Israel and the loss of collective hope

Stanley L
Cohen, Al Jazeera, April 28, 2018

For seven
decades the UN has failed to fulfill its original mission. Israel is the
epitome of this grand failure.
Palestinian child holds bread during a protest against aid cuts, outside the
United Nations’ offices in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on January
28, 2018 [Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa]

The United
sits on First Avenue, just off of 41st Street, overlooking
the East River in New York City. It opened to great applause and expectation. A
wishful answer to the madness that had become a world unleashed with the scent of
blood and the all too customary wail of mourn. 

It was to
be our collective hope. A grand oath by which, together, the world could find
answers to the greed and arrogance of states long unbound in their historical
feed upon those less powerful. It has not worked.
in San Francisco on October 24, 1945, the UN opened with endless promise. As
proclaimed in its lofty preamble,
the original 51 member states committed themselves to saving “succeeding
generations from the scourge of war … [reaffirmed] … faith in fundamental
human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights
… of nation’s large and small … to establish conditions under which justice
and respect for the obligations arising from … international law [could] be
maintained … to ensure… that armed force [would] not be used, save in the
common interest.”
With all
too comfortable ease, 73 years later, these passionate words of humanity have
once again proven themselves to be little more than idle chatter in which the
powerful not only craft the tone of the debate, but set about to ensure its
content reflects their unique and predatory vision of the rule of law.
In what
has become a political art form of pain and punishment, with repeated rerun a
handful of powers have used their veto to ensure that the Security Council
(UNSC), the UN’s most empowered organ, is long on vent, but short on action.
In first
place stands Russia/Soviet Union which has used its veto 112 times– more than
any other permanent member of the UNSC. Most recently, on April 10,
, Russia blocked a resolution to identify who was responsible
for the alleged
chemical weapons attack
in Douma in Syria. To date, since the conflict
in 2011, Russia has used its veto 12 times regarding Syria.
Earlier, it vetoed a Security Council condemnation of its annexation of Crimea
in 2014.
In second
place stands the United States. It has exercised its veto power some 80 times to date.
Since 1982, the grand protector of Israel has vetoed 36 UNSC resolutions
critical of it, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other UNSC
recently, it vetoed a resolution
proposed by Kuwait
condemning Israeli attacks upon thousands of
Palestinians during the Great March
of Return
that called for an independent investigation into mass
killings and injuries that have ensued. On December 18, 2017, it vetoed a draft
resolution approved by 14 of the 15 members of the Security Council urging
countries to refrain from establishing
embassies in Jerusalem
In its
most basic form, the veto power ensures that permanent members of the UNSC can,
as they choose, prevent any collective UN action whether a diplomatic or armed
response to an international crisis, thus sacrificing the will of the world
community to their own narrow geopolitical programme.
inaction, or sanctioned violence, has long betrayed any meaningful effort to
serve as the world’s neutral arbiter to ensure equal and just application of
international law and the pursuit of world peace. 
examples of meaningless, indeed failed, political debate abound, one, in
particular, exposes the UN as little more than an excuse for yearly September
get-togethers of world leaders. 
No state
has offended, with such brazen regularity and uniform betrayal, the core
principles of the UN than has Israel,
established on stolen Palestinian land. 
of ethnic cleansing in Palestine
literally its first day, when the UN announced to the world that Palestine
was relegated to history and Israel crafted as a Middle East extension of
Europe, this state has flaunted international law in its march of ethnic
mayhem its mantra even before its artificial declaration of statehood, Israel’s
Zionist framers never blinked at the use of unbridled terror to obtain their
goal. The bombing of
the King David Hotel
, in 1946, by the Irgun, a UK-designated
terrorist organisation, took the life of 91 mostly civilians.
this massacre and the assassination
of UN mediator Folke Bernadotte,
in Jerusalem in 1948, by the group Lehi, momentarily captured
the eye of the world, little was known about the decade of horror that both
Palestinians and British had lived at the hands of Zionist militias.
this period, Palestinians and British police and military personnel were
injured or assassinated by explosives, snipers or lynching. Jewish terrorists
attacked infrastructure, en masse, as they robbed banks and bombed military and
police installations, government offices, and ships. They sabotaged railways,
bridges, and oil installations using booby traps, ambushes and vehicle blasts
with the kind of cold detached execution that the world would once again see
just this past month not from the Irgun, but from its heir – the Israeli
There is
no need to recast, in full, the nightmare that has befallen tens of thousands
of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators over the last several weeks in Gaza,
leaving 45 dead
and thousands injured. By now, the massacre has been well recorded.
surprisingly, most killed or injured suffered gunshot wounds to the rear of
their heads or backs. In the parlance of forensic science, these entry wounds
are consistent not with attack but flight.
massacres are, of course, very much an essential part of the Israeli historical
