The UN prioritizes political compromise over Palestinian rights

Israeli Border Police officers arrest a Palestinian man in East Jerusalem (Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  November 11, 2021

Three weeks ago, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz designated six Palestinian civil society organizations as terror groups, on account of links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). On Sunday, the Israeli army’s Central Command declared the organizations to be “unauthorized” in the occupied West Bank, making its members and representatives liable to arrest.

The truth, however, is that Palestinian rights groups have been targeted systematically, particularly because of their cooperation with the International Criminal Court’s investigations into Israeli war crimes.

While the EU cautiously reprimanded Israel and the US is evaluating the purported evidence handed over to Washington by a delegation from the colonial-settler state, the UN stepped up its condemnations and contradictions, as it usually does. In October, UN human rights experts described the “terrorist” designation as an attack. “Silencing their voices is not what a democracy adhering to well-accepted human rights and humanitarian standards would do. We call upon the international community to defend the defenders.”

This week, UN agencies declared that the Israeli army decision “stands to significantly constrain the work” of Palestinian rights groups. The agencies will “stand by international law and civil society organizations that promote international humanitarian law, human rights and democratic values.”

Supporting Palestinian rights groups rhetorically is easy for the UN, particularly when it fails to mention that its complicity with Israel runs contrary to the norms of international law. It would have been far more honest had the UN expounded upon the political compromise it has forced Palestinians into ever since the 1947 Partition Plan. Or to elaborate on the fact that Palestinian rights organizations have limited international recourse despite their intentions, because the same agencies claiming to stand against the Israeli designation are also complicit in allowing Israel’s human rights violations to continue unchallenged and without accountability.

Standing in nominal support of Palestinian civil society organizations says nothing about the UN’s commitment to Palestinian rights. While the organizations’ work is invaluable, the UN has failed to put the available information to good use and hold Israel accountable. In what way, therefore, does the UN support such organizations? Is it just the concept of structured organizations being attacked, or the work which such organizations do, or is the UN far too engrossed in maintaining Israel’s supremacy to prioritize the Palestinian groups’ plight?

Had the UN truly supported Palestinian civil society organizations, it would at the very least go beyond providing a platform to work towards guaranteeing Palestinian rights. However, the UN knows that the minute it steps beyond its perfunctory comments and condemnations, its entire structure will be susceptible to scrutiny.

Palestinian civil society organizations fill an important void, one that is related directly to international belligerence. Pretending to uphold the rights of the colonized while actually upholding Israel’s colonial narrative is one way in which the UN neither supports Palestine, nor the organizations that speak on the Palestinian people’s behalf. Sympathizing with an organization under attack says nothing about commitment to human rights. If the UN is serious about its support, it should use the organizations’ work as the basis for a much-needed process to hold Israel accountable. In the absence of any action to safeguard Palestinians’ rights, the UN’s statements say more about its complicity in allowing Israel to act with impunity than anything else.

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