Colonialism allows no space for the colonized to speak

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  March 30, 2023

At the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Palestinian human rights organizations, 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 organizations 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 organization is far exceeding its capacity, besides being exploited. Palestinian human rights organizations are already working within a settler-colonial context and facing colonial violence which targets them directly. In 2021, six Palestinian human rights organizations were designated by Israel as terror organizations, 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 organizations’ designation, while remaining silent on Israel’s colonial violence against the Palestinian people? Israel’s security narrative does not distinguish between non-governmental organizations 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.

Since the international community is too busy chartering Israel’s impunity, even as the settler-colonial enterprise continues to widen the parameters to normalize human rights violations, it stands to reason that the real ramifications of colonial violence on Palestinians will not be prioritized. 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 organizations differentiate between Palestinian rights organizations 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 colonized to speak.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America