Monday, May 7, 2012

Ralph Bunche

Ralph Bunche was a skillful diplomat who played a key role at the United Nations during its early years.  His efforts on behalf of world peace won him the Nobel Prize in 1950.

Orphaned at age 11, Bunche was raised by his grandmother in Los Angeles.   He graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles summa cum laude (with highest honors).   In 1934, he became the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in government and international relations from Harvard.  After teaching, for several years, he worked in Africa for the U.S. during World War II.  As a State Department officer in 1944, he helped to organize the United Nations.

In 1945, Bunche became the first black to head a division of the U.S. State Department.

Bunche began his 25-year career at the UN in 1946.  Three years later, he negotiated cease-fire agreements between Israel and Arab countries that had invaded the newly formed nation.  For this accomplishment, Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first black to win that award.

After leading other UN peacekeeping missions, Bunche became the world body’s second-ranking officer, the under secretary-general, in 1967.  Although his job focused on international affairs, Bunche was also committed to the struggle of American blacks.  Thought seriously ill at the time, he joined the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to demand that African-Americans be allowed to vote.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Camp David Accords

The presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, was the setting for a historic moment in September, 1978.  With the help of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the leaders of Egypt and Israel reached agreements that would end a 30-year state of war between their countries.

Israel was created by the United Nations in 1948 as a homeland for the Jewish people.  But Arab countries, including Egypt, denied its right to exist.  Arab armies attacked, but the outnumbered Israelis threw them back.   In the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel gained control of the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.  All peace efforts failed.

Then, in 1978, Carter invited Egyptian Premier Anwar Sadat and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin to Camp David to restart a stalled round of talks.  After 12 days, two accords were reached.  One was a plan for the return of the Sinai to Egypt and for peace between the countries.  The second called for self-rule for the Palestinian Arabs in other Israeli-occupied territories.

A treaty based on the first accord was signed in March, 1979.   Egypt became the first Arab country to recognize the first Arab country to recognize Israel.  Because the second accord involved Arabs who did not agree to it, it was not carried out at that time.