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UN 'neutrality' means protecting Israel at all costs while ignoring Palestinian suffering

More than 1,000 Israeli settlers including children are their way into East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound backed by Israeli police officers, at the Al-Aqsa Complex in Jerusalem on 22 July, 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
More than 1,000 Israeli settlers including children are their way into East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound backed by Israeli police officers, at the Al-Aqsa Complex in Jerusalem on 22 July, 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli settlers have increased their harassment of Palestinian worshippers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The Israeli extremists usually carry out their attacks with the full protection of Israel's occupation security forces after the Palestinians have performed the night prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

Such violence is ongoing within the context not only of the occupation but also of statements by Israeli officials who incite against the indigenous population. Last week, for example, the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Aryeh King, called on Israeli police to execute Palestinian protesters who take to the streets of the holy city at night. Israeli TV Channel 7 reported King as saying that shooting the Palestinian protesters "is the only way which can end the night protests phenomenon."

The Palestine Information Centre (PIC) reported last week that the Jewish Kahanist far-right group Lehava was planning to organise a rally of settlers in Jerusalem's Old City "to defend Jewish honour." According to Haaretz, the Jewish extremists patrolled streets within the occupied city and attacked Palestinian passers-by physically and verbally. Yedioth Ahronoth was also reported by the PIC as saying that a group of armed Jewish settlers planned to storm into Jerusalem's Safra Square and Jaffa Street wearing combat clothing and carrying weapons to attack Palestinians.

READ: Extremist Israel settlers continue incitement against Palestinians in Jerusalem

This actually happened. Hundreds of extremist — and illegal — settlers marched to the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem's Old City chanting "Death to Arabs… Death to terrorists". They attacked the Palestinians, most of whom had been worshipping in Al-Aqsa, and wounded more than 100 of them, said the Palestinian Red Crescent. This prompted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to urge the international community to protect the Palestinians from the settler attacks. Abbas pointed out that such harassment and attacks were encouraged by the Israeli government, but it was to no avail.

The international community remained silent and did nothing to stop or put pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to stop the daily settler violations against the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Certain countries only expressed "concerns", which is next to meaningless. They clearly didn't want to upset their influential pro-Israel lobbies, and so incidents were referred to not as settler violence or aggression, but "clashes" between settlers and the Palestinians, effectively blaming both sides.

As the suffering of the Palestinians in Jerusalem continued without any effective deterrent, the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip decided to take a stand on their behalf and to protect Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Jerusalemites. A warning was issued to Israel about the settlers' aggression. When this was ignored they launched several rockets targeting open areas near illegal settlements, sending a message to the Israelis that Jerusalem is a "red line".

Unpunished settlers attacks against Palestinians have multiplied – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Suddenly the international community woke up, with UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland saying, "I am alarmed by the recent escalations in Jerusalem and around Gaza." He described launching rockets at open areas in Israel as "war crimes" but said nothing about the unprovoked attempts to set Palestinian homes on fire, harassing worshippers trying to get to Al-Aqsa Mosque and the attacks on Jerusalemites which have injured more than 100 people. Nor did he point out that Israeli settlers and their settlements are illegal under international law and amount to war crimes. Instead, the UN official played the "both sides" blame game.

"Over the last 48 hours there was a spike of violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem and the launching of rockets by militants in Gaza," said Wennesland. "The provocative acts across Jerusalem must cease. The indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israeli population centres violates international law and must stop immediately."

At the same time, all parties concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were recruited in order to prevent the potential escalation of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, with the sole aim being to make sure that nothing would happen that would hurt an Israeli settler. "The UN is working with all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation," said Wennesland, who has been asleep since 13 April when the start of Ramadan saw the start of the latest round of concerted settler violence against Palestinian worshippers.

READ: 100s Jerusalemites injured as ultra-right wing Israelis march, chant 'death to Arabs'

As the UN envoy in the region, Wennesland represents the international community. He was blind to almost two weeks of continuous state-backed settler aggression against the Palestinians, only opening his eyes when rockets were fired from Gaza into open areas. This tells us a lot about the supposed neutrality of the international organisation.

Indeed, Wennesland showed the world the ugly face of the UN, with its unconditional support for the Israeli occupation government and its extreme right-wing Jewish settlers. UN "neutrality" means protecting the Israeli criminals at all costs while doing nothing about the decades-old suffering of the indigenous people of occupied Palestine.

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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