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US’s Third Ceasefire Veto Underscores Its Complicity in Israel’s Genocidal Acts

Having vetoed yet another UN resolution calling for ceasefire, the US is reportedly planning a toothless alternative.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the press after the U.S. vetoed Algeria's draft resolution calling for immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza on February 20, 2024, in New York, United States.

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As the humanitarian crisis deepens and starvation and famine threaten the Gaza Strip, the U.S. has vetoed yet another UN Security Council resolution — with the United Kingdom abstaining — blocking a demand for an immediate ceasefire favored by 13 of the 15 member countries, including the vast majority of the nations of the world.

The draft resolution was put forward nearly two weeks ago by Algeria, a current member of the Security Council. On Tuesday, Algeria’s ambassador to the UN, Amar Bendjama, urged others on the Security Council before the vote to pass it by saying that the council “cannot afford passivity.” He added that, “Voting against it implies an endorsement of the brutal violence and collective punishment inflicted upon” the Palestinians.

Of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the U.S. cast the only “no” vote, with U.S. ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield stating that the resolution would interfere with the sensitive negotiations between Hamas and Israel, mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the U.S., that would broker a “pause” in the fighting and allow for the remaining Israeli hostages to be released. She said: “Demanding an immediate unconditional cease-fire without an agreement requiring Hamas to release the hostages will not bring endurable peace.”

In other words, the U.S. sought to justify its veto by saying it could not support an “immediate ceasefire” because doing so would jeopardize the prospects of a “temporary ceasefire.”

After the vote, the Chinese ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun reacted by saying, “The continued passive avoidance of an immediate ceasefire is no different from giving a green light to the continued slaughter.” France’s ambassador said the U.S. veto is regrettable “given the disastrous situation on the ground.”

This third U.S. ceasefire veto — together with the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate voting overwhelmingly to send Israel more than $14 billion in unconditional military aid — will no doubt further degrade the U.S.’s standing in the eyes of the world. Once again, it will demonstrate the U.S.’s support for, and complicity in, Israel’s genocidal practices and its willingness to go the distance to shield Israel diplomatically even when doing so acts against U.S. interests and the will of the American people, the majority of whom support a ceasefire.

Undermining the UN’s ability to do its job, the U.S. did the same thing last October when it vetoed a humanitarian resolution introduced by Brazil to deliver aid to Gaza under a total blockade.

In essence, what can be understood from Thomas-Greenfield’s response is that the U.S. favors a temporary “pause” — long enough to get the 131 Israeli hostages released — instead of an immediate or a permanent ceasefire that would allow Palestinians in Gaza to get desperately needed food and medical aid, start to rebuild their lives, bury their dead, look for loved ones still missing under the rubble, and tend to their wounded, orphaned and traumatized children.

It can also be inferred that the U.S.’s primary goal is to secure the release of the Israeli hostages — of course, there is no mention of the thousands of Palestinian hostages languishing in Israeli jails — so that Israeli forces can resume their onslaught on the city of Rafah in southern Gaza in an effort to achieve their endgame of emptying Gaza of Palestinians.

It is clear from the behavior of U.S. leaders that the lives of 1.4 million Palestinians now squeezed into an area 20 percent the size of the Gaza Strip are not a priority of the Biden administration, which has refused over and over again to put any real pressure on the Israeli government to stop killing and starving civilians and to allow aid trucks to enter the Gaza Strip as ordered by the World Court’s interim ruling.

The Israeli government is totally reliant on U.S. diplomatic protection and on U.S. military aid in its war of annihilation on Gaza. President Biden knows this all too well and could easily withhold one or both if he genuinely wants to put an end to the inhumane killing and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. But not only has President Biden rejected suggestions that he threaten to halt military sales to Israel, his administration is currently preparing a new shipment of powerful munitions to Tel Aviv.

Why is the U.S. proposing a new draft resolution and a “temporary ceasefire” when in fact Israel … was already ordered by the ICJ’s verdict to stop killing Palestinians and allow unhindered humanitarian aid to enter Gaza?

Israeli forces have been given the green light to keep pounding Khan Yunis and to step up their attacks close to Rafah, killing scores of people in the so-called Israeli-declared “safe zone” and causing massive damage to neighborhoods and infrastructure. Meanwhile they continue to prevent aid trucks from getting to the 1.4 million displaced Palestinians sheltering near Rafah. Gaza’s Nasser Hospital — the second largest hospital in Khan Yunis — is now “completely out of service” after Israel evacuated all but a handful of patients.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Whoever tells us not to operate in Rafah, is telling us to lose the war.” He insists a ground operation in Rafah will go ahead, despite warnings from countries including Australia, Canada and New Zealand that such a move would have a devastating impact on the forcibly displaced Palestinians sheltering there.

The Times of Israel reported recently that while speaking at the Bnei David academy in Eli, Netanyahu pledged, “We will not remove the IDF from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists.” He added: “None of this will happen. What will happen? Absolute victory!”

Assuring the Israeli public — and playing to the racist, right-wing extremist, anti-Palestinian politicians who keep him in power — he said Israel “will not end this war with less than the achievement of all its goals. This means the elimination of Hamas, the return of all our hostages and the promise that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel.” He added: “This is not another round, not another exchange of strikes, not another operation — [but rather] a complete victory. Nothing less than that. I am committed to it; our fighters are committed to it; and the absolute majority of the people are committed to it. We will not settle for less than total victory.”

U.S. Proposes an Alternative “Temporary Ceasefire” Resolution

According to Al Jazeera, which obtained a copy of the document, the U.S. has drafted an alternative resolution that calls for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practical, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” It also warns Israel against storming Rafah, stating that “a major ground offensive should not proceed, under the current circumstances.” There is no date set for when this U.S. alternative resolution will be up for a Security Council vote.

