Margaret Besheer - VOA News
UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution Wednesday calling for protection for Palestinian civilians living under Israeli occupation, after the U.S. blocked a similar measure in the Security Council.
After some procedural drama that saw a proposed U.S. amendment condemning the Palestinian militant group Hamas fail to receive sufficient support to be included in the draft text, the original text was adopted by a vote of 120-8, with 45 abstentions.
The U.S. and Israel were supported by Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Togo and the Solomon Islands in voting against the measure. Many European countries abstained.
While the resolution does not explicitly name Hamas, it does condemn "all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as acts of provocation, incitement and destruction."
It also "deplores the use of any excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force by the Israeli forces" against Palestinian civilians.
Ahead of the vote, U.S. envoy Nikki Haley rebuked the General Assembly for using its time to criticize Israel, instead of addressing other situations.
"Instead, today the General Assembly is devoting its valuable time to the situation in Gaza," Haley said. "Gaza is an important international matter, but what makes it different and more urgent than conflicts in Nicaragua, Iran, Yemen, Burma or many other desperate places?"
She said the assembly was meeting because "attacking Israel" is the "favorite political sport" of some U.N. member states.
Israel's U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, went further saying, "This type of worldwide assault is reserved for Israel. It is not criticism, it is not difference on policy, it is anti-Semitism."
He said countries that support the text put forward by the Palestinians, Algeria (as head of a bloc of Arab countries) and Turkey (as head of the Organization for the Islamic Conference), were giving their "stamp of approval" for terrorism.
"By supporting this resolution, you are colluding with a terrorist organization; by supporting this resolution you are empowering Hamas," Danon said. "You are the ammunition for Hamas' guns; you are the warheads for its missiles."
Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour defended the decision to seek relief for his people in the General Assembly when he could not find it in the Security Council.
"To condemn, to regret, to express concern is not sufficient, we need action, we need protection of our civilian population," Mansour said. "And why should that be offending anyone? We are just asking for a simple thing: We want our civilian population to be protected. Is that a crime to ask for?"
The draft adopted carries no legal weight but has the moral backing of the majority of U.N. member states. It requests the U.N. secretary-general to present a written report within 60 days outlining his proposals on ways to ensure "the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation."
Tensions along the border have escalated over the past two months, with Palestinians holding protests calling for a right to return to land they fled or were forced to leave when Israel was created in 1948. They have also rallied against a blockade of Gaza that has been in place for more than a decade, as well as the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Israeli forces have killed at least 120 Palestinians since the end of March, drawing criticism for the use of force. Israel has blamed the militant group Hamas for provoking violence and says it has acted to protect the border.