UN Honor, US Shame in Gaza

When Washington vetoed a ceasefire in Gaza Friday, it stood alone against international law as the U.K. — its tutor in imperial brutality — dutifully abstained, writes Jeffrey Sachs.

Long Island City, N.Y., skyline, with full moon behind the sculpture “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares” at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 21, 2021. (UN Photo/Manuel Elías)

By Jeffrey D. Sachs
Common Dreams

The nearly unanimous vote in the U.N. Security Council on Friday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza is a moment of honor for the United Nations and shame for the United States.

By voting to stop Israel’s war on Gaza by a vote of 13 yes, one no (U.S.), and one abstention (U.K.), the vast majority put itself on the side of international law. The U.S. stood alone against international law, with its sidekick and tutor in imperial brutality, the United Kingdom, dutifully abstaining.

[Related: What US Got Most Crucially Wrong in UN Veto]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres honored the U.N. and human decency by invoking Article 99 of the U.N. Charter, calling for the U.N. Security Council to stop the killing in Gaza as a basic responsibility under the U.N. Charter.

Each day, U.N. officials on the ground in Gaza heroically struggle to feed, shelter and protect the population from Israeli bombs. More than 100 U.N. staff have been killed in the Israeli assault.

The situation in Gaza is as clear as it is brutal. The State of Palestine, recognized by 139 nations, has long suffered from the brutalities of Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank. Gaza has been called the world’s largest open-air prison by Human Rights Watch.

After the Hamas-led horrific terrorist attack on Oct. 7, in which 1,200 Israelis died, Israel began to ethnically cleanse Gaza. Legal specialists at the Center for Constitutional Rights regard Israel’s actions as a genocide.

To date, more than 17,400 Gazans have been killed, and an unfathomable 1.8 million Gazans have been displaced. Tens of thousands are at risk of imminent death. Last month, Guterres warned that “Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children.” Israel pushed the population from northern Gaza to the south, and then invaded the south. Israeli authorities told Gazans to flee for their life to zones within the south, and then bombed the places to which the Gazans had been directed.

The U.S. is more than a protector of Israel. It is an accomplice. The U.S. supplies, in real-time, the munitions Israel uses for mass murder, even as U.S. authorities pay lip-service to Gazan civilian lives.

Robert A. Wood, deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., centre at table, on Dec. 8, when the U.S. cast the lone vote against a ceasefire in Gaza. (UN Photo/Loey Felipe)

The President of Israel Isaac Herzog justifies the slaughter by declaring that there are no innocent civilian Gazans: “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible.”

The Israeli government’s biggest lie is that Israel has no options other than the mass killing of Gazans, supposedly to defeat Hamas.
The fact that Israel was lulled by its arrogance into letting its guard down on Oct. 7 does not make Hamas an existential threat. Hamas has only a tiny fraction of Israel’s military might.

Oct. 7, like 9/11 in the U.S., was a colossal security blunder that should be immediately corrected by stepped-up border security, not an existential threat that in any remote manner justifies the killing of thousands or tens of thousands of innocent civilians, with women and children constituting 70 percent of the victims. 

The killing frenzy is being led by the very same politicians who were responsible for the Oct. 7 security failure and who now manipulate the deepest anxieties of the Israeli population.

There is a larger and far more important point. Hamas can be demobilized through diplomacy, and only through diplomacy. Israel and the United States need finally to abide by international law, accept a sovereign state of Palestine alongside Israel, and welcome Palestine as the 194th member state of the U.N. 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Dec. 8, as the Security Council met on a letter he had written invoking Article 99 of the U.N. Charter, asking the council to act on the humanitarian criss in Gaza. (UN Photo/Loey Felipe)

The U.S. needs to stop arming the Israeli operation of ethnic cleansing in Gaza and stop protecting Israel’s rampant violations of basic human rights in the West Bank. Fifty-six years after its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, and after decades of illegal settlements in the occupied territories, Israel needs finally to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian lands.

