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Colonialism allows no space for the colonised to speak

March 30, 2023 at 7:30 pm

The United Nations General Assembly [STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images]

At the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Palestinian human rights organisations, Al Haq and Addameer drew attention to the systematic torture of Palestinians prisoners in Israeli jails “as part of its settler-colonial and apartheid regime against the Palestinian people”. While Al-Haq and Addameer are meticulous in their work, it is beyond ludicrous that human rights organisations are trapped within the cycle of informing international institutions about the violations that their impunity is generating. It is not as if the UNHRC is oblivious to colonial violence.

The role of human rights organisation is far exceeding its capacity, besides being exploited. Palestinian human rights organisations are already working within a settler-colonial context and facing colonial violence which targets them directly. In 2021, six Palestinian human rights organisations were designated by Israel as terror organisations, among them Al-Haq and Addameer. The move attracted international opposition, yet it is pertinent to ask why the international community deemed it necessary to voice its disagreement with Israel over the human rights organisations’ designation, while remaining silent on Israel’s colonial violence against the Palestinian people? Israel’s security narrative does not distinguish between non-governmental organisations and Palestinian civilians, yet the international community’s selectivity when it comes to human rights provides more evidence of how it has looped Palestinians and NGOs into an unsustainable charade. Or, more accurately, a charade that only sustains the international manipulation of human rights discourse.

READ: There is a pretence of opposition to only one form of Israel’s colonial violence

Since the international community is too busy chartering Israel’s impunity, even as the settler-colonial enterprise continues to widen the parameters to normalise human rights violations, it stands to reason that the real ramifications of colonial violence on Palestinians will not be prioritised. On the other hand, the international community deems it important to retain a semblance of purported equilibrium between ensuring Israel remains unscathed, while maintaining its diplomatic human rights discourse. The result is that Palestinians NGOs are enslaved into a system that pretends to support them, while disregarding the valuable work they do.

Hence, while international organisations differentiate between Palestinian rights organisations and the Palestinians, they also enslave the former into a repetitive scenario where reports are welcomed and action to hold Israel accountable is not forthcoming. To what extent, therefore, is raising awareness with complicit international institutions, a viable option?

Palestinians and Palestinian NGOs are living a settler-colonial context. The human rights reports from Palestine are being presented at the UN and its affiliated institutions which are averse to acknowledging that the root of violations is settler-colonialism and the ensuing colonial violence. Therefore, the only part of Palestinian NGOs acceptable to international institutions is their adherence to formalities, which also plays into the illusory state-building that the two-state compromise is all about. The actual content of the reports – even the work done by Palestinian NGOs – is of no concern to the international community. Only their participation in the network of colonial complicity is of consequence to the international community, which is a gross human rights violation that no one speaks about. Colonialism allows no space for the colonised to speak.

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