NEW YORK – Many statements invoking justice, peace, and equality in the spirit of American civil right leader Martin Luther King, Jr. were made at the UN Security Council’s debate on the situation in the Middle East on Monday, presided over by Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
King’s birthday, a US federal holiday, was marked on Monday.
Ambassador Riyad Mansour of the observer state of “Palestine,” who spoke first after the secretary-general, opened with the classic King quote: “An injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and went on to say that this pursuit of justice was “why the Palestine question has remained on the UN agenda for nearly seven decades.”
“The Palestinian government and people are committed to peace and justice and are exhausting all efforts,” Mansour said. “We have responsibly participated in all stages, rounds and initiatives of the peace process for over 20 years, including the current negotiations. And we are doing so on the basis of historic compromise and great sacrifice.”
He went on the invoke the deteriorating situation on the ground, including the deepening mistrust and cynicism of people in the region. He condemned “rampant settler terrorism” and daily military raids of Palestinian areas that are “perpetuating the violent, destructive face of occupation.”
“The Palestinian leadership is acutely aware of this moment’s significance and, despite the Israeli obstructions, is negotiating in good faith,” Mansour said. “The message to Israel must be clear: Illegal actions will entail consequences and Israel will be held responsible should such actions lead to the collapse of peace efforts and the two-state solution.”
Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor invoked King’s support for the Jewish state. King, at the 1968 convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, called Israel “one of the great outposts of democracy in the world and a marvelous example of what can be done – how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”
Prosor countered Mansour by pointing out several recent instances in which Palestinians had attacked Israelis, including the murder of Israeli Beduin Saleh Abu Latif by a Palestinian sniper, and the bombing of a bus in Bat Yam, both last month.
“In the face of this violence and bloodshed we have yet to hear President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority utter a single word denouncing these attacks,” Prosor said. “You cannot condemn terrorism to international media and congratulate terrorists on Palestinian media. You cannot victimize others and then insist you are the victim.”
Prosor had harsh words for the UN Security Council, calling out those who believe that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will bring peace to the Middle East as a whole.
“People who say this need an eye doctor to help them see clearly – beginning maybe with the ophthalmologist from Damascus, Bashar Assad, who is butchering his people every day,” Prosor said. “I’m sure that’s connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Many in this chamber are vocal about telling Israel what to do, but begin to stutter, mumble and fall silent when it comes to telling the Palestinians what they must do,” he said.
Prosor reiterated Jerusalem’s position that Iran was the true major problem in the region, and that “it is time for this council to hold accountable all those that arm, train and harbor terrorists.”
US Ambassador Samantha Power spoke briefly after Prosor, condemning the December 29 rocket attack from Lebanon on northern Israel, as well as such attacks from the Gaza Strip and the December bus attack. She also called to curb settlement activity, saying it “feeds skepticism on both sides.”
“Martin Luther King taught the citizens of my country to pursue justice and resolution of differences by peaceful means,” Power said. “In his words, ‘Returning violence for violence deepens violence.’ The wisdom in that warning is always relevant, but never more so now than in the Middle East.”
Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee of Iran, one of the last to speak, addressed the council both as ambassador and as the head of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Khazaee said that, as 2014 has been declared the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” “the international community should exert utmost pressure on the occupying power, the Israeli regime, to end its aggressive and expansionist policies and non-adherence to international law.”
He called on the Security Council to “compel the occupying regime to withdraw from all Palestinian and other Arab territories,” saying that continued inaction would “only lead to more atrocities by this regime which, in the past 65 years, has waged over 10 wars against all its neighbors.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who just returned from a trip to the region, spoke briefly, touching on the situations in Iraq and Lebanon before turning his attention to the peace process: “Israeli and Palestinian leaders will be required to make bold decisions and painful compromises for peace. They must prepare their people for these necessary steps. The failure of political progress could fuel a downward spiral on the ground.”