Edition 2: No. 111
The UN system trips, tumbles and falls- yet again
Palestinian resolution for an end to the occupation fails in U.N. Council
By Ranjan Solomon*
Expectedly, the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday rejected a Palestinian resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories by late 2017. The resolution called for negotiations to be based on territorial lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. It also called for a peace deal within 12 months. Fearing that the UNSC might vote in support, the United States had threatened to wield its veto.
Aware that it had torpedoed a reasonable demand, the US vote tried to diminish its irrationality with lame excuses. U.S. Ambassador to the UN said: “The United States every day searches for new ways to take constructive steps to support the parties in making progress toward achieving a negotiated settlement.”
Palestinian observer Riyad Mansour in an livid response to the failed resolution said it was time to end the “abhorrent Israeli occupation and impunity that has brought our people so much suffering.” He described the UN Security Council as “clearly not ready and willing to shoulder its responsibilities in a way that would … allow us to open the doors to for peace.” Indeed, when it comes to the Question of Palestine, the Security Council seems irretrievably paralyzed. The Security Council bears both the legal and moral responsibilities to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” but has recurrently failed mainly due to Israel’s intransigence and America’s backing.
Israel, by contrast, was arrogant and dismissive, much in keeping with its abnormal political instincts. It does not want to surrender its racist, colonial control and is applying delaying tactics which will allow it time to pilfer more land and transfer more of its population to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It seeks strategic access to resources that it deems necessary for its own development even in Gaza where its recent war showed it was after potential oil resources. It wants to appropriate heritage sites and places of historic interest so that it can expand economic advantage through profits in tourism. In the end, it wants to ensure that through its occupation policies and practices, it will render Palestine un-viable as an economic entity.
The US- Israel’s most devoted ally – can do nothing derived from independent thinking. Right wing Zionists who control the levers of economic power in the US do not operate by principles of justice. Colonialists never did; nor are they about to change. The US is, in fact, helpless in the face of the Zionist lobby. They are the servant and slave of the Zionists who extract everything they can and want from the US political system; especially economic clout; with which they prompt the US to do their bidding around the world in the form of proxy wars.
Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent PLO voice, reacted angrily: “The UN Security Council vote is outrageously shameful. It is ironic that while the United Nations designated 2014 as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the resolution failed to pass as an indication of a failure of will by some members of the international community. Furthermore, all the articles of the resolution are consistent with declared American policy, international law, UN resolutions, and the requirements of peace. The extent to which the U.S. has gone to protect Israeli impunity and lawlessness and to enable its criminal behavior is disgraceful and dangerous.”
Those countries (Lithuania, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Korea, and the U.K.) that abstained demonstrated a lack of political will to hold Israel accountable and to act in accordance with the global rule of law and international humanitarian law and their own avowed principles.
The Palestinian leadership must now ponder its advance options. Israeli delegate Israel Nitzan has upped the propaganda. He said Palestinians have found every possible opportunity to avoid direct negotiations and came to the council with “a preposterous unilateral proposal.” He has threatened the Palestinians saying: “I have news for the Palestinians – you cannot agitate and provoke your way to a state,” he said.
Even a cursory glance at the negotiation processes have shown that it is Israel that refuses to negotiate with any degree of principle. It chooses the medium of colonial power to press on with an already asymmetric situation. Israel then seeks to leverage more and more by way of concessions from the Palestinians and to perpetuate facts-on-the-ground that render negotiations a failure. At best, Israel will concede a ‘bantustan’ state which Palestinians must- and will- reject. This everyone knows.
The world must now show Israel that Palestinians will be joined by the rest of the world to agitate and provoke their way to a state. This is not a matter of choice. If the world must demonstrate its belief in the rule of law, it must dismiss Israel’s justification for its multiple barbarities.
An option now doing the rounds among analysts in Palestine and elsewhere is that Palestinians surrender the two-state option and agree to live under Israel – a one-state solution. That would leave Israel stumped. The projected number of Palestinians according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) in the world is 12.10 million, of who 4.62 million are in State of Palestine, 1.46 million in Israel, 5.34 million in Arab countries and around 675 thousand in foreign countries. If Israel were to cope with even just the Palestinians in Palestine, they would outnumber Israelis. Israel would have to make a choice between being a democracy and officially declaring apartheid. Either ways they would be losers. The international community would not be able to countenance that indefinitely. This is one threat that Israel can be confronted with.
