Sunday, August 13, 2006

USA vs. Practically Everybody: UN Human Rights Council Denounces Israel

Let's take a look at what's been going on here... the UN Human Rights Council voted to condemn Israel for it's actions. Let's take a look at some context and deconstruct what the Strib has to say.

Star Tribune story

GENEVA - The U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday condemned Israel for "massive bombardment of Lebanese civilian populations" and other "systematic" human rights violations, and decided to send a commission to investigate.

European countries, Japan and Canada voted against the resolution, primarily because it lacked balance in failing to cite the Hezbollah militia. The United States, which is an observer, has no vote on the 47-member council.

Israeli Ambassador Itzhak Levanon said the discussions were one-sided, referring only to civilian losses in Lebanon while ignoring the deadly Hezbollah missile attacks on northern Israel.

"It is painful and regrettable that the council made a distinction between the sufferings, the blood and the deaths, and this failure will forever be written in the annals of that body," he said.

The council voted 27-11 to pass the resolution, which was proposed by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference. Among those voting for the resolution were China, Russia, India, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Zambia and South Africa.

In addition to Canada and Japan, Romania and the Ukraine voted against it. I've not been able to find out which European nations voted against it. Switzerland, South Korea, Nigeria and the Philippines abstained.

Firing Katushyas into northern Israel is not kosher. But let's look at the death toll, in very round numbers. 1000 Lebanese dead, about 100 of them soldiers. 100 Israeli dead, about 50 soldiers and 50 civilians. The 'triggering incident' was a capture of a border patrol, which George Monbiot points out, is the kind of low-intensity warfare that's been going on across that border since the Israelis pulled out. Further, the Israeli government had been planning to invade for a while, and this was the excuse.

From Monbiot:
On July 12, in other words, Hizbullah fired the first shots. But that act of aggression was simply one instance in a long sequence of small incursions and attacks over the past six years by both sides. So why was the Israeli response so different from all that preceded it? The answer is that it was not a reaction to the events of that day. The assault had been planned for months.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "more than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to US and other diplomats, journalists and thinktanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail". The attack, he said, would last for three weeks. It would begin with bombing and culminate in a ground invasion. Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University, told the paper that "of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared ... By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board".

A "senior Israeli official" told the Washington Post that the raid by Hizbullah provided Israel with a "unique moment" for wiping out the organisation. The New Statesman's editor, John Kampfner, says he was told by more than one official source that the US government knew in advance of Israel's intention to take military action in Lebanon. The Bush administration told the British government.

In this context, with Lebanese:Israeli deaths running at 10:1, and civilian deaths about 20:1, the UN was presented with a letter from the Tunesians (pdf), signed by 21 other mostly Arab nations, decrying the Israeli government's actions.

So back to the Strib's article - pretty short, and I have no idea where it was placed. In the first paragraph, the charges are scare-quoted; the second paragraph has the statements by the opposition, stated without any qualifiers. Not 'the countries who voted against it thought it lacked balance', not because it 'lacked balance', but 'it lacked balance.'

Then, two paragraphs of quote from the Israeli government. The setup contrasts 'civilian losses' with 'deadly Katushya missile attacks', and the quote itself is, as expected, spun towards the point of view of the Israeli government.

Finally, we have the story of the resolution and who voted for it. All in all, a pretty thoroughly biased story in favor of the Israeli government.

Turns out it was Europe, the right-wing Canadian government, the center-right Japanese government, and two members of 'new Europe'. Abstaining were the Swiss, who actually tried to broker a deal, and other US clients - South Korea, the Philippenes, and Nigeria.

Against the US were the East (China and Russia) and the global South (India, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Zambia and South Africa.) Interesting on this list are Mexico and South Africa. Mexico's election is still hanging, so the 'follow Washington' tendency may have been mitigated, and the South Africans standing against their former colonial masters on the side of the Lebanese.

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