A survey of official reactions from 11 Global South states outside the Middle East/North Africa region — Brazil, Mexico, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam — reveals a consensus on condemnation of Hamas’ attacks.
But their statements differ on who’s to blame, what’s the solution, and what to do next. Most of the states selected in this survey are among the Global South’s key middle powers. Four smaller or less influential states — Bangladesh, Kenya, Malaysia, and Singapore — also included.
In Latin America, Brazil said it "condemns the series of bombings and ground attacks carried out today in Israel from the Gaza Strip (and) expresses condolences to the families of the victims and expresses its solidarity with the people of Israel."
“There is no justification for resorting to violence, especially against civilians,” the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a statement. “The Brazilian Government urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalating the situation.”
Brazil also “reiterates its commitment to the two-state solution...within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders” and “reaffirms that the mere management of the conflict does not constitute a viable alternative for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and the resumption of peace negotiations is urgent.”
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” Da Silva also expressed his “rejection of terrorism in any of its forms" and called for a two-state solution. Brazil, as the United Nations Security Council president for October, called a closed emergency session of the Council this weekend. The meeting failed to agree on a statement.
Mexico’s foreign ministry "condemns the attacks suffered by the people of Israel (and) calls for an end to this inappropriate violence...to avoid an escalation that (will cause) greater...suffering to the civilian population."
The Mexican statement also argued that it is “essential to resume the process of direct and good faith negotiations between both parties...within the framework of the two-state solution...within mutually agreed upon and internationally recognized secure borders in accordance with (United Nations resolutions).”
Turning to Africa, Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs “condemns, in the strongest terms possible, the unprovoked attack by Hamas militants” and called on both sides to “exercise restraint and seek a negotiated agreement” to the conflict.
Nigeria, for its part, said it is "deeply concerned" at the "outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hamas" and "calls for de-escalation and ceasefire" and a "peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue."
South Africa called for an "immediate cessation of violence, restraint and peace.”
“The new conflagration has arisen from...illegal occupation of Palestine land, desecration of Al Aqsa mosque & Christian holy sites and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people," the South African foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday, calling for a return to the “1967 internationally recognized borders with East Jerusalem as capital” and also mentioning “the right of return.”
Looking at Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quoted as saying he is “deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel, adding that he and his government “stand in solidarity with Israel.” The Indian foreign ministry had not issued a press release on the crisis at the time of writing.
Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it “denounces the ongoing armed conflict between Israel and Palestine and deplores the resultant loss of innocent civilian lives (and) calls for an immediate ceasefire.”
“Living under the Israeli occupation and forced settlements in Palestinian territory will not bring peace,” the statement continued, adding that Bangladesh “supports a two-state solution, Palestine and Israel, living side by side as independent states free of occupation following UN Resolutions No. 242 and 338.”
Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it "is deeply concerned with the escalation of conflict between Palestine and Israel.”
“Indonesia urges the immediate end of violence," the statement said. “The root of the conflict, namely the occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel, must be resolved, in accordance with the parameters agreed upon by the UN.”
Vietnam said it is "profoundly concerned" and called "on relevant parties to exercise restraint” and “refrain from taking actions that complicate the situation." Hanoi added that it calls on "relevant parties" to "soon resume negotiations to resolve disagreements through peaceful means, on the basis of international law and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council."
Meanwhile, Singapore stated that it “strongly condemns the rocket and terror attacks from Gaza on Israel, which have resulted in deaths and injuries of many innocent civilians.”
“We call for an immediate end to the violence and urge all sides to do their utmost to protect the safety and security of civilians,” said a spokesperson for Singapore’s foreign ministry.
Malaysia said it “is deeply concerned over the loss of so many lives due to the latest escalation of clashes in and around the Gaza Strip. At this critical time...parties must exercise utmost restraint and de-escalate.”
“The root cause must be acknowledged,” the statement continued. “The Palestinians have been subjected to the prolonged illegal occupation, blockade and sufferings, the desecration of Al-Aqsa, as well as the politics of dispossession at the hands of Israel as the occupier.”
