US Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield is seen on the day of a vote on a Gaza resolution for an immediate ceasefire at UN headquarters in New York City, March 25, 2024. / Photo: Reuters

By Assal Rad

After vetoing three separate United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, the United States finally abstained from voting in the latest ceasefire resolution, allowing its passage.

The resolution signifies the appearance of progress on the US position and spurred backlash from Israel (the country's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly cancelled a planned delegation to the US after it refrained from using its veto power a fourth time. But US President Joe Biden's administration has quickly moved to undermine the significance of the resolution.

Hours after the resolution passed, White House spokesperson John Kirby stated that the US abstention "does not represent a shift in our policy."

And in a State Department press briefing following the UNSC vote, spokesperson Matthew Miller claimed "it's a non-binding resolution," making the US position clear and suggesting that the ceasefire resolution is the opinion of the UN body, rather than a substantive rule.

In a critical exchange with Miller, Associated Press reporter Matt Lee raised the question many observers have had about Israel's war on Gaza: "What the hell is the point of the UN or the UN Security Council?"

Experts and commentators, such as former UN official and human rights attorney Craig Mokhiber, swiftly expressed their criticism of the US for undermining the resolution, which is already weak for only demanding a "ceasefire for the month of Ramadan" that apparently leads "to a lasting sustainable ceasefire."

Mokhiber made headlines in October 2023 after resigning from his post as director of the New York office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, citing the UN’s failure to prevent "a text-book case of genocide" in Gaza.

While the language of the resolution was watered down, its passage was met with applause by the UN body because of the desperate need to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which includes the fastest acceleration of a famine that has ever been seen, according to International Rescue Committee President David Miliband.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made clear that the resolution was not simply a non-binding declaration, that it "must be implemented" and failure to do so would be "unforgivable." However, when asked by reporters if he thought the resolution would prompt Israel to announce a ceasefire, spokesperson Miller replied, "I do not."

There is no doubt that the passage of the UN ceasefire resolution is significant. It gives further legal basis for Israel’s accountability over its actions in Gaza and legal merit to accusations of complicity for countries—like the United States—that continue to arm and support Israel’s "plausibly genocidal" war.

Like the ruling of the International Court of Justice in January, the UN ceasefire resolution adds to mounting evidence and legal obligations of Israel and its supporters to stop the war on Gaza, which has already killed over 32,000 Palestinians with many thousands unaccounted for and still buried under the rubble.

A cat approaches a woman mourning by the bodies of her relatives who were killed during Israeli bombardment the previous night, at Al Najar Hospital in Rafah in southern Gaza on March 26, 2024 (AFP/Mohammed Abed).

At the same time, critics are right to question the point of these measures when the reality on the ground does not change for Palestinians.

Israel has ignored international law for decades with its continuing occupation of Palestinian land, apartheid, expansion of settlements and land seizure in the occupied West Bank, blockade of Gaza, permitting settler violence, war crimes, and a long list of other crimes.

Now, Israel has taken its disdain for international law and human rights to the greatest extreme, with language matched by actions that are genocidal and its deliberate restrictions on aid into Gaza creating a man-made famine.

So, what is the point of the United Nations or the Security Council? With its creation in the wake of World War II, the most basic principles of the UN were to protect future generations from the scourge of war and assert faith in fundamental human rights for the peoples of all nations.

While the international body can declare these laws and propose needed measures, it is up to states to implement them.

While Israel itself has shown a complete disregard for the international system, it is the responsibility of other nations—especially its supporters and backers—to hold it accountable.

Much can be said of Western hypocrisy and the double standards that are fairly commonplace in power politics, but the absolute contempt the Biden administration has shown for the international system it boasts about, in order to hold Israel above the law, has reached new levels of dishonesty.

The Biden administration’s willingness to isolate the US on the global stage, destroy any vestige of US credibility, and essentially ignore the international community shows a dangerously zealous face of US foreign policy.

Despite assertions from international bodies like the UN Security Council, World Health Organization, and the International Court of Justice, the testimony of UN experts, the evidence from international aid and human rights organisations like Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam International, and Human Rights Watch, and the witness accounts of journalists and aid workers on the ground in Gaza, the US continues to defend Israel’s actions and deny any wrongdoing.

By using the United Nations as a tool of its own political agenda, rather than a tool for international law and justice, the United States has rendered the body meaningless.

The Biden administration’s willingness to isolate the US on the global stage, destroy any vestige of US credibility, and essentially ignore the international community shows a dangerously zealous face of US foreign policy. The mask is truly off.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT Afrika.

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