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'Guarded optimism' does not hide the deprivation forced upon Palestinians

Palestinian and Jewish peace activists stage a protest against the court's ruling in favor of the Jewish settlers in front of the Israel Central Court in Jerusalem on 9 February 2021. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian and Jewish peace activists stage a protest against the court's ruling in favor of the Jewish settlers in front of the Israel Central Court in Jerusalem on 9 February 2021. [Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency]

The latest report by the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process painted a bleak picture for Palestine. Gone are the days when UN representatives attempted to conflate diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinian Authority's cooperation over the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, the Palestinian economy contracted by 10 to 12 per cent; it's "one of the largest annual contractions since the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994."

While Covid-19 certainly exacerbated the economic crisis for Palestinians, it is by no means the most pressing factor, as the recommendations indicate. A striking observation is that half the Palestinian population is now in need of humanitarian aid, and yet the UN is still failing to make the link between humanitarian deprivation and Israel's colonial violence and expansion.

The report commences with a section titled "Grounds for Guarded Optimism", despite the fact that this "optimism" hinges mainly on the drop in Covid-19 infections, the slight possibility of restarting diplomatic negotiations, the new US administration and the resumption of the PA's relations with Israel. No diplomatic initiatives have ever halted Israeli settler-colonialism and violence in the past, and there is no reason to believe that 2021 will be any different in terms of restoring the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. What stands out is the pressure on the international community to continue funding humanitarian aid, while not a single recommendation deals with the UN's obligation to eradicate colonialism, hold Israel to account and ensure that Palestinians can progress from dependence upon humanitarian aid to self-sufficiency, as part of the path towards independence.

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The equivalence between the coloniser and the colonised, even within the context of a report that highlights such a precarious scenario, damages Palestinian prospects further. Of course, the Abraham Accords also make an appearance in this document, particularly the clause on "efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive and enduring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Annexation was only mentioned as a backdrop for the PA's decision to halt security coordination and to emphasise how the decision "impeded the health and humanitarian responses to the pandemic." Israel is described as "the Palestinians' closest trading partner" and yet there are other, more accurate, terms to describe the colonial state while bringing the concept of trade under colonial occupation to the fore.

Even if all the recommendations are implemented, which is doubtful, the UN knows that Palestinians will still remain dependent upon humanitarian aid, as long as the two-state paradigm remains the policy to protect Israel's colonisation and annexation plans.

The report says that a two-state "solution" is still an achievable outcome. Peddling the lie that such a scenario "based upon the 1967 lines, previous agreements, UN resolutions, and international law" is still possible excludes the infamous progress made by Israel in terms of de-facto annexation. It also ignores the forthcoming displacement which will force the international community, complicit as it is, to chide Israel on settlement construction rather than take measures to halt the colonial process itself. Undoubtedly, the UN expects Palestinians to abide by international law and embrace their loss, while Israel cultivates further opportunities to extend the cycle of humanitarian aid and the deprivation forced upon the Palestinians. 'Guarded optimism' does not hide this fact.

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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