With such steps, peace between Israel and the neighboring countries could and would be secured. On that basis, U.N. peacekeepers, including both Arab and Western troops, would in turn secure the Israel-Palestine border for a needed transition period. At the same time, all international flows of financing to anti-Israel militants would be choked off by joint and coordinated actions of the U.S., Europe and Israel’s Arab and Islamic neighbors.

The diplomatic route is open because the Arab and Islamic countries (including Iran) have once again reiterated their long-standing desire for peace with Israel as part of a peace agreement that establishes Palestine along the 1967 borders and its capital in East Jerusalem.

The real reason for Israel’s war in Gaza is that the government of Israel rejects the two-state solution, and points to extremists on the other side rather than to the Arab and Islamic states, which want peace based on the two-state solution.

Israeli zealots, including several in the cabinet, believe that God promised them all of the lands from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean. This belief is fatuous. As Jewish history should make clear to religious Jews, and as all human history should make clear generally, no group, whether Jewish or otherwise, has an unconditional “right” to any land. 

Palestinians after an Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip on Oct. 8. (Mahmoud Fareed, Palestinian News & Information Agency or Wafa, in contract with APAimages, CC BY-SA 3.0)

For rights to be secured and internationally respected in our day, governments need to abide by the international rule of law. In the case of Israel and Palestine, international law, as expressed repeatedly by the U.N. Security Council, holds that two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, have both the right and responsibility to live side-by-side in peace according to the 1967 borders.

Not only Israel, but even perhaps more so the United States, has lost its way. The deep reason was clear to Senator J. William Fulbright 60 years ago, when Fulbright was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and wrote the magnificent book, The Arrogance of Power

Fulbright pointed to arrogance as the deep cause of America’s reckless war in Vietnam in the 1960s. In its ongoing arrogance, the U.S. military-security state repeatedly ignores the will of the international community and international law because it believes that weapons and power enable it to do so. U.S. foreign policy is based heavily on covert, illegal regime-change operations and on perpetual warfare that caters to the U.S. military-industrial complex.

We must not become cynical about the U.N. It is currently blocked by the U.S., the country that led its creation under America’s greatest president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 

The U.N. is doing its job, building international law, sustainable development and universal human rights, step-by-step, with advances and reverses, over the opposition of powerful forces, but with the arc of history on its side. International law is a relatively new human creation, still in the works. It is difficult to achieve in the face of obstreperous imperial power, but we must pursue it.

It is important to note that opposing Israel’s war crimes has absolutely nothing to do with anti-Semitism. This point has been made eloquently in an open letter by dozens of Jewish writers. 

Israel’s Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t speak for Judaism. The Israeli government violates the most sacred of all Jewish injunctions, to protect life (Pikuach Nefesh) and to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).

The message of Jewish ethics is found in the words of the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 2:4) inscribed on a wall directly facing the United Nations: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a university professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed The Earth Institute from 2002 until 2016. He is also president of the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Development.

This article is from Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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24 comments for “UN Honor, US Shame in Gaza

  1. Carl Zaisser
    December 13, 2023 at 12:21

    “The real reason for Israel’s war in Gaza is that the government of Israel rejects the two-state solution…”. Therein lies the insurmountable problem. It’s alarming to see so many trying to now resuscitate UNGA 181, which itself was unjust in offering the Palestinians a state on only 22% of historic Palestine. At the time of Herzl, Palestinian Arabs were about 95% of the population. At the time of the Balfour Declaration 20 years later in 1917, they were over 90% of the population. At the time of the Truman manipulated UNGA 181 partition resolution in 1947, which gave 56% of Palestine to Zionists, Palestinian Arabs were 67% of the population, still by far the majority even after 30 years of British enforced, at gunpoint, Jewish immigration from Europe. Israel has done NOTHING…EVER…to indicate it is willing to allow a sovereign Palestinian state on 22% of historic Palestine. Let’s not start this charade all over again. Israel, and its protector the United States, do NOT care about international law. They use the ‘talk’ about ‘two states’ only to temporize to steal more Palestinian land, bit by bit. What we have now is a ONE STATE reality. And that state is an apartheid state INSIDE Israel where the 20% of its population who are Arab Israeli citizens live under the apartheid regime established with Israel’s Basic Laws since 1948, and a brutal occupation in both the West Bank and Gaza where international law and human rights for Palestinians simply do not exist. All protected by that great self-declared shining beacon of democracy, the United States of America.

