December 7, 2018 | Policy Brief

United Nations Rejects U.S. Resolution Condemning Hamas

December 7, 2018 | Policy Brief

United Nations Rejects U.S. Resolution Condemning Hamas

The United Nations General Assembly rejected yesterday an American-sponsored resolution condemning Hamas for “repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, thereby putting civilians at risk.” Though the motion won a plurality of 87 votes in favor and 57 against, with 33 abstentions, several Arab states initiated a rarely used procedural move requiring a two-thirds majority, thereby guaranteeing the resolution’s failure.

The American resolution would have demanded “that Hamas and other militant actors including Palestinian Islamic Jihad cease all provocative actions and violent activity, including by using airborne incendiary devices.” The resolution also criticized Hamas for diverting construction materials to military projects, including infiltration tunnels, “when such resources could be used to address the critical needs of the civilian population.”

Hamas criticized the resolution and defended its right “to resist the occupation with all possible means including armed resistance.” The UN’s Arab member states voted as a bloc against the resolution, even including vocal opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is the Palestinian branch. Despite recent moves toward rapprochement with Israel, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE all opposed the motion. Their support was also pivotal to the success of the procedural motion requiring a two-thirds majority, which narrowly passed by a 75-72 margin, with 26 abstentions.

Opposition to the resolution came from another source that may seem surprising at first – the Palestinian Authority (PA) of President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian delegation to the UN initially delayed the vote from Monday to Thursday. After trying to amend the resolution so it would condemn Israel, the PA delegation eventually decided to put forward a parallel resolution critical of the Jewish state, which passed by a margin of 156 for, 6 against, and 12 abstentions.

Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasma said his party “totally rejects” the U.S. resolution. Fatah Central Committee member and senior PLO official Mohammad Shtayyeh stated, “We will not accept in any way a resolution that condemns Hamas.”

This is a sharp turn away from the Palestinian Authority’s criticism of Hamas during the 2014 Gaza war. At the time, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Ibrahim Kraishi warned, “Each and every [Hamas] missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets.”

The about face stems from Fatah’s fear that UN condemnation of Palestinian terrorism could affect Fatah, the PLO, and the PA. Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki explained, “If Hamas, which is involved in resistance, is considered a terrorist movement, this means that all groups of the Palestinian people are involved in terrorism.” By defending Hamas, Fatah bolstered its image on the Palestinian street as protectors of all Palestinians. Inaction could have elicited accusations of complicity with the American resolution.

The United States, particularly under Nikki Haley’s ambassadorship, has made significant efforts to curb the UN’s anti-Israel bias, but is swimming against the current. In June, the U.S. also failed to secure condemnations of Hamas from the General Assembly – again because of a two-thirds majority requirement – and from the Security Council.

While some have declared that yesterday was a dark day at the UN, it was actually rather illuminating. Though the United Nations has passed more than 500 resolutions condemning Israel, it could not muster the strength to pass a single resolution condemning Hamas. And while Fatah is blockading Hamas in Gaza, it is defending the terrorist group at the United Nations.

David May is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSamuelMayFollow FDD on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


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