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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2644

U.N. Inaction on Lebanon Under Heavy Fire

By Thalif Deen - Inter Press Service

United Nations , 01 August, (IPS):- As the Israelis continue to defy the international community and refuse to agree to a ceasefire in the three-week old bombing of Lebanon, a hamstrung United Nations has come under heavy fire for merely watching the death and destruction from the sidelines.

A resolution sponsored by France calling for "an immediate cessation of hostilities" has remained grounded because of the threat of a U.S. veto.

The only political action so far is a statement by the Security Council expressing shock at the Israeli bombing of a U.N. compound in Lebanon in which four unarmed observers were killed last week.

But U.S. academics, Middle East experts and political analysts are urging the world body to assert its authority even as international opinion continues to sway against Israel.

"The Security Council is ineffective in this crisis only to the extent that U.S. obstinacy makes it so," Chris Toensing, editor of the Washington-based Middle East Report, told IPS.

He argued that other Security Council members --including France, Russia, China and Britain -- should force a vote on an immediate ceasefire resolution, even if the United States vetoes it.

"At least, this move may shorten the time that passes before the United States, too, accepts the need for an immediate ceasefire," he added.

Addressing the Security Council Sunday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed disappointment that the two warring parties -- Israel and Hezbollah -- have failed to agree on a "cessation of hostilities."

Annan told the Security Council: "I know there are differences among the Council's members about the precise sequence of actions needed. I beg you to set those differences aside, and come together on the most urgent point the immediate cessation of hostilities."

But his plea has gone unanswered -- at least so far.

Mark Lance, professor justice and peace at Georgetown University, says overwhelmingly the most urgent need is for a ceasefire in Lebanon.

"Whatever their intent, Israel is clearly engaging in a course of action that is leading to the indiscriminate destruction of civilian targets and massive civilian death and injury," Lance told IPS.

"All violence by both sides must be stopped immediately," he said. "The main responsibility for this, of course, lies with Israel which refuses to accept a proposal for a ceasefire."

"Beyond Israel, the United States -- as Israel's chief arms supplier and main defender in world politics -- is responsible," he noted.

Given that the United States is so far refusing the take any sort of responsible role in the conflict, the rest of the world, including the United Nations, independent member states, and the U.S. public must respond to end the death toll, Lance said.

"Security Council resolutions vetoed by the United States are, of course, merely symbolic, but not for that reason without value," he added.

Meanwhile, Lance said, the nations of the world need to put immediate pressure on both Hezbollah and Israel by cutting all trade, diplomatic relations, aid, and cultural cooperation with any party which does not cease hostilities.

Most centrally, it is the responsibility of the people of the United States to demand this of the U.S. government, he added.

Naseer Aruri, chancellor professor (emeritus) of political science at the University of Massachusetts Darmouth, asks: "How long can the Security Council be held hostage by the United States and Israel?"

"As the world watches the destruction of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure, and as it ponders the implications of a second Qana massacre perpetrated by Israel's air force killing 60 civilians, mainly women and children, millions around the world must be asking: 'Where is the United Nations?'"

Since the establishment of the United Nations, Aruri told IPS, Washington has used its veto no less than 40 times to shield Israel from international scrutiny and to enable it to violate international norms and to commit war crimes with impunity.

The latest action, he pointed out, occurred only two and a half weeks ago on Jul. 13, when the United States blocked a resolution -- the first Security Council veto in 21 months -- that would have demanded Israel cease its onslaught against Gaza.

Despite opposition from the U.S. pro-Israel lobby and its neo-conservative operatives, he said, the fact that U.S. Ambassador John Bolton is also acting as a second ambassador from Israel has dealt another severe blow to the humanitarian image of the U.N. system.

"Another probable veto by Bolton should not discourage the peace loving countries of the world from pursuing one of the very urgent global priorities -- protecting defenseless civilians in time of conflict and under foreign military occupation," said Aruri, author of "Palestine and the Palestinians: A Social and Political History."

He also said that under the "Uniting for Peace" resolution of 1951, the General Assembly could convene to discharge the Council's responsibility when unanimity among the veto-wielding members of the Council could not be obtained.

"The U.N. Charter is being effectively put to the test. It will either be a catalyst for peace in the Middle East, or a witness to the 'birth pangs of a new Middle East,' as the U.S. Secretary of State has crudely put it," Aruri said.

"It will either be upheld and implemented, or will be consigned to the dustbin of history," he concluded.

- Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency -

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