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I’ve Got Friends in Low-lying Places . . .

The recent UN General Assembly vote granting observer nation status to Palestine was 138 in favor, 41 abstentions, and nine opposed.  In addition to the United States, along with Canada, Panama, and the Czech Republic, the few nations that supported Israel’s opposition to the resolution were Palau, Micronesia, Nauru, and the Marshall Islands.  It would be tragic if Israel were to lose the vote of any of its few reliable supporters at the United Nations, but that is just what might happen over the next few years—not due to any political intrigue but on account of global warming!  At the moment, the endangered ally is the island republic of Palau, and just this summer PBS aired a report, titled Paradise Lost, calling attention to the potential of climate change to inundate and eliminate Palau and its Pacific neighbors.

An archipelago of 300 islands lying in the Philippine Sea north of Australia, with a total area of only 459 square miles (Israel, by comparison, has 21,000 square miles) and a population of only 21,000, Palau more than makes up for its diminutive size with its consistent support of Israel in world forums.  Although all of Palau cannot scrape up even a minyan (a quorum of 10 Jews), its ambassador to the United Nations since 2004, Stuart Beck, is Jewish, as is Larry Miller, who served for 14 years as an associate justice of Palau's Supreme Court.  Somehow, Palau also produced two cyclists who competed in the 2009 Maccabiah Games.

Palauans, grateful for American support in rebuilding the country after the ravages of World War II and in establishing an independent constitutional government, voted in 1984 to adopt a Compact of Free Association with the United States.  They have exercised their vote on behalf of Israel’s interests without fail—and without obvious recompense.  In a word, they have acted altruistically, as genuine friends.

Nothing in its national profile would mark Palau as an obvious backer of the Jewish state.  Nearly 75 percent of its people are Christian, mostly Roman Catholic; an additional 10 percent follow Modekngei, a hybrid of Christianity and the ancient Palauan religion.  The island’s economic mainstay, apart from subsistence farming and fishing, is tourism; but, in spite of its tropical climate and its world renown as a diving destination, it has never been a port of call for Jewish midwinter cruises or Passover vacations.

Perhaps Palau’s unusually high literacy rate of 92 percent contributes to its open-mindedness?  Perhaps its geographical isolation frees it from restrictive diplomatic alliances or affiliations?  Perhaps its legacy of American largesse inclines it to a more Western and liberal political stance?  Perhaps, like other Asian cultures, it shares an affinity for millennia-old traditions?

Or perhaps it is reciprocal?  After Palau formally declared its independence in 1994, Israel hastened to afford the new country its first non-Pacific diplomatic recognition.

In January, 2005 a group of students from Yeshiva University High School, organized by then-high school senior Avram Sand, was appreciative enough of Palau’s foursquare support of Israel, and curious enough about the motives for its support, to pay a courtesy visit to the island to check it out.  They visited with Palauan students at their schools, met with government officials, and kept a most unusual Shabbat—which, on account of halakhic vicissitudes surrounding the International Date Line, was observed on Sunday.  "We represented a segment of the Jewish community that was grateful for the support that Palau provides Israel on a regular basis." said Sand.  "I was very interested in why these places halfway around the world had any interest in Israel whatsoever."

One of the events the students attended was a 20-minute meeting with the president of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr.  The students thanked him for hosting them and expressed their gratitude for Palau's firm support of Israel in the UN.  Shalom Sokolow, another YU High School senior, recited a special prayer for the people of Palau, including a passage from the Book of Isaiah that was chosen to honor Palau’s extraordinary attributes:

Those yonder lift up their voice, they sing for joy;
For the majesty of the LORD
they shout from the sea.
Therefore glorify ye the LORD in the regions of light;
Even the name of the LORD,
the God of Israel,
in the islands of the sea. (29:14-15)

It was reported that the students made quite an impression on their Palauan hosts.  Soon after they left, a Palauan high school student named Maungil Leoncio wrote an e-mail to the Forward saying, "They're the first Jewish people I met.  At first I was judging them by their cover but when I started talking to them, I started to like them a lot.  Their presentation was one of the coolest we've had."

For a geographically insular nation, Palau has a record of rather singular broad-mindedness, of which the State of Israel and the Jewish people are currently beneficiaries.  Palau supports Israel’s existential concerns, and perhaps the time is right to repay the Palauans by supporting one of their existential concerns: the gradually increasing erosion of their coastlands, the contamination of their farmlands by seawater, and growing threats to their vital barrier reefs.  The Palauans, in a novel and highly controversial legal maneuver, have asked the World Court and the UN Security Council to determine the extent to which all nations share a responsibility to insure that their greenhouse gases do not damage other nations.  Israel might well take note.

