On October 28, 2023, Craig Mokhiber stepped down as the director of the New York office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights upon reaching retirement age. In a letter addressed to the UN High Commissioner in Geneva, Volker Turk, he expressed deep concern about the Palestinian situation. He said, “Once again, we are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the organisation we serve appears powerless to stop it”, accusing the US, UK and much of Europe as “wholly complicit in the horrific assault”.
His letter speaks volumes about the challenges faced by those seeking solutions on a global scale and the formidable forces that obstruct the path away from mass destruction. His resignation was not surprising. Anyone with aspirations to effect change on a global level shares Mokhiber’s sense of shame, disgust, and utter powerlessness in the face of a much larger and monolithic opponent.
The UN Charter, signed after the barbaric conclusion of WWII, was thought to serve as guiding principles for all nations, steering them away from the shackles of war and towards a more tolerant and inclusive future. But in recent times, it has been reduced to empty verbiage that lacks any due authority. The legal pledges were openly breached, the universal rights were overlooked, and the essence of “we, the people of the United Nations” was lost.
Following WWII, a Security Council was formed to rectify the League of Nations' shortcomings in preserving global peace. Comprising the leading allies—the US, UK, France, China, and Russia—the Council granted veto power to its permanent members, undermining the principle of equality among nations and hindering the initiation of cooperative measures.
On December 8, a draft resolution was put forward by the UAE that called for an immediate ceasefire, unconditional release of all hostages and access to humanitarian corridor. Despite having 13 votes in favour, it was vetoed by the US
The core mandate of the Security Council has been overlooked by the US countless times. The Joe Biden administration reiterated their stance on arms control and disarmament, focusing only on Iran and North Korea while conveniently leaving Israel out of the picture. The resignation of the State Department official Josh Paul, responsible for arms transfer, who couldn’t tolerate continuing in a role that was contributing to the death of Palestinian children, brought the unequivocal military aid of the US to Israel into focus. The $14.5 billion military aid package that the US passed directly links the facilitation of US taxpayer money being employed against an unarmed civilian population.
The US has undermined preventive diplomacy, dismissing it as mere rhetoric championed by the Biden administration. The most glaring example of this contradiction is the one-sided support for Israel, contributing to a man-made humanitarian crisis. On October 19th, Brazil proposed a resolution urging an immediate ceasefire, the opening of a humanitarian corridor in Gaza, and the release of hostages. Despite 12 members supporting the resolution, the US unilaterally vetoed it, asserting that it didn't adequately emphasize Israel's right to self-defence. This decision came amid a dire situation in Gaza, with approximately 3,785 Palestinians killed due to Israel's indiscriminate bombing.
After the unforgiving failure of the UN and the genocidal stance of its permanent member, on December 6, Secretary General Antonio Guterres invoked Article 99 of the Charter. Article 99 gives him a trivial authority to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which, in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security. The letter he wrote to the president of the Security Council sadly reveals the absolute absence of power that resides within his capacity. It’s an insincere attempt to wrap-up the ethnic cleansing of native people by the coloniser and present it in a manner that can evoke a semblance of compassionate sentiment.
On December 8, a draft resolution was put forward by the UAE that called for an immediate ceasefire, unconditional release of all hostages and access to humanitarian corridor. Despite having 13 votes in favour, it was vetoed by the US.
The constant and staunch support of Israel by the US is nothing less but an example of exploitation of authority. But all and all, it's not just a US problem. It’s a colonial problem. It’s a European problem
Since 1954, United States has used its barbaric power of veto 34 times on the Security Council resolutions related to the Palestine-Israel conflict. Resolutions that have tried to map out a way for lasting peace, demanding Israel to adhere to international laws, putting forth the idea of self-determination for Palestine or holding Israel accountable for displacing native Palestinians while building settler colonies. All have been vetoed despite having considerable votes in favour. For the longest, the US has single-handedly crippled the UN’s machinery for peacekeeping.
It’s not the issue of resistance against the settler colonial regime that has been disguised as terrorism and an attack on the national integrity of Israel. The US has long pushed forward this derogatory narrative of a Muslim state’s independent stances as acts of terrorism.
The US's dictatorial diplomacy that led to the invasion of Iraq is a dark chapter in the history of the UN. It highlights a permanent member's insatiable thirst for control over the natural resources of another country and the absolute inability of the UN to stop it. What was called an illegal aggression was only setting the stage for the future powerlessness of the UN. Iraq’s invasion was unauthorised by the council and was in direct violation of the UN’s Charter, and yet those who perpetuated it never answered for it.
Conflicts across the globe are fuelled by abuse of power. The constant and staunch support of Israel by the US is nothing less but an example of exploitation of authority. But all and all, it's not just a US problem. It’s a colonial problem. It’s a European problem. The US, acting as a steadfast ally in shielding Israel from sanctions and international law, is paralleled by European leaders who, in their complicity. The deafening silence from the self-proclaimed champions of human rights has led to the failure of the UN in implementing a ceasefire in Gaza.
We know now that dictation exists in diplomacy. Those with greater geopolitical interest have, time and again, used their influence over the UN as a strategy to cover their backing of genocides in the guise of human rights. The failure of the UN in the man-made humanitarian crisis of Gaza highlights persistent deficiencies in its system. The innocent Gazan civilians are paying the cost of this inadequacy in blood.
Craig Mokhiber wrote in his resignation letter, “It became painfully clear that we had failed in our duty to meet the imperatives of prevention of mass atrocities, of protection of the vulnerable and of accountability for perpetrators.” The truth is that there is an urgent need for realising that a serious reform is long due in the system of UN. We have lived in the world where such an atrocious power was bestowed to a few nations, we have lived through the horrible consequences of it. There is no harm in envisioning a future where such power doesn’t exist, where one vote cannot undermine the authority of a collective action. If peace is to prevail, it must be through dialogue and cooperation.