The key words in this proposed draft — which would do little to relieve the Palestinians of their nightmare — are “temporary ceasefire,” “as soon as practical” and “under current circumstances.” These caveats dilute the proposal so much that it essentially gives Israel the freedom to do whatever it wants, when it wants to.

The U.S. resolution does not call for an immediate or permanent ceasefire. It will not end the 17-year suffocating Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza; it will not remove the IDF soldiers from the territory; and it will not end the misery and hardship of the Palestinians or get them out of the tents and back into their homes — most of which have been destroyed or flattened by the relentless bombardment. It simply calls for a short respite before Israel resumes its violent aggression on civilians and offensive operations “to eliminate Hamas” as pledged by Netanyahu.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the death toll of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7 has surpassed 29,000 — over 12,345 of them children — and 71,378 wounded. The destruction includes 79,000 houses and 25,010 buildings (banks, markets, bakeries, and other businesses) and 200,000 partially damaged housing units; 30 hospitals, 99 schools and universities, and 334 partially damaged schools; 161 mosques, three churches, 140 government buildings (including the Legislative Council building, the Gaza Municipality building, the public library and theater, the cultural center, and water and electricity stations); and 195 heritage sites, some dating back to 800 BCE.

In the occupied West Bank, which has seen intensified attacks by Israeli soldiers and emboldened armed settlers — using Israel’s genocide in Gaza to forcibly displace and attack Palestinians in the West Bank — 382 Palestinians have been murdered, over 4,000 wounded, and 6,870 Palestinians were detained. Israeli settlers are waging pogroms on Palestinian villages in the West Bank under the watchful eyes of the IDF.

The ICJ Ruling Is Nonnegotiable and Not Debatable. Why Is the U.S. Allowing Israel to Ignore It?

In response to the genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel, the World Court, also known as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) — the UN’s highest legal arm — ruled in favor of the plausibility of genocidal conduct by the Israeli state and in its “provisional measures” ordered Israel to “take all measures within its power” to prevent acts of genocide and other human rights violations in Gaza and to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. The World Court also demanded a full report from Israel one month after the ruling.

South Africa’s minister of international relations, Naledi Pandor, recently warned during her talk at a Cape Town mosque that, “In fact, all states now have a legal obligation to ensure respect for the provisional measures as well as ensure that they are not complicit in the genocide.” She added, “Essentially if the case proceeds as we anticipate, and it is found that Israel committed genocide, all those who were complicit are as guilty as Israel.”

Minister Pandor explained that “for the first time in 75 years, Israel is being held accountable by an institution and by the global community.” She added, “We have now as South Africa broken a dangerous culture of impunity that has characterized the illegal occupation of Palestine, the oppression of apartheid in Palestine, and its now unfolding genocide. For the first time, we have opened up for the world to see. We, South Africa.”

So why is the U.S. proposing a new draft resolution and a “temporary ceasefire” when in fact Israel — a party to the Genocide Convention — was already ordered by the ICJ’s verdict to stop killing Palestinians and allow unhindered humanitarian aid to enter Gaza?

The ICJ ruling is not up for discussion; it is not subject to negotiations for brief pauses; and it is not dependent on hostage releases or exchanges. The notion that Israel is allowed to ignore the World Court’s ruling and continue its genocide while it negotiates a limited, short-term truce — or the U.S. introduces a “temporary ceasefire” resolution — is deeply troubling.

A Temporary Ceasefire That Does Not Address the Root Causes of the Crisis Is Not a Solution

The genocide continues to be watched globally in real time. Instead of heeding the ICJ’s ruling, Netanyahu told the Israeli public in a televised speech that “no one will stop us, not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anyone else.” And, on the same day that the ICJ issued its ruling, in an act that is no less disgraceful and would further entrench U.S. complicity in what the ICJ has ruled is a likely genocide, the Biden administration suspended its funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) hindering its ability to provide badly needed humanitarian relief in Gaza. This alone is a move that undermines the ICJ’s ruling, helps fuel the ongoing genocide and hastens the death of starving refugees.

The images of the sea of tents in southern Gaza and the scenes of displaced Palestinian children holding empty buckets and pots as they wait to receive food and water from aid workers are heartbreaking. How can people of conscience remain silent in the face of such horror? How can Congress keep supporting the genocidal conduct of the Israeli government — financially, militarily and diplomatically — in defiance of the ruling of the International Court of Justice? And how inhumane is it for the Biden administration to cut off its funding of UNRWA, denying essential humanitarian assistance by the main provider of aid to Palestinian civilians?

As the threat of famine and disease intensifies — and as a permanent ceasefire remains elusive — the angels of death threaten to hover above the ruins of Gaza for a long, long time to come. Palestinians will continue to suffer from the effects of the nearly five-monthlong, nonstop bombardment, the brutal IDF gun and tank fire, and the intentional starvation practiced by “the most moral army in the world.” Displaced Palestinians are sleeping in tents, in the rain and cold, with no food or health care; many are living with untreated injuries, illnesses and psychological scars. They struggle to survive from hour to hour and day to day to make it through while the U.S. vetoes an “immediate ceasefire” resolution and works on a draft for a “temporary ceasefire.”

But even if bombs falling from the sky and gunfire coming from every direction are “paused” for a short while, a temporary ceasefire that does not address the root causes of the crisis is not a solution. The time has come for the U.S. and the colonizing nations of the Global West — who give Israel unconditional support and are complicit in its genocide against the Palestinians — to understand that lasting peace in the region will only come about when the legitimate rights and grievances of the Palestinian people are addressed and Palestinians can live in freedom, dignity and equality — and without fear, dehumanization, oppression or apartheid.

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