The second- and equally potent- threat is the one that promotes BDS as a counter-measure to Israel’s wrong-headedness. The BDS movement is spreading and gaining ground. Hitherto sedate sources are coming out in favour of isolating Israel in the economic, cultural, academic, and other arenas. Divestments have caught on in Europe and North America where economic clout matters. And the talk of sanctions is now gaining ground. This is an arena which alarms Israel in a big way. Israel is a dependent economy- lots of its wealth comes from stealth of Palestinian lands and products, lots from aid (military and economic) under the false and exaggerated pretext that its security requires extensive military assistance, and massive flow of aid from Zionist sources including that of Christian Zionists. An Israeli writer puts it thus: “BDS is compelling because it offers a concrete solution. If Jews want to prevent the boycott movement from gaining ground, we must offer an alternative plan to end the occupation.”
The third option is that of public mobilization. Until streets erupt with dissatisfaction against the illegitimate Israeli occupation, governments won’t easily find the motivation to shift policies. The protests during the Gaza war were ample evidence that people are angry with the Israeli occupation and frustrated with their governments for their impotence. Altering public opinion must then be accompanied by robust lobbying and advocacy at government level. The recent spate of “Recognize Palestine” resolutions by Parliaments in Europe have much to do with pressure from below. People should neither rest with their first success nor should governments be allowed to be content with the non-binding resolutions they have approved. All this must now translate into robust diplomacy that rebuffs soft diplomacy and pressures Israel to abiding by international law and UN resolutions and other internationally accepted instruments.
The fourth option is for Palestine to pursue the path of gaining membership status in as many UN organizations as possible. To this must be added membership in the ICC – a possibility that sends Israel into panic mode. For, there is far too much evidence that can be produced to prove criminality in war on Israeli leaders.
The biggest risk lies in the situation sinking into violence. Palestinians abandoned the armed struggle and picked dialogue and non-violence as their preferred methods of struggle for freedom after the Oslo accords. 20 years after they made this choice, they have nothing to show for their restraint. The occasional displays of violence from the Palestinian side are not a pattern. They are expressions of pent up frustration. But every now and then an isolated incident becomes the excuse for Israel to blow it up into a full-fledged assault. As evidenced from the recent Gaza war, it can only create death and destruction especially for the Palestinians. And yet, Hamas has shown clearly that its own limited military capacities can bring Israel to submission- never the big talk and threats. Israel, it must be remembered, had to leave the South of Lebanon with its tail between its legs barely 15 years ago. They just could not handle guerilla warfare with the Hezbollah. So the question is: Is Israel unwittingly and arrogantly prompting violence from the Palestinians? They are already dangerously violent and given to militaristic adventures.
Armed struggle is best seen as a non-option. The scars it leaves behind are painful and will leave a winner and a loser. In the ideal world, one must prefer dialogue with a forceful and honest mediator who will first set the conditions for talks, move the talks based on trust in the mediator, and build an international consensus in the process. At the end, there must be peace and security for both sides not just for Palestine Israel but for the region as a whole based as much on pragmatism as on principles of justice. There are any numbers of permutations and combinations that can be applied. But, nothing short of justice will bring this seemingly intractable conflict to a termination.
Israel has so far managed the crisis of noncompliance with international consensus by invoking guilt on Europe, in particular, for Nazi atrocities. Those were, needless to say, unpardonable slaughters. The damage was done and the reparations paid up in a variety of forms. Today, Israel has appropriated the image of the oppressor and does to Palestinians as much, or worse, than what the Nazis did to them. Europe must abandon its guilt complex and choose to oblige Israel to acknowledge and act on principles of justice, abandonment of colonialism, and the rejection of apartheid. If nations fail in this duty, the integrity of the UN itself will erode rapidly. Its relevance is already in question.
*Ranjan Solomon is Director, Badayl-Alternatives, and a long time researcher-writer-activist on justice for the Palestinians.