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June 13, 2018 7:39 pm

‘Times Are Changing’ at UN: US Wins Plurality of Votes to Condemn Hamas During General Assembly Day of Drama

avatar by Ben Cohen

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks in favor of an amendment condemning Hamas during a General Assembly debate. Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar.

The 50-year-old reputation of the UN General Assembly as a trusty platform for incitement against the State of Israel acquired its first blemish on Wednesday evening, when a plurality of member states voted in favor of a US-sponsored amendment condemning Hamas for the deadly violence on the border between Israel and Gaza.

“The UN bias against Israel runs very deep, but the fact that the American amendment against Hamas won a voting plurality in the UN General Assembly shows that times are changing,” an official at the US mission to the UN told The Algemeiner after the vote.

The official’s observation followed an afternoon of high drama over a resolution submitted by Arab and Islamic member states that blamed Israel for the Gaza violence, ignored Hamas entirely, and demanded “international protection” for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The US amendment — holding Hamas responsible for rocket attacks against Israel, the destruction of crossing points delivering humanitarian aid from Israel into Gaza, and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields — won the support of 62 member states, but only after an attempt led by the Algerian delegation to prevent a vote outright failed.

As Miroslav Lajčák, the president of the UN General Assembly, attempted to call a vote on the American amendment, the Algerians, backed by Cuba, the State of Palestine and Venezuela among others, invoked a procedural rule to prevent the vote from taking place at all. Speaking from the floor, US Ambassador Nikki Haley countered that “denying a vote on the US amendment would be the height of this body’s hypocrisy.”

The Algerian blocking move was itself put to a vote, with 78 members opposing, 26 abstaining and 59 in favor — a rare defeat for the pro-Palestinian bloc in the General Assembly, and not the last of the afternoon.

Moments later, a sudden burst of applause led by the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, signaled that the US amendment had passed, with 62 member states voting in favor, 58 opposing and 42 abstaining.

That was not the end of the matter, however, as procedural objections arose once more. Lajčák made a hasty presidential ruling that a two-thirds majority was needed for the amendment to pass. Again, Haley challenged, and the third vote of the afternoon followed. This time, Lajčák’s ruling was upheld — 66 states voted with the US, with 73 voting in favor of the ruling, and 26 abstaining.

As the General Assembly prepared for its final vote of the day, on the unamended resolution sponsored by Algeria and Turkey, it was already clear to stunned Arab delegates that one-third of the UN’s 193 member states had joined the US in condemning Hamas — and that many more chose to abstain, rather than vote against.

When the voting tally on the original resolution produced the more familiar UN split of 120 in favor, 8 against, and 45 abstentions, there was relieved applause from the Palestinian delegation. But as a later statement from Haley emphasized, the fact remained that “a plurality of 62 countries voted in favor of the US-led effort to address Hamas’s responsibility for the disastrous conditions in Gaza.”

“We had more countries on the right side than the wrong side,” Haley said. “By their votes, those countries recognized that peace will only be achieved when realities are recognized, including Israel’s legitimate security interests, and the need to end Hamas’ terrorism.”

Danon — who during the debate challenged the delegates to say what they would do “if 40,000 rioters calling for your destruction tried to storm your border” — meanwhile claimed a moral victory.

“The hypocrisy of the General Assembly knows no bounds, as anti-Israel elements deceitfully blocked the condemnation of Hamas, a murderous terrorist organization,” Danon said in a statement. He added that “thanks to the combined efforts with our American friends and our allies from around the world, we proved today that the automatic majority against Israel in the UN is not destiny and can be changed.”

Despite the tension over the votes, when it came to speeches during the debate, the General Assembly sounded all too familiar. The Palestinian, Turkish, Venezuelan, Bangladeshi and Bolivian representatives were among those whose speeches compared Israel to the former apartheid regime in South Africa, invoked the Arabic word “Naqba” (“catastrophe,” a common term in the Arab world to describe Israel’s creation 70 years ago) and accused Israel of committing war crimes.

In her speech to the delegates, Haley asserted that condemning Israel was a “favorite political sport” at the UN. She asked pointedly why the killing of 146 protesters by government forces in Nicaragua in recent months, or the recent mass arrests of protesters by the Iranian regime, were not deemed worthy of a special session of the General Assembly.

Haley blasted the unamended resolution as “totally one-sided.”

“It makes not one mention of Hamas, who routinely initiates violence in Gaza,” she told the delegates. “Such one-sided resolutions at the UN do nothing to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Everyone recognizes that. But advancing peace is not the goal of this resolution.”

None of Haley’s points were directly addressed by those opposing the US amendment, despite more than two hours of speeches. The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, instead derided the US effort as little more than “games and gimmicks.”

“I don’t think that these things will be sold to very sophisticated diplomats,” al-Maliki confidently added.

A screen in the General Assembly hall displays a plurality of UN member states in favor of the US amendment.


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