UN General Assembly condemns Israel for Gaza violence; Canada among 35 countries which abstains

People running from tear gas at the Gaza border fence with Israel, May 15, 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

People running from tear gas at the Gaza border fence with Israel, May 15, 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(JTA) – The United Nations (UN) General Assembly at an emergency meeting on the Gaza Strip condemned Israel for an “excessive use of force” and rejected U.S. bids to amend the resolution to also condemn Hamas.

The resolution, backed by Arab countries, also calls for “protection of the Palestinian civilian population” in Gaza. It is similar to one that was introduced at the UN Security Council earlier this month that was vetoed by the United States.

Some 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since protests along the Gaza border began on March 30, including many who are members of the Hamas terrorist group that controls the strip. There have not been any Israeli casualties, though thousands of acres of Israeli agricultural land and woodlands have been burned by incendiary kites and explosives-laden balloons flown from Gaza into southern Israel in order to start fires.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley opposed the measure targeting Israel. Her amendments condemning Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, inciting violence during the border protests and using resources that could help civilians build terror tunnels to infiltrate Israel were rejected.

“The nature of this resolution clearly demonstrates that politics is driving the day,” she said in her speech. “It is totally one-sided. It makes not one mention of Hamas, who routinely initiates violence in Gaza. Such one-sided resolutions at the UN do nothing to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement thanked Haley for her defence of Israel.

“The UN’s incessant focus on Israel not only brings shame to the organization, it also draws attention away from so many other pressing issues that demand the attention of the international community,” he said.

Also thanking Haley was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which called the resolution “outrageous and dangerous.”

Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are nonbinding, while Security Council resolutions are binding.

In a similar scenario in December, the General Assembly approved a resolution condemning the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv by a wide margin after the United States vetoed a similar resolution in the Security Council.

Nine countries voted against the resolution, including Israel, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Togo, and 35 abstained, including Canada, EU member states Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Latvia. The rest of the European Union was among the 128 nations that voted in favour.

Haley invited the countries that did not support the resolution to a reception to thank them for their friendship.

As noted, Canada was one of 35 countries that abstained. Canada, did however, support the amendment condemning Hamas.

In response to Canada abstention, Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, issued a statement:

“Canada is a friend of Israel and has been a world leader in opposing initiatives aimed at isolating and singling out our close ally. While we acknowledge Canada’s support for the proposed yet ultimately unsuccessful amendment condemning Hamas, it is deeply disappointing and troubling that the Government chose to abstain on today’s General Assembly resolution.

“The vital work of the UN is regularly disrupted by those obsessed with singling out Israel – the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. In 2016 alone, three out of every four UN General Assembly resolutions focusing on specific countries condemned Israel. These initiatives are unbalanced and unhelpful to the cause of peace.

“For many regimes, these resolutions are a convenient distraction from their own terrible human rights records. Further, they divert UN resources away from addressing the world’s most pressing challenges. The Trudeau government has pledged on numerous occasions to remain steadfast in opposing resolutions that single out Israel for condemnation and we deeply regret its failure to live up to that commitment. We therefore renew our call on the Canadian government to not only oppose such biased resolutions in future and but to also push for reforms that ensure the UN upholds its founding principles.”

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