The Palestinian “Great March of Return” has exposed the frailty of Israel’s fabricated narratives, yet once again the international community prefers to speak about “sides” in the conflict. As the planned march draws nearer, the Jerusalem Post reported that UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, has urged “all sides to exercise restraint and to take the necessary steps to avoid a violent escalation.”
Palestinians have already insisted repeatedly that the march is a form of non-violent protest stemming from a legitimate right to go back to the land from which the nascent Israeli state drove them out at gunpoint. Nevertheless, the Times of Israel reported yesterday that more than 100 snipers have been deployed along the border with the Gaza Strip “to deal with a Palestinian march expected to begin on Friday…” Officers will “authorise them to open fire if… Israeli lives are in danger.” Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot clarified this further: “The orders are to use a lot of force.”
Israeli media outlets have supported the state’s premeditated violence by framing the Palestinian protest as a violent act even before it has taken place, and thus justified in advance what they deem to be a necessarily violent response. However, they are not alone in promoting narratives of denial with regard to Israel’s colonial violence. The UN’s absence of any assertiveness when it comes to holding Israel accountable for its crimes is becoming a core component of the colonial entity’s ability to act with total impunity. Nowhere is this more evident than in its patronising attitude towards the Palestinian right of return.
Israel National News published an op-ed earlier this week which described the planned protest as the “latest innovation” with the immediate objective of Palestinians participating in the march “to get killed themselves”, simply in order to “delegitimise Israel”. The op-ed provides the most dissociated overviews of the Nakba, which the author describes as “the date in 1948 on which Ben Gurion declared the state of Israel and five Arab states invaded it.” Needless to say, the article also seeks to disavow the displacement, dispossession and ethnic cleansing which transformed Palestinians into perpetual refugees.
Israel’s widespread denial of the Palestinian right of return necessitates this manipulation of the indigenous population’s history. It also allows Eizenkot to justify targeting Palestinians with sniper fire for “marching into our territory.” Yet the international community’s refusal to support the perfectly legitimate right of return speaks volumes about the UN’s collusion with Israel. It is also proof that the UN never intended that the right should ever be implemented, even though it was made a condition of Israel’s membership of the international organisation. The only possibility lies in the hands of the Palestinian people, who have the power to move away, at least intellectually, from the impositions disguised as UN resolutions.
The Palestinian Great March of Return should thus prompt some thinking. Despite seeking to abide by UN resolutions, Palestinians have found themselves tethered to cycles of dispossession, which shows that the international agenda is deeply flawed and corrupted. The international response to this non-violent protest has not singled out Israeli plans to murder Palestinians at the border of their own land for condemnation; rather, the UN has chosen a discourse which insists on equivalence between the protagonists when it is clear to all and sundry that there is none. A colonial power with one of the best-equipped armed forces in the world — including nuclear weapons — is imposing its will on a colonised population which seeks to return to its own land and reverse the permanent refugee status which has become synonymous with the Palestinians.
Since Israel and the UN have already chosen their violent narratives, we are justified in asking why the latter’s intent is to maintain the political coercion that created the Palestinian refugee problem in the first place and face its own accountability for the transformation of the legitimate right to return into a dangerous game with limited options. The Palestinians, meanwhile, can either submit and stay permanently displaced, or stand up for their rights and be killed by acts of premeditated violence by Israel, with which the UN is colluding.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.