  2. Opie
    December 13, 2023 at 11:18

    Learn to identify propaganda from specific examples:

    Propaganda: Taking a 7 year old boy’s opinion that what matters most is being able to declare “he hit me first” as both the most important thing in all the world, and as something that legitimizes mass murder, detentions without trials, and other horrors.

    Learn to realize when you are being manipulated. Emotion is often the tool. And taking the sorts of things that must have made sense to you when you were a young child and pretending that they still matter. Learning to recognize propaganda from specific examples.

    Note, for us older people, it helps that this is the exact same propaganda used by Bush/Cheney et al to commit mass murder in Afghanistan and Iraq using the ‘he hit me first’ excuse. This is the same, with just a copy and paste to replace the names of the villains. The corpses of thousands or millions covered by a thin blanket that reads “he hit me first.”

    Of course, growing up hillbilly and with the people who were my parents, I learned by the time that I was only a little older than 7 that ‘he hit me first’ did nothing to keep parents and teachers from being mad at you for fighting on the schoolyard. Both of us boys got the same punishment, and ‘he hit me first’ wasn’t worth a hill of beans. To bad there aren’t any adults left in this modern world, as even the people who claim they are now adults seem to believe that ‘he hit me first’ is the most importantest thing in all the world and a fine justification for murder.

    • Ace Thelin
      December 13, 2023 at 12:51

      thank you saying this. It highlight the absurdity of the propaganda and the insanity of the violence.

    • michael888
      December 14, 2023 at 06:35

      The refusal to acknowledge the history and mistreatment, including sporadic murders, of Palestinians in the biggest open air prison in the world run by Israel (and their puppet Hamas) is distinctly American. Only Jewish deaths matter as Genocide Joe has made abundantly clear.

      Not really so different from Ukraine, where the US has overthrown the democratically elected President (both times Yanukovych) in the Orange Revolution and the Maidan Coup, with Genocide Joe embracing UkroNAZIs and the extermination of Russian language, culture and ethnic Russian Ukrainians (by shelling the Donbas and killing over 10,000). At least Russia came to the rescue of ethnic Slavs (as through much of history). The Arab cucks on the other hand actually honor treaties with the US and Israel, risible as that is! “American democracy” is an oxymoron.

      Historians will look back on the quarter of a century following 9/11, at Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the slaughters in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Ukraine and coups in Egypt and in America’s corruption playground, death squads and narco states, such as Honduras, and gauge the true psyche of the US. The bloodthirsty hegemon’s evil mirrors the British Empire and such “minor” colonizers such as France in Northern Africa (and still in the Sahel) and the Belgians in the Congo. Zionist Israel aspires to be the worst since 1945.

      And yet Genocide Joe has the temerity to criticize Russia and China for war crimes?

  3. Mary L Myers
    December 13, 2023 at 10:47

    I so agree with Jeffrey Sachs on what he says about the U.S. role in the carnage in Gaza, but I do not agree with him on FDR being our greatest President. Roosevelt was about the worst President in my opinion.

    • J Anthony
      December 14, 2023 at 07:58

      Yes, it’s a controversial opinion. On one hand he ushered in programs that would become necessary and popular with the working people, on the other hand he did it to save capitalism. A catch-22.

