10:03am: Aaaand here we go! By the way, I should mention off the top that all the diplomats on the way in told us flat out that nothing would come out of this meeting and half of them see no point in having it at all. Nonetheless, over a quarter of the General Assembly's membership has shown up to speak their minds.
10:45am: The Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki just yakked away for about 20 minutes. The Arab delegations, not to stereotype, loooove dramatic speeches. "The Izzzgggrraeli war machine rampaged through Gaza, destroying the innocent lives of helpless women, children, and babies..." etc.
10:58am: Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev, with her VERY strong accent and possible lisp (her r's sound like w's), makes "Iranian" and "Uranium" sound like the same word. She says the real threat is not Israel but "the Khkhkhkhamas" and "the Khkhkhkhkhkhkhkhkhezbollah." (Note: This is a sound that most Americans only make when gargling.) She makes the point that this urgent meeting was called by Libya, "that champion of human rights, who recently gave a hero's welcome to an arch-terrorist" and whose leader called the Security Council the "Terror Council." Added the Ambassador, invoking Macbeth, "Debating the Goldstone Report in the Security Council is but a tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing." (Those of us who have read Macbeth and know the whole quote immediately wondered, is she calling the Security Council an idiot?)
At this moment, I feel great solidarity with my Jewish ancestry. Only the Jews are sarcastic even in Security Council speeches. Some days, I love my job.
11:16am: Remember what I said about the Arab delegations loving dramatic speeches? Here's the Libyan Ambassador holding forth: "They cannot sail on seas of blood. They cannot mask the destruction that has been perpetrated. They cannot hide behind the illegal, racist Apartheid Wall of Separation."
11:27 a.m. Four speeches in, out of 44, the open meeting has already lasted nearly an hour and a half. And we haven't even gotten to noted filibusterers Iran, Syria, and the Arab League Foreign Minister. The Ambassador of Mexico is speaking now.
Coworker: "His translator sounds exactly like George Clooney."
Me: "Maybe George Clooney is prepping to star in The Interpreter 2."
12:03pm: The 15 members of the Security Council are now laboriously plowing through their speeches. After them, some two dozen concerned countries will have all afternoon to give speeches. With all due respect, does it really matter what Costa Rica or Uganda thinks?
12:07pm: My coworker calls this the "pox on both your houses" part of the proceedings, where member states call on both sides to do all sorts of things that everyone knows they won't do, like treating the other side with decency.
1:17pm: Halftime. Lunch break. Did I mention we're still got nearly 30 speakers to go? Including Iran, Syria, Sudan, Jordan, the UN's committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Arab League representative? Man, I might not even make it to the 9pm start of Quiz Night at the Baker Street Pub at this rate.
1:58pm: Lunch eaten, I'm struck by the idea that the interpreters should be replaced by the voiceover guys for movie previews. Just picture the Disney guy. "The Middle East! Featuring all your favorite characters... Syria! Lebanon! Israel! Hamas!" Or, perhaps, the action movie guy: "In a world of constant violence... one man will learn the truth. And that man is... Goldstone."
I, for one, think this would be hilarious. And isn't that the point of open Security Council debates on the Middle East?
2:10pm: Here we go, the UN's documents counter (and yes, the UN produces so many documents it requires a counter and a full team of people handling requests to distribute them all) has provided a text of the Israeli and Palestinian speeches. You thought I was exaggerating about Al-Malki's speech. No, here's the actual relevant passages:
We are all too aware of the tragic consequences of the savage Israeli military aggression launched on 27 December 2008 against the defenseless Palestinian civilian population, of whom more than 1,400, including hundreds of innocent children and women, were brutally killed and more than 5,500 were injured, many permanently, as the occupying forced rampaged through Gaza, using all means of heavy and lethal weaponry and exhibiting a callous disregard for human life. ...
