region, we have rallied together a broad spectrum of activists and representatives from peace forces, human rights groups and civil society organizations.

Believing that now is the time to intensify the campaign in Israel on matters of Nuclear Weapons and WMD disarmament, and believing that the security of the citizens of Israel and the peoples of the region will not be met by the stockpiling of nuclear bombs and WMDs, and not by disastrous wars -- but rather by disarmament, and just peace, we have announced the formation of a preparatory committee for an International Conference in Israel proper (Haifa) with the title "For a Middle East Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction".

A preparatory committee for the conference composed of prominent figures in Israeli civil society has been assembled. The committee decided to hold the conference in Haifa, on December 5th-6th, 2013 in English and Hebrew with simultaneously translation.

In addition, a possibility of a second session on December 7th, to be held in Ramallah, where Palestinian and Arab organizations from all over the region could take part, is being considered.

A detailed program will follow in due time. We have initiated contact with several well-known figures to attend this event or to address it via video. These include Nobel Prize winner Prof. Ada Yonath, Prof. Noam Chomsky, President Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The policy of the preparatory committee regarding speakers and participants is to be as inclusive as possible and will embrace any Israeli or international figure who supports disarmament of WMD in the Middle East regardless of their political orientation.

We have issued a call for peace and human rights organizations, members of the anti-nuclear movement and all those who oppose WMD in the world in general and in Israel in particular, to support the conference and to participate it. We take these steps out of grave concern for the security and the future of all the peoples of the region, including all citizens of Israel.

So far, the response has been heartening. We have already succeeded to bring together a wide range of peace activists and representatives of civil society organizations as well as known public figures and Israeli academicians who expressed their willingness to participate in the preparatory committee of this international conference and in the conference itself.

We would be more than glad if your organization could be an active and integral partner in the preparations of this conference and help us meet some of the great expenses involved in the process.

With appreciation and best wishes,
Issam Makhoul and Avraham Burg


On behalf of the preparatory Committee for the International Conference in Israel
"For a Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East":


MK Dr. Dov Khenin, former MK
Pr. Naomi Chazan,
Pr. Colman Altman,
Dr. Ruchama Marton, head and founder of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR I),
Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh,(PHR I),
Gideon Spiro, journalist and veteran activist for a ME free of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons,
Aida Touma, director of Women Against Violence (WAV), editor of chief of Al Etihad newspaper,
Sharon Dolev, activist in nuclear disarmament organization,
Dr. Dani Filc,
Dr. Ahmad Masarweh, (PHR I),
Dr. Asher Davidi,
Dr. Ofer Cassif,
Dr. John Assi, (International Law),
Michael Warshivsky, former MK
Mossi Raz, former Speaker of the Knesset
Avraham Burg and former MK Issam Makhoul, Chairperson of Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies.

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