  4. Tony
    December 13, 2023 at 07:38

    “. . . with its sidekick and tutor in imperial brutality, the United Kingdom, dutifully abstaining.”

    Yes, that is a very accurate description.

  5. CaseyG
    December 13, 2023 at 00:11

    America and Israel together become—-The Land of the Ghouls.
    Why did this happen Biden and Blinken and Netanyahu?

    ” There is no honor among thieves,” is still a true saying.

  6. robert e williamson jr
    December 12, 2023 at 22:52

    If anything positive has come of this murderous fiasco it might be that “Benny the Blade” has succeeded in drawing world attention to his stylish leadership’s horrific actions and unspeakable brutality visited on cornered civilians of Gaza an occupied land. A blood bath by any other definition. The end product of sick minds by all leadership involved.

    Make no mistake entire planet is watching this unfold.

    What they see is U.S. servile leadership marching in lock step with this madman, his leadership and his brainwashed minions in the IDF.

    All on live TV’s supportive propaganda broadcasts sponsored by U.S. billionaires.

    Never miss the fact Hamas timed this out perfectly using the venue they likely view as a most decadent display of human moral depravity, a rave. So much for Israeli security concerns, arrogance is a strong drug.

    In the process Hamas managed ensure that Israel and Benji dragged the US into the depravity with them. U.S. leadership then compounded the damage by vetoing a vote for cease fire. All this because of some insane rationalization brought to us by the same people who are backing the Ukraine to the last Ukrainian

    You cannot make this stuff up. Once again proving that truth is much stranger than fiction.

    Thanks CN

    Note to Biden Administration: As a proud outsider I’d like to inform you this is not a good look for the self proclaimed “Leader of the Free World”. Lead or follow but get the phuq out of the way! Absolutely pa-phuqing-thetic!

    • Opie
      December 13, 2023 at 11:27

      By this day and age, the only people who are fooled by ‘the leader of the free world’ nonsense are the Americans who watch CNN or FOX.

      The rest of the world sees ….
      – the most comprehensive surveillance system of its own people in world history.
      – the world’s largest prison population.
      – large militarized police forces that are allowed to lie and most of the time allowed to kill
      – censorship of opposing speech and opinions., including the modern equivalent of book burnings as social media mob behavior attempts to destroy speakers and artists.
      – the world’s largest military, aggressively based outside of America’s borders, and which has been bombing and killing openly for over the last 20 years.
      – the overthrow of democratically elected governments, including in Kiev, which of course has led to the current mess in that part of the world and more mass murder and killings and censorship and camps and detentions, etc, etc, etc.
      – tightly controlled ‘elections’ with only two parties and only corporate approved candidates being allowed to speak to the voters. Debates where the first step is to decide which candidates are banned and which are allowed to debate.

      I could go on. Probably for a lot longer. But, I think that’s enough to get across the idea that the notion of America as the “leader of the free world” is a joke to the rest of the world.

  7. Ace Thelin
    December 12, 2023 at 19:52

    What is a sovereign state alongside Israel? People keep saying this without saying how that is viable. There are over 700,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. What kind of Israeli regime would demand the removal of those settlers? Not a zionist one. Not an expansionist one. Not an aparteid one. We need to demand an end to the racist settler colonial project and an end to the aparteid zionist regime. Only a one state solution in all of historic Palestine confronts the roots of the problem. Equality for all! This is the only solution. Two states is nothing more than Plessy vs. Ferguson. Separate but equal. Disappointed J. Sachs is still repeating that failed idea.

    • Abu Lincoln
      December 13, 2023 at 12:15

      Those settlers are going to have to be reminded that their settlements were always illegal. Thus, the time to leave those illegal settlements on stolen land will arrive someday. The current genocide does not somehow make legitimate and legal the earlier thefts of land and acts of ethnic cleansing. Stolen land remains stolen land. Those settlers never had a right to be there.

