Op-ed: Nobel Knock-offs & The Syrian Chemical Weapons Charade
Natalie Portman was never going to inspire young unaffiliated Jews with her love of Israel, just as the OPCW was never going to rid the Assad regime of chemical arms
As most of the local media was focusing on the brouhaha over Natalie Portman’s snub of Israel—that is, her refusal to attend a ceremony in Jerusalem to receive the Genesis Prize, the publicity stunt its founders have dubbed the “Jewish Nobel”—another entity with an authentic Nobel Prize was finally granted access by Russia, Iran and the Assad regime to the Syrian town of Douma, the site of an April 7 chemical attack.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), like so many other Peace Prize recipients—notably, former U.S. president Barack Obama in 2008, before he even assumed office; and then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1994, after signing the failed Oslo Accords with Israel—was bestowed the award not for what it had accomplished, but, rather, for what could potentially be if the constellations were to align in just the right way.
Granted the challenge of ridding Syria of its chemical weapons was both noble and dangerous, and, given the terrific optics, the OPCW would prove to naysayers that it also was a realistic one. Accordingly, as footage of bulldozers destroying Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities splashed across television screens worldwide, the professional peace-processors patted themselves on the back for a job well done; this, while tens of thousands of Syrians were still being killed by conventional means.
Then came the (never premature) “mission accomplished” declaration by the United States and Russia, the parties that brokered the 2013 deal to fully destroy the Assad regime’s cache of weapons of mass destruction. That accord was forged after Peace Laureate Obama jumped at the opportunity provided by Moscow to walk back his “red line” to use military force in the wake of a horrific sarin gas attack in Ghouta that killed up to 1,700 people.
So it was that many reacted with great shock when U.S. President Donald Trump for a second time in thirteen months launched missile strikes against Syrian assets in response to a chemical assault. This go-around the American leader was supported by the French and British, eager to uphold an international convention that repeatedly has been violated in full view at Assad’s whim. Very few, if any, asked the obvious question of why such an operation was even required given that the Syrian population was supposed to have been freed from the tyranny of WMDs long ago.
But patience is, after all, a virtue, and the OPCW is, apparently, quite accommodating, with the nine-member team tasked with investigating the Douma attack having been left twiddling its collective thumbs for over a week in Damascus before being allowed to enter the town. This, so pro-Assad forces could consolidate their gains made through war crimes by completely destroying the last vestiges of the former rebel stronghold. The delay not only evidenced the OPCW’s complete powerlessness—which suggests it was never the horse to bet on in a deadly race—but also reportedly gave regime-aligned troops the opportunity to tamper with evidence on the ground.
Accordingly, the OPCW’s collection of soil samples from Douma is reminiscent of a similar effort by another United Nations-spawn body, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to investigate purported Iranian tests related to the detonation of nuclear weapons at the Parchin military facility. That great stand-off was settled when Tehran “conceded” by allowing its own inspectors to collect samples, which, to date, have not been delivered to the IAEA.
The OPCW is not, however, uniquely to blame. In fact, only the West has the bombs, bullets (and, ostensibly, the values) necessary to rid a madman of his WMDs. But Washington, Paris and London, for all their intervention in Libya—even though former strongman Muammar Ghaddafi voluntarily gave up his nuclear program—have shown no appetite for doing what must be done to hold Assad accountable.
If such is the case, then so be it, but, for goodness sake (paradox), fess up—because the deception runs incredibly deep. Western countries have known all along that Assad maintained elements of his chemical weapons program. As if their recurrent usage was not evidence enough—according to modest estimates by multiple watchdog groups there were over 50 such attacks since 2014—there have been intermittent reports of European companies selling materials that can be used to make non-conventional weapons either to Iran or directly to the Assad regime.
In January 2015, for example, Der Spiegel reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government was provided by the OPCW with a list of German companies believed to have been involved in developing Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. According to the paper, Berlin immediately classified the list and has since kept it under “lock and key,” arguing that releasing the names would “significantly impair foreign policy interests and thus the welfare of the Federal Republic of Germany.”
This past February, the Bild reported that remnants of Iranian-made rockets used in two chlorine attacks earlier this year in Syria contained the company logo of Krempel and the imprint “Made in Germany.” This was “Made Possible” after a German government agency apparently green-lighted the corporation’s sale of so-called “dual-use” technology to two firms in Tehran.
Last week, news surfaced that three Belgian companies are being prosecuted for exporting chemicals to Syria—between May 2014 and December 2016—one of which could be used to produce of sarin gas. The businesses, meanwhile, contend that they acted with the consent of Belgian customs authorities.
The U.S.-Russia agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons was enshrined into international law through the passage of a UN Security Council resolution on September 28, 2013. The text demanded that the Assad regime abandon its stockpile of non-conventional arms and that experts be granted unfettered access to Syria’s arsenal. It is obvious that neither condition has been met, which therefore highlights the futility of UNSC decisions as well.
Developments in Syria prove that a spade is a spade no matter how hard one tries to will it into a heart. The OPCW, albeit well-intentioned, was never going to “eradicate” Syria’s chemical weapons or provide any lasting “stringent verification” system. Nor was Russia and its partners ever going to abide by their obligations.
In a similar vein, while much of Israel was in a kerfuffle over Portman’s “affront,” it should have been clear all along that the actress identifies with the far-left—which, obviously, is her prerogative—as evidenced by the choice to adapt an Amos Oz novel for her directorial debut. Oz, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature, has in the past compared Israel to an apartheid state and described Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as “lead[ing] the people of Israel to war against the world.”
Is it any wonder, then, that Portman might hold similar views—during the 2015 Israeli election campaign she referred to Netanyahu as a racist—that, in retrospect, render her a controversial, if not altogether inappropriate, choice for the “Jewish Nobel?”
Was the actress more likely to further divide an already divided people or, according to the Genesis Prize website, “inspire others through [her] engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel?”
Or, perhaps, the now-canceled ceremony was simply envisioned as another opportunity for a little back-patting for a job not done.
While the latter charade only hurts Israel’s international image, the former one has resulted in the murder of hundreds of people. It may therefore be time to stop the chemical weapons farce, for perpetuating it is tantamount to one big Nobel-sized dishonor to those that have perished in Syria at the hands of evil.