UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has provided another reason why Palestinians should not rely on the international community for a political solution to the colonial-occupation of their land by Israel. Rather than international law, Guterres offers nothing but hope. How are Palestinians expected to articulate their demands when all that the UN head can offer is dissociated completely from political rights?
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“We cannot lose hope,” Guterres warned the 2021 UN International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East. “We must explore every opportunity to revitalise the peace process.” How he expects this to be manifested we simply don’t know. He merely offered further sweeping statements about political will and a resumption of dialogue. Exploring every opportunity was then narrowed down to the two-state compromise which, he stated, “remains the only party to ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis can both realise their legitimate aspirations.”
Who does Guterres think he is fooling when speaking about the two-state compromise as fulfilling “legitimate aspirations”? It legitimises Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian territory from 1948 to the present day, as well as its consequences, including the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian towns and villages; massacres; and displacement on a massive scale. Palestinians, on the other hand, will realise none of their legitimate aspirations with the two-state paradigm because the “solution’s” endorsement of colonialism runs contrary to their legitimate struggle for decolonisation.
When Guterres speaks about setbacks, for example, he should clarify that the Trump administration’s overtly pro-Israel foreign policy enabled the UN to take a step back and watch an accelerated colonial process take place. Meanwhile, the legacy of the Abraham Accords was misinterpreted intentionally by the UN secretary-general as an opportunity to restart diplomatic negotiations.
The greatest tragedy for Palestinians is that their rights hinge on an international institution which deliberately sabotaged their existence with the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Guterres may speak about settlements running contrary to international law, but the difference between the earlier settlements and the current expansion makes little difference in terms of stolen Palestinian land. The UN legitimised earlier Zionist colonisation and later created a hypothetical paradigm reflecting the Partition Plan, to ensure that Palestinians are permanently deprived of their land, let alone a state.
Will Guterres allow the Palestinian people to “explore every opportunity” to claim their political aspirations, as opposed to international diplomats using every opportunity to pontificate about “peace” without working towards decolonising Palestinian land? Somehow I doubt it. In any case, why should the Palestinians let their concept of a state be defined by the international community’s preservation of Israel’s settler-colonialism?
While Guterres advocates “hope”, Israel continues to build political allegiances and alter Palestinian territory to the point of rendering the two-state concept obsolete. And yet Guterres is urging the Palestinians to place their “hope” in destructive colonial politics.
Furthermore, in a media-related seminar, Guterres downplayed the importance of independent and free journalism, despite saying that it has a “crucial role”. With the mainstream media narrative already imbalanced heavily in Israel’s favour, Guterres’s statement did nothing to promote views which run contrary to Israel’s fake narratives. On the contrary, Guterres’s message implied his preference for media acquiescence in terms of the two-state compromise. The less it is questioned, the more that the UN can get away with speaking about the paradigm in terms of the slightest of possibilities that it might one day be implemented, rather than having the media speak about UN complicity in Palestine’s territorial and political losses.