Apparently, the Israelis have been mouthing off about purported Chinese “anti-Semitism” ever since the PRC called for an immediate ceasefire and purposeful negotiations. This should come as no surprise, as the Chinese are falling in line with Turkey, the Muslim world and much of the Global South. Collectively, they can see the contradictions in Israel’s vengeful policies and US double standards and duplicity.
Since the Israel-Hamas conflict began, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has publicly criticised Israel, with claims that that Israel is acting beyond the scope of self-defense, and it should stop its collective punishment of Gaza civilians.
It is as if Israel is expecting unconditional love from friend and foe alike, making any close relations contingent on turning a blind eye to war crimes and a policy of ethnic cleansing. China is now acting as the “adult in the room” with its first official statement that apparently is “the most balanced” – according to most observers:
China is deeply concerned over the current escalation of tensions and violence between Palestine and Israel. We call on relevant parties to remain calm, exercise restraint and immediately end the hostilities to protect civilians and avoid further deterioration of the situation.
Israel’s reaction would be understood if such a statement was made by one of the countries that was most responsible for the holocaust, BUT in terms of China, Israel has expressed its “deep disappointment” that China did not condemn Hamas nor mention Israel’s right to defend itself.
Something more must be involved, why would Israel get so upset with such language?
The recurrence of the conflict shows once again that the protracted standstill of the peace process cannot go on. The fundamental way out of the conflict lies in implementing the two-state solution and establishing an independent State of Palestine.
It goes on to explain how it was paramount that the “international community needs to act with greater urgency, step up input into the Palestinian question, facilitate the early resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel, and to find a way to bring about enduring peace”.
“China will continue to work relentlessly with the international community towards that end.”
The last part may be the sore spot, working together with the international community, and NOT only the Israelis are upset that China is trying to act as a peacemaker. And China has the clout to do it, replacing the rhetoric of those who have tried to play this role with so little result, especial the dismal failure of British, European and American attempts. It has been so bad that you wonder if there was ever any intention to bring a balanced solution … but rather to complicate an already complicated situation all the more.
China currently has good relations with most players in the region, and this could influence the peace process. Thus, there are real hopes that China could potentially tap into its close relationship with Iran, which backs Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, to further de-escalate the situation.
US Response to Good Intentions
It is only natural that US officials pressed Mr. Wang to “urge calm” with the Iranians, reported the Financial Times.
But why should China show much concern over its “loudmouth adversary” that is far better at starting conflicts rather than conflict resolution and proactive negotiations for a final settlement, especially under the present US State Department?
There is also the matter of trust, and that has been used up by the West, especially after former US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – contrary to International Law and which was akin to throwing fuel on an already blazing fire.
Bringing the conflicting sides to the table!
What gives China the most creditability in the region is that it has a good relationship, with the Palestinians, Arabs, Turkey and Iran. “Together with the US, which has good relations with Israel, they could bring all of the players to the table.”
The Chinese have far more clout and a better “untainted” reputation in the region than any of the usual suspects. If push comes to shove, they and other supporters of the Palestinian’s plight, especially Arab states, could close ranks as they did back in 1973, with OPEC and the Oil Embargo.
According to the US State Department, during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an embargo against the United States in retaliation for the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military and to gain leverage in the post-war peace negotiations.
As for now, with the ever-increasing body count, there is greater justification for such a collective action, considering the indiscriminate use of force by Israel and criminal bombing of civilians in the densely populated Gaza Strip
The Arab World and OPEC can turn to China is a viable alternative market to reduce oil flows to the collective West, and that is a game changer for various hegemonic alliances. Already hydrocarbon production is the lowest in years in the US, and this would present an economic shock with far-reaching domestic political and worldwide economic aftershocks.
The Iranians have already called for an absolute ban on trade with Israel. It would most likely start with an oil embargo, and other sanctions. A vast majority of Muslim countries would likely participate, in light of a deadly attack on a hospital in Gaza last month and the ever-increasing civilian death toll resulting from punitive revenge attacks.