With the havoc wreaked by Sandy still so fresh in our minds, we should be particularly aware that our interests and the Palauans’ coincide.  To help them is to help ourselves—and vice versa—in more ways than one.

Moshe Sokolow, professor of Jewish education at the Azrieli Graduate School of Yeshiva University, is the author of Studies in the Weekly Parashah Based on the Lessons of Nehama Leibowitz (2008).

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LEBELE on December 6, 2012 at 10:36 am (Reply)
Thank you for an informative article.
art.the.nerd on December 6, 2012 at 10:59 am (Reply)
I trust we all know the joke whose punchline is "The Elephant Question: Is It Good For the Jews?" I never thought I would see an article claiming that Global Warming/Climate Change has a uniquely Jewish perspective!
Daniel on December 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm (Reply)
This is a great story, hyped by the threat of Global Warming. The story was worthwhile all by itself without the hype. And hype is what Global Warming is all about. Recent proof was published that the Earth has been cooling for the last 16 years. Where is the hype about that?
    DS on December 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm (Reply)
    Are you high? There hasn't been a cooler-than-average month in 28 years.
DS on December 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm (Reply)
Um, gee you think maybe the fact that Palau is a U.S. protectorate might have anything at all to do with it???
avi barzel on December 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm (Reply)
I'm all for helping Palau. It has, indeed, serious problems with coastline erosion and land sunsidence and any assistance would have to be substantial in terms of costs and technological assistance.

However, the oceans are not rising, at least not due to "climate change." The problem is not rising oceans, but sinking land. Seriously. It's called land subsidence, in part caused by development, in part a natural occurence. Alas, Palau has been brow-beaten into accepting that its only chance is to wait for the UN to provide funds from a fraudulent "climate change" carbon credit scheme which is going nowhere. With global temps at an 18 year stand-still and the likelihood of a cooling trend, this "golbal warming" meme turned "climate change," then "sustainability," isn't going to deliver the big bucks from the poor of the West to the rich of the UN.

So, enough of feeding UN bureaucracies in the hope that the kleptocrats will toss a few crumbs to the needy. Help deserving nations like Palau directly and in a meaningful way by tackling the real problems such as erosion, aquifier degradation and land subsidence. Israel and other democratic nations have the resources and the expertise to get the job done.
DS on December 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm (Reply)
No sea level rise? Are you insane?! Or do you just hate the idea of regulating carbon pollution so much because of the potential impact on your own stock portfolio that you're willing to jeopardize all life on Earth?
Archie1954 on December 6, 2012 at 5:39 pm (Reply)
They may lose the American puppy dog also if the Canadian conservative extremist right wing government of the country is tossed next election.
    avi barzel on December 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm (Reply)
    Hmmm. I guess if one is a raving neo-Marxist, a stunted Maoist, a Canadian NDP or Green party radical or someone totally ignorant about Canadian political parties, the federal Conservatives may look like an "extremist right wing." To most normal people, though, and to those who are sober, it's a centre-right government which has been fairly moderate and very popular. Will it be tossed? I doubt it; Canadians enjoy a break from years of oppressive, elitist and left-leaning Liberal rule. They're proud of healthy economy, a restored military, an independent energy policy and frienship with Israel and other truly democratic and worthwhile countries, even as the Obamamessiah and the UN punished Canada by replacing its seat in the Security Council with that of ....get this: Portugal.
avi barzel on December 6, 2012 at 6:53 pm (Reply)
I think you need to expand your horizons beyond the quacks at the NPR, DS. NPR is a radio station on public welfare of some sort isn't it? You'll forgive me if I don't bother checking such a, ehem, "science source."

It's a bit of an embarrassment for some of the enthusiastic cranks out there who predicted that by now New York would be half under water and Palau an underwater park, alas, study after study shows with some banality that no, there is no unusual sea level rise. You've heard of the UN's IPCC I hope? That would be the folks who started the whole "global warming" bunkum and yet, even they can't make some stuff up, especially easily verifiable things like sea level rise. In their own humming and hawing words:

Based on the few very long tide gauge records, the average rate of sea level rise has been larger during the 20th century than the 19th century.

No significant acceleration in the rate of sea level rise during the 20th century has been detected.

There is decadal variability in extreme sea levels but no evidence of widespread increases in extremes other than that associated with a change in the mean.

