UN assembly holds 'emergency' session on Gaza

General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann opened an emergency meeting of the 192-nation world body on "illegal Israeli actions" in Gaza on Thursday by angrily blocking Israel's attempt to halt on procedural grounds what it called a "hateful" session.
D'Escoto argued that the assembly, as "the most representative and most democratic component of the United Nations," had a duty to step in and make its voice heard because the Security Council's urgent call for a cease-fire a week earlier had been "totally ignored" by Israel and Hamas. More than 60 nations signed up to speak.
D'Escoto, openly leftist and pro-Palestinian, is a U.S.-born Roman Catholic priest who served as Nicaragua's foreign minister in the 1980s and is a longtime supporter of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. He has been repeatedly critical of the United States and of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.
Israeli diplomat Ilan Fluss argued that the session was "superfluous" because the Security Council is still "seized" of the Gaza conflict, citing Article 12 of the U.N. Charter. It says the General Assembly "shall not make any recommendation" about a dispute or situation before the Security Council unless it is asked to; in this case, it hasn't been.
D'Escoto countered that the Security Council resolution, approved by a 14-0 vote with the U.S. abstaining, called for the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Instead, Gaza "has been turned into a real burning hell," he said, and Israel has been "so disdainful" of the resolution.
Fluss dropped the Israeli challenge.
But D'Escoto, raising his voice, also brought up an incident last month, in which his office disclosed he had received online death threats.
"I was accused of trying to silence Israel. That was an absolute and total lie. Now it is ironic Israel is trying to silence the General Assembly," he said.
According to his office, U.S. authorities investigated threats he received after he was quoted in The Jerusalem Post in November as saying the international community should consider a boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel similar to those used against South Africa decades earlier.
D'Escoto has tried to make the General Assembly a major player in dealing with the Gaza conflict, but its resolutions are non-binding so it doesn't have the clout of the Security Council, whose resolutions are legally binding. U.N. spokesman Enrique Yeves said a resolution on Gaza may be introduced.
Israel and the United States, its main ally and a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, have long complained that the assembly is biased against Israel.
Hours later, Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev went on the offense.
She called the meeting "deceitful," "hateful" and "cynical," and questioned why the assembly had not condemned Hamas's relentless firing of rockets into Israel "as it cowers behind the Palestinian population as human shields."
"The convening of this meeting of the General Assembly is one that defines its own rules," Shalev said. "From this meeting, all such victims can only draw despair."
D'Escoto rejected Shalev's characterizations.
While the assembly met, the Security Council heard a briefing on Gaza and expressed "grave concern" at the Israeli shelling in Gaza of the U.N. compound, hospitals and a building housing journalists. It also called on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and immediately implement last week's cease-fire resolution.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, welcomed the assembly's meeting. If U.N. efforts fail to bring peace to Gaza, he said, Palestinians will have "no choice but to return to the Security Council" seeking a tougher resolution authorizing the use of military force against Israel.

Updated : 2021-03-03 14:27 GMT+08:00