The occupying Power's colonization measures and the lawless acts of terror, violence and provocation of its settlers in the City are inflaming tensions and threaten combustion of the already fragile, precarious situation on the ground. ... The occupying Power continues to construct and expand settlements, settlement infrastructre and the Wall. ...
And so forth. The problem with this is, of course, that the typical UN observer then builds up a tolerance to rhetoric. It's the boy who cried wolf parable. Certainly anyone who has ever dealt with the North Koreans has learned to brush away run-of-the-mill threats such as "this is a declaration of war!" or "we will crush our enemies mercilessly!" If the North actually did treat something as a declaration of war, it would be a huge surprise. Likewise, the Palestinians have bemoaned Israeli aggression" so many times that when the Israelis are actually aggressive, everyone pooh-poohs it away.
3:01pm: Aaand we're back!
3:15pm: Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz of Egypt is now speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. To put it mildly, the NAM does not have a cordial relationship with Israel. Former Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman once asked, "What does the Non-Aligned Movement even mean anymore?" and he had a point. Not surprisingly, the NAM condemns Operation Cast Lead and the ongoing blockade of Gaza. The NAM calls on the Security Council "to pronounce itself and to take a clear position and serious actions regarding Israel's violations in the occupied East Jerusalem." The NAM is also concerned about violations of Security Council resolution 1701 on Lebanon... by Israel. Hezbollah's violations aren't mentioned. Ditto the Syrian Golan. Most improbably, the NAM "urges the Security Council to seriously consider and act upon the recommendations directed to it" by the Goldstone Report.
3:38pm: I just realized that the Permanent Observer of the Arab League's first name is Yahya. I think that sums up how this day has gone.
4:07pm: It's rather galling to hear the Ambassador of Sudan accuse the Israelis of violating international law and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
4:42pm: The Pakistani Ambassador is speaking now, and the delegate who is sitting next to him is chatting surreptitously on his cell phone.
5:35am: Iran has arrived! And they're not pulling any punches.
The Zionist war machine inflicted this tragedy in the Gaza Strip which resulted in the strangulation and slaughter of the innocent people of Gaza, especially the women and children, for 20 consecutive days. The Zionist regime who knows nothing about respect for humanity and human rights, also targeted every and each human being, also targeted every and each human beings, every house and every infrastructure in the Gaza strip, and resorted to unimaginable criminal acts such as bombardment of innocent children and women sheltering the UN-declared-safe buildings.
Unlike most states, Iran doesn't think Goldstone went far enough, calling it "late" and only a "partial" account of what happened. Iran also feels that if the Security Council doesn't follow up on the Goldstone Report, the Council is worthless:
It is expected that the Security Council, in line with its responsibilities to uphold international peace and security take full account of the recommendations of the Goldstone report. We consider this meeting as a true test of the Council's credibility and reliability and sincerely hope to see it moving in the right direction. Otherwise we should not expect the world, especially the victims of such heinous crimes in Gaza ... to keep hoping in the UN and other int'l organizations as the best course of their support.
Disappointing the expectations of many, myself included, who thought they would hold forth for half an hour or more, the Iranian Ambassador concluded his remarks in a mere 8 minutes.
6:11pm: Aaaah! More countries have arrived to speak! Though not on the list of speakers, Norway and the Maldives have both been given the floor. The meeting has been going for six and a half hours now. How much more can the delegates endure?
6:13pm: And now Sri Lanka! Really, Sri Lanka, is this necessary? Talking about having "consistently supported a peaceful settlement" is a little hypocritical, given how the Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka slaughtered a thousand of its own citizens a day for almost a month in crushing the Tamil rebellion earlier this year.
6:26pm: Oh noooooo. The Venezuelans are holding forth! Is there no end to the madness? My life! My sweet sweet life!
6:27pm: Venezuela, which has already cut off relations with Israel, announces that it is going to keep them cut. So there!
6:28pm: At this point, I'll quote the full Macbeth passage, which is becoming increasingly relevant:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28
6:29pm: DONE!!! AT LAST!!! Goodnight.