“There should be no...flagrant hypocrisy in dealing with any regime that practices apartheid and blatantly violates...international law,” Malaysia’s foreign ministry added. “Palestinians have the legal right to live in a state of peace within its own recognised borders based on pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
While each of these 11 states has, as one could expect, condemned the horrific attack by Hamas, their statements reveal different leanings on Israel. India (though an official foreign ministry statement is still not out) currently seems closest to the Israeli and American position, by invoking terrorism with no mention of de-escalation, the two-state solution, or key UN resolutions on Palestine. Singapore too invokes terrorism. Kenya mentions terrorism indirectly, but calls the Hamas attack “unprovoked.” Though the official Brazilian statement does not mention the T word, Lula’s comments clearly label the Hamas attacks as terrorism.
The seven other states have not characterized the attack as terrorism. Nigeria however avoids criticizing Israel and couches its calls to peace in general terms. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Africa criticize Israel and specifically cite the Israeli occupation as the root cause. Brazil, Mexico and Vietnam stay focused on restraint, the two-state solution and UN resolutions or relevant international law.
If we were to project these reactions on a spectrum of the degree of alignment to U.S. and Israeli positions on the crisis (admittedly a challenging task due to the complexity of the issues involved and the early stage of the responses), India and Kenya seem to be at the end closest to the U.S. and Israel. They are followed by Singapore and Nigeria. Brazil, Mexico, and Vietnam appear to be next.
At the other end of this spectrum, and thus relatively the least aligned with Israeli and U.S. positions, lie Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Africa.
If the violence in the Middle East escalates much more, as seems likely, expect the diplomatic action to move to the United Nations. We will then know much more about where Global South states stand on the matter.
Sarang Shidore is Director of the Global South Program at the Quincy Institute, and member of the adjunct faculty at George Washington University. He has published in Foreign Affairs and The New York times, among others. Sarang was previously a senior research scholar at the University of Texas at Austin and senior global analyst at the geopolitical risk firm Stratfor Inc.
Photo credit: Hamas militants take part in an anti-Israel military march in 2019. (Anas Mohammed/ Shutterstock)
Senator Lindsey Graham had two options walking into the Doha Forum in Qatar this weekend: find a way to triangulate his full-throated support for Netanyahu policies in Israel for the largely Palestinian-supportive Muslim audience Sunday, or wave his own flag without reservation. He went with the latter.
The South Carolina Republican made it clear he was no stranger to the region — he touted a long friendship with his host the Emir of Qatar and lauded the kingdom's role as international mediator and host to America's Fifth Fleet. But he didn't bat an eye to tell this audience — thousands of Muslims assembled from across the Gulf and the broader Middle East, plus attendees from Global South nations and Europe — that the U.S. veto of the ceasefire was one of the few things he thought the Biden Administration got right.
"President Biden ...You have risen to the occasion after October the seventh," he said, addressing the audience Sunday. "I have a world of difference with President Biden on many things. But when he vetoed the ceasefire resolution, he did the right thing and let me tell you why. Every ceasefire Hamas has ever entered has been broken and we're not going to do a ceasefire until hostages begin to be released like promised and would give the Israeli military the time and space they need to make sure that Hamas ceases to be a threat to Israel and the Palestinian people."
"So as a Republican, I am standing behind President Biden's decision, that resolution and the one that comes next."
He also said the only way there will be peace in the Middle East and to get the real culprit — Iran — and to start building a state for Palestine, was for the normalization process between Arab States and Israel to continue, with the Israel-Saudi deal the icing on the cake.
"I pledge in front of the world to help President Biden secure the votes in the United States Senate to make it possible for Saudi Arabia to have a defense agreement with us, which would then make it possible for Saudi Arabia, to recognize Israel," he declared. "Before the world I pledge my support, to help reconstruct a new Palestine but none of this is possible until you have a less corrupt younger Palestinian Authority, replacing the one we have. And a Hamas can no longer wreak havoc on Israel, on their own people.”