Well, there you have it. So sorry. Feel free to read through the long and boring study reports with the squiggly graphs and lots of numbers, since you seem to have such a scientific bend. As for your other "evidence," namely the pitiful ad hominem bit you tossed my way; I can't say for sure how sane or insane I am, and I'm afraid to ask, but as far as I know, I don't own stocks. In any case, even if I were utterly bonkers with a million in Shell stocks, the sea levels would still not be rising.
    DS on December 7, 2012 at 9:27 am (Reply)
    Perhaps, Avi, had you put aside your ever-so-scholarly conspiracy theories about NPR being in cahoots with climate scientists to fill U.S. tax coffers, you would have clicked through to the linked-to peer-reviewed study therein, which explains that, in fact, the IPCC is intentionally low-balling their estimates precisely because the UN's member nations have no genuine desire to restrict their economic growth by imposing caps on carbon output.

    "The rate of sea-level rise in the past decades is greater than projected by the latest assessments of the IPCC, while global temperature increases in good agreement with its best estimates. This is shown by a study now published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and his colleagues compare climate projections to actual observations from 1990 up to 2011. That sea level is rising faster than expected could mean that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sea-level rise projections for the future may be biased low as well, their results suggest."
      avi barzel on December 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm (Reply)
      Hahahaha! Can't resist this one. In other words, DS, the UN-IPCC is up to its old tricks by again "adjusting" data, this time by "low-balling," to suit its political agenda? Lies on top lies? In any case, station data hardly provides fuel for worry...or confidence in precise ocean level measurments when we are dealing with fractions of milimetres. See:

      Why is no one laughing at their attempt to scare the world with the demonstrably beneficial warming periods, the historic climate optima, such as the Minoan, Roman and the Medieval? Or, what of the charlattan's sleight-of-hand with turning "catastrophic global warming" into "climate change," then into "catastrophic weather" and when these shenanigans lost traction, attempts to reach the goal of a UN-administered global taxation scheme with its latest manufactured panic over a "sustainability crisis"? Won't wash either. Might as well get those black choppers you go on about, point the gatling guns at us and mug our wallets from us as we stand.
avi barzel on December 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm (Reply)
PS, O, sorry DS, forgot to include the source of the IPCC abstract. Being scholarly inclined, you might panic and we can't have that:

Btw, couldn't help noticing that before diagnosing me with insanity, you determined that another fellow, Daniel, is either at a high altitude or if you're expressing yourself in the vernacular, under the influence of happy pills. And, also that without the troublesome burdon of evidence or even a sensible argument, you determined that the good people of Palau voted dishonestly. I'm concluding that you are not a very admirable chap at all, and I'd rather not use up any more time on you.
DF on December 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm (Reply)
Dr. Sokolow, you shouldnt have used the sensitive words "global warming" in your article. There are so many people that reject allegations of so-called "climate change", myself included, that the rest of your article might have gotten thrown out with the bathwater.

In any event, I did read it, and while interesting, Israel will not have any qualms about not suporting the Paluan maneuver. The last thing Israel needs is even more power-grabbing by the World Court, whatever that is. And I dont think they have to worry about losing Paluan support, any more than they have to worry about losing American support. All the while support from the latter maintains, support from the former will as well.
Archie1954 on December 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm (Reply)
My Avi you are a vociferous entity sren't you? "Israel and other worthwhile countries"? How many times do Canadians have to have their good name besmirched and their birthright blemished by Israel's Mossad's use of Canadian passports to accomplish their dirty work, how many Canadian Captain Von Krudener's have to be slaughtered by Israeli jets while seconded to the UN, how many Canadian Gerald Bulls have to be murdered by Israelis for inventions which were never used. The Israel that did all these things is the same Israel that our extremist right wing Conservative government stupidly fawns over, much like you do.
    avi barzel on December 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm (Reply)
    What a silly Archie you are.

    Item. Thousands of radical Islamists with dubious backgrounds and associations have become "new Canadians" and citizens-of-convenience....and they all have Canadian passports! It takes a quick application review by an immigration officer and 3 years staying clear of jail and presto! You too can be a "Canadian." These folks live in Canada, travel to the US and the Middle East at will under Canadian identities. That worries me a lot more than a few Mossad agents hunting terrorists. But that's just me.

    Item. Kaptain Von Krudener was killed while stuck in a UN outpost near a Hizbullah missile launch site. The responsibility is with the UN forces for not attempting to disarm the illegal site or to get its personnel out and away, rather than using it to protect Hizbullah. Israel, was not targetting a Canadian it didn't even know about; it was protecting its population from missile barrages. Why don't you just announce that Israel has no right to self-defense?

    Item. Gerald Bull got hired to develop a long-distance cannon by a genocidal maniac, Saddam Hussain. This canon was to be used against Kurds and Israel. Good riddance.

    Item. The Conservative party in Canada was elected by a majority and is seen by everyone, except for a minority of fashists, commies and eco-freaks, as a centrist and moderately conservative government.

