The growing worldwide condemnation of the atrocities of the Israeli regime in the occupied Gaza Strip by the young students, activists, media personalities, public intellectuals, independent politicians and former UN officials underlines the fact that Israel cannot always get away with its criminal, discriminatory treatment of the Palestinian people and enjoy impunity from being held accountable.
Despite the deafening silence of the Western leaders regarding the mass killing of Palestinians in what the Tel Aviv regime termed "Operation Protective Edge" and claimed more than 2,000 lives including 541 children, there are courageous public figures who have spoken out frankly against the illegal conduct of the Israeli regime in the besieged, suffocating Gaza Strip. One of these figures is Dr. Denis Halliday.
The Irish Denis Halliday was the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq from September 1997 until 1998. He worked with the United Nations for 34 years, and reached the rank of Assistant Secretary General. In 1998, he resigned from his post as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in protest to the UN-engineered economic sanctions against Iraq which he argued had cost the lives of thousands of innocent Iraqi children and adults, even though none of them supported the late dictator Saddam Hussein.
In 2003, he was granted the Gandhi International Peace Award for his efforts to champion the cause of the Iraqi people and publicly speaking about their plight caused by the brutal economic sanctions. He was one of the international peace activists onboard the MV Rachel Corrie that was part of the Freedom Flotilla. Along with several prominent figures such as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, they were trying to sail to the beleaguered Gaza Strip in May 2010 and break the longstanding Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave.
In an exclusive interview with Tehran Times, Denis Halliday, a patron of the Gandhi Foundation, presented his viewpoints regarding the recent Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip and the inability of the United Nations to preclude the carnage of the unarmed Palestinian civilians and preventing the conflict from spiraling into an uncontrollable level.
Mr. Halliday maintains that Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories and its killing of the Palestinian civilians is a violation of the international law and several conventions and treaties which Israel has already ratified.
What follows is the text of the first part of our interview with Denis Halliday, the former UN Assistant Secretary General, with whom we've talked about the recent developments in the Gaza Strip and the prospects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Q: As a former UN official, you're completely familiar with the structures and mechanisms of this large international body. Why do you think the UN Secretary General and the Security Council, that are fundamentally tasked with maintaining peace and security in the world, have been so silent and indifferent towards the carnage of Palestinian citizens in the Gaza Strip in the recent weeks? Is there any unseen external pressure on the UN-affiliated agencies and officials which prevents them from adopting a clear-cut and defendable stance on such issues as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
A: The failure of the United Nations to respond to the terrible plight of the Palestinian people of Gaza under genocidal assault on land, sea and in the air by Israel military forces in recent weeks stems from the corruption which lies within the UN Security Council itself. For historical reasons, going back to 1945, we have a Security Council charged with all aspects of maintaining and enhancing global peace and security foolishly in the hands of five Member States who retain veto power in complete contradiction to genuine global representation and without any provision for Member State equality.
This grew out of the collapse of the League of Nations at the outbreak of the Second World War and the creation of a new organization, to be called the UN Organization with a Charter that placed permanently the USA, Britain, Russia, China and France in control of the Security Council. This decision was made by three men many consider to be war criminals, namely Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. They determined to add France and China at the Yalta meeting of 1945. The result of this stranglehold on the work of Peace and Security has meant that decisions made reflect the vested interests of these five permanent Member States and their allies. Decisions made do not properly reflect the best interests of all Member States worldwide. As President Clinton once infamously implied, the added value of the UN is that Washington can manipulate it to implement U.S. foreign policy. The evidence of that stretches from Korea to Afghanistan, and from Israel to Iraq, and there are many more examples of improper decision making, and use of veto blocking. Veto power and use thereof by these five powers has tragically undermined the most important global role of the UN in peace and security.
