International

US Veto Of Humanitarian Ceasefire Erodes Its Moral Authority Worldwide

Are Palestinians the children of a lesser god that their sufferings do not stir the world’s only superpower to stop the massacre?

Photo: Getty Images
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America’s iron-clad support for Israel’s War on Gaza was again on display when it vetoed a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution for a humanitarian ceasefire tabled by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). By doing so, the Biden administration showed its utter disregard for civilian killings in Gaza and its much-vaunted principles of promoting and protecting human rights across the world. Israel’s actions in Gaza are being termed as genocide by many. Yet the Biden administration is aiding and abetting the killings by providing lethal weapons to help Israel’s murderous assault against a helpless population.

Josh Paul, a director of the US State Department, resigned from his post in protest at what he described as unscrutinised arms transfers to Israel. He said that Washington’s constant supply of arms to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu government would not lead to a lasting peace in the region. He believed by unabashedly supporting Israel in the war on the people of  Gaza, America was harming not just the Palestinian cause but its own interests in the region. The human cost of this insanity is unimaginable and will only lead to more and deeper suffering for both the Israeli and Palestinian people.

When taking office in January 2021, President Joe Biden had publicly said that, unlike the previous Trump presidency, his administration would promote American values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. However, in Biden’s haste to please the Netanyahu government, he is willing to overlook the plight of children, women, and unarmed civilians battered by relentless Israeli air strikes and military action in the Gaza Strip. While the actions of Hamas on October 7 has been widely condemned, the retaliatory action by Israel against Palestinian women and children somehow does not provoke the same response from the Biden administration. Are Palestinian’s children of a lesser God?

“With this veto, the US stands isolated in the international community and the UN Security Council,” says Talmiz Ahmad, a former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia and an expert on West Asia. The US vote torpedoed hopes of calling for a  humanitarian pause in the fighting. Apart from Britain, which abstained from voting, all 13 members of the 15-member UNSC supported the UAE resolution.

“There is a disconnect between what President Biden says and what he does,” says Ahmad. 

Biden has been publicly calling for restraint from Israel, has urged the Israeli military not to attack hospitals, refrain from targeting civilians, and has been working to reach humanitarian aid to the besieged people. Yet Netanyahu’s military does just that. Washington watches in silence. It is tragic that if Biden wants he can stop Israel, in fact, the US is the only country that has the leverage to do so. No other country can force Netanyahu but Washington, but it chooses to grant Israel a carte blanche.

In the process, Washington has lost many of its close friends in the Arab world. The US vetoed the resolution on the flimsy ground that the Hamas atrocities were not part of the resolution tabled by the UAE. Robert A. Wood, Deputy Secretary to the UN, spoke of an “imbalanced resolution that was divorced from reality that would not move the needle forward on the ground in any concrete way”. The reality on the ground, however, is that helpless civilians are being killed in Gaza.

American officials repeat what Israel dictates — that Hamas is using civilians as shields and unless Hamas is obliterated Israel will always be under threat. In the meantime, the IDF can continue killing as many Palestinians as they please and bracket this under collateral damage. So collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza will continue while Israel goes about hunting down Hamas. So far not a single important Hamas leader has been killed.

“The US veto on a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza has been justified because Hamas has no desire for a durable peace or to see a two-state solution and that a ceasefire would only plant the seeds for the next war. The veto however has opened up a plethora of charges against the US being complicit in the ongoing slaughter of civilians in Gaza,” says Anil Wadhwa, a former Indian diplomat who served as the ambassador to Italy.

Wadhwa adds, “There is a danger of a complete breakdown of public order and pressure of mass displacements into Egypt, according to the UN Secretary-General. Moreover, the trust between the US and the Arab world, and the UN humanitarian agencies has suffered a long-term setback. There is a real danger of the war spilling over into the wider region and engulfing countries like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.” 

By vetoing a humanitarian ceasefire, the US is playing into the hands of those segments that want to destabilise the region.

By not questioning the Netanyahu government the US has lost the goodwill of both the rulers and ordinary people of  West Asia.  The Global South is solidly backing the people of Gaza and watching America’s unqualified support for Israel. America’s moral standing has got a beating more so since its strident calls against Russian action in Ukraine as barbaric. It is little wonder that China and Russia would both like to stoke these sentiments to expose the US. The move for a multi-polar world will gain more currency now. 

The double standards of the US and the West have already been exposed. None other than Queen Raina of Jordan, a close ally of the US, has spoken about it. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, said that the US veto as well as Washington’s support to Israel on Gaza, exposed the “great gap between East and West ... and double standards in the international community”. In an obvious reference to Ukraine and Western governments accusing President Putin of war crimes in Ukraine, are now “hesitating to call for the end of these crimes in the Gaza strip”. He did not mention either Russia or Ukraine but it was apparent.

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“What is the message we are sending Palestinians if we cannot unite behind a call to halt the relentless bombardment of Gaza? Indeed, what is the message we are sending civilians across the world who may find themselves in similar situations?” the UAE’s deputy ambassador Mohamed Abushahab said at the UNSC.

The UAE had in 2020 normalised ties with Israel and signed the Abraham Accords. Then India, Israel, the US, and the UAE had in July 2022, formed what is called the I2U2 group, referred to as the Gulf Quad by some, to focus on joint investments in water, energy, space, health and transportation. At the current rate, neither the I2U2 initiative nor the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) which involves UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel are unlikely to take off. No Arab ruler will be in a position to work with Israel after the dissemination of Palestinians in Gaza.

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Oman’s foreign minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi said in a post on X: “The use of the veto at the Security Council is a shameful insult to humanitarian norms. I deeply regret that the United States should sacrifice the lives of innocent civilians for the cause of Zionism.” 

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