Frankly Speaking: Why has the UN constantly failed Palestine?

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Updated 07 November 2023

Frankly Speaking: Why has the UN constantly failed Palestine?

Frankly Speaking: Why has the UN constantly failed Palestine?
  • Pakistan’s permanent representative to UN decries “double standards” when it comes to condemnation of loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives
  • Munir Akram says Israelis get away with assassinating people but when others do something like what Hamas did, they are accused of being terrorists
  • Slams Israel’s rejection of ceasefire calls as “violation of international law in most violent way,” rules out Pakistan’s military involvement in the conflict

DUBAI: Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN has said Israel has been emboldened by the international order’s “double and triple standards,” which he considers to be the “root” of the crisis unfolding in the Middle East.

Reiterating his call for a ceasefire in Gaza, Munir Akram urged the international community to rectify the imbalance at the heart of the UN and in the application of international law.

“This is the nature of the world order in which we live,” he said on Arab News current-affairs show “Frankly Speaking,” adding: “There are double standards and there are triple standards, discrimination against some and discrimination for others. This is the root of our problems in the world we live in, these double standards.”

Munir Akram, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, on Frankly Speaking. (AN photo)    

For Akram, faith in the potential of the global system of rules is not entirely lost, noting that the issue is not so much a lack of principles nor a lack of law — both international law and international humanitarian law, which govern the actions of combatants in war — but rather the lack of their “uniform” application.

“These rules should be applicable uniformly and universally to all,” he told “Frankly Speaking” host Katie Jensen. “But that isn’t the case. The Israelis unfortunately have this sense of impunity. They can go and assassinate people and then get away with it and yet claim when others do it, when they do something like what Hamas did, they’re terrorists.

“This double standard is the root cause of the weakness of the international order we have today. And it has to be rectified. People need justice. People need to be treated the same way on the basis of the same laws, the same principles that we all espouse.”

Munir Akram, permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, speaks to Katie Jensen, host of Frankly Speaking. (AN photo)    

Akram’s comments came as the death toll from Israel’s bombardment in Gaza rose to more than 8,500 people, including at least 3,500 children. Some officials have said one child has been killed every 10 seconds.

The veteran Pakistani diplomat has repeatedly called for a ceasefire, telling both Arab News and the UN Security Council that there is an immediate need not only for a cessation in hostilities but also for the provision of a humanitarian corridor and access into Gaza, and the rejection of any Palestinian displacement, either within the embattled territory or outside it.

“It’s obvious that what needs to happen is a ceasefire. We need to halt the hostilities, halt the aerial bombardment, the invasion of Gaza, the killing that’s taking place,” he said.

“And we saw that with the attack on the (Jabalia) refugee camp. This is unnecessary slaughter of civilians with whatever military objectives that may be.”

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip on November 2, 2023, shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)

Akram asserted that even though international humanitarian law prohibits the targeting and killing of civilians, “that’s happening with impunity today, and certain powers are unable to agree to a ceasefire. This is mind boggling. It’s a violation of international law in the most visible and violent way. And I think the international community needs to stand up for the principles that we all espouse here at the United Nations.”

He also seconded the view of Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur for Palestine who, interviewed on “Frankly Speaking” last week, said the right to defend does not apply to a country that is at the same time an occupying power.

“Absolutely. This is exactly what we’ve said in the Security Council. If you see the first statement which Pakistan made on this, when this conflict broke out, stated clearly that a power which is occupying another people does not, cannot, claim the right to self-defense against those people that it’s occupying,” Akram said.

“I think the law on this is absolutely clear. The demand and the claim made by Israel and its friends that it has the right to defend itself doesn’t apply, isn’t legally defensible in this situation.”

Akram has been blunt in arguing that the “original sin” in the Gaza conflict was not the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 but rather the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, a position he staked out during a speech to the UN General Assembly that has since received a backlash from pro-Israel groups.

Palestinians search for survivors in the rubble of a building in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on October 31, 2023, amid relentless Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian enclave (AFP)

Asked whether he maintained or had retracted this position, he was unfazed, saying: “No, this is the truth.”