It is worth noting that Iran has no diplomatic relations with Israel, and now Turkey is also starting to take an uncompromising position. Turkey speaks for much of the Muslim world, e.g., Turkmen people, both in Turkey and abroad, including many Turkish-speaking countries of the former USSR.
The escalating Israeli-Palestinian war over Gaza is perhaps the greatest crisis since the end of the Cold War for the region, and other engagements, Palestinians vs. Israelis, could best be described as local firefights with no threats of a wider regional war.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin recently warned that Israel’s war in Gaza could spread well beyond the Middle East, saying it was wrong that innocent women, children and old people in the Palestinian enclave are being punished for other people’s crimes.
He is quoted in the Western Media as saying, “Our task today, our main task, is to stop the bloodshed and violence,” Putin said at a Kremlin meeting with Russian religious leaders of different faiths.
Such a predication, well justified, as the United States is laying down covering fire for Israel to do as much damage as possible to the Palestinian cause in the United Nations by vetoing a Brazilian drafted call for a ceasefire.
Russia and China then found themselves closing ranks and vetoed a United States-drafted resolution that called for a “humanitarian pause” (a short break) to allow aid access, the protection of civilians and a stop to arming Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, and other armed groups in the enclave.
It was clear that the US was seeking only to allow for the Israelis to continue the job, which must have been approved in collaboration with the US, and “humanitarian pause” is Orwellian doublespeak to charge ahead, after reloading and dropping more bombs.
While 12 of the UN Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the Brazilian-led text, one (United States) voted against, and two (Russia, and the United Kingdom) abstained. Diplomats noted that a humanitarian pause was not the same as a ceasefire, which has been backed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. A pause might last only a matter of hours.
Nitpicking over language
To justify the veto, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield explained her country’s opposition in the Council chamber, saying “this resolution did not mention Israel’s right of self-defence.”
It is now clear that almost anything that will bring the fighting to an end is not welcomed by Israel or the US, as this veto came on the heels of a Russian drafted resolution/ text also calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. However, the US vetoed that tooon “claims” that it did not include any mention or condemnation of the extremist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, Ambassador for the United Arab Emirates and the sole Arab representative serving on the Council, said her country voted for the resolution, not because it is a perfect text but because it clearly states the basic principles that must be upheld.
“It is perhaps beyond me to put into words the abject horrors we are witnessing in Gaza,” she said, noting the mounting death toll, including in the strike on the al-Ahli Arab Hospital. She added, Each passing hour of this ruinous war makes a mockery of the principles of international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, as the UN Security council is blocked by the US and its veto power, Gaza is being laid to waste, and countless civilians are being killed in their own homes. But some US politicians and world leaders are breaking ranks with the demand for unconditional support for Israel and have drafted various resolutions/statements that call for a ceasefire.
Israel is no longer perceived as the innocent lamb, and the old “I am the victim” routine and accompanying song dance is becoming old hat. Now Russia and China, and much of the world can see clearly the agenda, and are in the position to collectively do something about it.
Russia and China need not worry about unintended consequences, as already they are under many sanctions, and perhaps now the foot will be on the other foot, and sanctions can work in the other direction, as what is “Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander” which is a lesson is to be learned in conflict resolution in a never-ending conflict.
It is like the Suez Crisis of 1956 when England, France and Israel illegally seized the Suez Cannel from Egypt in a commando operation, thinking they had impunity; however, US President Dwight Eisenhower was not going to tolerate such a blatant violation of international law, and the US and UN forced them to give it back to Egypt.
The United States, in cooperation with the United Nations, forced the belligerents to withdraw. France and Great Britain lost their dominant status in the Middle East.
Like then, there are now adults in the room, showing real global leadership to the world: China, Russia, Iran, Turkey and lots of other countries. Some are even considered as regional allies of US foreign policy. But out of moral expediency and religious and Arab solidarity, they will close ranks when necessary—and the sooner, the better.
The US and Israel are going to lose more than they will gain if they continue to blatantly ignore the rights of self-determination of the Palestinians by trying to use this conflict for political gains for a domestic audience, and as a diversion for others failed meddling in the Middle East and wider World, including but not limited to Ukraine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.