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America’s arrogance at the UN

Updated December 23, 2017

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A CLEAR majority of the global community — in fact, over half of the UN’s members — voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to reject the unilateral US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A General Assembly resolution, spearheaded by Egypt and co-sponsored by Pakistan, termed any attempts to alter the status of Jerusalem as “null and void” while calling on all states “to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City. ...”

A breakdown of the voting reflects some interesting facts. The 128 countries who favoured the resolution include Muslim states as well as the wider community of the Global South, along with most EU member states. Amongst the nine who voted against it, apart from the US and Israel, are tiny island nations and a couple of Central American states. Many other states abstained.

The tone of the US — both of its president and UN ambassador — before and after the vote was antagonistic and intimidating. The US threatened to cut off funding to the UN, while before the vote Mr Trump told the global community that he would be “watching those votes”, adding that any country that resisted US diktat would see aid money dry up.

True, there have been many rabble-rousers on the world stage, but rarely in recent history has the leader of one of the world’s major powers issued such naked threats publicly.

While the US has a right to fashion its own foreign policy — even if in the case of Jerusalem such policies fly in the face of international law and globally acknowledged facts — there are ways to make one’s point, especially at a forum as august as the UN. Such blatant threats do not behove states that swear to respect democracy and the global order.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s comments were equally appalling and combative, as she said after the vote that the US “will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the UN General Assembly. ...” Ms Haley appears to believe that the world community should either toe the American line, or suffer the consequences.

Regardless of Mr Trump and Ms Haley’s grandstanding and verbal attacks, Thursday’s vote was a powerful moral victory for Palestine. It showed that the plight of the Palestinians is not just a ‘Muslim’ issue, but one of universal human rights and dignity.

Those in the world community that receive millions in US aid — such as Egypt and this country — must also be commended for voting as per their conscience and not succumbing to threats.

The Palestine problem cannot be solved through bullying or intimidation; unless the rights of the Palestinians are recognised and secured, a long-lasting solution to the matter will not be found. On Thursday, in the hallowed halls of the UNGA, this sentiment echoed loud and clear.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2017