      The solution for the people of Gaza is for them to be allowed to return home for the first time in decades. Anything else is not justice, but just the Genocidal somehow making legitimate earlier waves of thefts and genocide. The liars, cheats and thieves always want to ‘lets just move forward’ and somehow we all accept all of their crimes that led to what they now claim as their own. As the world has learned in the last 100 years, that only leaves the liars, cheats and thieves with power and time to plot their next crime wave.

      But, once we resolve the thefts and make proper reparations for the losses incurred, I agree that an ‘American’ solution of a land where all people are equal and all people all have rights including the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as the freedom of religion, is the eventual free and democratic solution to the land of the former Palestine Mandate. Such a land of freedom with protection of freedom of religion would be the best and safest ‘homeland for the Jews’ possible, because it is the only way to reach a ‘safe’ homeland.

      “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” — Exodus 20:17

    • Konrad
      December 14, 2023 at 17:06

      Absolutely, the two state solution is not possible, never has been. The only solution is ending, even if it has to be by military force, a coalition of the willing of the Islamic Middle East perhaps, an invasion, of the Zionist European colonial bridgehead, giving way to a one state Palestine, merging Israel, Gaza, and Westbank into one state where all residents can live in peace with religious freedom and equal rights and responsibilities for all.
      You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.

  8. Carolyn L Zaremba
    December 12, 2023 at 17:29

    Abraham Lincoln was America’s greatest President. Roosevelt was a member of the ruling class and only enacted the NRA and other programs to prevent a revolution and save capitalism.

    • TP Graf
      December 13, 2023 at 06:43

      Certainly Lincoln was the closest we’ve had to a repentant president, but I really wish he’d have let the South go without a war. He did not achieve a “union” as he so dearly envisioned. We were then and are now the Divided States of America where our only unified aims are military and economic dominance.

    • Selina Sweet
      December 13, 2023 at 11:48

      Good heavens. A purist. Forget the boons to the citizenry by FDR’s and Eleanor’s work. It’s only if you were born in the backwoods and rose to the Presidency a complete political virgin do the boons you’ve actually delivered upon, count. It’s a wonder the proclivity to discount the enlightened reforms because the instigator of them was not pure. What does this attitude serve? As somebody called Freud said – all observable behavior is over determined – meaning induced by multiple motivations.

    • Tim N
      December 13, 2023 at 12:52

      Yes, I caught that too–the first thing I thought was, “FDR? Wrong. Lincoln.”

  9. Lois Gagnon
    December 12, 2023 at 16:37

    The US, Britain and Israel are working overtime to demolish international law. The ridiculous “rules based international order “ is their attempt to gaslight the whole world into thinking it is the same as the former. How pathetic are the corrupted oligarchs to think they could get away with such an obvious charade. No one is buying it. They have revealed their treachery for all to see. No going back. Greed rots the human brain. Game over.

    • J Anthony
      December 13, 2023 at 05:43

      Few are buying it, you’re right. Sadly, they are getting away with it, so far.

  10. Paula
    December 12, 2023 at 15:46

    I was banned from X for responding to the picture of the US rep’s raised hand by writing Heil Hitler from the United States. I don’t see it as hate speech but more aligned with truth. So much for free speech.

  11. Vera Gottlieb
    December 12, 2023 at 15:13

    US/UK…birds of the same nefarious feather…The Asses of Evil.

  12. Drew Hunkins
    December 12, 2023 at 13:06

    We are ruled by unethical savages.

    With the emerging BRICS and the burgeoning Global South, Washington will never live this veto down.

    We are now a pariah on the world stage.

    • Vera Gottlieb
      December 12, 2023 at 15:14

      Sadly, whenever all this will have ended…most people would not recall much of it. By choice???

      • Drew Hunkins
        December 12, 2023 at 17:29

        Perhaps. But I think this particular veto is so revolting and unfathomable that it’ll be very hard to forget.

Comments are closed.