He added: “I don’t take the truth back. I think it’s quite obvious to anybody with any sense of fairness that the problem has arisen because of Israel’s 50 years of occupation of Palestine, the murder and killing of Palestinians with impunity over these decades and, especially in recent years, we’ve seen the manner in which the Palestinians have been treated.

“With regard to the Israeli occupation, I think I’m absolutely confident in my view that when you push a people into a corner, when you suppress them and you kill their children, they’ll react. And this is what has happened.”


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Concerns about escalation continue to hover around the conflict, particularly with not only the influence of Iran through its proxy armies but also the positioning of several US aircraft carriers in the region.

“We’re facing the danger of an international crisis, and that’s another reason — apart from the humanitarian reasons of Palestinian children and women being killed — there’s also a strategic reason, and that’s the danger that this conflict could spread,” Akram said.

“This could have dangerous implications not only for the region but for the world as a whole when you have major powers become involved in a conflict. And the danger of that happening is palpable.”

Added to this are competing efforts in the UN Security Council from China, Russia and the US to push alternative resolutions. This has been most recently seen in the rejection by China and Russia of a US-backed draft resolution calling for a pause in fighting to allow humanitarian access, protection of civilians, and the prevention of arms flows to Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

What followed was a Russian draft calling for a humanitarian “ceasefire” and the withdrawal of Israel’s orders for Palestinians in Gaza to relocate to the south of the territory ahead of a ground invasion.

Israeli military vehicles move near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on November 1, 2023 in southern Israel, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)

Asked if Pakistan would be willing to get involved militarily, such as by sending peacekeeping troops to Gaza, Akram — who began his second stint as head of Pakistan’s diplomatic mission to the UN in 2019 — said he hopes such a situation will not happen.

“We wouldn’t want to get involved militarily in this conflict, and we think that even talking about it is dangerous. We’d want to see a peaceful solution. That’s what we’re working for,” he said, clarifying that his answer was a “no.”

Akram elaborated on the prospect of a ceasefire, which for him is essential, noting that without one “the danger of the conflict spreading only escalates.” Nevertheless, he remains optimistic that a peaceful resolution can be realized before the conflict spreads further.

While recognizing that international efforts to bring about an end to the conflict by peaceful means have so far failed, he believes that these efforts should not be halted, explaining that alongside the moral and legal measures that could be taken, there are potential economic and political levers that could be pulled.

In advocating this position, Akram said it is Israel and its supporters that must be “convinced” to stop the war, stressing that “we have to try first and foremost to find peaceful ways of stopping this conflict.”

Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.” (AN photo)

He added: “I believe the enormity of the crimes being committed in Gaza is something that should move the international conscience. And hopefully if there’s a sufficient groundswell of support in the entire world, including the Western world where Israel has found support, that if an international conscience is mobilized, we could see a change in the positions of those who are complicit in not halting this war.”

If this fails, Akram was blunt with his assertion that Arab nations and member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation would “have to find ways to respond if Israel doesn’t stop the war.”

And while understanding that there are several “obvious” ways he could think of this happening, he emphasized that they would “try everything possible short of a conflict to try and bring this to an end, and bring this to a just end.”

Asked how he saw the Gaza crisis ending, Akram said the war has to stop. “The two sides have got to get back to talking about the creation of a two-state solution, because I believe there’s a general consensus that that’s the only durable solution,” he added.

“And it’s only these extremists who are leading Israel today who have denied that. The entire world believes that a two-state solution is the answer, and we must get back to that track as soon as possible.”


Red Cross chief arrives in Gaza, says suffering ‘intolerable’

Red Cross chief arrives in Gaza, says suffering ‘intolerable’
Updated 04 December 2023

Red Cross chief arrives in Gaza, says suffering ‘intolerable’

Red Cross chief arrives in Gaza, says suffering ‘intolerable’

GENEVA: The Red Cross president arrived in war-torn Gaza on Monday, calling for the protection of civilians in the Palestinian territory, where she warned that human suffering was “intolerable.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross said ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric’s travel to the region would happen in several stages with “a visit to Israel expected over the coming weeks.”

