UN vote on Israel : there is a Father Christmas

It's difficult to understand what happened at the end of the week before Christmas. Egypt's resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories was first delayed, then withdrawn after Israel pushed diplomatic buttons in Washington and found incoming President Trump to be an ally. Then four countries put forward their own resolution and that was passed, because for the first time in a long time the USA did not exercise its veto to strike down a resolution critical of Israel's illegal acts. That the Resolution was passed is a very good thing. But it's toothless and Israel's immediate response was to tell the UN it would not comply.

There is a misconception in the USA that to criticise Israel's warmongering and land-grabbing tactics is anti-Jewish. It is not. It is an attempt to make a sovereign state comply with international law. That is something Israel openly refuses to do.

I have had, over the years, many Jewish friends. I have worked for companies owned by Jews ranging from those for whom religion is a convenience to be used when it is to their advantage to those who follow their religion no matter what the (often considerable) cost to them (guess which I have respect for and yes, they really did wear long coats and hats in hot weather). None of them used their religion to oppress others.

I have met Jews who have used their version of their religion to oppress others. I do not number those amongst my friends. My view of them is simple: by their actions, they are distancing themselves from appropriate standards of behaviour and so far as I'm concerned, they can bugger off. I have a similar reaction to any political or religious viewpoint that seeks to impose itself on the responsible freedoms of others.

This is what the world is failing to do with Israel: it is pandering to the false impression that equates Israel the country, the political entity, with the Jewish identity and religion.

Much is made, by Israel and carried by Israeli supporting media, of the statements by some Palestinians that they challenge Israel's right to exist. However, those media do not report that there is a policy, operated throughout the Israeli education system, of claiming the whole of the Palestinian territory as rightfully Israel's. Maps are used in the classroom and at camps for young people where they are indoctrinated with the concept that even the so-called Green Line does not exist. A generation of Israel's are convinced that their excursions outside the country's legal borders are, in fact, in defence of domestic rights: that generation goes into settlements - but not until after they have served a compulsory period in Israel's military where the message that the whole region belongs to Israel and therefore must be defended is reinforced and enforced.

Israel continues to argue that it must defend itself but what it is defending is the indefensible penetration into the homelands of another people, a people that Israel murders with impunity, a people that Israel blockades and bombs and puts into poverty and impotence. A people who have almost no voice on the international stage.

When New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal re-introduced Egypt's resolution, it became clear to the USA that it was isolated. The "intense pressure" that had been put on Egypt by Donald Trump was not going to work against such a group. While the USA and the UK both spoke in terms that heavily qualified their position, the UK voted in favour of the Resolution and the USA abstained and, in doing so, allowed a near-unanimous vote to pass the resolution. Then something remarkable happened: the chamber broke into spontaneous applause.

The resolution condemned the building of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories as in breach of international law and it called on member states to "“distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the state of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”. The Resolution also condemned terrorist actions against Israel. It was not the one-sided resolution it is widely portrayed as being.

The USA has vetoed every resolution criticising Israel's settlements and military attacks in the Palestinian territories since 2009. The US Ambassador to the United Nations spoke of Israel being subjected to unfair levels of treatment at the UN with some 30 resolutions being proposed in recent years. She purported to create similarities between civil wars in several countries and the actions of Israel, conveniently ignoring the fact that Israel operates outside its borders and the only reason it cannot be accused of waging war and, therefore, of war crimes is because the UN refuses to recognise Palestine as an independent state.

Israel has acted strongly: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a religious ceremony to issue a political speech in which he said that he expected Donald Trump's administration to rescind the USA's abstention. How that would work is not clear. He has described the resolution as "“distorted,” “delusional” and “absurd, part of the swan song of the old world that is biased against Israel.”

He went on to say that he would exact a “diplomatic and economic price” from countries who acted against Israel and that he would withdraw his country's contributions to a number of UN institutions and would consider whether to expel the UN from Israel. He has recalled Israel's ambassadors from New Zealand and Senegal and ordered the cessation of Israeli aid to Senegal. Then he demanded that the ambassadors of the countries that had voted in favour of the resolution attend before him on Christmas Day, seen by some as a deliberate slight. Israel has no diplomatic relations with Malaysia and its relations with Venezuela have been strained for some time.

Israel's far right talk about "annexation" of the West Bank. Speaking through apparently gritted teeth, US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said that the US had concluded that the expansionist policies of Netanyahu and the far right "has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the very viability of that two-state solution.” What she meant was simple: Israel's de facto expansion outside its legal borders, which has put about 600,000 Israelis into settlements which are heavily guarded, will be difficult to unravel. While US President Obama has made numerous pleas to Israel to cease its expansion, they have been forcefully rejected. Israel's position has been, in effect, that it is a domestic issue that the US should stay out of.

But, by the way, can you please keep sending the USD3,000 million plus that you send every year to support our military activities, Israel says, in terms. Obama's administration not only agreed to keep supporting the Israeli military but increased the amount from USD3,100 million to 3,800 million per year during the presidential election campaigning season which is in direct alinement's with Clinton's policies and fundraising activities.

The resolution has no teeth: the UN can do nothing in the face of Israel's clear statements that it intends to ignore it and to carry on regardless. There is no doubt that any attempt to pass a follow up resolution imposing sanctions will be voted down. The UK has already said that it will not support any form of sanctions against Israel. Under US law, it is a crime to take part in sanctions against Israel.

However, the resolution does allow something important: the occupied territories are the source of much agricultural product that finds its way into the food chain marked "Product of Israel" although some supermarket chains have insisted that labelling be truthful. Now, rejection of product from outside Israel's legitimate borders cannot be challenged as illegal discrimination against Israel because, under UN law and the UN Resolution, the Occupied Territories are not Israel and countries must treat them as not being Israel. If the settlements can't sell their product overseas, they might start to think twice about being there.

The resolution condemned the building of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories as in breach of international law and it called on member states to "“distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the state of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”.

For the full story on the maps, from a non-partisan, Jewish perspective, see http://forward.com/news/310838/how-do-jewish-camps-draw-the-green-line/.
In respect of Netanyahy's response, see
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/24/world/middleeast/israel-benjamin-netan....
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/25/israel-summons-ambassadors...