That potential U.S.-brokered Israel-Saudi deal have been deemed all but dead after the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel. Graham contended that aside from hating Jews, Hamas launched the attacks to kill any hope for that deal to go forward. Observers have come to similar conclusions — that the so-called Abraham Accords had left the Palestinians on the cutting room floor, inciting anger among the militant elements in Gaza. But unlike Graham, these critics' hold that the agreements are the problem — that regional leaders' shouldn't have allowed Israel to shunt the peace process to the side in the first place.
Not only did Graham ignore this fatal flaw of the agreements, he reveled in his own blind spots, choosing to ignore any culpability of the Netanyahu government over the decades leading to the violence and what appears today, an endless bombardment and on-the-ground military operation in Gaza with chances for further talks between the two sides dwindling by the hour. Instead, he appeared to blame Iran for everything.
"The biggest fear of the Ayatollah is that the Arab world, in conjunction with Israel, marches toward the light away from the darkness. (Iran hates) the idea that everybody in this room can find a way to work with Israel and live with Israel where everybody makes money and can live in peace. Because let me tell you, their agenda is different than yours. So I believe we cannot let Iran win."
He said he was committed to a two-state solution, and if there was any moment in his talk where he put any responsibility on Israel it was this: "I'm going to Israel soon and here's what I'm telling Israeli friends — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, none of these Arab countries can help you. Unless you make a commitment for a two state solution. ...To my friends in Israel the best thing you can do to beat Iran is to give the Palestinians a life where they're not dependent upon terrorist organizations that they can live and work and be prosperous."
How Israelis could get there, from here, was not explained by Lindsey Graham, or whether he honestly thought that was possible given the "hell on earth" Gaza is becoming today. But we know he doesn't believe that the civilian crisis on the ground now will reduce the chances for peace tomorrow, because of the way he reacted to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's remarks earlier this month.
Austin said “the lesson is that you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians. In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.”
“Strategic defeat would be inflaming the Palestinians? They’re already inflamed,” Graham continued. “They’re taught from the time they’re born to hate the Jews and to kill them. They’re taught math: If you have 10 Jews and kill six, how many would you have left?”
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Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the 21st Doha Forum in Qatar on Dec. 10. (Vlahos)
DOHA, QATAR — In remarks Sunday at the 21st Doha Forum in Qatar, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov seemed to revel in what is becoming a groundswell of international frustration with the United States over its policies in Israel. Despite Russia’s own near-isolated status after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Lavrov glibly characterized the U.S. as on the wrong side of history, the leader of the dying world order, and the purveyor of its own brand of “cancel culture.”
“I think everybody understands that this (Gaza war) did not happen in a vacuum that there were decades of unfulfilled promises that the Palestinians would get their own state,” and years of political and security hostilities that exploded on Oct. 7, he charged. “This is about the cancel culture, whatever you don’t like about events that led to the current situation you cancel. Everything that came before February 2022, including the bloody coup (in Ukraine) and the unconstitutional change of power … all this was canceled. The only thing that remains is that Russia invaded Ukraine.”
Lavrov, beamed in from Russia to the international audience in Doha, went fairly unchallenged, though his interviewer James Bays, diplomatic editor at Al Jazeera, attempted to corner him on accusations stemming from Russia’s own bloody record in Chechnya in the 1990s and and 2000s and its ongoing military campaign in Syria, which Lavrov noted was at the “behest” of the Syrian government.
On the issue of the failed ceasefire vote at the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent veto member, Lavrov said, “we strongly condemn the terrorist attack against Israel. At the same time we do not think it is acceptable to use this (terrorist) event for collective punishment of millions of Palestinian people.” Did he condemn the United States for vetoing the ceasefire measure? “It’s up to the regional countries and the other countries of the world to judge,” he declared.
