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Deconstructing the UN’s symbolic solidarity with Palestinians

After decades of United Nations complicity allowing Israel’s colonisation of Palestine, the yearly International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People has been upgraded symbolically to encompass a whole year. On November 26, the UN General Assembly voted to declare2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, a move greeted by the expected opposition from Israel and its allies. However, apart from the “victimisation” stance incorporated by the imperialist faction, the decision also reflected the UN’s consolidated tendency to exaggerate the importance of symbolism over decisive action leading to accountability and decolonisation.


The UN is criticised regularly by Israel and its allies for its alleged anti-Semitic stance, a mantra which is regurgitated each time the international organisation voices concern over Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians. With reference to this latest UN resolution, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust (IHRH), Anne Bayefsky, declared that 2014 will be “a year of excluding pro-Israel Jewish organisations from the United Nations.” The theme of Israel’s supposed exclusion from the international arena has been evoked widely in other circumstances pertaining to scrutiny of Israel’s human rights violations, which have resulted in further favourable concessions to the colonising power, whose presence and strategy in the Middle East is crucial to the imperialist agenda. For instance, the International Year of Solidarity with Palestinians has already been obscured by Israel’s inclusion in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), allowing the illegal state a platform through which to incorporate support from countries committed to persevering with global oppression.

The UN’s embrace of symbolism in an attempt to divert attention away from its incorporation and sanctioning of illegalities is crucial to maintaining the illusion of chastising Israel for its flagrant violations of international law. Despite the slightest “concern” at Palestinian misery being targeted and dissected routinely in order to flaunt the UN’s alleged anti-Israel bias, its reports and declarations are effective in enabling the international organisation to retain its deceptive veneer of concern for humanity while allowing the creation of circumstances necessitating human rights discourse. A discussion of the UN as an essential mechanism within the imperialist framework reveals an organisation thriving upon illegality to safeguard not only its existence but also to sanction oppressive politics while deploring the ramifications experienced by the population. Hence, the UN reinforces the perpetual impunity associated with imperialism at the expense of endorsing the illegal subjugation of the oppressed.

An analysis of various UN reports and recommendations discussing the humanitarian impact resulting from Israel’s oppression of Palestinians shows the UN’s efficiency in separating the ramifications of oppression from the oppressor, thus also creating a division between the humanitarian and political aspects. Two recent reports by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) attest to this.

The first brief report, The humanitarian impact of Israeli settlements in Hebron city, substantiates the precarious deprivation faced by Palestinians whose dwellings have been demolished repeatedly by the Israeli authorities. Yet, the statistical relevance is diminished by rhetoric normalising Israel’s settler-colonial project. The report states, “As the occupying power, Israeli is obligated to ensure that the humanitarian needs of Palestinians living in Hebron are met and that they are able to exercise their human rights.” Such a statement obscures the fact that Palestinian deprivation sustains Israel’s colonisation of Palestine and, subsequently, the maintenance of the settler-colonial state. The report is void of a collective effort to hold Israel accountable within the international community. Rather, it stresses that the colonising power should rectify its human rights violations without the threat of any international measures to force Israel’s accountability for those violations.

The second OCHA report, Occupied Palestinian Territory: winter storm situation, compiles the humanitarian aspects faced by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, emphasising the natural catastrophe resulting from the recent storm. Israel’s role as coloniser and oppressor is eliminated from the picture. The portrayal of unsustainable conditions faced by Palestinians as mere consequences of the storm divests Israel from accountability in creating enclaves designed to restrict freedom of movement in an attempt to encourage further displacement of the indigenous population. Israel is discussed solely within its capacity of providing aid begrudgingly to Palestinians, yet this illustrated semblance of benevolence fails to assert the coloniser’s role in creating the oppressive conditions leading to a necessary, albeit inadequate, aid distribution process.

At the UN end of year press conference, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pleaded for international collaboration, stating that he was “just amazed there are still so many challenges unresolved.” The feigned amazement might have been expressed more accurately as an acknowledgement of continuous global oppression in which the UN is complicit. Together with Israel and its allies, the United Nations has disfigured the foundations of internationalism by marginalising the predicaments of the oppressed in favour of extolling the alleged moral contributions of a selective fragment of the international community. International imperialist exploitation remains in direct confrontation with the dynamics of revolutionary internationalism, a view expounded upon by Peruvian philosopher Jose Carlos Mariátegui.

To move beyond the threat of perfunctory symbolism personified by the UN, Palestinians need internationalist support which can challenge the exploitation of land, people and historical legitimacy through the deconstruction of several political ties which have isolated the people from the political process. The Palestinian struggle for recognition is undermined by various forms of representation and demands, including the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s requirement to extract recognition of the illegal “Jewish state” and America’s imperialist backing for colonisation, as well as the UN’s ineffective resolutions deploring atrocities while defending Israel’s right to exist, apparently at any cost to the Palestinians, in order to avoid confrontation with its own criminal responsibility.

A more effective process countering the coming year’s solidarity rhetoric would be to shun the compromise created by the imperialist-sanctioned symbolism, moving towards a repudiation of the UN’s subservience to the US and Israel which leads to an extension of Palestinian exploitation and oppression under colonial rule. An authentic internationalist solidarity and resistance which derives its legitimacy from the Palestinian struggle should counter the isolation emanating from the manipulative discourse articulated by the UN, in order to extend Palestinian resistance beyond the structures of imposed dependence.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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