Frankly Speaking: Why has the UN constantly failed Palestine?

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Updated 07 November 2023
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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.”

 


Turkiye to send navy to Somalia after agreeing oil and gas search

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia September 7, 2022. (REUTERS)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia September 7, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 July 2024
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Turkiye to send navy to Somalia after agreeing oil and gas search

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia September 7, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • Turkiye has become a close ally of the Somali government in recent years. Ankara has built schools, hospitals and infrastructure and provided scholarships for Somalis to study in Turkiye

ANKARA: Turkiye is set to send navy support to Somali waters after the two countries agreed Ankara will send an exploration vessel off the coast of Somalia to prospect for oil and gas.
President Tayyip Erdogan submitted a motion to the Turkish parliament late on Friday, seeking authorization for the deployment of Turkish military to Somalia including the country’s territorial waters, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The move came a day after the Turkish energy ministry announced that Turkiye will send an exploration vessel off the coast of Somalia later this year to search for oil and gas as part of a hydrocarbon cooperation deal between two countries.
Earlier this year, Turkiye and Somalia signed a defense and economic cooperation agreement during Somali defense minister’s visit to Ankara.
Turkiye has become a close ally of the Somali government in recent years. Ankara has built schools, hospitals and infrastructure and provided scholarships for Somalis to study in Turkiye.
In 2017, Turkiye opened its biggest overseas military base in Mogadishu. Turkiye also provides training to Somali military and police.

 


Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer

Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer
Updated 20 July 2024
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Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer

Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer
  • UN Special Rapporteur Clement Voule called on Algeria to “address the climate of fear caused by a string of criminal charges”

ALGIERS: Eight Algerian activists from pro-democracy protests that toppled the country’s last president have been placed in pre-trial detention while six others were released under judicial supervision, one of their lawyers said Friday.
The activists were arrested between July 8 and 15 in Bejaia, some 220 kilometers (136 miles) east of the capital Algiers.
Mira Mokhnache, a university professor and human rights defender, along with seven other activists were placed in pre-trial detention on Thursday by an investigating judge at the Sidi M’Hamed court in downtown Algiers, according to lawyer Fetta Sadat.
The protest movement, known as Hirak, broke out in February 2019 and forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down two months later.
The movement continued to press for deep reforms, but it waned during the Covid pandemic.
The National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD) said that among the eight convicted was a man who was released from prison last month after three years of imprisonment over ties to the pro-democracy protests.
A 16-year-old whistleblower who documented Algerian political prisons on his Facebook page was among those released under judicial supervision, according to Sadat.
Local media said the group was being prosecuted under a 2021 law amendment relating to “terrorism.”
Last year, a United Nations expert called for the repeal of the article that “broadened the definition of terrorism,” and urged Algerian authorities to pardon people convicted or detained over their involvement in the pro-democracy protests.
UN Special Rapporteur Clement Voule called on Algeria to “address the climate of fear caused by a string of criminal charges.”
Dozens of people are still detained in Algeria over links to Hirak or human rights activism, according to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees.
In February, rights watchdog Amnesty International said that five years after the protests erupted, Algerian authorities had “escalated their repression of peaceful dissent.”
“It is a tragedy that five years after brave Algerians took to the streets in their masses to demand political change and reforms, the authorities have continued to wage a chilling campaign of repression,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, Heba Morayef.
The North African country is readying for presidential elections set to take place on September 7 as the incumbent President Abdelmadjid Tebboune remains its frontrunner.
 

 


Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials

Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials
Updated 20 July 2024
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Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials

Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials
  • A security source confirmed the blast, adding that it “occurred in a warehouse storing equipment that belongs to Hashed Al-Shaabi”

BAGHDAD: An explosion ripped through “logistics” warehouses belonging to former pro-Iran paramilitaries south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Thursday, officials said.
“At 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT)... an explosion occurred in logistics warehouses belonging to the 42 Brigade... in the Yusufiyah area, south of Baghdad,” said the Hashed Al-Shaabi — an alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary groups now integrated into the regular army.
The cause of the blast was not immediately known, and the Hashed said it assigned a committee to investigate.
Firefighters were battling the blaze, it added in a statement.
A security source confirmed the blast, adding that it “occurred in a warehouse storing equipment that belongs to Hashed Al-Shaabi.”
A Hashed official said he did not rule out the possibility of an “air strike.”
In April, one person was killed and eight wounded in a blast at a military base housing Hashed groups in Babylon province, south of Baghdad.
An investigation found the blast was caused by munitions stored on-site, not by an air strike.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi is an integral part of the Iraqi security apparatus under the authority of the prime minister.
It includes some pro-Iran groups which have carried out dozens of attacks against US forces in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The latest blast comes after two drones were launched on Tuesday against an Iraqi base used by US-led troops without causing any damage.
 

