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The World Has Been Watching
UN and the failure to act to stop the attack on Gaza
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2009-01-06 23:41 (KST)   
On the evening of Jan. 3, the President of the General Assembly, Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, arrived at the UN as the Security Council was preparing to hold a closed door meeting about the Gaza crisis.

Earlier in the day, Israel had escalated the previous eight days of bombing of Gaza by beginning a ground invasion into the territory.

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The situation in Gaza is that 1.5 million civilians are trapped in a virtual prison. For 18 months prior to the invasion, Israel has blockaded the crossing points into Gaza that it controls and Egypt has closed the one crossing point it has control over.

Responding to the question from a journalist about what his reaction was to Israel's actions in Gaza and the Israeli ground attack, Brockmann said, "I think it's a monstrosity. There's no other way to name it." (1)

He went on to explain that "once again the world is watching in dismay the disfunctionality of the Security Council." The shame of this, he said, is that "people are dying."

Such activity by the Security Council, Brockmann said, is "what is responsible for the loss of prestige and the bad image" that the disfunctionality results in. "The Security Council," he explained, "is in very urgent need of profound reform."

Subsequent events on Jan. 3 at the Security Council demonstrated the accuracy of Brockmann's description of the current state of the Security Council.

This was the first meeting of the Security Council in 2009. Five newly elected nations replaced five outgoing members. The new members were Turkey, Mexico, Uganda, Japan and Austria. They replaced Indonesia, Panama, South Africa, Belgium and Italy.

A problem, however, seemed to be that the newly elected members did not have the same understanding of the dynamics and how to deal with them that the outgoing elected members had learned from their two years on the council.

While several of the outgoing members had voiced (2) their commitment to having open meetings of the Security Council -- especially when there was a dispute that couldn't be resolved -- the new members and others on the Council allowed the meeting on Jan. 3 to be a closed meeting. The discussion and actions of the Security Council were only available from second hand reports.

During a similar meeting of the 2008 Security Council on Dec. 27-28, one of the outgoing ambassadors, South Africa's Domisani Kumalo told journalists that he was insisting on an open meeting if the Security Council did not, at least, come to an agreed upon statement for the press.

At the first Security Council meeting in 2009, however, it is reported that no ambassador insisted on an open meeting. Hence there was neither an agreed upon press statement from Council members, nor was there an open meeting.

Describing the events of the Jan. 3 meeting, the Egyptian Ambassador, Maged A. Abdelaziz, told the press that, "we find regrettably that the Security Council is downgrading its response." (3) He was referring to the fact that the US Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff would not even agree to make the previous weekend's press statement into a Presidential statement. Nor would the US agree to a press statement like that of the previous Saturday, calling for an immediate halt to all violence.

Significantly, Israel's escalation of violence against Palestinians in Gaza, represented by the Israeli land invasion, was greeted with official silence at the first meeting of 2009 of the Security Council. The Security Council was silent on the fact that the large number of civilian deaths and injuries and the massive destruction of civilian targets in Gaza demonstrated that Israel was committing widespread collective punishment of civilians in Gaza.(4)

During Brockmann's comments to the press, he had referred to "other possible steps" that were being considered."

Some member nations of the UN are pointing to General Assembly Resolution 377 "Uniting for Peace" (5) as a procedure to be invoked to respond to the problem when a permanent member of the Security Council blocks action on an urgent issue, as the US did on Jan. 3.

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The Uniting for Peace resolution notes that the blocking of urgent action by a permanent member of the Security Council does not relieve the members of the UN of their responsibility under the charter. Under Article 24 of the UN charter, members of the UN confer "on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf."

When the Security Council fails to carry out such duties however, the General Assembly can assume the responsibility. If the General Assembly is in session, a meeting is to be called. If the General Assembly is not in session, as is currently the case, there is a procedure to call for an Emergency Session, which is to meet within 24 hours of the request.

There have been press reports that member nations of the UN, as members of the 57 nations of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC),or as members of the 117 Non Aligned nations are working to start the process to call for an emergency meeting of the General Assembly about the Gaza crisis if the Security Council continues to be unable to act on the need for a cease fire and the opening of the border crossings into Gaza. (6)

There have been ongoing and growing demonstrations around the world of people upset about the lack of action by their governments to find a way to stop Israel's bombardment of Gaza. The persistent failure of the UN Security Council over the past 18 months to stop the siege of Gaza has helped to set the conditions for the current attack on the Palestinians by Israel.

Angry demonstrations around the world are evidence that this inaction is an affront, not only to the besieged Palestinians but to people around the world who condemn Israel's invasion of Gaza. In his comments to the press on Jan. 3, Brockmann said that "what is really responsible [for the current violent situation in Gaza --Ed.] I think is the unfulfilled resolutions of the Security Council" with regard to the Palestinian crisis.

"The world has been watching," he noted.

Should Israel implement a cease-fire in Gaza?  (2009-01-02 ~ 2009-01-26)
I don't know

1. Media Stakeout: Informal comments to the Media by H.E. Mr. Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd session of the General Assembly on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
[Webcast: Archived Video - 7 minutes]

See also Ronda Hauben "Security Council and Others at UN Respond to Israeli Attacks on Gaza , Press statement issued by Security Council after 5 hours of consultations", OhmyNews International, Dec. 28, 2008.

2) Ronda Hauben, "Security Council Fails to Act on Gaza Crisis: The Silence is Deafening Says Indonesia's Ambassador to the UN", OhmyNews International, Feb. 7, 2008

3) Egypt Media Stakeout: Permanent Representative of Egypt, H.E. Mr. Maged A. Abdelaziz [See especially Minutes 18:47-20:52]

4) Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, states, "No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited

5)General Assembly Resolution A/RES/377(V) A 3 November 1950 377 (V). Uniting for Peace

6) Indonesia and Malaysia are two such nations. See for example, Abdul Khalik and Lilian Budianto,"RI pushes for UN emergency meeting" The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Monday that Indonesia would continue its political and diplomatic efforts to push the Security Council to issue a resolution to stop Israeli attacks and force both sides to return to peaceful dialog to solve the conflict."

"But if we can't get a resolution through the Security Council then we will use the alternative of an emergency meeting at the General Assembly to force a cease fire to stop the hostilities that have claimed many lives," he told reporters at the Presidential office."

A version of this article appears on my blog at taz.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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