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The UN's divisive tactics will not alienate Palestinians from their right of return

Palestinian protesters gather during clashes with Israeli security froces in a tent city protest where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba", and against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at Israel-Gaza border at the Israel-Gaza border, in al-Bureij in the center of Gaza Strip on 14 May, 2018 [Mahmoud Khattab/Apaimages]
Palestinian in Gaza protests the right to return to their homeland on 14 May 2018 [Mahmoud Khattab/Apaimages]

Nobody takes the UN seriously anymore. It has bred an array of detractors from across the entire political spectrum while continuing to function as an organisation that facilitates the continuation of violence. For oppressors, the UN serves as a base from where aggression can be justified and later secured through the usual correlation between humanitarian aid and human rights abuses. The victims have been pressured to accept that there is no other option from where to claim their human rights, apart from the same institutions that legitimised violence against them.

Nickolay Mladenov's statements on Sunday continue to illustrate this fact. Gaza's Return March protests – a course of action chosen to claim their rights to historic Palestine – have been used an excuse by Israel to claim purported self-defence. The UN has not attempted to downplay the number of Palestinians murdered and permanently injured by Israeli snipers. However, it is downplaying Palestinian rights, including the right of return, by treating the protests as an isolated display of discontent. So much that Mladenov declaring that the UN will continue working with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt to find a solution for Palestine has long become an acceptable framework to invoke for press releases when necessary.

Working with the coloniser and its collaborators is not in the interests of Palestinians. Neither are the misplaced appeals by Mladenov to Palestinians "to step back and keep the protests peaceful." Or to call upon Palestinian factions "to stop the firing of rockets and mortars, to stop the incendiary kites and give peace a chance."

100 days of the 'Great March of Return'

Not when the UN Special coordinator uses far less restrictive recommendations to Israel "to be very restrained in its responses to the situation in Gaza" and to "appeal to snipers not to shoot children." A pertinent reminder here that Israel's response to the protests was premeditated – the Israeli government ordered snipers positioned along the border long before Palestinians retaliated to the sniper killings through the use of rudimentary weapons.

The overt hypocrisy in Mladenov's statement is the following: "Our allies in this are the Palestinian people in Gaza themselves. Our partners are in the Palestinian government and everybody who wants to see an end to this current escalation."

Just as there is a discrepancy in equating the Palestinian people with the PA, there is also a difference between the aims of both entities. Undoubtedly, the PA will collaborate with the UN to prolong Gaza's humanitarian crisis with the aim of crushing the anti-colonial struggle.


To expect Palestinians to present themselves as allies of the UN when its representatives have prioritised Israel's colonial demands is ludicrous. In this case, Mladenov has legitimised Israeli violence while distancing Palestinians from their legitimate right of return. In turn, his comments also distance the UN from its General Assembly Resolution 194, so that the only thing that remains is the complicity of the organisation from the Partition Plan to its persistence about the two-state compromise.

Palestinians know that for the UN, the right of return has become an issue as marginalised as the Palestinians themselves. Mladenov and the entire institution would do well to remember that, unlike other scenarios where divisive tactics have weakened the will of the people, there is no way that Palestinians will divest themselves of their legitimate rights, to satisfy the UN's hyperbole of purported "allies".

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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