Middle East Monitor / December 5, 2019
Israel marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by donating three paediatric wheelchairs to the UN Human Rights Council. The aim, according to Israel’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, was “to make the UN truly accessible, so that persons with physical disabilities can actively take part and influence world issues discussed in Geneva.”
The occasional visits by children to the UN are not influential in the grand scheme of the organisation’s manipulation of human rights. Israel, however, is being allowed to influence the UN in terms of its contributions, which by default demand deliberately looking the other way as it continues to obstruct accessibility for Palestinians in Palestine, especially for Palestinians with disabilities. This latest episode in Israel’s manipulation of the international arena and its agenda begs the question – why do UN institutions allow the existence of Israel’s façade to flourish, at the expense of the settler colonial state’s ongoing violations against Palestinians?
In addition, Israel’s seemingly altruistic motive hides a darker reality highlighted by the UNHRC itself – Israel’s deliberate maiming of Palestinian civilians. In 2018, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) noted that Israel killed Palestinians with disabilities who were participating in the Great Return March protests. Israeli snipers also targeted the lower limbs of Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza border, thus adding to the statistical toll of permanent disabilities.
Meanwhile, the latest statistics show that 92,710 Palestinians with disabilities, 52 per cent of who are living in the Gaza Strip, face increasing hardships in Palestine. The colonial occupation of Palestine and its restrictions upon Palestinians reflect even more strongly when it comes to persons with disability. This year, PCHR’s press release expounds upon such ramifications, noting the link between everyday Israeli violations of Palestinian rights and how this impacts the rights of Palestinians with disabilities, in particular when it comes to freedom of movement.
The press release states, “Israeli targeting of PWD is not limited to attacks on their physical integrity, IOF also restricts their freedom of movement and denies them travel to seek medical treatment abroad, raising the number of victims with permanent disabilities who could have been treated were it not for Israeli restrictions.”
Israel’s endeavours abroad, especially in humanitarian initiatives, continue to provide a veneer for its violations against the rights of Palestinians. The more it promotes its illusory concept of freedom to the international community, the more Palestinians are marginalised and left to face the increasing oppression in isolation. Providing three wheelchairs to make UN premises more available constitutes a propaganda effort along the same lines as promoting its expertise to niches of need, especially in African countries, for example, in terms of technology and agriculture.
Israeli media have framed the wheelchairs donation as Israel’s contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which stipulate that no one should be left behind. Yet in Palestine, an entire population has been forced to stay behind without the possibility of ever attaining a semblance of sustainability. What Israel has achieved is a mockery of sustainability and the international community has played along with the charade.
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.