Trading the UN's universal principles for business with Israel

Trading the UN's universal principles for business with Israel
Comment: Israel's prominence continues top grown within UN, showing how human rights violations are rewarded instead of abhorred at an international level, writes Ramona Wadi.
4 min read
30 Aug, 2016
The United Nations, like many states, prioritises business relations over universal human rights [AFP]

Not a stranger when it comes to promoting violence, the UN has increased its profitable dealings with Israel over the past two years. According to a report by Israel National News, the UN's purchases from Israel for 2015 totalled $91.8 million, compared with $69.8 million in 2014 and $45 million in 2013. Currently, Israel holds the 40th place out of 193 countries from which the UN purchases services and goods.

The news may not be surprising. It does shed light, however, upon how the international institution trades universal principles in favour of promoting, normalising and participating in several forms of political violence.

A round of self-satisfied rhetoric from Israel's Ambassador Danny Danon included: "The UN understands that Israel is the 'Startup nation' and that Israeli goods and services are of the highest quality in the world." Danon also called upon Israeli companies to increase their dealings with the UN.

In other news, Danon is set to host an event at the UN, themed "Israeli Innovation and Technologies in Africa". The event, which highlights Israeli technology in areas related to medicine, agriculture and water, will be attended by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as well as heads of states and ambassadors from Africa and further afield, and seeks to promote "the expansion of diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and Africa, and to assist Israeli companies as they enter the African market".

Amid the colonial promotion at the UN's premises, Danon also criticised the UN for being "all too often a hostile forum where anti-Israeli libels are spread". The event, according to Israel's UN ambassador, has the capacity to "provide our friends from Africa with a taste of the real face of Israel - a country full of technological innovations and the will to truly make the world a better place".

Universal rights violations

For the UN, bailing on international law obligations is a natural reaction. Assisting entities to do the same, particularly those that commit enough violations to sustain the organisation's presence and existence, is a responsibility it carries out with diligence.

Since there is no body regulating UN misconduct and collaboration in human rights violations, the organisation has placed itself in prime position to act as both violator and alleged guardian of human rights. Conveniently, the UN's vague criticism of Israel is fragmented into three main narratives - settlement expansion, the military occupation and isolated instances where Israel's penchant for murder reaches mainstream media.

Such an intentional lack of cohesion has allowed the UN to marginalise Palestinians, not only through its rhetoric but also when it comes to its selective support for Palestinians while allowing Israel a platform to exploit both Palestinians and the colonised continent of Africa.

Israel has long presented various faces to the international community, and the international community has played along, despite knowledge of Israel's true character as seen in its slow extermination of Palestinians and its incessant expansion.

The convenience associated with these different veneers goes beyond normalising Israel's colonial violence against Palestinian civilians. Through its tacit approval, the UN is signalling that Palestinians are unworthy of protection under international law, knowing full well that the technology Israel is seeking to promote in Africa runs parallel to the deprivation enforced upon Palestinians.

Exploiting Palestinians and Africans

Given the similarities in colonial violence suffered by Palestinians and many in Africa, it is easy to see how Israel and the UN are seeking maximum exploitation of both.

The seminar and its possible outcomes will pivot Israel to a purported humanitarian role when it comes to Africa, which will in turn enable it to justify depriving Palestinians of basic needs on the regurgitated "security concerns" rhetoric.

Africa's imposed lack of autonomy when it comes to resources and economy makes it a prime recipient of offered technologies, thus compromising any solidarity that can be offered to Palestinians. Indeed, if Israel's proposals are accepted, it is even more important to highlight opportunism and the cycle of dependency, as well as the humanitarian tragedy enforced upon Palestinians by Israel through the withholding of medical supplies, refusal of permits to seek treatment for chronic and terminal illnesses, the intentional refusal to allow prisoners access to medical care,  the theft of water and settlement expansion which deprives Palestinians of arable land.

All these violations are documented and known to the UN, yet the organisation still chooses to deal with Israel, bolstering its economy and offering its premises as a platform upon which Israel can promote the profitable aspect of colonialism.

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

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.