Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

United Nations Report: Latest U.S. Veto on Behalf of Israel Gives the Lie to Claim of Even-Handedness

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

United Nations Report: Latest U.S. Veto on Behalf of Israel Gives the Lie to Claim of Even-Handedness

Article excerpt

United Nations Report: Latest U.S. Veto on Behalf of Israel Gives The Lie to Claim of Even-Handedness

Ian Williams is a free-lance journalist based at the United Nations.

As the hero of Sabra and Shatila rampages through the occupied territories to the cheers of most of Congress and the Bush administration, one could almost wish that the Taliban had put up a more prolonged resistance. Their sudden collapse has undermined the rational efforts by Secretary of State Colin Powell to persuade the rest of the world that the U.S. could be even-handed in struggles involving Arabs or Muslims.

That was demonstrated in the early hours of Dec. 15, with yet another American veto of a Security Council Resolution on the Middle East. The U.S. had kept the issue off the agenda for as long as it could, despite the increasing restiveness of the rest of the world. In the end the resolution, which condemned terrorism and called upon both sides to accept their responsibilities under existing agreements, was vetoed by the U.S. delegation because its purpose allegedly was "to isolate politically" one of the parties. Since the resolution condemned "all acts of extra-judiciary executions, excessive use of force and wide destruction of property" and looked to the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to help the parties, Washington's envoy did have a point. Only the Israeli government, after all, is doing those things.

Allied with President George W. Bush's statement to pro-Israel American Jewish leaders earlier in the week, one can only assume that the U.S. has decided that any chance of a united world front against terrorism is less important than pandering reactionary and bloodthirsty leaders in Israel and their cheerleaders in Washington. The Norwegians abstained because of a "lack of unanimity"--a novel diplomatic doctrine that evades comment on the substance. The British invoked problems with the language of the draft to excuse their secondary pandering the U.S. Israel lobby.

However, while one might get the impression from the U.S. press that the world condones Israeli brutality, it is heartening to know that most of the world's nations are prepared to go on record as condemning Israel's behavior. Of course, it is less heartening that they are not prepared to do much about it in the face of American intransigence. Nevertheless, it is at least some consolation to the Palestinians that most of the world condemns Ariel Sharon's clumsy moves to a final solution of his obsessions about Yasser Arafat and the PLO.

In the last few weeks the world's nations have indeed put their condemnation on record. Virtually all occasions, however, were ignored by most of the mainstream American media. Firstly, in Geneva on Dec. 5 the conference of 114 high contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, convened by Switzerland in the teeth of bitter opposition from the U.S. and Israel--which both, along with Australia, boycotted the event--decided unanimously that the Conventions did indeed apply to the occupied territories, that the Israelis were breaching them wholesale, and that it was the responsibility of the other contracting parties to stop them. In particular the statement declared Israeli settlements, and thus their extension, to be illegal, and called upon Israel to stop measures such as restrictions on movement and collective punishments.

The event will mark the culmination of a process begun in 1997, when the Palestinians began reasserting international law in the face of Israeli and U.S. attempts to ignore or distort it. Switzerland is the depository of the Convention, which is why it was faced with the task. Last year's General Assembly, in a cautiously worded resolution shaped by European reluctance to confront the U.S., called upon the Swiss to consult with states about a conference. "It was not easy," Valentin Zellweger, legal adviser to the Swiss mission to the U.N. in New York, told the Washington Report. …

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