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Our Pacifist Pacific Friends

The United Nations has long been a lonely place for the state of Israel. In 1947, the international body voted in favour of the partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state. But since then, votes in Israelís favour have been rarer than a pork chop at a barmitzvah.

The security council has directed one third of its resolutions against Israel, with the Jewish state coming in for criticism in an astonishing one in four of the commission on human rights pronouncements. And it was only in 1991 that the UN repealed the notorious resolution 3379 of 1975, which equated Zionism with racism. The retraction itself was opposed by every Arab member state.

In the face of such overwhelmingly hostility, America has traditionally been Israelís closest UN buddy. But the worldís biggest super power is not Israelís sole ally. The Marshall Islands and Micronesia, two nations made up of a sprinkling of coral atolls and islets across the vastness of the Pacific ocean, have consistently stood against the UNís ìautomatic majorityî.

At first glance the island nations, whose inhabitants are more likely to be found snacking on a taro root than munching on a falafel, seem unlikely comrades for the Jewish state.

Micronesia, made up of four states of Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap covering around 600 islands, has less than 110,000 inhabitants and boasts an export economy based on fish and selling its internet domain name -.fm – to radio stations.

And the Marshall Islands, with a population of just 51,000, may be most famous for providing the inspiration behind the bikini swimsuit, after it allowed the US to carry out nuclear tests on the eponymous island.

But their relations with Israel go back to the very early days of their foundation as nation states. After the second world war, both the Marshall Islands and Micronesia came under US control until they achieved independence in 1986. Amid confusion over their status, which delayed the establishment of international ties, Israel took the initiative to set up diplomatic relations in 1988, three years before the island nations entered the UN.

Micronesian ambassador to the UN, Masao Nakayama, told LJN: ìIsrael was the first country from that part of the world to recognize Micronesia, and did so while many countries still questioned the legitimacy of Micronesiaís statehood.

ìIsrael proceeded quickly to name an ambassador to Micronesia and to provide technical assistance. For these, Micronesia is ever grateful.î

The assistance Israel provides to both sets of remote islands has come largely in the form of numerous aid missions, organised by the centre for international cooperation at Israelís foreign ministry.

Family doctor Amnon Tsvieli was sent out to Micronesia twice by the centre, most recently this spring, to help improve their primary health care and establish a pain clinic.

He told LJN: ìIsrael is trying her best to help these people her help her so much at the UN. We pay them in kind ñ and kindness.î

He added: ìMost of the people there are devoted Christians, and even without knowing much about Israel, on a purely ideological basis they are biased towards Israel.î

The 64-year old, from Sapir in southern Israel, described a warm-hearted people in a fantastically beautiful environment who ìwere thrown into the third millennium a little too fastî and now suffer terrible poverty, high levels of unemployment and corruption. The paradise-like islands are also suffering increasing ecological damage.

Both are utterly dependent on US aid to supplement economies based on fishing and subsistence farming. Upon independence in 1986 they signed compacts of free association with the US, handing over responsibility for their own defence in exchange for exclusive US military access to the islands and multi-million dollar packages that now make up most of their GDP.

Tsvieli added: ìThey view the US very ambivalently. On one hand they couldnít survive even one day without the US, but on the other they view it as an imperial power.î

But Micronesia and the Marshall Islands consistent support for Israel also stems from the knock-on effect of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and their impact on international travel. With foreign holidaymakers tending not to differentiate between destinations such as Bali, which suffered a devastating attack on western targets last year, and other locations further out in the Pacific, both states have been hit hard.

Their fledgling tourist economy, intent on promoting breathtaking atolls and emerald-green seas filled with rare marine species, has been devastated, making them extremely sympathetic to the war on terror. With that war continuing to rage, the island nations have no intention of deserting their Israeli friends any time soon. Micronesia and the Marshall Islands may have a tiny economy, and no military power to speak of, but in the democratic arena of the UN, their votes carry the same weight as any other country. For that, Israel has good reason to be grateful.

Update: This couple claim the reason is simpler – the threat of divine retribution!

Update: And introducing Friends of Micronesia – the blog.


Have you ever wondered why Micronesia and the Marshall Islands constantly support Israel in the UN? This may help explain it.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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