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?

  • 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.”


Cyprus says maritime aid shipments to Gaza ‘on track’

Updated 10 sec ago

Cyprus says maritime aid shipments to Gaza ‘on track’

1,000 tons of aid were shipped from Cyprus to the besieged Palestinian territory between Friday and Sunday
The vessels were shuttling between Gaza and the east Mediterranean island

NICOSIA: Four ships from the United States and France are transporting aid from Larnaca port to the Gaza Strip amid the spiralling humanitarian crisis there, the Cyprus presidency said on Tuesday.
Victor Papadopoulos from the presidential press office told state radio 1,000 tons of aid were shipped from Cyprus to the besieged Palestinian territory between Friday and Sunday.
He said the vessels were shuttling between Gaza and the east Mediterranean island, a distance of about 360 kilometers (225 miles).
Large quantities of aid from Britain, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and other countries have accumulated at Larnaca port.
Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters on Tuesday the maritime aid effort was “on track.”
“We have substantial assistance from third countries that want to contribute to this effort,” he said.
The aid shipped from Cyprus is entering Gaza via a temporary US-built floating pier, where the shipments are offloaded for distribution.
The United Nations has warned of famine as Gaza’s 2.4 million people face shortages of food, safe water, medicines and fuel amid the Israel-Hamas war that has devastated the coastal territory.
Aid deliveries by truck have slowed to a trickle since Israeli forces took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt in early May.
The war in Gaza broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Two days after the war broke out, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,647 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to figures provided by the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Daesh attack in Syria kills three soldiers: war monitor

Updated 21 May 2024

Daesh attack in Syria kills three soldiers: war monitor

  • The militants “attacked a site where... regime forces were stationed“
  • The Syrian army had sent forces to the area, where Daesh attacks are common

BEIRUT: Daesh group militants killed three Syrian soldiers in an attack Tuesday on an army position in the Badia desert, a war monitor said.
The militants “attacked a site where... regime forces were stationed,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that a lieutenant colonel and two soldiers died.
The Syrian army had sent forces to the area, where Daesh attacks are common, ahead of an expected wider sweep, said the Britain-based Observatory which has a network of sources inside the country.
In an attack on May 3, Daesh fighters killed at least 15 Syrian pro-government fighters when they targeted three military positions in the desert, the Observatory had reported.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a so-called caliphate and launching a reign of terror.
It was defeated territorially in Syria in 2019, but its remnants still carry out deadly attacks, particularly against pro-government forces and Kurdish-led fighters in Badia desert.
Syria’s war has claimed more than half a million lives and displaced millions more since it erupted in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.

At least 9 Egyptian women and children die when vehicle slides off ferry and plunges into Nile River

Updated 21 May 2024

At least 9 Egyptian women and children die when vehicle slides off ferry and plunges into Nile River

  • The accident, which happened in Monshat el-Kanater town in Giza province, also injured nine other passengers

CAIRO: At least nine Egyptian women and children died Tuesday when a small bus carrying about two dozen people slid off a ferry and plunged into the Nile River just outside Cairo, health authorities said.
The accident, which happened in Monshat el-Kanater town in Giza province, injured nine other passengers, the Health Ministry said in a statement. Giza is one of three provinces forming Greater Cairo.
Six of the injured were treated at the site while three others were transferred to hospitals. The ministry didn’t elaborate on their injuries.
A list of the nine dead obtained by The Associated Press showed four were minors.
Giza provincial Gov. Ahmed Rashed said the bus was retrieved from the river and rescue efforts were still underway as of midday Tuesday.
The cause of the accident was not immediately clear.
According to the state-owned Akhbar daily, about two dozen passengers, mostly women, were in the vehicle heading to work when the accident occurred. It said security forces detained the vehicle driver.
Ferry, railway and road accidents are common in Egypt, mainly because of poor maintenance and lack of regulations. In February, a ferry carrying day laborers sank in the Nile in Giza, killing at least 10 of the 15 people on board.

Syrian first lady Asma Assad has leukemia, presidency says

Updated 21 May 2024

Syrian first lady Asma Assad has leukemia, presidency says

  • Statement stated that Asma would undergo a special treatment protocol that would require her to isolate

DUBAI: Syria’s first lady, Asma Assad, has been diagnosed with leukemia, the Syrian presidency said on Tuesday, almost five years after she announced she had fully recovered from breast cancer.
The statement said Asma, 48, would undergo a special treatment protocol that would require her to isolate, and that she would step away from public engagements as a result.
In August 2019, Asma said she had fully recovered from breast cancer that she said had been discovered early.
Since Syria plunged into war in 2011, the British-born former investment banker has taken on the public role of leading charity efforts and meeting families of killed soldiers, but has also become hated by the opposition.
She runs the Syria Trust for Development, a large NGO that acts as an umbrella organization for many of the aid and development operations in Syria.
Last year, she accompanied her husband, President Bashar Assad ,on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, her first known official trip abroad with him since 2011. She met Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the Emirati president’s mother, during a trip seen as a public signal of her growing role in public affairs.

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province

Updated 21 May 2024

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US drone over Al-Bayda province

  • The Houthis said last Friday they downed another US MQ9 drone over the southeastern province of Maareb

DUBAI: Yemen’s Houthis downed a US MQ9 drone over Al-Bayda province in southern Yemen, the Iran-aligned group’s military spokesperson said in a televised statement on Tuesday.

Yahya Saree said the drone was targeted with a locally made surface-to-air missile and that videos to support the claim would be released.

The Houthis said last Friday they downed another US MQ9 drone over the southeastern province of Maareb.

The group, which controls Yemen’s capital and most populous areas of the Arabian Peninsula state, has attacked international shipping in the Red Sea since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas militants, drawing US and British retaliatory strikes since February.