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A Palestinian-American view of the US veto

January 25, 2014 at 6:00 am

The Palestinians have been suffering for decades at the hands of one of the most brutal military occupations in the modern world. They are dehumanised on a daily basis, their civil and human rights are violated and their land is stolen; any attempt at self defence is considered to be an act of terrorism by the occupiers and their backers.

According to the Human Rights Council, the United Nations has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than all other states combined. Israel has been the focus of at least 100 UN resolutions since its establishment on land belonging to Palestinians in 1948, most of which it has ignored and failed to comply with. Dozens more resolutions critical of the Zionist state have been vetoed by the USA. The resolutions themselves have varied: from condemnation of Israel for its deportation of Palestinians, carrying out attacks and massacres, failing to obey UN resolutions and abide by the Geneva Conventions and for building Jewish only housing units and settlements on Palestinian land; to demanding and urging Israel to facilitate the right of return of Palestinian refugees, demanding the withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory, and deploring Israel’s refusal to follow prior resolutions or accept UN involvement to end violence in the Middle East.

Despite Israel’s refusal to implement resolutions and agreements, the international community has continued to ask the Palestinians to take the road of nonviolence and concessions in their struggle for freedom. Now, as the Palestinian Authority demands the basic right to an existence by requesting the United Nations to recognise an independent Palestinian state, it is being met with censure by the world superpower which urged them down the peaceful path in the first place, the USA.

Like other Arab Americans it saddens me greatly to see my country risk its international reputation and credibility for the sake of protecting Israel from having to answer for its crimes. In the past, America has covered for Israel while maintaining its public image of being the champion of justice and democracy. Over the years, though, the US approach has become sloppy with its blind support for Israel no matter how serious the latter’s crimes. Early this year, in the face of the other 14 members of the Security Council, President Obama vetoed a UN resolution condemning Israel’s building of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. He now threatens to veto any chance of Palestinian statehood at the UN.

Palestinians at home and in the diaspora were disappointed by Obama’s speech to the United Nations. “Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring,” he said. This was a clear indication that the US is serving Israeli interests only. Many Americans felt that Obama let them down with his speech, placing Israel’s interests and security above their own.

The president concentrated on the perceived lack of security and hardship Israelis suffer but he didn’t once mention the military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land. He neglected to mention the Palestinians’ agony suffered at the hands of Israelis which makes Israeli “suffering” pale into relative insignificance. Israelis fear mainly homemade rockets that rarely cause any casualties, and suicide bombings; the last of these was in 2008 and was in any case an attack on Israeli soldiers, not civilians. Palestinian civilians, on the other hand, face Israeli missiles, tanks and incursions on an almost daily basis. In Gaza, 1.6 million Palestinians live under an appalling blockade which deprives them of the most basic necessities including food, medical supplies, fuel, electricity and even water. In Jerusalem, Palestinians are being ethnically cleansed from their homeland. And in the West Bank and the Holy City, Palestinians are being banished from their land as illegal Jewish settlements go up in their place served by Jewish-only roads. They face daily harassment and arrests by the Israeli army which enters the occupied Palestinian territories at will; killing, wounding and destroying on the way. Palestinians are also arrested, often without charge, and held indefinitely; around 8,000 men, women and children languish in Israeli detention facilities. Hatred, Mr. Obama, is not taught, it develops when you grow up without parents; when grandparents are still traumatised by the terror of the massacres they survived decades ago; when your whole family has been uprooted and your hopes and dreams are destroyed before they are even formed.

Arab Americans feel betrayed by the president they supported and helped to elect. Palestinians the world over feel despondent about the so-called peace process, and Palestinians living inside the occupied territories threaten a third intifada if America continues so brazenly to support Israel in its genocidal acts by vetoing their right to an independent state of Palestine.

The hope remains that Palestine will be upgraded to “observer status” at the UN General Assembly where America doesn’t have the power of veto and most states support Palestinian statehood. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv and Washington stand firm, with Israel terrified at the very idea of a Palestinian state. Although there is already a UN resolution calling for a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, Israel has ignored that and continues to take more and more of the land it occupies. The greatest concern, it seems, is that an independent state of Palestine will be able to tackle Israel in the international court of justice, no doubt accusing the Zionist state of countless war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. As President Barack Obama is standing so close with Israel, he negates his claim to support a two-state solution to the conflict. Where does that lead the peace process and negotiations to which his veto is supposed to force the Palestinians to return?

The author is a Palestinian American medical student at the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST).

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