Abba Eban (1915–2002) was an Israeli diplomat who served as Minister of Education and Culture (1960–1963), Deputy Prime Minister (1963–1966), and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1966–1974). From 1949 to 1959 he served as the first ambassador to the United Nations for the newly established State of Israel. The speech from which this selection is excerpted provided the Israeli view of the question of the Palestinian refugees.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
British Broadcasting Corporation
In May 1989, a protest movement gathered strength in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, as students convened and constructed a large statue called the Goddess of Democracy. By the beginning of June, the movement had turned into a generalized protest by workers and ordinary citizens in addition to the students. When they refused to disperse, the government sent in the army on June 4 to crush what, to many in the Communist Party, had become an incipient rebellion. The image of a lone man attempting to face down an approaching tank became the instant icon of the movement, but there are many other arresting narratives of the events that occurred during this protest. On the 15th anniversary of the suppression of these protests, the British Broadcasting Corporation interviewed survivors and eyewitnesses, gathering their testimonies into the report excerpted below.
Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI (1897–1978) took office at a time of reform in the Catholic Church. In the wake of Vatican II (1962–1965), he extended the reforming spirit of John XXIII. Nonetheless, in the 1960s attendance at Catholic Mass continued to decline. Conservatives argued that the reforms were to blame. Liberals argued that the church’s ban on contraception and its refusal to allow women priests were the real culprits. The availability of the the Pill in 1961 put contraception front and center in the church. Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”), Paul VI’s historic encyclical, was the result of several years of research on his part. Sex, he argued, produces offspring but also expresses human love. As such all forms of artificial contraception were to be rejected, leaving every sexual union open to the possibility of new life. This line of reasoning did not bring new converts to the church.
From Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae. American Eccesiastical Review 159: 290–300 (1968).
Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (1900–1989) was a leader-in-exile of the revolution that overthrew the Shah of Iran (1919–1980) in 1979, but his influence extended far beyond the politics of one Middle Eastern country. The Imam, as he continues to be known to his followers, was one of the century’s most important voices articulating the need for an Islamic “worldview” to counter globalizing forces of western economic structures, secular values, and popular culture.
Throughout the 1980s, a decade that included horrific war with the secular Ba’ath regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Khomeini continued to represent those forces of “revolutionary Islam” that argued that the societies represented by the United States and its western allies were the sources of violence, injustice, and irreligion in the world. The struggles of some followers of traditional Islam to preserve the faith as they understood it introduced the “clash of cultures” as yet another way to understand the continuing violence between human communities.
Imam Khomeini, Islam and Revolution, trans. Hamid Algar (Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1981), 300–06.
Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII (1881–1963) died from cancer shortly after issuing this papal encyclical (letter formally sent out to all bishops). In it he addressed not just Catholics, but all mankind, which is perhaps understandable if you view this work in its Cold War context. Issued two years after the erection of the Berlin Wall and two months after the Cuban missile crisis, the world was focused on the rising tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States and as such was poised for disaster. The full title of the encyclical, On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty, covers the scope of the document, which is divided into four sections. The first discusses the relations between the individual and humanity in general; the second deals with the relationship between the individual and the state; the third talks about how the state entails rights and duties for citizens, as well as the need for equality among states; the fourth tackles the need for collective assistance among states.
From Pacem in Terris. Encyclical of Pope John XXIII, On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty. April 11, 1963.
Two years after becoming first secretary of the Soviet Politburo in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev (b. 1931) launched his two trademark economic and political programs, perestroika (“restructuring”) and glasnost (“openness”). Hoping to revitalize communism, he restructured and partially dismantled the command economy that had dominated the Soviet Union since the Bolshevik Revolution. While perestroika did not work out as intended, glasnost, which permitted frank commentary and the exposure of incompetence and cover-ups by the Soviet leadership, had more wide-ranging consequences for the Soviet Union, which finally collapsed in 1991. Gorbachev summarized his attitude toward domestic politics for Western readers in a book published in English in 1987. However, a significant portion of the book also deals with Cold War tensions, as he was negotiating with President Reagan (1981–1989) of the United States, especially over the destruction of nuclear weapons.
Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), 218–221.
Gamal Abdel Nasser
On June 9th, 1967, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt resigned his office, after the failure of the Egyptian-led Six Day War against Israel. Nasser had held the presidency since 1956. He was out of office only briefly, however, since a series of nation-wide demonstrations by the people called for his reinstatement. He remained in power until his death in 1970. He blames the Arab defeat in the war on a secret alliance between Israel, Britain, and the United States, and ends with a renewed call for Arab nationalism and unity.
From Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin, The Arab-Israeli Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, 7th edn. (2008), pp. 103–105.
Simone de Beauvoir
Encouraged by the successful strategy and tactics of the civil rights and antiwar movements, a new assertiveness also marked the drive for women’s rights after the conclusion of the Second World War. A leading voice in the movement for women’s freedoms was that of a leading French philosopher and intellectual, Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986). Her lengthy, detailed, and compelling study of The Second Sex, published in 1949, challenged women to take action on their own behalf in order to gain full equality with their male counterparts. Her analysis traced the origins of sexism and a sense of women’s inferiority to the unique circumstances of girlhood and to society’s instilling of “feminine” characteristics within young women. Only by breaking the barriers of societal expectations for “well-bred young girls,” she argued, could women achieve the goal of true and complete equality with men.
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, translated and edited by H. M. Parshley, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1953, pp. 334–336.
Ho Chi Minh (Nguyen Ai Quoc)
On September 2, 1945, the day of Japan’s surrender to the United States, the leader of the communist resistance in Indochina, Ho Chi Minh, read a Vietnamese declaration of independence to half a million people in Hanoi. Newly liberated from occupation by Nazi Germany, France hoped to reassert its power in the region it had colonized in the previous century, but the communist Vietminh refused to budge from their demands for independence. The French persuaded the United States that this colonial conflict was an outgrowth of the larger Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union, and the American administrations of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower (1945–1961) provided financial and moral support to the French as they clashed with Vietnamese insurgents. The French surrendered in 1954, but Vietnam was divided. The United States continued its involvement in South Vietnam—soon to be accelerated with the dispatch of military advisors and military personnel by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy (1961–1963). Published in April 1960 in a Soviet journal entitled Problems of the East, this statement by Ho Chi Minh encapsulates his thinking on the example of Vladimir Lenin in his own struggle against Western imperialism.
Ho Chi Minh, Selected Works, vol. 4 (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962), available online at http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/ho-chi-minh/works/1960/04/x01.htm
Fatima Mernissi is a Moroccan feminist and sociologist. After studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, she received her Ph.D. from Brandeis University before returning to Morocco. Mernissi’s work has largely focused on the role of women within Islam, and she has examined the ways in which traditional Islamic cultures have treated women versus how the Qur’an (the source of much of Islamic “orthodoxy”) treats them. Her first book Beyond the Veil (1975) became a classic in the fields of anthropology and sociology. Doing Daily Battle: Interviews with Moroccan Women (1989) was prompted in part by the suggestion that feminism was a Western concern. For the book, Mernissi interviewed a hundred women, mostly from the lower classes, and collected a great deal of material on a diversity of subjects such as culinary culture, spirituality, sex, and family.
From Fatima Mernissi, Doing Daily Battle: Interviews with Moroccan Women. Trans. Mary Jo Lakeland. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989, pp. 126–44, 213–7 (excerpts).
United Nations Drafting Committee
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, was one of the most significant and lasting results of the World War II. The League of Nations, created after the World War I, had failed to prevent the beginning of another, even more catastrophic and costly conflict. The United Nations was planned throughout the war as a substitute mechanism for global peace and security, but world leaders also believed that a document was necessary to affirm the rights of individuals throughout the entire world. A formal drafting committee, consisting of members from eight countries, was charged with the task. The committee chair was Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of President Roosevelt and a strong advocate for human rights in her own right. By its resolution 217 A (III), the General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eight nations abstained from the vote, but none dissented.