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UNRWA anniversary prompts Israeli hostility and divergent narratives

In a recent gathering on the 65th anniversary of the founding of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continued to call for a resumption of the compromised negotiations between Israel and Palestine; the UN chief utilised the prolonged existence of the agency as the context for his plea. UNRWA, insisted Ban, "exists because of political failure."

Between the Secretary General's comments and those of Israel's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN, Ambassador David Roet, a truth emerges that consists of manipulating narratives within a cycle of colonialism and dependency. According to the Times of Israel (1), Roet accused UNRWA of harbouring a pro-Palestinian agenda. "If this politicisation of the refugee issue was not enough," he claimed, "recently, UNRWA left no doubt about how deep its 'political mission' goes. Its spokesperson clearly stated that one of UNRWA's goals is to validate the Palestinian narrative."

Roet also insisted that UNRWA's "interference with the political process is beyond the scope of its legitimate activities and endangers the fulfilment of its mandate." In other words, Roet's preoccupation with UNRWA is the permanency of Palestinian refugee status, a necessity that is in line with Israel's perpetual colonisation of Palestine.

While Israel has, throughout the decades, regularly rejected symbolic and non-binding international resolutions as being detrimental to the settler-colonial state's existence, Palestine's reality can accurately and concisely be described as a political failure, the exact term used by Ban to describe UNRWA's lengthy existence. What is eliminated consistently from the narrative, however, is the UN's role in ensuring this political failure.

The UNRWA Commissioner General's speech (2) at the commemoration event was an example of humanitarian rhetoric conscious of a dependency cycle that hinders a proper implementation of the Palestinian right of return. "Humanitarian aid is not a substitute for the denial of dignity or rights," said Pierre Krähenbühl. "Palestinian refugees need more than assistance. They need to enjoy the human rights that international law guarantees to all people."

However, history has bequeathed the world with proof that the international community is dedicated to consolidating the widening gap between the humanitarian and the political where Palestinians are concerned. Imperialist interpretation of international law and democracy has already created selective niches for the supposed epitomes of such values. The rest of the world is categorised into submissive adherents, willing collaborators and, at the far end of the spectrum, nations and populations requiring violent repression sanctioned by the UN. This trend safeguards not only the prolonged existence of UNRWA but consolidates the foundations of the UN itself and its self-serving impunity.

The UN, therefore, together with its political actors, endorses political failure as an integral component of the dependency cycle it has enforced upon the Palestinian population and UNRWA. At the helm is the UN's primary objective of safeguarding Israel's colonial project. Willing accomplices, in the form of the Palestinian Authority and its penchant for seeking help in drafting UN Security Council resolutions from imperialist-aligned countries, have facilitated the process.

In recent resolutions submitted to the UN Security Council by the PA, the intent to fragment Palestine further has been reaffirmed. The stance is in line with the two-state compromise hailed as a solution by the UN and the international community, which relishes diplomatic bureaucracy unleashed by impossible hypothetical scenarios. Given that the submitted texts have varied only in rhetoric as opposed to changing the political agenda, Israeli complaints about UNRWA validating the Palestinian narrative cannot be considered as absolutely authentic. The UN safeguards Israel's colonial structure and the ramifications of such political affirmation upon related organisations and the people dependent upon their representation.

Any validation of the Palestinian narrative from UNRWA is mired inherently in restrictions that flaunt the dependency structure of the organisation. Maintaining the status of Palestinian refugees permanently does not constitute the organisation's validating of the Palestinian narrative, neither does the upholding of the Palestinian right of return. Palestinians have endured decades of betrayal through complicity in colonisation, manifested explicitly in UN resolutions that claim to safeguard Palestinian rights through a colonial framework. UNRWA's existence, ultimately, can be viewed as an extension of the UN's remedies for the perpetual violence and displacements it supports. As Israel increases its expansion in Palestinian territory, aided by futile rhetoric about the two-state paradigm, UNRWA finds itself in financial difficulties which, apart from adding to the oblivion shrouding the Palestinian narrative, also increases the autonomy granted to the perpetrators.

The premise for UNRWA's existence and perpetual oppression of Palestinians is enshrined within its foundations in 1949 and extended with each mandate, "pending the just resolution" to the Palestinian right of return. Collaboration between the PA, Israel, the UN and the US, as well as countries drafting compromised resolutions to be submitted to the security council have ensured the permanency of UNRWA's existence as well as its dependency upon the same components that finance its existence within strict limitations; it gets just enough to operate but at a level sufficient to prevent the possibility of Palestinian autonomy and return.

Apart from singling out UNRWA as the alleged interlocutor of the Palestinian narrative, David Roet also described the Palestinian right of return as "a euphemism for the destruction of the state of Israel." Reminiscent of other colonial rhetoric employed by Israel and disseminated by its allies through perpetual focus upon Israel's alleged right of "self-defence", Roet's statement manifests an error that renders his argument about support for the Palestinian narrative void.

There are no euphemisms in international rhetoric, other than those created to validate Israel's propagated narrative. The Palestinian right of return, divested of UN implications and amalgamated solely to anti-colonial struggle, would provide a legitimate termination to Israel's settler colonial structure and tangible autonomy for all Palestinians. As Israeli history is a fabrication modified to safeguard an illegal concept of a state, it would be fair to shift the dynamics of euphemisms upon the Israeli narrative, burgeoning as it is with weak attempts at shifting blame and diversifying the narrative of organisations hampered by their own hegemonic structure. There is no euphemism for anti-colonial struggle and the destruction of Israel. Rather, it is a question of how Palestinians can liberate their entire territory while navigating the restrictions imposed upon them by the international community and organisations that support, or claim to support, Palestine's sovereignty and independence.

  1. timesofisrael.com
  2. unrwa.org
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