In a decision mirroring the complex geopolitical landscape and Finland's traditionally cautious approach to international conflicts, Finland joined 44 other nations, including Sweden and Denmark, in abstaining from a United Nations General Assembly vote. This vote called for a "humanitarian truce" in the Gaza Strip, specifically aimed at ceasing the ongoing heavy bombardment of civilian targets in Gaza. Despite the resolution winning a significant and overwhelming majority, Finland's abstention has elicited inquiries regarding its stance on critical global humanitarian issues.
Passed on October 27, 2023, the resolution saw 120 votes in favor, 14 against, and 45 abstentions, signaling the U.N.'s first response to this intensifying conflict. As a non-binding appeal, it aspires to suspend the siege and bombardment, facilitating the delivery of crucial aid to the 2.3 million residents of the enclave. This move in the General Assembly was a response to the U.N. Security Council's repeated failures to unify on a resolution, with two proposals being vetoed and two failing to achieve the necessary votes.
The resolution faced resistance notably from Israel, its chief ally the United States, and a handful of European Union members, including Austria, Croatia, Czechia, and Hungary. Additionally, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, and Tonga – several micro-nations often seen as aligned with U.S. positions in U.N. votes – also opposed the measure.
In contrast, eight EU members voted in favor, highlighting a division within the Union.
The countries opposing the resolution collectively represent less than 410 million people, accounting for only 5.19% of the global population.
Finland's choice to abstain rather than outright support or reject the resolution is indicative of its typically measured and strategic approach to foreign policy, especially in relation to intricate international conflicts. This abstention might suggest a neutrality stance or a preference for a more balanced view, considering the delicate nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a recent NATO member, Finland's position could also reflect a reluctance to openly oppose the United States, despite several NATO members like France and Norway backing the resolution.
The General Assembly's response came after a series of intense Israeli airstrikes, retaliating for the October 7th attack by Hamas, which resulted in 1400 deaths. Israel's subsequent expansive bombing campaign in Gaza has led to over 7000 Palestinian deaths, including approximately 3000 children. Furthermore, critical supplies such as water, electricity, fuel, and food have been cut off to 2.2 million Gaza residents. Israeli Defence Minister Gallant reportedly referred to the inhabitants of Gaza as “human animals.” Additionally, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog controversially claimed that no innocent civilians exist in Gaza. This statement was made as thousands of Palestinians attempted to flee the northern region following Israel’s military directive to evacuate south, anticipating a larger military operation. “It is an entire nation out there that is responsible,” Herzog stated in a press conference on Friday, October 13.
While U.N. General Assembly resolutions aren't legally binding, they possess considerable moral influence, shaping future diplomatic dialogues and international responses.