“I have arrived in Gaza, where people’s suffering is intolerable,” Spoljaric said on X, formerly Twitter.

“It is unacceptable that civilians have no safe place to go in Gaza, and with a military siege in place there is also no adequate humanitarian response currently possible,” she added in an ICRC statement.

Spoljaric, whose organization has faced criticism from both sides in the conflict for not providing adequate help to Israeli hostages held by Hamas and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, insisted that “all those deprived of liberty must be treated humanely.”

“The hostages must be released, and the ICRC must be allowed to safely visit them,” she said.

Her visit comes after full-scale fighting resumed Friday following the collapse of a week-long truce brokered by Qatar, the United States and Egypt, during which Israel and Hamas exchanged scores of hostages and prisoners.

“The last week provided a small degree of humanitarian respite, a positive glimpse of humanity that raised hopes around the world that a path to reduced suffering could now be found,” Spoljaric said in the statement.

“As a neutral actor, the ICRC stands ready to support further humanitarian agreements that reduce suffering and heartbreak.”

Netanyahu graft trial resumes in Israel in midst of Gaza war

Netanyahu graft trial resumes in Israel in midst of Gaza war
Updated 04 December 2023

Netanyahu graft trial resumes in Israel in midst of Gaza war

Netanyahu graft trial resumes in Israel in midst of Gaza war

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumed on Monday, despite the country’s continuing war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The trial was suspended after the Palestinian militant group’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 more kidnapped according to Israeli officials.

Netanyahu, leader of Israel’s right-wing Likud party, is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, allegations he denies.

Minister David Amsalem of Likud called the resumption of proceedings during the war “a disgrace.”

“War? Captives? ... No, no. The most important thing now is to renew Netanyahu’s trial,” said Amsalem on Sunday on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

Netanyahu and his allies have argued the accusations against him are politically motivated and had proposed a judicial overhaul that would have curbed some powers held by the courts.

The high-profile trial is expected to last several more months. An appeal process, if necessary, could take years.

In one of three cases the trial encompasses, prosecutors allege a plot between Netanyahu and the controlling shareholder of Israel’s Bezeq telecom giant to exchange regulatory favors for positive coverage on a news site owned by the firm. A second case relates to Netanyahu’s relationship with Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and other wealthy personalities.

According to prosecutors, between 2007 and 2016 Netanyahu allegedly received gifts valued at 700,000 shekels ($195,000), including boxes of cigars, bottles of champagne and jewelry, in exchange for financial or personal favors.

Netanyahu, who is Israel’s first sitting prime minister to stand trial, denies any wrongdoing, saying gifts were only accepted from friends and without him having asked for them.

In October 2019, his lawyers said they had received an expert legal opinion that concluded he had a right to accept gifts from close friends.

Egyptian Space Agency announces successful launch of MisrSat 2 satellite from China

Chinese and Egyptian engineers worked together to design and manufacture the satellite. (Photo: Xinhua news agency)
Chinese and Egyptian engineers worked together to design and manufacture the satellite. (Photo: Xinhua news agency)
Updated 9 min 28 sec ago

Egyptian Space Agency announces successful launch of MisrSat 2 satellite from China

Chinese and Egyptian engineers worked together to design and manufacture the satellite. (Photo: Xinhua news agency)
  • The Egyptian Space Agency was established in 2018 and aims to build and launch satellites from Egyptian territory

CAIRO: The Egyptian Space Agency has reported that the launch of the MisrSat 2 satellite from China was successful.

The agency said: “This (the launch) is in light of the strategic partnership between the governments of Egypt and China and the fruitful and constructive cooperation between the two friendly countries.”

A team of Egyptian engineers collaborated with Chinese experts in the satellite’s design and manufacture.

It was assembled and tested at the EGSA’s Satellite Assembly, Integration, and Testing Center.

The site, the largest of its kind in Africa and the Middle East, was established within the framework of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

The satellite forms part of Egypt’s sustainable development goals by utilizing space technology to enhance vital areas, including agriculture, the exploration of mineral resources, identification of surface water sources, and the study of the impact of climate change on the environment.

