The almost incessantly-evoked juxtaposition of Israel and Iraq has forcefully returned to the helm of indignation following the massacres committed by the settler-colonial state during Operation Protective Edge. Posters circulating on social media ask why Iraq was invaded for less than what Israel has committed since its inception. The conveyed image is restrictive and inaccurate, as it involves the initial positioning, without distinction, of a settler-colonial entity whose creation has been internationally and erroneously endorsed, next to a country riddled by pretexts for pre-emptive war following the invasion of Kuwait.
Several issues with regard to diverse forms of political violence should provide the foundations of any internationalist protest – a concept that has been side-lined in recent Middle East history. The selection of narratives, in particular with regard to the Arab Spring, have expounded upon freedom as a severed abstract. As the Middle East grapples with complex realities that are constantly manipulated into an isolated series of events, thus simplifying the different aspirations of people and power and increasing impunity, the patterns of violence espoused by the United Nations remain conveniently ignored.
The UN Charter provides a departure point for the ensuing discussion on political violence and imperialist hegemony. Chapter VI, titled “Pacific settlement of disputes,” promotes the first insidious reference to violence. Article 33: 1 of the chapter states, “The Parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”
Chapter VII of the Charter, titled “Action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression” provides direct references to violence under the pretext of necessary intervention. If initial disruption of services in communication, as well as the severing of economic and diplomatic relations fail to bring about a settlement, the use of force is legitimised. As Article 42 states, “Should the Security council consider that measures provided for in article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of members of the United Nations.” The urgency of military force is enshrined in Article 45 which stipulates the necessity of having forces ready for immediate deployment.
Dismissing these excerpts of the UN Charter limits insights into the projection of violence, imperialist instigation and endorsement of violence, the intertwining of passive and aggressive violence, the main actors furthering colonial and imperialist atrocities, the legacy of impunity and the politics of selective exclusion, to the detriment of the invaded or colonised populations.
Starting with Iraq, twice invaded in recent history and reduced to an oppressor’s terrain on various fronts including recent atrocities, the disseminated discourse at the UN concentrated around former President George W Bush’s terror narrative – a puerile, yet dangerous, excuse, implementing an imperialist-supported cycle of violence in the Middle East. The invasion of Iraq created different realities, in particular the prejudiced differentiation of violence to construct an image of the enemy. Vociferous opposition to intervention in Iraq made it difficult to influence public opinion, however, the narrative served to outline the ensuing strategy of disassociation at the UN, in order to ensure impunity. One severe repercussion of the so-called “humanitarian intervention” in Iraq concerns the effects of depleted uranium on Fallujah’s population. A report on the World Health Organisation’s website indicates imperialist impunity. The study into congenital birth defects explicitly states it will not investigate the link between depleted uranium and the manifested deformities. If the prevalence is high, “establishing a link between CBD prevalence and exposure to depleted uranium would require further research by competent agencies/institutions.”
Conversely, UN strategy with regard to Israel focuses on passive forms of aggression as stipulated in Chapter VI – a strategy of concessions to generate the continuation of imperialist-supported colonial violence supported by the nature of non-binding resolutions. While the Middle East remains embroiled in a conflagration of swiftly mutating violence taking its toll on entire populations, imperialism attempts to instigate incisions into memory, enforcing selective remembrance that forges a constant impunity for the three entities that have legitimised violence – the UN, the US and Israel
Unlike Iraq, Israel is a settler-colonial process in progress designated to proceed unhindered, in order to complete imperialist dominance in the region. Facilitating its completion requires constant innovation of designated detachment with regard to Israel’s genocidal measures facilitating its settler-colonial survival. Departing from the assertion that the UN Charter includes direct references to sanctioned violence, both passive and proactive, Chapter VI in particular is of absolute relevance to Israel, which in turn is allowed to practice an aberrant form of violence as outlined in Chapter VII, against the Palestinian population. Passive violence, in the form of non-binding resolutions, the invalidation of Palestinian narratives and the perpetual concept of negotiations have allowed Israel to precede with direct colonial violence unchallenged.
International complicity, therefore, is not proven through the sale of weapons to Israel by imperialist allies and regurgitated, unfounded declarations by the UN regarding Israel’s right to defend itself. Neither are the regularly cited massacres against Palestinians in Gaza, recently perpetrated through “Operation Protective Edge”, exhaustive and solely conclusive of international complicity and impunity. The missing element, always sidelined by mainstream narratives and necessary to articulate absolute complicity, is the history created and maintained by the organisation itself. Unless falsely invoked to further Israel’s fabricated rights to land, history is consistently ignored by the UN in order to consolidate the subjugation of the indigenous population and legitimise the constantly evolving legitimisation of colonial and imperialist expansion. Hence, the lack of international intervention to safeguard Palestinian rights, territory and memory follows a simple, yet conclusive, thwarted logic – the UN will not, on any account, authorise invasion against the settler-colonial monstrosity it helped to construct.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.