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UN complicity in Israeli violations against the Palestinians has to stop

December 1, 2021 at 11:35 am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on 24 September 2021 in New York [JOHN ANGELILLO/AFP via Getty Images]

In 1977, the UN General Assembly called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. In 2005, the UN started to organise an annual exhibition on Palestinian rights or a cultural event in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN.

On this year’s International Day of Solidarity, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – including East Jerusalem — continues to pose a significant challenge to international peace and security.”

What does Guterres mean about the “situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”? The situation of the Palestinian people who are living under Israel’s brutal military occupation? Or the situation of the Palestinians whose very existence in their own land is being eroded by Israeli colonial-settlement expansion? Or the Palestinian cities, villages, and neighbourhoods which are being separated from each other by the death traps of Israel’s military checkpoints?

As a Palestinian, I invite Guterres to visit Palestine and see how the brutal Israeli occupation is choking the Palestinians, raiding their cities and villages every day, breaking into their homes at night, and beating, killing, or detaining children and adults alike in flagrant violation of human rights conventions and international laws.

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I ask Guterres to look at how the Palestinians cannot live in their homes or work on their farms in peace because they are surrounded by illegal, extremist, Jewish settlers backed by the Israeli government and occupation forces. The settlers terrorise the local Palestinians by uprooting their trees, destroying crops, demolishing homes, killing them, stealing their land, and damaging the environment.

Guterres knows that Israel violates the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, but is not identifying the aggressor in his comments he does us a disservice. Why did he not spell out the details of the “persistent violations of the rights of Palestinians” and the threat that the “the expansion of settlements” poses, not only to “the prospect of a two-State solution” but also to the very existence of the people of Palestine?

Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

He cannot raise his voice because the violator is Israel, the settler-colonial, occupation state; the nuclear-armed occupation state with one of the world’s most up-to-date and powerful armies. Guterres is thus doing what is expected of him at the helm of the UN by keeping quiet when Israeli violations and contempt for international law are involved. He and the other leaders of the so-called international community have no such qualms about keeping quiet, though, when the Palestinians try to defend themselves and resist the Israeli occupation, which is their legitimate right, as the UN head knows very well.

Moreover, what “two-state solution” is he talking about? Such a solution is dead in the water and has been for many years. It’s a smokescreen to allow Israel to expand the territory under its control unimpeded, while the world in general, and the UN in particular, bemoans Palestinian “intransigence” for not returning to the moribund “peace process”.

“The overall goal remains two states living side-by-side in peace and security, fulfilling the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples, with borders based on the 1967 lines and Jerusalem as the capital of both states,” claims Guterres. But it’s too late for two states. Israel has made sure of that by its settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their own land. As Israeli human rights group B’Tselem pointed out earlier this year, “…the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organised under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.” This, said B’Tselem, is “apartheid”. And apartheid, Mr Guterres, is a crime against humanity.

The UN chief also called on “all parties to avoid unilateral steps that would undermine the chances for a peaceful resolution of the conflict based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.” What does he mean about “unilateral steps”? Can he tell me what the Palestinians should do and what the unilateral steps are that they should avoid?

The UN has been calling for Israel to avoid taking any unilateral steps for years in order to advance peace and arrive at a just solution for the conflict with the Palestinians, but it simply ignores all such calls. What has the UN actually done to stop Israel and protect the Palestinians, their lands, and their legitimate rights?

Israel has ignored more UN resolutions than any other state. More than that, it has continued to flout UN resolutions for decades, but instead of doing something about it, the international organisation just carries on as if everything is normal. When the 1947 UN Partition Plan was approved by the organisation (but not the Palestinians; they weren’t present), Israel went on to take not only what was allocated to a “Jewish state” but also much more of the land allocated to an “Arab state”. Almost 50 per cent more.

Did the UN take action against the nascent state of Israel? No, it recognised the state and maintains such recognition even though Israel’s membership of the UN was conditional upon it allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their land. That has never happened, but Israel still has a seat in the UN chamber. And in 1967, it took the rest of the land by force.

“I further call on the parties to engage constructively to end the closure of Gaza and improve the living conditions of all Palestinians under occupation,” said Guterres. Again, he did not identify who is imposing the siege. Meanwhile, Israel puts pressure on its lackeys in the West to designate Palestinians who resist the occupation as “terrorists”. What hold do Israel and its Zionist ideology have on the likes of Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel? Whatever it is, it blinds them to the reality on the ground where the terrorists wear Israeli uniforms and settlers’ garb.

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Instead of calling on “all parties”, he should have addressed Israel explicitly and waved the UN sanctions card in its ugly face. Why should the besieged Palestinians be expected to do anything to help Israel to end its siege (and its occupation, for that matter)? They have a right to defend themselves and a right to resist the occupation, so even asking the factions to lay down their arms is out of order unless Israel does so as well. And that’s not going to happen.

Guterres called on UN member states “to provide timely and predictable funding” to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, so that it can continue to provide essential humanitarian aid to the refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. It would have been more effective if he had also called upon Israel and its allies to stop targeting UNRWA and trying to get the agency closed down so that the refugee issue is brought to a political end for the benefit of the state which created the refugee crisis in the first place.

The UN Secretary-General has a duty to uphold international law, but he is not doing so. Instead, he is sending Israel a strong message that it has the green light to continue to break the law wherever and whenever it wants. The UN is thus complicit in Israel’s violations against the Palestinians. This hypocrisy has to stop.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.