narrative. A walk down its memory lane shows an unbroken pattern of carnage
perpetrated upon the most vulnerable of its enemies, real or imagined.
2008-2009 war on Gaza
In the
winter of 2008-2009, Israel launched a massive assault on Gaza. Within the first 9
hours, it dropped more than 100 tonnes of
explosives on the strip
In the
days to come, tens of thousands of its civilians were exposed to white
phosphorous shells fired into crowded residential areas, not as incidental
cover to otherwise legitimate use of force, but rather as a primary weapon of
war in violation of international law.
shells struck
the main Gaza compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
where some 700 civilians had taken shelter, causing numerous deaths and
On the
day before the hostilities ended, three phosphorous shells landed in another clearly
marked UN facility
, one of which setting a classroom on fire and
killing two brothers as they slept. As with all other UN facilities, Israel had
advance notice of its coordinates.
phosphorus produces horrific burns. It sticks to the skin of its victims,
penetrating their bodies resulting in liver, heart and kidney damage and, in
some cases, multiple organ failures. White phosphorus burns unless deprived of
oxygen or until it is completely exhausted.
the attack, Israel fired some 7,000 dual-purpose
improved “conventional” artillery shell designed to avoid
international prohibitions against the use of traditional cluster bombs.
as an anti-armour and antipersonnel weapon, each artillery shell explodes into
hundreds of smaller fragments within a 100m radius, killing and wounding
indiscriminately. One example of their destructive potential was a January 6
attack near an UNRWA school in Jabaliya, which killed 43 Palestinians. On that occasion,
Israel acknowledged the use of the shells. 
The UN
Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict
ruled that these attacks
constituted violations of international human rights and humanitarian law as
well as possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Israeli assault
killed some 1,400 Palestinian men and women, including hundreds of children.
African Jurist Richard Goldstone, a former international war crimes prosecutor
and member of the UN team that issued the report, described the Israeli conduct
as “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate
and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic
capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever
increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”
With the
Obama administration taking the lead in defence of Israel, the UN took no steps
to hold it accountable for repeated violations of international law during the
The 2014
war on Gaza
years later, Israel struck once again as it launched another war on
Gaza with massively disproportionate force.
to a UN report,
“the scale of the devastation was unprecedented” with more than
6,000 air strikes and 14,500 tank shells and 35,000 artillery shells fired.
Many of
these explosive devices were used in densely populated areas and designed to
have a “wide-area” impact to ensure that anyone or anything within
the contact area would likely be killed, injured or damaged due to their
explosive power and imprecision.
non-governmental organisation reported a 533-percent
in the use of highly explosive artillery shells in
comparison to the previous Isreali assault on Gaza.
As noted
by the UN, haphazard strikes in densely populated neighbourhoods, on
residential buildings, the use of explosives with wide-area effects and the
destruction of entire neighbourhoods in Gaza likely constituted a violation of
the prohibitions of indiscriminate attacks against civilians and was,
therefore, a war crime.
Israel’s thirst for retribution was at last satisfied, 2,256 Palestinians
were killed, the majority of them civilians, including 538 children and 308
women. More than 11,000 others were wounded, a third of them children, with
over 1,000 left permanently disabled.
Many of
those killed or maimed were targeted while seeking refuge in various shelters,
including UN schools.
Twenty civilians lost their
and dozens more injured in an overnight attack on the Jabaliya
elementary school where more than 3,000 displaced civilians had sought refuge.
Like during the previous war, Israel had the coordinates of the UN sites.
not just for the loss of life, the concentrated Israeli onslaught was designed
to cause lasting devastation on a community already overwhelmed by poverty and
still reeling from the last major assault on its infrastructure just a few
years earlier.
Israeli army damaged or destroyed 235 schools and 73 health. Thousands of
homes, hundreds of factories and farms were totally levelled. The lone power
station and a major sewage pipe in Gaza were destroyed.
six weeks after Israel launched its assault, the Human Rights Council of the UN
held an emergency session regarding the bloodbath in Gaza.
In the
strongest of terms, a resolution
was passed
which, in relevant part, condemned “the widespread,
systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental
freedoms arising from … the latest Israeli military assault on the occupied
Gaza Strip, by air, land and sea, which has involved disproportionate and
indiscriminate attacks, including aerial bombardment of civilian areas, the
targeting of civilians and civilian properties in collective punishment
contrary to international law and other actions, including the targeting of
medical and humanitarian personnel, that may amount to international
the resolution called for an immediate ceasefire, predictably, it was ignored
by Israel. Only one country voted against the resolution – the United States.
an investigation into the massacre of 2014 is currently
under way at the International Criminal Court,
to date, the UN
itself has undertaken no affirmative steps nor imposed any sanctions against