The Times of Israel ran a lengthy article this week pinpointing the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese’s criticisms of Israel, notably her use of the term “Jewish lobby” – a reference from 2014, years prior to her appointment by the UN. Yet, what stands out in the article is that Israel resents being called out for its colonial existence and violence, which have been extensively documented, even though the UN is too entrenched in its complicity with Israel to call for the decolonisation of Palestine.
For example, one criticism directed against Albanese is her refusal to normalise Israeli colonialism as a “conflict”. Undoubtedly, normalising decades of Israel’s colonial enterprise as a conflict has been profitable not only for Israel, but also for the UN. The imaginary equivalence between the coloniser and the colonised does not lend itself to Palestinian rights as an emphasis on decolonisation would. Each time Israel is faced with a prominent figure calling out its inherent violence, suddenly diplomatic endeavours weave their way into opposing the individual, despite the fact that Israel’s only concern with diplomacy is maintaining its security narrative and impunity.
As the article portrayed, any criticism of Israel is considered unsuitable, whether it pertains to the Israeli presence in the occupied West Bank, Zionist colonial expansion, mentioning Israel’s war crimes, which have also been considered as such by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and disputing Israel’s security narrative within the wider colonial framework of violence and Palestinian legitimate armed resistance. The UN itself recognises the right of the colonised to resistance by all means, even if in practice the UN has supported Israel against the Palestinians. Yet, the clause exists, and Palestinians are within their rights to anti-colonial resistance. It is the UN that is in the wrong by denying Palestinians the political support they need.
Another contention the article raised is Albanese’s disagreement with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) non-legally binding definition of anti-Semitism, which has been exploited by Israel and pro-Israeli entities to stifle criticism of Israel and silence the Palestinian narrative. One such instance is the IHRA’s description of: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” as anti-Semitism. If Israel practices apartheid based on its colonial origins and expansion, why would such criticism be classified as anti-Semitism? Why not turn attention towards Israel’s colonial enterprise and manipulation of the Jewish religion to sustain its settler-colonial existence?
If Israel continues to express outrage or irritation at criticism of its colonial violence, it must look at itself, not its critics. How much of its historical colonial violence has Israel concealed within its archives? How much of it has been exposed, documented and proven? While on opposite ends of the spectrum, both that which is known and hidden testify to the brutality unleashed upon Palestinians through the Zionist paramilitary organisations prior to Israel’s establishment. Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their land, their villages destroyed and their people massacred. The means have changed, but the intent to expand across all of historical Palestine has not. In light of Israel’s historical and current violations, what security concerns would the settler-colonial state be facing if it made more of its archives accessible?