When asked if there was a “stalemate” in the Russian war in Ukraine, and what the Russians may have gained from their invasion in 2022, he said simply, “it’s up to the Ukrainians to understand how deep a hole they are in and where the Americans have put them.”
On whether a ceasefire may be in the offing in that war Lavrov said, “a year and half ago (Zelensky) signed a decree prohibiting any negotiations with the Putin government. They had the chance in March and April 2022, very soon after the beginning of the special military operation, where in Istanbul the negotiators reached a deal with neutrality for Ukraine, no NATO, and security guarantees…it was canceled,” he added, because the Americans and Brits wanted to “exhaust (Ukrainians) more.”
Lavrov gleefully piggybacked on themes from an earlier forum panel on the Global South. He accused “the United States and its allies” of building “the model of globalization, which they thought would serve them well.” But now, Lavrov contends, the unaligned are using “the principles and instruments of globalization to beat the West on their own terms.” As for Russia, Lavrov deployed a little “cancel culture” of his own, cherry picking the high points of his country's history over the last 200 years to project a nation that he boasts will emerge unscathed by Western assaults today.
“In the beginning of the 19th century Napoleon (rose European armies) against Russia and we defeated him; in the 20th century Hitler did the same. We defeated him and became stronger after that as well,” he said. With the Ukraine war, the West will find “that Russia has already become much stronger than it was before this.”
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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks in opening session of the Doha Forum in Qatar, December 10. (vlahos)
DOHA, QATAR — The U.S. veto of the UN Security Council vote for a ceasefire in the war in Gaza is being met with widespread anger and frustration by the international community and especially in the Arab world, as reflected in opening remarks at the 21st Doha Forum in Qatar on Sunday.
Addressing the forum, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the vote was “regrettable…that does not make it less necessary. I can promise that I will not give up.” He said since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in Israel and the ensuing Israeli retaliation in Gaza, “the Council’s authority and credibility were seriously undermined” by a succession of failed votes to respond to ongoing civilian carnage on the Strip.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, foreign minister of Qatar, said the current crisis and the U.S. reaction to it, including its thwarting of the ceasefire call (it was the only vote of disapproval; the UK abstained) was exposing the “great gap between East and West ... and double standards in the international community.” He pointed to those drawing attention to war crimes in “other contexts” (no doubt referring to Russia in Ukraine ) “hesitating to call for the end of these crimes in the Gaza strip.”
He repeatedly called for the creation of new multipolar world order that "respects justice and equality between the people where no people are more powerful than the other."
The U.S. said it did not approve the ceasefire resolution Friday because of the lack of condemnation of Hamas in the language, and that it not include a declaration of Israel’s right to defend itself. U.S. ambassador Robert Wood said halting Israel’s military action would “only plant the seeds for the next war.”
The result is that people here at the forum say they are more convinced than ever that U.S. policy is reflexively and intimately intertwined with Israel's activities in Gaza. As Mohammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of Palestine, charged, Washington has given the “greenest of green lights” to what Israel is doing on the ground. This was exacerbated this weekend with news that the Biden Administration is bypassing Congressional review to send 13,000 tank rounds to Israel. This, despite efforts by Democrats in his own party to condition the transfer of offensive weapons to prevent their use against civilians.
Meanwhile, humanitarian advocates repeatedly called the situation on the ground “unprecedented.” In an interview with Al Jazeera reporter Stefanie Dekker on the dais, Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, said his own organization is “on the brink of collapse.” They have lost 134 relief workers in Gaza since Israeli operations began. He described staff in silent stupefaction over the loss of homes, families. “There is no doubt a ceasefire is needed; we want to put an end to hell on earth right now in Gaza.”
Khaled Saffuri, executive director of the National Interest Foundation in Washington, told RS he was struck by the backlash against American brands in his own travels in Kuwait and Qatar over the last week, citing customer and restaurant boycotts of Coke, Pepsi, MacDonald’s, and Starbucks. “It’s horrible,” he said of the lopsided UN vote. “America is losing a lot in the Muslim world.”
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