Modern Diplomacy
Some Impressions on How the ‘Global South’ Views a Settlement in the Middle East

An apparent disregard for human suffering and the immense trauma inflicted on children and other vulnerable groups is a pain that is very familiar in the Global South, writes Mikatekiso Kubayi. 

The Global South is not a singular entity with a singular reality. It is not a single country, culture, a single set of demographics, or identical climate, nor does it exhibit other uniform features, such as development levels, industrialization, or national interest. It is a highly diverse region of the globe, and it follows that while it shares many common features and interests, there will also be varied opinions on the Israel-Palestine question. This is also true of the European reality, as demonstrated by Spain and Belgium.

Some states have developed important ties with Israel at various levels and sectors, such as the economy, politics, health, technology, and other areas they may consider too important to adopt a position unfavourable to Israel. However, many have taken a position based on the principle of universal equality under international law. This specifies definitions of state action such as “occupying state” and “resistance”, among others, such as the much-stated “right to self-defence” preferred by major Western powers.

Debate on these continues to rage, perhaps as much as the growing pro-Palestine protests across all parts of the globe, including in the West and the North. The images and sounds of mass bombardments visited on civilians in Gaza and the West Bank have added to more than seven decades of occupation. The regularity of death and maiming visited on Palestinians in the same period has made it difficult for the states of the Global South not to vote overwhelmingly at the United Nations General Assembly in support of the various resolutions which Israel, backed by the United States and other major western powers, has consistently ignored without repercussions.

This complete and consistent disregard of UN requests and activity, coupled with lip-service to a “a rules-based order” seems to be facing rejection more and more among the states of the Global South and throughout the world. Many have drawn comparisons between the Western response to this crisis and that of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Among the several contrasts aptly pointed out is the rapid response of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in investigating and charging Russians, while it has been slow to investigate complaints of war crimes committed against Palestinian civilians and critical infrastructure such as health facilities and schools.

The Middle East Crisis through an Asian Prism
On November 27, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion on the Asian vision of the Middle East crisis. Moderator Oleg Barabanov, programme director of the Valdai Club, noted that since the Middle East is part of Asia as a larger region, the political, economic and humanitarian consequences of the Middle East conflict cannot but affect all Asian countries.
Club events

In his assessment of Global Social Sentiments in his November 2, 2023 article for Foreign Policy magazine, Oliver Steunkel argues that the “double standards” exhibited by major Western powers are an important source of angst in the Global South. This sentiment is shared in an October 20, 2023 editorial in Le Monde. This piece suggested that a significant political shift is underway. This assessment is also to be found in Hayley Wong’s November 27 piece in the South China Morning Post, which also assesses the responses of the G7 and the UN. Many other commentaries have been published, most pointing to these double standards, with some even suggesting that the West has not only lost the Global South but its ‘moral leadership’ with constant visits by senior Western leaders to Israel in a show of support while bombardments on hospitals and civilians were being carried out.

But this crisis has other implications, too. The consequence is that it deals with multilateralism, the authority of the UN, and the dilution of its focus on development. The UN has published a report on reforms by an advisory council of elders. This report, in addition to affirming the need for UN reforms and those of the multilateral system, points to several areas of work that include political, economic, legal, technological, and other areas, all needing significant contributions from all actors, especially those that are in a position to assist with financing, technological transfers, investments and so on. The crisis in the Middle East requires urgent resolution, particularly for a Palestinian state and a return to peace and stability, for a return of focus on the also urgent matter of development.

The sentiments of the Global South captured by many academics and commentators are very apt and indeed point to a general push for a solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state and the return of its lands. The memories of Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and all the many efforts of the more than seven decades of attempts to settle on the two-state solution echo each day of this ongoing crisis. The implications of this crisis for everyone are very significant. The implications for the Global South, I would argue, have three major dimensions, among others already stated;

1) The Political: The centrality of the UN in a fairer multilateral system is undermined by some, with the backing of major hegemons. The hope of a UN established, with a charter in 1945, to promote peace and prevent and resolve conflicts between states is regularly undermined and needs to be considered and addressed. The more than seven decades of suffering of a people, seemingly with no end in sight, continues to be a major source of concern, particularly among those which were historically the subjects of colonization which must deal with its lingering legacies. An apparent disregard for human suffering and the immense trauma inflicted on children and other vulnerable groups is a pain that is very familiar in the Global South. For this reason and more, such as the suffering imposed on Cuba and Venezuela, among others, an urgent solution to the crisis is needed, as is a reform of the multilateral system.

2) The Economic: The 2023 G20 in India repeated calls for peace and the urgent need to source development finance and the investment of about $4 trillion annually, particularly in developing countries and the Global South. This need for urgent development financing is in addition to what’s being done for the prevention of pandemics and all crises constituting a poly-pandemic. The seemingly unending conflicts divert much-needed resources away from the development which is needed precisely to improve living standards and achieve higher HDI scores across the globe, including in Palestine.

3) Social Justice: It is universally accepted that people across the globe commonly share the right to live and develop in dignity. The global desire for reforms of the multilateral system is also anchored in this universal virtue. Any notion of a “rules-based order” that ignores the crucial requirement of the involvement of all nations in the construction and management of these rules rings hollow, especially when international law is not equally applied to everyone.

It is more apparent now, as it has always been, that the question “what is to be done to resolve global challenges” is answered with humility, resolve, and solidarity for the good of humanity.
Modern Diplomacy
What Divisions Have Been Exposed in Europe over the Crisis in Palestine
Aleksandar Raković
The critical voices of certain leaders in Western Europe, the efforts of humanitarian organizations, and numerous protests in Western cities lack substantial resonance and will not lead to the swift resolution of the current Gaza crisis. The final solution to the war between Israel and Hamas will be brought by Israel, with the support of the United States of America, writes Aleksandar Raković.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.