Vote at U.N. Castigates Israel Over Gaza Deaths
Posted June 13, 2018 9:47 p.m. EDT
Criticism of Israel’s lethal force against Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border shifted Wednesday to the United Nations General Assembly, which overwhelmingly passed a resolution that basically blamed the Israelis for the casualties in 10 weeks of clashes.
Loud applause greeted the outcome of the vote posted on a digital board in the cavernous General Assembly chamber, broadcast on the U.N. website. Israel and the United States, which voted against the resolution, called it blatantly one-sided and unhelpful.
The resolution, which deplored “excessive use of force” by Israel, also requested recommendations to protect Palestinians. It did not explicitly criticize Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, which Israel and the United States have accused of instigating the clashes.
While the resolution, proposed by Arab and Islamic members, carries no legal weight, the outcome was seen by the Palestinian delegation and its supporters as a moral victory. The vote also was a reminder of the isolation facing Israel and its U.S. ally at the United Nations when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We need protection for our civilian population,” Riyad H. Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador, said before the vote. “Does that offend anyone?”
Mansour said the resolution was intended to “contribute to the de-escalation of the volatile situation.”
Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador, said the mere scheduling of a vote reflected what he described as a deep anti-Israel bias.
“This type of worldwide assault is reserved only for Israel,” he said. “It is not a criticism. It is not difference in opinion on policy. It is anti-Semitism.”
Approval of the resolution also amounted to a message to Nikki Haley, the American ambassador. She had vetoed a similarly worded but legally binding resolution on June 1 in a vote at the Security Council, where the United States wields veto power.
“The nature of this resolution clearly demonstrates that politics is driving the day,” Haley said in remarks before the vote in the General Assembly, where no members have vetoes. “Such one-sided resolutions at the U.N. do nothing to advance peace between Israel and Palestinians.”
The vote in the 193-member body was 120-8 — with Israel, the United States, Australia and a handful of tiny countries dissenting. Forty-five members abstained, and the rest were absent.
Before the vote, Haley had asked members to approve an amendment to the Gaza resolution that would have criticized Hamas, which many nations regard as a terrorist organization. Her amendment passed 62-58 but failed to win the required two-thirds majority. Danon called that outcome “a badge of shame for the U.N.”
The diplomatic jousting offered a look at the far different narratives of what has been happening on Israel’s fortified border with Gaza, the Mediterranean enclave where nearly 2 million Palestinians live.
Since the weekly protests began on March 30 near the border, more than 120 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli soldiers stationed on the Israeli side, according to Palestinian Health Ministry officials. No Israelis have been killed.
The protesters have demanded an end to a protracted blockade of Gaza and for the right of return to lands in what are now part of Israel.
Israel and the United States have accused Hamas of fomenting the protests as a guise to invade Israeli territory and kill civilians. The Americans and Israelis have assailed critics for not explicitly blaming Hamas for the border protests, in which some protesters have attempted to breach the fence or have lobbed firebombs and sent flaming kites over the fence into Israel.
A wide range of human rights advocates, including at the United Nations, have criticized Israel for using deadly force on mostly unarmed demonstrators, many of them not near the fence. Israel’s military has said it has used live ammunition only as a last resort.
In a statement ahead of the General Assembly vote, Human Rights Watch said the Israeli military’s actions at the Gaza border may amount to war crimes.
“Israel’s use of lethal force when there was no imminent threat to life has taken a heavy toll in life and limb,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group’s Middle East director.