A Minute of Silence for Fidel Castro, Then UN Resumes Condemnation of Israel

By Patrick Goodenough | November 30, 2016 | 4:19am EST
U.N. General AssemblyPpresident Peter Thomson of Fiji was one of a number of delegates who wore Palestinian flags or scarves to mark the U.N.’s ‘International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People’ on Tuesday, November 29, 2016. (UN Photo/Manuel Elias)

(CNSNews.com) – After a minute of silence in honor of Fidel Castro, United Nations member-states on Tuesday turned to the regular General Assembly agenda item entitled “the question of Palestine,” in preparation for votes on several resolutions condemning Israel.

“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Fidel Castro,” began the president of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson of Fiji. He described the Cuban dictator as “one of the iconic leaders of the 20th century, with a great love for his homeland and the Cuban people, he dedicated his life to their welfare and development.”

“A tireless advocate for equity in the international arena, he was an inspirational figure for developing countries in particular,” Thomson added.

Representatives then stood in silence for a minute.

On a day when the U.N. marks its annual “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” a number of delegates sported Palestinian flags, scarves and keffiyehs – including Thomson himself, for some of the time.

Amid concerns about how the looming Trump administration may deal with both the Israel-Palestinian issue and the United Nations at large, speakers warned that a “two-state solution” was slipping out of reach.

For U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, the Israel-Palestinian conflict was not merely one of many around the world, but a “long-standing, gaping wound that has fed tension and conflict throughout the Middle East and beyond.”

Others described it as being “at the heart of tensions” in the region (Jordan), among its “most pressing crises” (Venezuela), and the “origin” of regional tensions (Iran).

At both a special “Day of Solidarity” event and subsequent General Assembly plenary session, speaker after speaker accused Israel of violating Palestinian rights and destroying chances of peace by expanding settlements in disputed territory.

The Palestinian representative, Riyad Mansour, referred to “apartheid,” and Venezuela’s envoy accused Israel of committing “war crimes.” The Nicaraguan delegate declared that any country supporting Israel is perpetuating Palestinian “suffering.”

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon derided the event as the U.N.’s annual “cynical Israel-bashing festival.”

The General Assembly will later this week vote on six resolutions condemning Israel, all having already been endorsed at committee level by large vote margins, Four of the resolutions fall under the “question of Palestine” agenda item, and two under a separate agenda item also focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “the situation in the Middle East.”

Five of the six relate to the Palestinian issue, while the sixth focuses on the “occupied Syrian Golan,” calling on Israel to return the strategic ridge, which it has controlled since 1967 and annexed in 1981, to the Assad regime.

The resolution does not refer to the civil war raging in Syria, the abuses committed by the Assad regime or other parties and the massive loss of life. But it does demand that Israel stop “its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.”

“It’s astonishing,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO, said earlier.  “At a time when the Syrian regime is killing its own people by the hundreds of thousands, how can the U.N. call for more human beings to be placed under Assad’s rule? The timing of today’s text is morally galling, and logically absurd.”

‘Political theater’

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is held on November 29 each year to mark the anniversary of the day in 1947 when the General Assembly passed a measure (resolution 181) dividing the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River into a Jewish state and an Arab one.

A number of delegates decried the fact that, 69 years on, the so-called “Partition Plan” resolution’s realization remains incomplete, since no Palestinian state exists.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon holds up a image of the front page of the New York Times of Nov. 30, 1947. It reads in part “Assembly votes Palestine partition … Arabs walk out … Arabs see UN ‘murdered,’ disavow any partition role.” (Screengrab: U.N. Webcast)

An official U.N. news item explained: “The date 29 November was chosen for this Day of Solidarity because on that day in 1947, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Partition Resolution which provided for the establishment of a ‘Jewish State’ and an ‘Arab State’ within Palestine … So far, only the Jewish State of Israel has come into existence.”

Unmentioned both in the news item and by most speakers during Tuesday’s discussions was the fact that Jewish leaders accepted the 1947 resolution at the time, while Arab and Palestinian leaders violently rejected it.

Immediately after the State of Israel was declared the following spring, five Arab armies attacked it in what Arab League head Azzam Pasha described as “a war of annihilation.” The effort failed to wipe out the fledgling state, but cost the lives of some 4,000 Israeli soldiers and 2,000 civilians, amounting to one percent of the then population.

(While many speakers on Tuesday invoked resolution 181, for decades Arab and Palestinian leaders reject its legality. Article 19 of the PLO Charter declares to this day that “the partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time.”)

Danon recalled the history since 1947, and said the Palestinian leadership has been saying “no” to peace ever since.

“Every time there was an opportunity to move forward, to chart a path to a better future, the Palestinian leadership rejected it.”

Rather than respond positively to far-reaching proposals for statehood put forward by Israeli prime ministers in 2000 and 2008, or to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s current call for “any time, any place” negotiations, Danon said, the Palestinian leadership focuses its time on “the political theater we are witnessing here today,” comprising empty resolutions, empty speeches – and more promises of international funding on top of the billions of dollars it has already received.

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