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2006-11-13

U.S. Vetoes UN Resolution Condemning Israeli Attack on Gaza, Arab League Lifts Financial Blockade

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The United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s recent attack on the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun that killed at least 19 Palestinian civilians and left dozens wounded. In response, the Arab League announced it would lift the financial blockade on the Palestinians in defiance of the U.S. We go to Ramallah to speak with Diana Butto, the former legal adviser to the PLO. [includes rush transcript]

The United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s recent attack on the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun that killed at least 19 Palestinian civilians and left dozens wounded.

One family lost 16 members when Israel tanks opened fire on their house. Seven children died, the youngest was just a year old. The UN resolution called on Israel to abide by its obligations and responsibilities under the Geneva Convention.

The U.S veto was widely criticized in part because the United States has repeatedly used its veto to shield Israel from criticism at the United Nations.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa said the veto was incomprehensible. In response, the Arab League announced it would lift the financial blockade on the Palestinians in defiance of the United States.

In other developments, a deal appears to have been reached between leaders of Hamas and Fatah over a new coalition Palestinian government. Under the reported agreement, a former university official named Mohammed Shbeir will become the new Palestinian Prime Minister replacing Hamas leader Ismail Haniya.

  • Diana Butto, political analyst and the former legal advisor to the PLO. She joins us on the line from Ramallah in the West Bank.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Diana Butto is a political analyst and former legal advisor to the PLO. She joins us now on the line from Ramallah in the West Bank. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

DIANA BUTTO: Good morning, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the latest news? First, if you can talk about this reported agreement for Haniyeh, the prime minister, to step down?

DIANA BUTTO: Yes, there actually has been an agreement reached, or so we’ve been told, between the two movements of Fatah and Hamas, that are now going to call for the removal of Prime Minister Haniyeh, to be replaced instead by a person who is close to Hamas, but not necessarily a Hamas member. And the reasoning behind this is both because there’s a sense that the government needs to be able to move on, but mostly because of the international boycott that has been waged against the Palestinians, a boycott that has resulted in about 80% poverty in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip now.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the UN Security Council veto, the United States vetoing the Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s attack on Beit Hanoun, and all that you know about what has happened in that situation?

DIANA BUTTO: Yes. I can tell you that I certainly was not surprised at the veto, because if you look at the history of the United States and when it has in fact used the veto, if you look at the number of times that the veto has been used, it’s been used about 70 times since the US became a member of the Security Council, and more than half of those times that it has used its veto has been on behalf of Israel, either vetoing something that — a condemnation that was to be made against Israel or standing up alongside of Israel in order to use the veto to protect one of Israel’s allies. And so, it’s not at all surprising to most Palestinians that once again the US would use this veto.

What is, however, surprising is that this veto is unlike the use of other vetoes, in that this is one of the first times that you actually have a statement by the Israeli government indicating that they were in fact responsible for what happened. So I’m left a little bit astounded that even in the face of an Israeli agreement that they’ve actually committed a breach of human rights, that they would in fact use the veto in order to not condemn Israel. So it just — it continues along the same path of just simply showing just how one-sided the United States has become in its support for Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of the Arab League saying that they will lift the financial blockade on the Palestinians in defiance of the United States?

DIANA BUTTO: I think that this is actually a very interesting dynamic, and I think we need to read between the lines in terms of what it is that the Arab League is saying, because when Hamas was initially elected to the legislative council, one of the statements that they made was that they were not going to cut off any aid to the Palestinian people and to the Palestinian Authority because of the presence of Hamas, and yet, aid was in fact cut off. And I think that in large part that was because of US pressure that has been brought to bear on the Arab states in order to make sure that this financial boycott, this international boycott sticks.

So, it’s very interesting that it has now taken the actions of the United States — reprehensible actions of the United States — to use the veto that has now spurned the Arab governments to actually cut back and to now lift this financial speech that has befallen the Palestinian people. So I think it’s an issue that we really need to look in between the lines and recognize that the United States’s action is not just simply that of the United States, but it also has far-reaching consequences in the pressure that it brings to bear on many of its allies.

AMY GOODMAN: Diana Butto, I wanted to ask you about the Human Rights Watch report that says the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, internal inquiry into the shelling of Beit Hanoun that killed 19 Palestinian civilians and left dozens injured in northern Gaza failed to address key questions around the violations of international law and called for Israel to conduct an independent investigation.

DIANA BUTTO: There really is no such thing as an independent investigation conducted into Israeli actions. And what was most telling is that an Israeli journalist, himself, Gideon Levy, recently wrote an article in an Israeli paper basically alleging that the Israelis are never to blame. He doesn’t believe this, but this was the title of his article, saying that there’s never a situation where the Israelis are at fault. This is what the mindset is within Israel. And so, the idea of calling for an independent inquiry looks good to the outside world, it looks good to Israelis, but when you actually get down to the nitty-gritty of examining these so-called independent investigations, they’re never really independent, and they never find fault or very rarely find fault with the Israeli army for the actions that it’s conducted.

But this presents itself a larger picture. The reason that Israel never views itself at fault is because it doesn’t recognize the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip. Israel has argued that it is above the Fourth Geneva Convention and instead that it can act towards the Palestinians in the way that nation-states act towards independent nation-states when they’re at a situation of war. And so, what Israel claims is that it’s not an occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and because it’s not an occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it does not need to protect civilian life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Instead, this is a situation of war. So even if they do conduct an independent or so-called independent inquiry, I’m almost certain that it is not going to come out with the same conclusions that, say, for example, another independent human rights organization would reach, because they ignore the context of occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: Tens of thousands of people came out after the killing of the many people in one family — overall, 19 people killed — in Beit Hanoun, I believe 16 in one family. Can you talk about the effect of this both in Gaza and where you are in the West Bank?

DIANA BUTTO: The effect of the protest has been to really shake people and to realize that what Israel is doing is going to continue to happen. Unfortunately, I think the international response, which has been largely muted, has really spurned a lot of Palestinians to feel that they are alone and that nobody really is out there to help them. In fact, in many of the demonstrations and many of the protests, this was a very constant refrain that I was hearing, which is there’s nobody out there that’s going to help us, nobody’s out there who’s going to protect our human rights.

At the same time, as I was watching these protests, I thought back to almost a year ago, when almost the exact same thing happened in Gaza in almost the exact same area. And I, too, was left wondering if we’re going to see a repeat of this in a couple of months time, four months time, six months, seven months, whatever, a year, and then left wondering that why is it that it’s these big events that really capture the attention of people, rather than the day-to-day killing that’s happening. Already since just June until today, there have been more than 350 Palestinians who’ve been killed in the Gaza Strip. And yet, it’s only the big events that actually end up capturing our attention. It leads Palestinians to a very sad reality, that large numbers of them have to die before the international media will actually focus on their plight for freedom.

AMY GOODMAN: Diana Butto, I want to thank you very much for being with us, former legal advisor to the PLO, speaking to us from Ramallah in the West Bank.

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