The agency said the work contributed to supporting the Egyptian economy as well as enhancing the country’s pioneering role by providing training programs aimed at qualifying specialized personnel on the African continent and the Middle East, while supplying spatial data.

It added that the launch of the MisrSat 2 was a milestone in Egyptian-Chinese cooperation, especially in the field of space technology.

The Egyptian Space Agency was established in 2018 and aims to build and launch satellites from Egyptian territory.


Tension mounts on southern front as Lebanon’s Hamas launches ‘resistance project’

Tension mounts on southern front as Lebanon’s Hamas launches ‘resistance project’
Updated 04 December 2023

Tension mounts on southern front as Lebanon’s Hamas launches ‘resistance project’

Tension mounts on southern front as Lebanon’s Hamas launches ‘resistance project’
  • Hezbollah now capable of striking deep into Israel, says security source 

BEIRUT: Hostilities escalated on Monday on the southern front of Lebanon between Hezbollah and the Israeli army.

A preliminary report said that a Syrian national was injured as a result of Israeli shelling targeting the Al-Wazzani border village. Avichay Adraee, the Israeli army spokesperson, said that “three soldiers were slightly injured” after Hezbollah had targeted the Israeli military outpost of Shtula.

In parallel with the mounting confrontations in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah launched 20 missiles from southern Lebanon toward the Western Galilee, between the Shomera and Mattat settlements. The Israeli army said that “the missiles landed in open areas and that its air force targeted military infrastructure for Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.”

Speaking on behalf of Hezbollah, Nabil Kaouk, a member of the group’s central council, said: “We will harshly respond to any attack against civilians in the south, and we will not let any attack against any civilian in Lebanon pass without a harsh and severe response.”

Kaouk revealed that during the truce “pressure was exerted on Hezbollah to avoid a new confrontation, as they want Israel to wage war on Gaza without the support of southern Lebanon.”

He claimed that Israel “is unable to win in Gaza or in south Lebanon, and cannot protect its settlers and ships in the Gulf and Red Sea.”

He added: “Israel is incapable of rescuing the hostages, as they were freed through negotiation only.”

According to Hezbollah’s statements, the militant group’s hostilities on the southern border had targeted on Monday morning “a gathering of the Israeli occupation soldiers in the Shtula Forest, the Al-Raheb outpost, the Al-Baghdadi outpost, and the Rowaysat Al-Alam outpost in the Kfarchouba Hills and the Shebaa Farms.”

The Israeli army activated the Iron Dome after a series of missiles were launched from the central part of southern Lebanon toward Israeli outposts.

Israel’s Channel 12 announced that “an anti-armor missile was launched toward the Misgav Am region in the Upper Galilee and that three soldiers were slightly injured after rockets were fired.”

Israeli ground and air shelling targeted the outskirts of southern villages including Naqoura, Aayta Al-Shaab, Labbouneh, Odaisseh, Kfarkila and Kfarchouba, using burning phosphorus missiles.

Israeli reconnaissance planes were seen flying at low altitude over the western and central parts of southern Lebanon, namely Naqoura, Alma Al-Shaab, Marwahin and Al-Dahira. They also reached the southern border villages of Aayta Al-Shaab, Rmaych and Yaroun. More Israeli reconnaissance planes were also seen over Rachaya and the eastern slopes of the Al-Sheikh Mountain, reaching Deir Al-Ashayer on the Lebanese–Syrian borders. They were also spotted hovering over Tripoli in northern Lebanon on Sunday.

On Sunday, Hezbollah targeted the Israeli Beit Hillel military outpost with guided missiles, directly hitting an M113 personnel carrier and injuring 11 members of the outpost.

A security source commented on Hezbollah’s attack, saying: “This escalation demonstrates Hezbollah’s capability to move more freely along the southern border.”

The source added: “Hezbollah is now capable of targeting deeper spots in Israel rather than hitting border areas. It is also using guided missiles increasingly.”

Sheikh Naim Kassem, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, said on Sunday that the group “is convinced that it will defeat Israel, and we are not in a rush to do so.”

