By Dr. Mathijs de Blois (thinc. Senior fellow)
On 27 October 2023, the UN General Assembly (GA), meeting in the framework of the since 1997 ongoing 10th Emergency Special Session, adopted a Resolution on the war that started with the atrocious attack by Hamas and similar terrorist groups on 7 October 2023 on Israeli soil. This resulted in the death of about 1500 Israelis and the kidnapping of more than 200 innocent people. Resolution A/RES/ES-10/21 was adopted with 121 votes in favour, including those of for example Belgium, France and Ireland. 44 UN Member States abstained, including Canada, Australia, India and The Netherlands. Only 14 voted against, including Austria, Papua New Guinea and the USA.
The full text of the resolution can be found here
The Resolution was adopted as a response on what it calls ‘the 7 October 2023 attack’. The Resolution is a shame primarily because of its silence on core issues. It nowhere indicates who was the perpetrator of this attack: Hamas and other terrorist groups. It fails to identify the entities responsible and does not qualify them as terroristic. It condemns in one its preambular considerations ‘all acts of violence aimed at Palestinian and Israeli civilians’. Note the order of the sentence: first Palestinians are mentioned as victims and subsequently the Israelis. This is historically false. Bu using the formulation chosen the Resolution suggests at least that Israel started the hostilities.
It is beyond any doubt that first a large number of Israeli civilians were killed in a completely unprovoked pogrom committed by Hamas and its cronies. The casualties on the Palestinian side were the consequence of the self-defence by Israel against the initial attack. It is interesting to compare the text on this point with the Resolution ( A/RES/ES-11/1) adopted by the GA on 2 March 2022 on the ‘Aggression against Ukraine’. Therein it was made unequivocally clear that the Russian Federation was the aggressor.
The Resolution of 27 October in the same vein asks for the ‘release of all civilians who are being illegally held captive’ as if both sides have practiced kidnapping of innocents. This is again against the truth. Only the Palestinian terrorist organizations did purposely kidnap more than 200 civilians, not Israel. The hostages are almost all Israeli and Jewish babies, children, adults and elderly and they were abducted from Israeli soil. We know that an attempt was made by Canada to name the perpetrator of the atrocities. It introduced an amendment to include into the Resolution the following text: ‘Unequivocally rejects and condemns the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on 7 October 2023 and the taking of hostages, demands the safety, well-being and humane treatment of the hostages in compliance with international law, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release’. (A/ES-10/L.26).
88 States were in favour of including this amendment, 55 against, while 23 abstained. While for the required two-third majority a few votes were missing it failed to be adopted. The omission of the essential reference to the perpetrator of the massacre in Israel did not prevent also many supporters of the amendment to vote in favour of the original proposal and as a result the Resolution was adopted.
Another point that is missing from the Resolution is the recognition of Israel’s right to self-defence. Article 51 of the UN Charter guarantees ‘the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations’. It is an indispensable instrument of international law in a world that is not complying with the ideals of universal peace and security that inspired the drafters of the UN Charter. The right to self-defence justifies the military response by Israel to the massive terrorist attack by Hamas cum suis. We do not read anything about this in the Resolution.
This is in sharp contrast with the Resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the US in September 2001. Resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001) recognize without reservation the right of self-defence of the US, which justified its military actions against the Al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan. A large majority of the Members of the UN seem to deny that the Jewish State has the right to defend itself.
A third failure of the Resolution is that it does not address and condemn the practice of Hamas to use civilians as human shields. This is standing practice of the Palestinian terrorist movements operating in Gaza using their military installations from civilian and humanitarian objects. The Resolution ignores the fact that this practice is a major cause of the number of civilian fatalities in the Gaza Strip.
It is a shame that the Resolution has been adopted with the support of so many States in the world, not only brutal dictatorships but also Western democracies. They apparently see no problem in joining forces with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Syria, the Russian Federation and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It is revealing that Hamas expressed support for the Resolution and asked for its immediate implementation. And this was said by the party that keeps more than 200 men, women and children hostage and that al continues to target civilians in Israel with their missiles.
To conclude, Resolution A/RES/ES-10/21 is a shame. It illustrates that the UN is, notwithstanding the pogrom of 7 October 2023, back to normal: Israel bashing. It has lost all credibility as an institution to promote peace and justice in the world.