Palestine and the UN: A History of Double Standard
Failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Israel's 40-year occupation, in the words of former U.N. 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 U.N. 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 has the U.N. ideals and mechanisms been more mired in power politics than in Palestine. The efforts to neutralize U.N. intervention have been championed mainly by the United States. This week's efforts by the Barack Obama administration working on behalf of Israel took advocacy to a whole new level.
Washington has vetoed more than 40 U.N. 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 U.N. paralysis in the Israeli Palestinian-Arab conflict, which explains why more than half of the 690 resolutions adopted by the General Assembly from 1947 to 1990 have been ignored.
But what justifies sidelining the U.N. ever since, while keeping it at an arm's length from a two decades of Peace Process?
The short answer is a double standard.
All major post-Cold War conflicts have seen direct U.N. 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 U.S.-sponsored diplomatic process even though Washington's close relations with Israel rendered it anything but an impartial broker.
Not only was the Palestinian-Israeli conflict snatched out of the world body, most relevant U.S. resolutions critical of Israel were ignored by the U.S. sponsors.
Only after the peace process failed to yield a solution a decade later did the George W. Bush administration allow the United Nations to join, and even then, only as a junior partner in a newly formed International Quartet that includes the European Union and Russia, all of whom are members of the U.N.!
Meanwhile, Israel has disregarded tens 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 U.N. 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 council resolutions, 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 also rejected Resolution 476, which reaffirmed the necessity to end the Israeli occupation of Arab territories ongoing since the 1967 war. The only U.N. Security Council Resolution that was accepted by the U.S. 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 U.N. recommendation for Partitioning Palestine in 1947, and was accepted as a new U.N. member on the basis of its commitment to respects its resolution, and specifically UNGA 194 regarding the return of the Palestinian refugees.
Now that all other venues have been tried and failed, including 18 years of bilateral negotiations, the U.N. Security Council must carry out its responsibilities by demanding that Israel carry its obligations under the U.N. charter and by recognizing the Palestinian right for self-determination in a state of their own. Period.
© 2011 IPS North America