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It’s time the UN Security Council acts to stop the killing in Gaza

CNG: The escalation of violence in Gaza by Israel has prompted a global outcry, marking a rising disgust, particularly among the young, of what is widely regarded as a hugely disproportionate response to the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023.

By Sir Ronald Sanders*

Now, the outrage has grown beyond young people to include solid representatives of the traditional establishment, at least in Britain.

With over 600 British legal experts, including retired judges from the Supreme Court, demanding a halt to the British government’s arms sales to Israel, the urgency of a re-evaluation by the UN Security Council of its stance on the conflict should be obvious.

The concerns of the British legal fraternity are linked to their fear of the possibility of complicity by the British government in grave breaches of international law by Israel, using arms that are supplied, in part, by Britain.

If the Israeli government, particularly its globally unpopular Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, continues to dismiss all urgings to de-escalate attacks on Gaza, the current crisis will enter the realm of global ethical responsibility.

Genocide or defense?

The courage of the South African government to take the allegation of genocide by the Israeli government to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the Court’s decision in January 2024 to order provisional measures against Israel, has strengthened the growing view that the government of Israel is committing genocide.

The detailed accounts by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, of civilian targeting, destruction of vital infrastructure, and the systematic denial of essential supplies, give credence to the fears about genocide.

In her report to the UN Security Council, she said that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Israel is “committing the crime of genocide against the Palestinians as a group in Gaza.”

Israel has adamantly rejected these accusations. However, the killing of aid workers from the World Central Kitchen, illustrates to many that Israeli forces may not be as careful, as they claim, to ensure that non-combatants are not targeted in their attack.

Excessive actions test traditional alliances

These incidents not only fuel the debate but also test the historical alliances that have, until now, shaped the geopolitical landscape, including in the US administration, which has begun to realize that it could be tainted by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s firm resolve to pursue military actions in Rafah that could result in the deaths of thousands of civilians.

Rafah is a city of 25 square miles in the Southern part of Gaza. Prior to the present conflict, Rafah had a population of less than 200,000 people. On the orders of Israel, an estimated 1.4 million people have been pushed into Rafah. They are all vulnerable to an Israeli military attack.

This is why the US government has been insisting on proper arrangements for civilian safety and humanitarian consequences of any attack.

Global impact of regional wars

In today’s interconnected world, there is no longer any such thing as an isolated conflict. The repercussions of warfare ripple across the globe, affecting food prices, shipping costs, and economic stability.

The conflict in Ukraine and the Houthis’ attacks on shipping lanes have already demonstrated how wars can impact global economies and individual lives far removed from the battleground.

Calls for a humanitarian approach

The call from British jurists to suspend arms sales to Israel is not an isolated sentiment but part of a growing international chorus demanding accountability and a re-evaluation of the policies that enable the continuation of the conflict.

This movement, gaining momentum amid the rising deaths of civilians not only from military action but also due to lack of medicine and hunger, challenges the UN Security Council, especially its five veto nations, to fulfil their responsibilities.

This means that each of them must move to align their international policy with the principles of human rights and justice.

The five veto nations cannot wait for an unredeemable plight in Gaza simply to make pious statements or to point fingers of blame at each other. Human lives are at stake.

A call to action

This critical juncture calls for a collective reimagining of the approach by all nations to international conflicts and the mechanisms of support that sustain them.

The resolution passed by the UN Security Council, demanding an immediate ceasefire and the expansion of humanitarian assistance, though a step in the right direction, was not enough.

Sadly, it highlighted the limitations of international governance in enforcing peace and ensuring the protection of civilian lives, when big-power countries play the game of seeking advantage over each other.

Conclusion

As the crisis in Gaza unfolds, the international community, led by the UN Security Council, must seize this moment to advocate for peace and justice. This is not merely a call for a ceasefire, but a demand for a profound policy shift towards upholding human dignity and preventing further loss of life.

The time for decisive action is now. The global community stands at a crossroad, and the response to the crisis in Gaza will be remembered either as a testament to international commitment to these ideals or to the abandonment of them.

The consequences of the latter -abandoning the principles of peace and justice- would be too grave for the world to bear.

That is why even the smallest and least powerful nations of the world must not be silent; they must speak up loudly and together, in all regional and international fora, without exception.



*Sir Ronald Sanders is Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and the Organization of American States. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto.

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