By Lim Teck Ghee
On 16 October the UN Security Council failed to adopt a Russian-led draft resolution that called for “an immediate, durable and fully respected humanitarian ceasefire”, the secure release of all hostages, the unimpeded provision of humanitarian assistance – including food, fuel, and medical treatment – and the creation of conditions for the safe evacuation of civilians in need.
The draft also emphasised that it “[s]trongly condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism”.
Before the vote on the draft, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, whilst condemning the deaths of civilians in Israel and Gaza, urged support for the resolution saying it responds to the “unprecedented exacerbation of the current crisis”, with the number of people killed and injured “growing every hour”.
Only four countries joined Russia in voting for the resolution – China, the United Arab Emirates, Mozambique and Gabon.
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Four countries voted against it – the US, Britain, France and Japan.
The other six member countries of the Security Council abstained – Albania, Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, Malta and Switzerland.
Adoption of the resolution, which could have produced a ceasefire, needed a minimum of nine yes votes in the 15-member council.
After the vote, Nebenzia said that “the council once again has found itself a hostage to the selfish intentions of the Western bloc of countries” and failed to send a collective message aimed at de-escalating “the most serious explosion of violence over the past decades”.
Is the Al-Alhi Gaza Hospital blood on the hands of the Security Council members that refused to approve the resolution? And will the Security Council have an even bigger crisis to deal with before it finally acts on Gaza to fulfil its mandate to maintain international peace and security?
Gaza hospital strike
On 18 October perhaps encouraged by the failure of the ceasefire resolution, a rocket was fired into Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital in Gaza owned and operated by a branch of the Anglican communion – not a Muslim group. The strike killed hundreds of people.
Occurring during Israel’s intense 11th day – and counting – bombing campaign in Gaza, the death toll from this strike, which has brought outrage and condemnation throughout the world, is the highest of any single incident during the current violence.
Israeli leaders have predictably denied responsibility and claimed it was a misfired Hamas rocket launch. Palestinian authorities have also predictably blamed Israel for the strike.
Neutral observers caught in Gaza have reported similar earlier strikes by Israeli rockets on civilian targets. For example, UN relief agency UNWRA reported an air strike on one of its schools in central Gaza, where families displaced from the north had sought refuge. Six people were reported to have been killed.
UNWRA commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini called the bombing at the al-Maghazi refugee camp “outrageous” and warned the death toll was likely to rise. “It again shows a flagrant disregard for the lives of civilians. No place is safe in Gaza any more, not even UNWRA facilities,” Lazzarini noted.
Clearly the views of the rest of the world on this crime against humanity unfolding day by day in Gaza are now slowly but surely turning against Israel and its supporters in the West. Initially more sympathetic to the Israeli reaction to Hamas’ massacre of innocents at the Re’im music festival and in villages in southern Israel, the majority of countries now will be rethinking their support for Israel’s position in the Middle East.
This one act may be the game-changer in not only Muslim and the larger world response to the Palestinian struggle; it is likely to leave Israel even more isolated and its future more insecure.
Israel’s no-holds-barred revenge mission
The Israeli cause has not been helped by not only the belligerent public statements issued by its leaders since the Hamas attack but also by the vengence and no-holds barred mission which Israel’s leaders are pushing onto the population.
From Benjamin Nethanyahu, Israel Prime Minister: “The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will act immediately to destroy Hamas’s capabilities.”
“We will cripple them mercilessly and avenge this black day they have brought upon Israel and its citizens.”
“Residents of Gaza, get out now. We will be everywhere and with all our might,”
“Any place Hamas deploys, in this evil city, all the places Hamas is hiding, operating – we will turn it into a ruin.”
From Yoav Gallant, Israel Defence Minister: “We will wipe this thing called Hamas, Isis-Gaza, off the face of the earth. It will cease to exist.”
Scotsman Lt Col Richard Hecht, international voice of Israel military: “When we see a target, when we see something moving that is Hamas, we take care of it. It’s as simple as that.”
Taking down a civilian hospital may be simple for Israel’s IDF but it will only prolong the war.
A ceasefire and a two-state solution – not the wiping out of Hamas off the face of the earth – is Israel’s only hope of peace and security.
Lim Teck Ghee PhD is a Malaysian economic historian, policy analyst and public intellectual whose career has straddled academia, civil society organisations and international development agencies