My word: Between Duma and Douma

A relative of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family's house was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists, mourns over his body during his funeral in Duma (photo credit: REUTERS)
A relative of 18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh, who was killed after his family's house was set on fire in a suspected attack by Jewish extremists, mourns over his body during his funeral in Duma
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I can sum up the miserable situation in the world “in a few words.”
That particular phrase, in fact.
That’s my conclusion after reading the official United Nations statement containing “The briefing to the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East” given by Jeffrey Feltman, under secretary- general for political affairs.
The written version of the briefing was nearly 2,000-words long. More than 1,600 words were dedicated to the situation in Israel and Gaza, beginning with: “I address you at a time when the risk of escalation in Israel and Palestine is palpable. The past month has witnessed unconscionable crimes of hatred by extremist elements, reprehensible retaliatory violence, provocations at Jerusalem’s holy sites, and a worrying increase in rockets launched from Gaza towards Israel.
“The coming days will mark the one-year anniversary of the conclusion of last year’s devastating Gaza conflict – a conflict from which the Palestinians of Gaza have yet to recover....”
There’s an appeal “to work together to reduce tensions, reject violence and prevent extremists from escalating the situation and hijacking the political agenda.”
That Israelis also continue to suffer from trauma and fears following the 50-day mini war either didn’t occur to Feltman or didn’t seem to be worth mentioning.
Feltman reiterates, at length, “the Secretary-General’s strong condemnation of the horrific terrorist arson attack against a Palestinian family in the occupied West Bank village of Duma, during the early hours of 31 July, apparently committed by extremist Jewish settlers...
“The Secretary-General welcomes the strong condemnations of the attack by Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, as well as by political and religious leaders from across the spectrum.”
There is caution about the use of administrative detention of both Palestinians and Jews – a warning with which I identify.
This being the UN, along with the Israel obsession there is a call to continue to strive for peace. “But over 20 years of failed negotiations have bred mistrust and, worse, the slow and painful withering of hope.
In such a contentious environment, restoring confidence, before a return to realistic negotiations, is a must. What is needed now is a comprehensive approach on three levels – on the ground, in the region, and with the international community – to alter fundamentally the current negative dynamics and begin to shape a clear and positive pathway towards peace.”
The briefing contains a detailed list of security incidents in the West Bank, noting that Israel carried out “some 188 search-and-arrest operations....
Six Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli security forces, including a 17-year-old. Twelve members of the Israeli security forces were also wounded, with no fatalities reported.”
There’s no context and Israel is the only country whose anti-terrorism measures are reviewed regularly by the UN and which is expected to feel guilty that not enough soldiers and police officers have been killed.
The briefing also gives a blow-byblow account of the demolition of structures and homes the Israeli authorities consider to be illegal.
Islamic Jihad member Muhammad Allan, who at the time of the briefing was still on hunger strike, received a mention due to the dilemmas surrounding the issue of force-feeding. (Allan’s family and supporters opposed it, further endangering his life, while the Israeli authorities on the whole did not want to risk turning Allan into a martyr like the IRA detainees who died on British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s watch).
Feltman’s briefing also addresses the change in Israeli law that lengthens sentences for those who throw stones at moving vehicles, noting: “The law is likely to affect children disproportionately.” Israelis, but not Feltman apparently, are familiar with the name of four-yearold Adele Biton, who died a few months ago following two years of suffering after the car her mother was driving crashed when rocks were thrown at it, far from the only Israeli fatality in similar low-tech terrorist attacks.
I’m skipping large sections of the speech but it notes that the secretary- general “condemns the 24 rockets fired at Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza,” was “relieved” that the UNRWA schools would open in time for the school year, and contains a plea that “a sustainable solution... be found to address UNRWA’s long-term funding needs.”
The briefing on Gaza also notes that in the incidents “that took place following the Duma arson attack, a 17-year-old Palestinian was shot dead and two others were injured by Israeli security forces.”
And then, finally, Feltman says: “Madam President, “A few words about the situation in Lebanon and Syria.”
I’M RELIEVED that the esteemed under secretary-general for political affairs noticed that something has been going on there. Two paragraphs’ worth of written speech, to be precise.
“In Syria, the air raids by Syrian forces on a market place in the town of Douma, which reportedly killed and injured over 300 civilians on 15 and 16 August, was [sic] one of the bloodiest since the conflict started in March 2011. This would be yet one more crime for which those responsible must be held accountable. Hostilities must end and the parties must show genuine commitment to resolving this conflict through an irreversible political transition by engaging in the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, as endorsed by the Security Council Presidential Statement.
“In Lebanon, political differences continued to hinder the proper functioning of Lebanese state institutions despite Prime Minister Salam’s commendable efforts to run the government. We continue to call on Lebanon’s leaders to act urgently and responsibly by filling the presidential vacuum without further delay. The situation along the Blue Line and in UNIFIL’s area of operations has remained calm, despite Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace on an almost daily basis.”
And, then, “in conclusion,” the briefing goes back to its focus on Israel.
I feel less aggrieved on the part of traumatized Israeli residents of the Negev whose pain was ignored earlier on in the report.
Look at that again: “A few words about the situation in Lebanon and Syria.”
The attacks in Douma were among “the bloodiest since the conflict started in March 2011,” but apparently the hundreds who died there deserve only a passing mention because the blame can’t be pinned on Israel. Unlike the deaths of the Palestinian father and son in Duma (which I have condemned and written about in previous columns), if no accusing finger can be pointed at IDF soldiers or “settlers,” they don’t count for much.
It should be noted (but isn’t in this report) that Europe’s migrant crisis doesn’t start in Calais or Kos. It stems from the mayhem following the so-called Arab Spring and the true refugees come from places like Damascus and Aleppo. Perpetuating the status of “the Palestinian refugees” from 1948 and 1967 comes at the expense of those who are being uprooted in the Muslim civil wars now.
Innocent Syrians who lost their lives in a civil war evidently barely merit a mention in an official UN briefing. I’m still trying to work out who is officially to blame. “This would be yet one more crime for which those responsible must be held accountable” is non-specific to say the least.
Why couldn’t Feltman name names in his briefing to the UN Security Council? Because criticizing Syria’s President Bashar Assad is no longer appropriate when his regime has the support of Tehran, the flavor of the month for the world powers (or at least the P5+1).
European officials and businessmen have rushed to Tehran since the deal between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US was reached on July 14.
And it doesn’t seem to matter what Iranian leaders say or do (including presiding over shows of military might and allowing calls of “Death to America” to be shouted out with conviction).
One of the strangest sights this week was the reopened British embassy in Tehran, where the Farsi graffiti reading “Death to England” can be seen on the wall above a portrait of the queen.
Meanwhile, Britain’s The Independent reported that the presence of senior Foreign Office official Deborah Bronnert representing the British government at the reopening of the Iranian embassy in London created a furious backlash against Mehdi Denesh-Yazdi, one of Iran’s foreign ministers, for “allowing her to enter without a hijab.”
It is likely that the partners to the Iran deal believe that the Islamic Republic will be a solid regional partner in the fight against Islamic State (whose victims don’t get even a passing mention in Feltham’s briefing).
“You make peace with your enemies, not your friends,” British and American officials repeatedly tell Israel, which is concerned that the Iranian regime, the main supplier of terrorist organizations on three fronts, has made no attempt to change the rhetoric about wiping the Jewish state off the map.
The UN might have a few words to say about that. Maybe not.
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