On Thursday I went on Al Jazeera English to talk about the overwhelming vote in the UN General Assembly earlier in the day to condemn the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
I told Al Jazeera that the vote was a “massive defeat for President Donald Trump’s Israel First policy.”
Despite open threats and bullying by Trump and his ambassador Nikki Haley, 128 countries backed the resolution. Just nine opposed it and 35 abstained.
The vote reaffirmed long-standing resolutions by the Security Council declaring that Israel’s measures to alter the status of Jerusalem are “null and void and must be rescinded.”
This could be a real watershed moment, because many countries openly defied the blatant threats. But this will depend on going beyond statements and resolutions to imposing a cost on Israel –through sanctions – for its violations of international law.
Watch the video above.
Who backed Israel?
Of the seven countries that opted for international isolation along with Israel and Washington, three – Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau – are effectively colonial dependencies of the United States.
A fourth is Nauru. Long exploited to depletion by colonial powers for its natural resources, the tiny South Pacific island state with a population of 10,000 survives in part by auctioning its diplomatic positions to the highest bidder.
It also serves Australia as an offshore prison for refugees and asylum-seekers.
The US and Israel also won backing from Guatemala and Honduras.
Israel has a long history of supporting Guatamala’s right-wing governments, military and death squads as Tel Aviv played the role of Washington’s proxy in its Central American dirty wars of the 1980s.
And after Honduras cast its vote for Israel on Thursday, the US quickly delivered its reward. On Friday, the State Department recognized the result of the country’s presidential election despite evidence that it was rigged to favor the right-wing incumbent.
International observers found significant irregularities throwing the result of the 26 November election in doubt.
The left-wing opposition candidate – the Palestinian-descended Salvador Nasralla – had been significantly ahead when authorities suddenly stopped providing public updates of the vote count. When they resumed it a day later, Nasralla’s lead steadily reversed in favor of incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Honduras is also another major arms customer of Israel.
As for the US bullying and blackmail, that appears to have backfired.
The Southern African state of Botswana denounced the “threatening and grossly inappropriate” behavior of US Ambassador Haley and urged all countries to support the resolution “despite the consequences.”
Even Canada, long a hardline supporter of Israel, was embarrassed enough to slightly moderate its anti-Palestinian position.
Citing “Western diplomats,” Barak Ravid, the correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10, reported that Justin Trudeau’s government had been planning to vote with the United States and Israel, “but changed [its] vote to abstention after hearing Trump’s threats in order not to be perceived as US puppet.”
Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council, a US advocacy group that supports international diplomacy and negotiations with Iran, calculated that the vote was even more lopsided when measured by population:
Parsi estimated that the countries that voted with the US and Israel represent just 0.5 percent of global population, while the countries that backed the resolution represent more than 90 percent.
Blow to “international far-right”
“This vote is further proof that the far-right Israeli-Trump alliance is more isolated than ever as the overwhelming majority of nations are finally recognizing its fatal attempt to undermine both Palestinian rights and the very rule of international law,” Omar Barghouti said on behalf of the Palestinian BDS National Committee – the steering group for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. “Holding Israel accountable for its egregious, decades-old human rights violations is crucial to upholding both.”
Barghouti also urged “meaningful sanctions, especially a military embargo and intensified boycott and divestment measures against Israel’s regime of oppression.”
“BDS today is not only crucial for realizing Palestinian freedom, justice and equality,” Barghouti asserted. “It is also critical to stopping Trump, Netanyahu and other leaders of the international far-right who are threatening world peace and global justice like never before.”