Meanwhile, the Lebanese branch of Hamas announced on Monday “the establishment and launching of the Vanguards of Al-Aqsa Flood.”

It called on “young people and men in Lebanon and Palestine to join this movement to resist the occupation force through available and legitimate means, as a way to support the steadfastness and resistance of our Palestinian people.”

At the beginning of the confrontation in October, many Lebanese and Palestinian groups took part in the hostilities taking place on the Lebanese border, through armed members from the Al-Fajr forces — the military wing of the Islamic group — as well as through the military wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. These groups, however, have retreated, leaving Hezbollah alone to fight from the Lebanese border.

The Sayydet Al-Jabal gathering, which opposes Hezbollah, said in a statement on Monday that “Lebanon doesn’t want to enter a new war decided by someone else.”

The party, which includes a number of politicians and public activists, believes that Hezbollah has two options: “Either it returns to Lebanon and abides by the Lebanese terms — which are the terms stipulated in the Constitution, the Taif Agreement, and the resolutions of international legitimacy 1559, 1701, and 1680 — or it remains a representative of Iran until the latter abandons it the moment it faces a real threat, similar to what it did to Hamas in the last Gaza war.”

Yemen’s govt warns of massive Houthi strikes in Shabwa, Marib

Yemen’s govt warns of massive Houthi strikes in Shabwa, Marib
Updated 04 December 2023

Yemen’s govt warns of massive Houthi strikes in Shabwa, Marib

Yemen’s govt warns of massive Houthi strikes in Shabwa, Marib
  • Yemeni authorities fear the situation may be about to deteriorate as the Houthis gather militants and military equipment in Marib, Shabwa, and Taiz
  • Iran-backed militant group vows to target American naval ships in Red Sea

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government has warned that the Houthis are planning major offensives in two Yemeni regions, action that may derail peace talks and plunge the country back into turmoil.

Muammar Al-Eryani, Yemen’s information minister, accused the Iran-backed Houthis of mobilizing major military forces in the southern province of Shabwa and the central province of Marib in recent weeks.

And he noted that the militia group planned to attack Marib from the south, east, and north, as well as launch another simultaneous attack on government-controlled Bayan, Ain, Ouslen, and other areas in Shabwa.

Al-Eryani pointed out that such an attack would “undermine peace efforts, re-emerge the country in conflict, and exacerbate the deteriorating humanitarian crisis.”

Fighting has mostly stopped on all fronts throughout the nation after a UN-brokered truce came into force in April 2022.

But Yemeni authorities fear the situation may be about to deteriorate as the Houthis gathered militants and military equipment in Marib, Shabwa, and Taiz.

The Houthis have used popular outrage over continued Israeli attacks on Gaza to begin military training and collect soldiers outside government-controlled cities under the guise of preparing to battle the Israelis.

Al-Eryani urged the international community to label the Houthis as terrorists, impose penalties on their leaders, freeze their assets, bar them from traveling, and limit the militia’s income sources.

In a post on X, the minister said: “The international community, the United Nations, and its special envoy are called upon to issue a clear condemnation of these escalatory steps that confirm the Houthi militia’s disregard for de-escalation efforts.”

The warning came after the Yemeni army revealed on Sunday that its forces had killed and wounded several Houthis after foiling raids on government-controlled territory south of Marib.

The Houthis also organized a funeral procession in Sanaa on Sunday for 15 officers of various military grades killed in combat with government troops near the country’s western coastline on the Red Sea and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Houthis threatened to target American naval ships in the Red Sea only a day after launching drone and missile assaults on commercial vessels in the waters.

On a US vow to respond to strikes, Supreme Political Council member, Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, said that America had “no right” to deploy ships in the Red Sea.

In a post on X, Al-Houthi said: “The Americans do not have a right in the Red Sea that allows them to say that they retain the right to respond.”

Washington said on Monday it would consult with its partners and allies on how to react to Houthi attacks on ships after the group fired four missiles and drones at commercial vessels operating in international waters in the Red Sea.

In a post on X, the US Central Command said: “These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security.

“They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world,” it added.