US indifference to the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza being massacred by Israeli warplanes has been met with disbelief – not only by its allies, but by the rest of the UN Security Council.
For the third time in a week, the US blocked the adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement that called for the protection of civilians and a halt to the ongoing violence. The US refusal to endorse a joint UN Security Council statement shocked council members.
What was even more outrageous was the Biden administration approving the sale of a further $735 million (about R10 billion) worth of arms to Israel in the same week that Israel was continuing to bomb civilian homes leaving men, women and children trapped beneath the rubble.
President Joe Biden has lost a huge amount of credibility by failing to defend the right of the Palestinians to resist military aggression against worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, against Palestinian families threatened with eviction from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, and against civilians being killed on the streets of Gaza.
Biden had been particularly vocal in support of the rights of black South Africans living under oppression and military aggression committed by the apartheid regime, making the current double standards difficult to comprehend.
What should be noted is that China has once again stepped into the leadership role that the US has vacated, and took the lead this week in convening the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Palestine. Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired Sunday’s UN Security Council meeting on the Israel-Palestine situation.
Wang Yi said that the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestine has caused a large number of casualties, including women and children, and the situation is extremely critical and severe. He said the international community must act urgently to prevent the situation from further deteriorating. This was in stark contrast to US efforts to protect Israel at all costs.
China, as would be expected from a world leader, strongly condemned the violence against civilians, and called for an immediate end to air strikes and rocket launches, and was categorical that Israel in particular must exercise restraint.
China called on Israel to earnestly fulfil its international treaty obligations, lift the blockade and siege of Gaza as soon as possible, and guarantee the safety and rights of civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory, and provide access to humanitarian assistance. China also advocated that the international community must provide humanitarian assistance to Palestine.
Wang Yi called on the US to “shoulder its due responsibilities, adopt a fair stand, and support the Security Council in playing its due role in easing the tensions, rebuilding the trust, and resolving the situation”. There are now growing calls for the US to be excluded from the Quartet – the body which is supposed to mediate in the conflict – as the US is not perceived as impartial or capable of taking decisions in the interests of the civilian population under attack.
South Africa has strongly condemned the continuing escalation of attacks by Israel on Palestinians in Gaza and East Jerusalem. South African ambassador to the UN Mathu Joyini addressed the UN Security Council saying: “Israel’s actions are totally unjust and shameful, particularly the targeting of the most vulnerable section of the Palestinian community: civilians, including children, women and the elderly.
The resulting casualties, loss of livelihood, ensuing hostilities and surge in intercommunal violence engulfing the occupied Palestinian Territories bears the sole responsibility of the occupying power, Israel.”
Joyini, who addressed the council on Sunday, further said these actions should be addressed by the International Criminal Court, set up by the international community to address crimes against humanity.
“This council has in the past not hesitated to refer crimes of this nature to the ICC and should not hesitate to do so again in this case. Failure to do so will fuel the perception of double standards. The continued illegal settlement activity of Israel, including the planned evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods must be condemned by this council.
“South Africa is also appalled by the violence by vigilante-style groups and mobs on Palestinians as well as the violation of religious sites. South Africa is of the view that if the UN Security Council is unable or unwilling to act, this matter must be referred to the General Assembly for consideration,” Joyini said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made his views known in his weekly letter, From the Desk of the President, saying: “The sight of men, women and children being evicted from the homes their families have lived in for generations brings back painful collective and personal memories for the majority of South Africans – of forced removals and land dispossession. It was a pain and humiliation faced by my own family. Israel’s actions are a violation of international law.
“They show a total disregard for successive UN Security Council resolutions that call for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land and the fulfilment of the rights of the Palestinian people.”
* Shannon Ebrahim is the Group Foreign Editor for Independent Media.