By Marwan Bishara
(source: Al Jazeera)
The struggle for Palestinian nationhood is entering yet another new phase in its decades-long history. Failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Israel’s 40-year occupation, in the words of UN former Secretary General Kofi Annan, would “continue to hurt the reputation of the United Nations and raise questions about its impartiality”. No cause has consumed as much UN paperwork as the plight of the displaced and occupied Palestinians. But hundreds of its resolutions on Palestine have not been respected, let alone applied, for over half a century. Nowhere have the UN ideals and mechanisms been more mired in power politics than in Palestine. The efforts to neutralise UN intervention have been championed mainly by the United States. This week’s efforts by the Obama administration, working on behalf of Israel, took advocacy into a whole new level.
Washington has vetoed more than 40 UN Security Council resolutions critical of its policies, some of which were drafted by its European allies. A quick look at today’s Middle East makes it clear that such obstructions worked for the interest of neither party, nor for peace and security in the region. Cold-War rivalries have also contributed to UN paralysis in the Israeli Palestinian-Arab conflict, which explains why more than half of the 690 resolutions adopted by the General Assembly from 1947-1990 have been ignored.
But what justifies side-lining the UN ever since, while keeping it at arm’s length from two decades of a Peace Process? The short answer is, adouble standard. All major post-Cold War conflicts have seen direct UN involvement, including, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and, of late, Lebanon and South Sudan. Not the Palestine problem. It was deferred to the US-sponsored diplomatic process even though Washington’s close relations with Israel rendered itanything but an impartial broker. Not only was Palestinian-Israeli conflict snatched out of the world body, most relevant UN resolutions critical of Israel were ignored by the US sponsors. Only after the peaceprocess failed to yield a solution a decade later, did the Bush administration allow the United Nations to join, and even then, only as ajunior partner in a newly-formed International Quartet that includes the European Union and Russia, all of whom are members of the UN! Meanwhile, Israel has disregarded dozens of resolutions, “censuring”, “calling”, “urging”, “recommending”, or “condemning” its attacks, settlement, deportations, occupation, etc. Likewise, all pleas and demands for humanitarian and political interventions fell on deaf ears. The only time the UN was allowed to act was in 1997 when it sent a few international unarmed observers to the occupied city of Hebron. Alas, they weren’t mandated to speak publicly about the ongoing violations.
For the past four decades, Israel has violated all relevant UNSC councilresolutions, such as Resolution 465 of 1980 that strongly deplored all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure of status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem. It alsorejected Resolution 476, which reaffirmed the necessity to end the Israeli occupation of Arab territories ongoing since the 1967 war. The only UN Security Council Resolution that was accepted by the US and Israel as the basis of the diplomatic process, i.e. 242 of 1967, was also systematically violated. Israel has been expanding its settlement activity when the resolution notes the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”.
Paradoxically, Israel was created by a UN recommendation for Partitioning Palestine in 1947, and was accepted as a new UN member on the basis of its commitment to respect its resolution, and specifically UNGA 194, regarding the return of the Palestinian refugees. Now that allother avenues have been tried and failed, including 18 years of bilateral negotiations, the UN Security Council must carry out its responsibilities by demanding that Israel carry out its obligations under the UN Charter and by recognising the Palestinian right of self-determination in a state of their own. Period.
Marwan Bishara is Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst. He was previously a professor of International Relations at the American University of Paris. An author who writes extensively on global politics, he is widely regarded as a leading authority on the Middle East and international affairs.