    All in all a pathetic try to paint Israel as Canada's enemy and Canada's goverment as rightist and extreme. Of course, you can just go ahead and keep on repeating it and hope that it'll stick with someone.
Archie1954 on December 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm (Reply)
I'm sorry avi barzel but all your points are incorrect. #1-you are surmizing that there are numerous citizens of convenience running around doing bad things whereas my comment on Mossad deals with true situations that have been widely reported on, #2-the good captain's position and the UN observation post was well known by the Israelis and had been pointed out to them several times prior to and during the assault, they ignored the information and deliberately murdered these men, #3-Mr. Bull was an inventor and scientist and worked for the Iraqis who were the best of friends of the US because they were fighting the Iranians and since when does any party have the right to murder because they feel like it?, #4-the Conservative Party was not elected by a majority of Canadians. In our system of government with a number of vying parties, first past the post wins and it rarely if ever is by majority.
    avi barzel on December 13, 2012 at 8:51 am (Reply)
    Lame, Archie, lame. Stormfront and the usual neo-Nazi sites are a poor source of info and will only make you look worse, as hard as that may seem.

    Item: The presence of numerous Muslim terror cells hiding in Canada, especially in Montreal, has been reported far and wide and is one of the reasons the US now demands passports at border crossings, rather than just a driver's license or a birth certificate as in the past. Prominent characters include Ahmed Ressam, now serving a 20-year sentence in the US; Mohammad Momin Khawaja, the first "Canadian" charged under the nations anti-terrorism act; and in 2006, Canadian security foiled a Mumbai-style terrorist attempt to bomb the Parliament, storm the national radio offices in Toronto, take numerous hostages, and even behead the Prime Minister. So, yes, Canada's problem with atual and potential misuse of its passports is not Israeli anti-terrorism teams, but jihadi "citizens."

    Item: The charge that Israel deliberately bombed a UN post snuggled up to a Hezbollah missile launch site is sheer idiocy. The sole Canadian observer there, by the way, was Major Paeta Derek Hess-von Kruedener, not "Kaptain" Krudener. The Ottawa Citizen reported that in an email to Maj. General MacKenzie, Kruedener wrote, "the closest artillery has landed within 2 meters of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity." General MacKenzie concluded, "those words, particularly the last sentence, are not-so-veiled language indicating Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets near the post." said Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie. "What that means is, in plain English, 'We've got Hezbollah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the (Israeli Defence Forces)," he said. So, even if Israel knew of the UN post, its primary responsibility is to its citizens and to destroy or disable the launch site, regardless of risks to other military personnel who should have either disabled the terrorists as per their mandate or if unable to do so, refused to act as a shield by immediately evacuating the UN post.

    Item: Gerald Bull was concurrently assisting Iraq in improving its Scud missiles which were launched at Israel, as everyone knows. That made him a legitimate target for snuffing and his "passing" is to be celebrated. Nevertheless, your conviction that Israeli intelligence assassinated Bull is sheer bull. According to Wiki: "Although it was in Iran and Israel's immediate interest that Bull would discontinue his co-operation with Saddam Hussein, he had worked for many different parties in many critical defense projects that he became an asset and a liability for several powerful groups at the same time. It has been speculated that besides Iran or Israel, the CIA, MI6, Chilean, Iraqi, or South African governments could have been behind the assassination due to Bull's past ventures."

    So much for your pathetic antisemitic disinformation and agitprop riffs, Archie. As others of your ilk, you rely on fellow Jew-haters who just echo each others' errors and never update or correct their lies. Don't go and imagine you have "transferable skills" to make it in political advocacy or marketing; you'll lose your shirt. Stick to HAARP and "chem-trail" conspiracies, Mayan calendars, pyramid power and UFO "research" instead.
Secretary on January 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm (Reply)
Only God can make the earth warmer not man. Man who has done nothing to change the surface of the planet. Only God can do it. It does not snow without God saying "It will snow". Only God can have its hireless monkey cut down the forest. Move a rock or build a wall. Without God to show it what to do man would still be swinging from trees.Doid not God make coal for man to burn. Yes it did release the CO2, but it is because of God do man. Yes God is changeing the face of the planet, burning down forest, changing weather patterns, not having it rain in certain places. Earth is just going thru another phase.
It is the Will of God that the glaciers are melting that the oceans are raiing, that land masses will flood.
It is Gods plan to change the face of earth, if man just happen to get in the way, so be it. Yes Greenland ice fields are melting and that will raise the ocean levels, but it is Gods plan. To flood the land once more as it was done in the past. If man is in the wrong place when it happens that is life.
Get over it. The earth has been getting warmer for the last 18,000 years some time it gets cool, but mostly it is getting warmer.
Say goodbye Gracy

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