Israel, not Iran, is focus of anti-nuke meet

Israel, not Iran, is focus of anti-nuke meet

Peace activists gather in Haifa for conference on WMD-free Mideast

A local peace activist attended a conference in Israel where attendees called on the Israeli government to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“That means it would have to admit having nuclear weapons, and inspections would have to take place,” said Madelyn Hoffman, executive director of the Bloomfield-based NJ Peace Action.

Hoffman was a delegate to the Conference for a Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East, which was held in Haifa and Ramallah from Dec. 5 to 7.

The conference was scheduled before Western nations and Iran reached an interim agreement aimed at freezing Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon, as well as the Syrian government’s pledge to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons, Hoffman told NJ Jewish News in a Dec. 12 phone interview.

“So attendees were saying, ‘Now Israel is the only one left. Either everyone in the Middle East should have nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction or no one should have them.’ At this point it was primed toward nobody having them.”

The conference got little attention in Israel itself, where confirming or denying Israel’s nuclear capabilities is still officially taboo and where diplomats say a nuclear arms-free zone in the Middle East can only be considered if there is broad Arab-Israeli peace and if Iran curbs its program.

What little attention the conference did get was directed at Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Knesset and former chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, who said openly during his remarks at the conference that “Israel has nuclear and chemical weapons.” This prompted a right-leaning group, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, to accuse him of “treason” and call for an investigation.

Others appearing at the conference included Knesset Member Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), five former members of the Knesset, university professors, peace activists, and survivors of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

After two days of meetings in Haifa, some conference-goers crossed the Green Line to hold a final session in Ramallah.

More than 100 people attended all or part of the three-day conference, said organizers. In the end, the delegates issued a 700-word declaration.

“I have to believe that this is going to be relevant,” said Hoffman, who spent six months as a student at The Hebrew University in 1977.

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