In the case of Israel, we find the blind support of the U.S. as manipulated by various Israeli lobbies in Washington, transferred to the General Assembly and Security Council via the threat, or use of the veto. In addition, these same five State guardians of world peace and security together manufacture and sell some 85% of the military weapons and equipment used in the many small and larger conflicts and wars on earth today. In other words, global peace and security is in the hands of the arms dealers. How ironic is that! And no industry is more profitable to the five permanent Member States, and others than the weapons, arms trade.
In summary, the UN Security Council has been corrupted rendering the UN incapable of protecting the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank, and East Jerusalem from Israeli political and military aggression. In addition, Israeli military occupation is in violation of numerous international laws and many resolutions of the UN General Assembly. Despite the reality that the vast majority of the some 190 UN Member States of the General Assembly do not support, or condone Israeli aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity vis-à-vis the Palestinians, the U.S. and other veto powers can veto any decision, any proposal for UN action to control Israel and impose UN decisions long since made to that end. That constitutes corruption of the word and spirit of the UN Charter. And to answer question one fully, the Secretary-General, all other UN officials, and the agencies of the UN system are prevented from taking human rights, peace keeping, protection or other actions to protect the Palestinians under Israeli apartheid, siege and military occupation, aggression.
Q: As you once noted a few years back, the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip is taking a heavy toll on the Palestinian citizens in the coastal sliver through denying them access to foodstuff, medicine and even construction materials to rebuild their destroyed homes. Is there any legal or political way to force Israel into lifting the blockade? It seems that the Tel Aviv leaders are hell-bent on maintaining the siege. Is the siege compatible with the principles of international law?
A: Were the UN a fully functioning and impartial world body, serving equally all its Member States, decisions of the Security Council could place international military forces on the ground in Palestine to enforce the decisions of the General Assembly such as Israel terminating its illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and its siege of Gaza; offering the right of return to all Palestinians who were evicted by Israeli armed forces in 1948 and again in 1967 from their land, villages, towns, cities and homes throughout Palestine; compensation and reparations for the loss of human life, destruction caused by the Israeli military since 1948 and the years since.
If one looks at the map of Palestine in 1947, by which time a handful of Israelis had homes along with Palestinian neighbors, and compare it to the map today, one will see how Israel dominates the entire land area of Palestine to the unending detriment of the Palestinian people.
Yes, it would indeed appear that the leaders of Israel are “hell-bent” on siege and occupation, and repeated military destruction of Gaza. They are simply carrying out the Zionist plan of action that calls for the removal of all Palestinians and Arabs from that vast region between the Nile and the Euphrates. Zionism calls for total occupation of these Arab lands and the modus operandi required for Zionist success would appear to be genocide in all its various forms, as defined by the International Convention on Genocide. It goes without saying that Zionism is incompatible with international law, the UN Charter and the many decisions Israel made by the UN General Assembly, which includes some 140 members of the Non-Aligned Movement of nation states. All such GA decisions in respect of Israel have been negated, neglected or simply overruled by the five Permanent Members of the Security Council led by the U.S.
Q: You resigned from your position as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in 1998 over the deadly economic sanctions imposed against Iraq and the failure of the oil-for-food program. This was a strong protest at the UN's inability to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq at that time. What's your viewpoint regarding the UN's performance on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the Occupied Palestinian Territories today? The people of Gaza are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, but they're not receiving it. How do you analyze that?
A: I resigned from my Assistant Secretary-General post of the United Nations [at the] end [of] 1998, but not because the so called Oil-for- Food Program “failed”. I resigned because the program succeeded in reaching some 24 million Iraqis suffering under UN imposed comprehensive economic and social sanctions since 1991. And in spite of this modest success, UN and Iraqi Government, the child mortality rates produced by UNICEF in 1997 were horrifying and demanded resolution. As Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad, I received no support from the Secretary-General in New York and therefore shared this data with the French, Russian and Chinese Ambassadors in Baghdad. The result was that their governments, along with the U.S. and UK as veto powers, persuaded the U.S. and UK, both antagonistic towards Iraq in the Security Council, to agree to doubling the $4.5 billion annual program to some US$10 billion per annum. And let me underline that every penny of that money came from the sale of Iraqi oil under UN auspices and at prices artificially lower than Brent levels. This was no aid humanitarian program, this was Iraq being grudgingly allowed to sell its oil, risking its sovereignty, to have all oil income go to the accounts of the UN, have some 30% skimmed off for overhead costs and reparations to Kuwait, leaving the net balance to finance the importation of basic foods, medical and other items meeting basic human needs. The book by Hans von Sponeck, the Humanitarian Coordinator who replaced me at the end of 1998 documents how the program functioned in great detail.
