At 75, the UN is failing Palestinians more than ever

At 75, the UN is failing Palestinians more than ever
Comment: Ambiguous UN ideals of hope and peace ignore the political imbalances that have granted Israel impunity at the expense of Palestinian rights and autonomy, writes Ramona Wadi.
6 min read
15 Oct, 2020
A woman demonstrates in Jerusalem on the anniversary of the Nakba [Getty]
"No other global organisation gives hope to so many people for a better world," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated in an address last month. The UN, Guterres said, "is only as strong as its members' commitment to its ideals and each other."

Only the UN was not created to give something as abstract as "hope", but rather "to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace," as Article 1 of its Charter states.

The UN's purpose was to collectively prevent aggression by coordinating security through joint and non-violent action. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter reads, "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."

Needless to say, the UN's ideals have been botched by power disparities, allegiances, the imbalance between former colonial powers and decolonised countries, as well as unilateral actions instigated by UN member states, all of which influence the interpretation of international law and how this is applied.

In February, Guterres addressed the 2020 Session of the Special Committee on Decolonisation, reminding his audience that this year marks the last year of the Third International Decade to Eradicate Colonialism. and the importance of amplifying the colonised people's voices.

A search for Palestine at the UN's website on decolonisation yields no results, reflecting the UN's normalisation of Israeli colonialism

search for Palestine at the UN's website on decolonisation yields no results, reflecting the UN's normalisation of Israeli colonialism and the myth of self-governance established by the international community through its funding of the Palestinian Authority.

The extent to which the UN marginalises Palestinians from decolonisation is evident in the upholding of the two-state paradigm, and more recently, the tacit approval awarded to Israel and the US in the context of the normalisation agreements reached with the UAE and Bahrain.

Meanwhile, it has remained incumbent upon Palestinians to seek UN support, even as member states influence the outcome of diplomatic negotiations through agreements away from the UN auspices.

Since the UN normalised Israel by admitting it into its ranks in 1949, it needed to utilise the state of exception which Israel exploits to maintain and expand its colonial project. Palestinians, on the other hand, have been smothered in useless resolutions that gradually superseded the importance of Palestinians articulating their own political demands.

By manipulating its own charter to defend the collective aggressive action taken against Palestinians to sustain Zionist colonisation, the UN was able to construct a false narrative of Palestine, while setting up organisations within its ranks whose primary aim is to help the UN maintain the humanitarian propaganda that eclipsed the truth of how ethnic cleansing and forced displacement created unending refugee cycles.

In restricting Palestinians to a humanitarian narrative and branding their anti-colonial resistance as a threat to Israel's security, the UN committed several irrevocable errors, not the least reinforcing the colonial narrative at an international level. Doing so, allowed Israel to influence international opinion on political violence, whether this takes the form of aggression against Gaza or settlement expansion.

The stark difference between UN propaganda on Israel and Palestine lies in its choice of action. For Palestinians, it has reserved non-binding resolutions that confirm Israel's violations with barely a reprimand. Israel, on the other hand, benefits from these reprimands through an impunity which so far has remained unchallenged internationally, bolstered by its defence and security image which is coveted by the West, and through which Israel co-opted itself into the fold.

This strategy highlights the UN's repudiation of the Palestinian people's anti-colonial resistance. Refusing to acknowledge the right to resist colonisation has normalised Israel and its actions, while at the same time leaving enough space to construct the Palestinian narrative into a purely humanitarian agenda.

What can the Palestinians expect at a time when the UN is being bullied into a complete assimilation to Israeli demands, as articulated recently by Israel's ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan? And when the US "deal of the century" and the normalisation agreements have exposed the fallacy of the UN's purported "support" for Palestinians?

In terms of political support, nothing at all. It is indeed a pity that the Palestinian leadership still renders itself obliged to sell-out Palestine to an international organisation that orchestrated its fragmentation.

The UN's concept of peace is not based on accountability and resolution, but on coercing the colonised into silence. Israel's security narrative has by now become an international narrative - allegiances have been formed around this complicity that facilitate the tainting of legitimate anti-colonial struggle as Palestinian terror.

If Israel is not openly branded as a settler-colonial enterprise, the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle will continue to be delegitimised internationally

If Israel is not openly branded as a settler-colonial enterprise, the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle will continue to be delegitimised internationally. The UN has been at the helm of peddling distorted narratives, in particular the near-absolute use of "occupation" to preserve colonisation, which is the source of Israel's expansion in Palestine.

While it is clear that Israel will not even concede to ending its military occupation of Palestine, the international refusal to deal with Israel as a colonial power is one of the main setbacks for the Palestinian people, whose legitimacy is in a constant struggle with the illegality of Israel's presence and actions.

Much has been said about Palestinian legitimacy at an international level, yet there is no victory unless this is supported by political action that holds Israel accountable. One further question to consider is - what, or who, holds the UN accountable for its role in the colonisation of Palestine?

Read more: Eyeing normalisation, Saudi Arabia joins the assault on Palestinian history

There is a difference between the façade presented by the UN, relying on ambiguous concepts such as hope and peace, and the political power behind these designations.

For world powers, peace is accomplished by enforcing silence. Palestinians have been victims of this brand of politics since prior to 1948. With Israel now having approached the international community through regional agreements, it is far more likely that the UN will adopt normalisation as a component of peace, while serving Palestinians with additional humanitarian mandates from within its ranks, to keep up the pretence of Palestinian autonomy.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.

Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.