Editorial: Partners in crime

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Friday 15 Dec 2023

Friday, 8 December, was a very sad day for humanity: once again the US decided to use its veto power at the UN Security Council to block a resolution tabled by the United Arab Emirates, and seconded by 97 nations, demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to end the insane, unprecedented intentional daily killing of Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli army.


With this shameful vote, the US proved it was not only complicit in Israel’s murder of Palestinians but actually a partner in crime.

To say that nearly 18,000 people have been killed and 50,000 wounded in a little over 60 days might be a difficult statement to absorb or comprehend, especially when the majority of those killed are innocent civilians, mostly women and children. Nor is this an earthquake or a natural disaster. It is an intentional, reckless revenge spree aimed at all Palestinians, undertaken in the belief that such war crimes will forever end the Palestinian aspiration to be free of occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state. Yet this is the reality the US administration, led by President Joe Biden, has decided to disregard, in opposition to the entire world, giving Israel even more time to take more innocent lives.

This is not the first time the US has used its veto power to shield Israel from sharp condemnation by the vast majority of the world for its continuing violations of all sorts of UN and human rights conventions in order to maintain its racist occupation of Palestine since 1948. This was US veto number 46 in Israel’s favour, affirming the isolation of the Jewish state and the double standards and hypocrisy of consecutive US administrations when it comes to Palestinian and Arab rights. Even the US poodle, the British government, sought to avoid harsh criticism from its own people for backing Israel’s criminal war, and decided to abstain.  

For Arabs and developing nations in general, the UN Security Council has rarely been a forum to seek justice, knowing the balance of power among its five, veto-yielding countries. After all, that body tasked with maintaining international peace and security did not manage to stop the illegitimate war launched by former US president George W Bush to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003, or force Israel to respect dozens of Security Council resolutions calling for an end to the occupation or the building of illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Yet this time the case is different by all standards. It was the Western media, after all, that pointed out that nowhere on earth has witnessed such a heavy-handed campaign of bombardment against a tiny enclave such as Gaza where more than 2.3 million live in miserable conditions. Comparisons have been made to the Allies’ bombing of Dresden, Germany during  World War II, noting that the total weight of bombs dropped by Israel on Gaza may be equal to the two atomic bombs the United States used against Japan in the same war.

Besides the heavy human losses among Palestinian women and children, which invoked the brave UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to use Article 99 of the UN Charter for the first time since 1971 to call for the intervention of the Security Council to stop the war, was the fact that far many more people could die of hunger and disease due to the miserable human conditions in Gaza since Israel started its revenge war.

Guterres said he invoked Article 99 because “there is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza.” The UN anticipates this would result in “a complete breakdown of public order and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt,” he warned. Gaza is at “a breaking point,” he said, and desperate people are at serious risk of starvation. Guterres said Hamas’ attack against Israel on 7 October “can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

The UN chief had earlier provoked Israel’s wrath and call for his resignation when he reminded the world in an earlier Security Council meeting that the Hamas attack did not happen “in vacuum,” and came after more than 56 years of Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, denying Palestinians their basic human rights, topped  the right to self determination.

Guterres detailed the “humanitarian nightmare” Gaza is facing, citing intense, widespread and ongoing Israeli attacks from air, land and sea that have reportedly hit 339 educational facilities, 26 hospitals, 56 health care facilities, 88 mosques and three churches. Over 60 per cent of Gaza’s housing has reportedly been destroyed or damaged, some 85 per cent of the population has been forced from their homes, the health system is collapsing, and “nowhere in Gaza is safe,” Guterres added.

Yet, all these facts seemed to ring hollow for the US representative at the Security Council meeting, who reiterated the same meaningless arguments about how stopping the war now would allow Hamas to launch more attacks against Israel in the future.

Echoing Israel’s prime minister, US officials said they supported the illusion of “eliminating Hamas,” while knowing that this was practically impossible. Both Israel and the Biden administration insist on ignoring the fact that the only way to prevent future attacks against Israel and end all violence is the termination of Israel’s racist occupation.

Even if Hamas theoretically disappeared, this would not prevent the rise of new Palestinian resistance groups as long as the suffering of Palestinians under occupation and an apartheid system continued. Thus, instead of using the same old arguments about protecting Israel’s security and right to exist, the alternative strategy should be to stop putting Israel above all international laws.  

By using its veto to prevent an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the US administration has lost many good friends in the Arab region, as well as all over the world, and lost any credibility in claiming that human rights have any place in its foreign policy agenda.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 14 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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