Let me underline that the “modest success” I mention above was relative to the catastrophic damage being done to Iraqis under UN sanctions. Many children and aged Iraqis suffered and died from various forms of malnutrition, all suffered from inadequate calorie intake as there was no provision for animal or adequate vegetable protein and other basic nutritional and human needs, such as adequate health care, education, electric power production, water and sewage systems, agriculture, animal health, employment, manufacturing etc. The “modest success’’ I write of, however, allowed the U.S. and UK Governments to suggest that the humanitarian crisis of the mid-1990s was over and sanctions would continue. That was when [Secretary of State] Albright infamously announced on CBS Television’s 60 Minutes that the killing of 500,000 Iraqi children via UN sanctions was “worth it” in order to remove President Saddam Hussein from power. Thus despite the increase in funding obtained, I felt complicit in the continuing [the] killing of Iraqis under Security Council sanctions, in particular children, and did not wish to remain associated with a politically corrupted UN. Instead, I started briefing the public through the international media and spoke with many members of parliament, starting in December 1998 in the U.S. Congress in Washington and in Westminster Parliament, London.
In Europe, during the 1930s with the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany and its policy of anti-Semitism, we Europeans failed the Jewish peoples of Western and Eastern Europe. As did the USA. Together, we failed to offer homes, opportunities and refuge from the catastrophe that became known in later years as the Holocaust when as many as 20 million persons were murdered, of which some 6 million or more were Jewish. Had we Europeans and Americans, and others fully recognized the anti-Semitism throughout Europe before and during the Nazi occupation, and welcomed Jewish families and individuals, as we should and could have done with Nazi cooperation, there would have been no UN General Assembly decision in 1947. A decision that created Israel by imposing the Jews fleeing from Europe on top of the Arab Palestinian community who had lived in Palestine for centuries and more. Thus, in regard to Gaza today, the UN has continued to fail the Palestinians which were displaced and designated to be refugees by that General Assembly decision to create Israel in Arab Palestine, and since then by Israeli military aggression, expansion and occupation as per Zionist dreams.
With regard to humanitarian assistance, the UN has, through its Agency UNRWA, provided humanitarian assistance and more to the Palestinians in Gaza for some 40 years. It is the largest long term refugee program in the world and provides for food, housing, education, and other basic needs throughout Gaza, plus Palestinian camps in Lebanon, the West Bank and Jordan. However, all that support and assistance fails during frequent Israeli military incursions and destruction; when services break down due to Israeli bombing such civilian infrastructural needs as water and electric power thereby violating international law. And the UN remains powerless and ineffective as long as the USA blindly supports Israel in violation of the UN Charter itself, and the [Universal] Declaration of Human Rights. Many may ask themselves why does the USA act in this unacceptable manner. Some may say its guilt stems from the failure to save Jewish lives before and during the Nazi killing of the Second World War. Some may point to the Christian Right who believe Israel is critically important for biblical reasons, or it may be simply a U.S. Congress manipulated by pro-Israeli lobbies and money in Washington.
The tragic consequences of all this is that the people of Palestine and Gaza in particular are being destroyed, and the UN under the structure of the Security Council, as mentioned earlier, is powerless to combat the veto power that supports Israeli, Zionist policies, its military occupation, aggression and possession of Nuclear Weapons.