 


Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike

Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike
Updated 20 July 2024
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Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike

Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike
  • Israel has killed at least 38,848 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory, where fighting raged on Friday

TEL AVIV: Israel threatened reprisals Friday after a drone claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels penetrated its vaunted air defenses and killed a civilian in a Tel Aviv apartment building near a US embassy annexe.
The attack drew condemnation from UN chief Antonio Guterres and an appeal for “maximum restraint” to avoid “further escalation in the region.”
The pre-dawn strike came hours before Israel suffered another blow, a ruling by the UN’s top court that its occupation of the Palestinian territories was “illegal” and needed to end as soon as possible.
The advisory opinion of The Hague-based International Court of Justice is not binding, but it comes amid mounting international condemnation of Israel’s handling of its war on Hamas in Gaza.
The office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas hailed the court’s decision as “a victory for justice.” Hamas said it puts “the international system before the imperative of immediate action to end the occupation.”
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has overseen a major expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, insisted: “The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land.”
The Houthis are one of a number of Iran-backed armed groups around the Middle East that have claimed drone and missile attacks on Israel in retaliation for the Gaza war.
The group, which controls swathes of Yemen, including much of its Red Sea coast, has previously claimed attacks on Israeli cities including Ashdod, Haifa and Eilat, but Friday’s strike appears to be the first to breach Israel’s sophisticated air defenses.
The Houthis fired at Tel Aviv a “new drone called ‘Yafa’, which is capable of bypassing the enemy’s interception systems,” their spokesman Yahya Saree said.
An Israeli military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a “very big drone that can travel long distances” was used in the 3:12 am (0012 GMT) attack.
He said the drone was detected but due to “human error” the alarm was not raised in time, and it slammed into an apartment building.
Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israel believed the drone used was Iranian-made and upgraded so it could reach Tel Aviv from Yemen — at least 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) away.
Medical services said one civilian was killed and four people suffered “relatively minor” injuries.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed revenge.
“The security system will settle the score with all who try to harm the state of Israel, or sends terrorism against it, in a decisive and surprising manner,” he said in comments posted on social media platform X.

In grainy security camera footage, the buzz of what appeared to be the drone was followed by an explosion that shook the building and set off car alarms.
The blast occurred about 100 meters (yards) from a US embassy annexe, said an AFP journalist who saw broken windows along the street lined with apartment blocks.
“It woke me up because the vibration of the sound was like a 747 (jet) coming in,” said Kenneth Davis, an Israeli who was staying in a hotel opposite the building which was hit.
“And then the explosion... everything blew out in the room,” he told AFPTV.
Since November, the Houthis have also carried out dozens of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden that they claim is Israeli-linked.
The United States and Britain launched a campaign of air strikes in January to deter the attacks on shipping.
The Gaza war was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 38,848 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory, where fighting raged on Friday.

Residents said clashes were heard between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army, with explosions and shelling in the Tal Al-Hawa district of Gaza City.
The war has destroyed much of Gaza’s housing and other infrastructure, leaving virtually the entire population displaced and short of food and drinking water.
Many are living in unsanitary conditions. Health authorities in Gaza and Israel said on Thursday that poliovirus had been detected in Gaza sewage samples.
The World Health Organization said on Friday that no cases of the highly infectious disease had been discovered in Gaza so far.
 

 


Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks

Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks
Updated 20 July 2024
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Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks

Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks
  • Houthis in recent weeks have become more adept at inflicting damage on their targets

CAIRO: Yemen’s Houthi militants hit and damaged a Singapore-flagged container ship with two missiles on Friday as they escalate attacks on global shipping over Israel’s war in Gaza.
The overnight assault on the Lobivia cargo ship came as the Iran-aligned Houthis also claimed responsibility for a fiery, long-range aerial drone strike in the center of Tel Aviv that killed one man and wounded four others.
The Houthis in recent weeks have become more adept at inflictingdamage on their targets. In June, the militants struck the Greek-owned Tutor coal carrier with missiles and an explosive-laden remote-controlled boat, causing it to sink.
Tutor was the second ship sunk in the Houthi campaign against commercial shipping, which since November has killed at least three sailors and upended global trade by forcing ship owners to avoid the Suez Canal trade shortcut.
“Their capacity, their access to more sophisticated weapons, has only increased over the course of this conflict,” said Gerald Feierstein, director of the Arabian Peninsula Affairs Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree in a television speech on Friday said the group launched the Lobivia strikes, adding that the assault also included drones. The manager of Lobivia did not immediately comment.
Lobivia was in the Gulf of Aden when the missiles struck two areas on its port side, the Joint Maritime Information Center (JMIC) said in an incident report.
The ship was located 83 nautical miles southeast of Yemen’s port city of Aden during the attack. All crew are reported safe and the ship was returning to its last port of call, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.
“The ship was transiting northeast along the Gulf of Aden when a merchant vessel in the vicinity observed ‘light and blast’ where the ship was located,” British security firm Ambrey said.
The ship appeared to perform evasive maneuvers immediately and switch off her automatic identification system approximately an hour later, Ambrey said.
On Tuesday, the Houthis hit the Liberia-flagged oil tanker Chios Lion with a drone boat, causing damage to the port side that left an oily trail that experts said appeared to be fuel.
Britain and the US have conducted retaliatory strikes since February, shooting down drones and bombing attack sites in Yemen.
That has come at a significant cost, said Feierstein, who was the US Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen from 2010 to 2013 under President Barack Obama.
“We’re basically spending a million dollars every time we shoot down a Radio Shack drone. That’s wearing on the Navy and wearing on our supplies,” he said.