UN decided to probe Beit Hanoun shelling
With overwhelming majority of 156 states, UN General Assembly adopts resolution to look into killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza Strip town. Members decide to 'express regret' over incident, rather than condemn Israel, alongside condemnation of Qassam fire
The assembly voted 156-7 with six abstentions to approve the measure put forward by Arab states.
All the European countries supported the Arab resolution, after its wording was softened and also included a condemnation of the Qassam rockets fired at Israel. The UN members decided to "express regret" over the Beit Hanoun incident, rather than condemn Israel.
Instead of a demand to send UN staff to protect the Palestinian residents, the wording was changed to "look into the possibility" of establishing a mechanism under the Quartet's supervision. This means in practice that the United States has the right to veto the decision.
Voting "no" were the US, Israel, Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. Abstaining were Canada, Ivory Coast, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The voting was delayed after the US decided to pose difficulties and demand an inquiry into the financing of the UN investigation delegation's activity. The Americans were furious over the fact that their veto at the Security Council was bypassed and the General Assembly voted on the issue.
The Americans' discontent was manifested in the statement delivered by the American Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who said that "many of the sponsors of that resolution are notorious abusers of human rights themselves, and were seeking to deflect criticism of their own policies."
Bolton added that Israel "has for decades been a target of the General Assembly."
The US ambassador, who voted against the resolution said that "once again, the General Assembly, meeting in this emergency special session, is presented with a one-sided, unbalanced resolution addressed the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
"This type of resolution serves only to exacerbate tensions by serving the interests of elements hostile to Israel's inalienable and recognized right to exist."
'Problem of anti-Israel bias endemic to UN culture'
Bolton warned that by adopting the resolution against Israel, the UN has undermined the foundation for its activity.
"This deepens suspicions about the United Nations that will lead many to conclude that the organization is incapable of playing a helpful role in the region.
"In a larger sense, the United Nations must confront a more significant question – that of its relevance and utility in confronting the challenges of the 21st century. We believe that the United Nations is ill served when its members seek to transform the organization into a forum that is a little more than a self-serving and a polemical attack against Israel or the United States."
"The Human Rights Council has quickly fallen into the same trap and de-legitimized itself by focusing attention exclusively on Israel. Meanwhile, it has failed to address real human rights abuses in Burma, Darfur, the DPRK, and other countries."
"The problem of anti-Israel bias is not unique to the Human Rights Council. It is endemic to the culture of the United Nations. It is a decades-old, systematic problem that transcends the whole panoply of the UN organizations and agencies," Bolton charged.
Earlier, Israel's Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman slammed the resolution, saying that the General Assembly has been hijacked by the evil forces. He added that the session was a cynical use and abuse of the UN.
"This bloodshed can stop in one second. If terror stops, there will not be one single victim, Israeli or Palestinian. End the violence, and Israel never again needs not engage in self-defense," the ambassador said.
Gillerman warned: "I caution everyone who will support this resolution. By doing so, you will be an accomplice to terror. The blood of more innocents will be on your hands.
Palestinian UN Observer Riyad Mansour said during the discussion that this was 31st time the US vetoed decisions related to the Palestinians.
The repeated use of a veto send an erroneous message to Israel and it continues to commit crimes, he charged. The Palestinian observer accused Israel of committing "war crimes" and carrying out the "Beit Hanoun massacre."
The wording of the proposal was softened in the past 24 hours in order to allow some European countries to join the automatic majority of the Arab, Muslim and third would countries.
Some European countries, however, announced that they would abstain in the vote because it is a cynical use of these countries automatic majority at the UN Assembly, which is aimed at adopting an unbalanced resolution.
Reuters contributed to the report