U.N. Councils Split on Condemning Alleged Israeli Violations of Law
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Security Council diplomats yesterday rejected as “one-sided” a proposed draft resolution that would demand that Israel “cease its aggression against the Palestinian civilian population.”
At the same time, the United Nations’ newest Geneva-based organ, the Human Rights Council, concluded an emergency session by passing a resolution that condemned Israel and, according to the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch, “failed to address acts of violence by Palestinian armed groups or to recognize that Palestinian authorities can help to resolve the situation.”
The flurry of diplomatic activity took place as Israeli troops were being deployed to a sliver of land inside the northern part of the Palestinian Arab-controlled Gaza Strip where two Kassam rockets were fired on Wednesday into the southern city of Ashkelon.
The rocket attack and the ensuing Israeli troop redeployment to Gaza — less than a year after Israel withdrew all its forces and citizens from the area — were seen as the newest escalation in the latest phase of the Israeli-Arab war. Twenty-five Palestinian Arabs, most of them armed, and one Israeli soldier were killed yesterday.
In addition to securing the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Palestinian Arabs nearly two weeks ago, Israeli officials said their mission now includes ending the barrage of rockets from northern Gaza.
We “won’t sink in the Gaza swamp but will enter any necessary area to carry out our missions,” said Defense Minister Amir Peretz, whose hometown, Sderot, has been a constant target of Kassam rockets for months.
In Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded its session yesterday on alleged Israeli violations of international law by resolving to dispatch to the region “an urgent fact-finding mission headed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.”
A former South African anti-apartheid activist, John Dugard, will lead the mission, which is charged with documenting only Israeli violations. As the independent observer, known as a “rapporteur,”on Palestinian Arab issues for the now-defunct Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Dugard has been a consistent critic of Israel, America, and the United Nations itself for a decade.
On Wednesday, Mr. Dugard accused the so-called Quartet — America, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations — of anti-Palestinian Arab bias. He told the Human Rights Council that it is questionable “whether [the European Union and the United Nations] can act as ‘honest brokers’ while remaining members of the Quartet.”
A U.N. spokeswoman, Marie Okabe, said yesterday that as a member of the Quartet, Secretary-General Annan’s views on the Middle East are “well known.” Asked about the anomaly of a U.N. envoy criticizing Mr. Annan’s policies, Ms. Okabe noted that human rights rapporteurs are independent, even as they are dispatched as heads of fact-finding teams. “Once an independent rapporteur, always an independent rapporteur,” she told The New York Sun.
Meanwhile, members of the Security Council met yesterday for a closed-door consultation after Qatar circulated its proposed resolution, described by the American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, as “unbalanced.” Mr. Bolton told reporters that he doubted any changes to the text would lead to its approval.
The voting power of Europe, America, and Australia has eroded in favor of poorer nations at the Human Rights Council after it replaced the Commission on Human Rights this year. But at Turtle Bay’s most powerful U.N. organ, the Security Council, America remains one of the five permanent members with veto power.
Washington’s consistent use of its veto to block patently anti-Israeli proposals weighed heavily on yesterday’s negotiations among representatives of the 15 Security Council members, diplomats participating at the negotiations said.
Although the Qatari proposal was similar to the one passed in Geneva, it was quickly dismissed as “nonstarter” by all but two members, three diplomats who were present told the Sun on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record. The text did not mention the Palestinian Arab use of rockets or the abduction of Corporal Shalit, 13 members told the Qatari representative. Qatar said it would try to improve the proposal and circulate a new text on Friday, the diplomats said.
The Palestinian Arab permanent observer at the United Nations, Riad Mansour, dismissed calls to balance the resolution. Some speeches at the Security Council are “100% one-sided in the direction of Israel, and not saying a single word about the crimes and the massacres against Palestinian civilians,” he told reporters. “Those who speak with that spirit may be the last people to talk about one-sided resolutions.”