By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS | 9 December 2023 (IDN) — The US veto against a Security Council resolution for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza was highly predictable.
Like the longstanding pro-Israeli foreign policy of successive US administrations, President Joe Biden said last week that he “stands with Israel—right or wrong—prompting one Middle Eastern diplomat to describe the White House as “Israeli occupied territory”.
In the December 8 vote, the US remained totally isolated as 13 of the 15 members of the Security Council voted with the resolution—with just one abstention by UK—while the resolution had the endorsement of 97 of the UN’s 193 member states.
But the overwhelming numbers were countered by just a single veto proving once again the political ineffectiveness of the United Nations in resolving military conflicts and protecting civilians—whether in Gaza, Ukraine, Yemen, Myanmar or Syria.
A new Cold War has paralyzed the UN’s most powerful political body with the US, UK and France on one side with China and Russia on the other, splitting the five veto-wielding members into two factions.
The Hamas attack on October 7, which killed 1,200 inside Israel, has resulted in a disproportionate number of Palestinians killed so far—reaching over 17,000, and with more than 46,000 injured.
The international reaction against the US veto was fast—and at times, furious.
Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, said the US, once again, used its veto to prevent the Security Council from making some of the calls the US itself has been demanding of Israel and Palestinian armed groups, including compliance with international humanitarian law, protection of civilians, and releasing all civilians held hostage.
Another nail in the coffin for US credibility
“By continuing to provide Israel with weapons and diplomatic cover as it commits atrocities, including collectively punishing the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, the US risks complicity in war crimes”,he said.
Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam America, said: “Today, the Biden administration had yet another opportunity to live up to its lofty rhetoric supporting human rights and a rules-based international order.”
The world is ready for the horrific carnage in Gaza to end and focus on the release of hostages and helping Palestinians rebuild their lives. The US administration standing alone to veto a ceasefire, puts another nail in the coffin for US credibility on matters of human rights, she argued.
This Resolution, said Maxman, was important as it demanded an immediate ceasefire and the release of all hostages. This Resolution may not have been legally binding, but a joint message from the UNSC is a vital lever to add pressure to stop the bombing and siege that continues to claim lives in Gaza.
“The US has rightly maintained that Israel has the right to defend its people from attacks, but it has not successfully leveraged its special relationship with Israel to end this spiraling crisis. More of what we have been doing these weeks—and even these past years—will not get us to where we need to go, which is a future without the threat of another October 7 attack or crushing blockade,” she declared.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, condemned the “unconscionable” United States veto of a United Nations Security Council demand or an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Thirteen Security Council members voted in favor of a draft resolution, while Britain abstained.
The National Executive Director of CAIR, Nihad Awad, said: “It is unconscionable that the Biden administration would stand alone in voting to continue the ethnic cleansing, starvation and genocide being carried out by Israel’s far-right government in Gaza. It is not clear what level of suffering by the Palestinian people would prompt our nation’s leaders to act in their defense.”
Horrific failure of the UN
A University of Michigan researcher, who is also an Israeli peace activist and survivor of an earlier attack by Hamas, said a Security Council veto by the US government about the Hamas-Israel ceasefire illustrates the horrific failure of the UN to prevent war—which is the primary responsibility of the organization, according to its charter.
“The United Nations failed in the past two months, and it failed today on its self-declared mission to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.’ The Israel-Hamas war, in which over 17,000 people have died, should be understood as a symptom of a dysfunctional United Nations system and its Security Council,” said Shimri Zameret, who teaches and leads a research project on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, global governance and civil resistance at the International Institute’s Donia Human Rights Center.
“The bad news is that the United Nations system was created in 1945, and we live in a different century. It is failing to deal with the most pressing 21st-century global problems: climate change, mass atrocities, global pandemics and financial crises. The good news is that we can fix it,” said Zameret.
In an explanation of the US veto, an American official said that despite a rushed process and lack of appropriate consultation by the resolution’s authors, the United States engaged in good faith on this text.
“We proposed language with an eye toward a constructive resolution that would have reinforced the life-saving diplomacy we have undertaken since October 7; increased opportunities for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza; encouraged the release of hostages and the resumption of humanitarian pauses; and laid a foundation for a durable peace.“
Unfortunately, said the US statement, nearly all of our recommendations were ignored. “And the result of this rushed process was an imbalanced resolution that was divorced from reality, that would not move the needle forward, on the ground, in any concrete way. And so, we regretfully could not support it.”
“We still cannot comprehend why the resolution’s authors declined to include language condemning Hamas’ horrific terrorist attack on Israel on October 7. An attack that killed over 1,200 people. Women, children, the elderly. People from a range of nationalities. Burned alive. Gunned down. Subject to obscene sexual violence,” the statement added. [IDN-InDepthNews]
© UNRWA/Mohamed Hinnawi. A tower block lies in ruins in Gaza city following an Israeli air strike.
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