UNGA castigates Israel over Gaza deaths; Pakistan hails vote


—File Photo

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution put forward by Turkey and Algeria, with the co-sponsorship of Pakistan and 35 other countries, that calls for greater protection for Palestinians, and deploring any use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate” force by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians, particularly in Gaza.

Under the terms of the resolution titled “Protection of the Palestinian civilian population” ” adopted by a vote of 120 in favour to 8 against with 45 abstentions ” the 193-member Assembly, which met in an emergency session on Wednesday, demanded that Israel refrain from such actions and fully abide by its legal obligations under the1949 Geneva Convention relating to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi called the vote “a triumph of principle — the principle that Might is not Right”.

“Pakistan co-sponsored the resolution not just to reaffirm our abiding solidarity with the Palestinian people but also to consider practical steps to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians,” she said in an interview after the session.

The Pakistani envoy pointed out that support for the people of Palestine was a “cardinal principle” of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Ambassador Lodhi said the resolution focused on and reaffirms the rights of Palestinians in the context of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and was considered necessary after UN Security Council’s failure to act to protect the Palestinian people.

Wednesday’s session came about after weeks of the deadly violence along the border of the Gaza Strip“ the Palestinian enclave blockaded by Israel“ where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians participated in “the Great March of Return” protests, beginning at the end of March.

More than 120 Palestinian civilians were reportedly killed by Israeli forces while participating in the protests against Israel’s years-long blockade.

The resolution also deplored the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli civilian areas” and any actions that could endanger civilian lives” and called for urgent steps to ensure an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, as well as for the exercise of maximum restraint by all parties. It requested the Secretary-General to submit a report in no later than 60 days, outlining proposals on ways and means for ensuring the safety of Palestinian civilians, including on an international protection mechanism.

The text was adopted following the Assembly’s rejection of a United States-sponsored amendment
” by a vote of 78 against to 59 in favour, with 26 abstentions ” which would have condemned Hamas for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and inciting violence along the boundary fence.
It would have demanded that Hamas cease all violent activity and expressed grave concern over the destruction of the Kerem Shalom crossing by actors in Gaza.

Introducing the proposed amendment, United States Ambassador Nikki Haley said the resolution, presented by Algeria’s Ambassador Sabri Boukadoum, had failed to even mention Hamas, thereby sacrificing honesty in favour of a narrow political agenda that exclusively blamed Israel. Her “modest” amendment rightly condemned rocket fire by Hamas, as well as its diversion of resources from civilians to military resources, she said.

Algerian Ambassador Sabri Boukadoum, representing Arab nations, first sought to block a vote on the U.S. amendment, saying it wasn’t relevant to the resolution. He said it also undermined reconciliation efforts between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah as well as the “remote prospects” of reviving peace negotiations with Israel.

His motion to take “no action” on the amendment was defeated by a vote of 59-78, with 26 abstentions, allowing the U.S. amendment to be put to a vote.

The U.S. motion was approved on a 62-58 vote, with 42 abstentions. But General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak declared that under an assembly rule, a two-thirds majority was needed so the amendment failed.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley appealed, citing another rule that says only a majority vote was required. After a short break, Lajcak then put the U.S. appeal to a vote. The U.S. narrowly lost that vote 66-73 with 26 abstentions.

Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak convened the meeting, following a formal request from Algeria and Turkey, in their respective capacities as Chair of the Arab Group and Chair of the Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Unlike a resolution on Palestinian civilian protection that was vetoed by the US in the UN Security Council on 1 June, Wednesday’s identical resolution in the Assembly was not subject to the same rules as exist in the Council.

Prior to voting, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said that “our decision to approach to the Assembly was prompted by the Security Council’s failure to act due to the veto cast on 1 June by a permanent member.”

“We therefore firmly reject the bad-faith attempt to insert an amendment that would radically unbalance the text and shift the Assembly’s focus away from the core objective of protecting civilians and upholding international law,” he said.

Briefing reporters earlier in the day, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Brenden Varma, said that if the resolution passed, it would represent an “important expression of political will” and an “important recommendation by the General Assembly.” However, it would not be binding in the same way as a Security Council resolution.—INP