Since the normalisation agreements of the UAE and Bahrain with Israel were announced, the UN’s only response has been to communicate its approval for a new phase which, in international rhetoric, paves the way to reignite diplomatic negotiations for “peace”. The approach was beneficial for everyone except the people of Palestine. Bridging the gap between the US “deal of the century” and the two-state paradigm proved to be the next step in normalising Israel’s settler-colonial project, while the International Criminal Court is still set to rule on whether to investigate Israeli war crimes over the past five years.
Between bureaucracy and outright impunity, activism for Palestine has remained the only reliable option, albeit conditioned by several factors that impede human rights from having a political impact.
Last month, Palestinian and international civil and human rights organisations called upon the UN General Assembly to launch investigations into Israeli apartheid, ban military cooperation with Israel and prohibit all trade with its illegal settlements. Activism for Palestine is making a very valid point, and one that the General Assembly should take seriously, in particular the implicit assertion that the international community must consider its own complicity in the making and maintaining of colonial Israel.
If the UN took human rights seriously, as upheld by its various charters and resolutions, human rights organisations would be able to pursue their aims in a straightforward manner. As things stand, the UN has required subjugation in terms of human rights and the organisation’s structure. This created a detached process in which the UN is seemingly open to promoting human rights and listening to the valid points raised by human rights organisations, while taking steps to ensure that voices from civil society are made relevant only in terms of what serves the UN’s publicity stunts.
Had the UN truly sought to eradicate colonialism and apartheid, it would not have mobilised to protect Israel every step of the way. The organisations’ collective call to the UN mirrors the process being undertaken by the ICC in terms of justice, by recommending investigations into “associated State and individual criminal responsibility” for Israel’s apartheid policies and practices. One point raised by the Palestinian and civil society organisations was to relaunch the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid, which was established in 1962 through UN Resolution 1761 in response to South Africa’s apartheid regime. Like other terms, however, including genocide, the UN does not apply the same measures to entities such as Israel, which it has taken upon itself to protect at all costs.
The UN’s trend, however, is to call out Israeli practices as “possibly” constituting human rights violations. With the international community intent on normalising Israel and its violations, activism needs to go beyond raising awareness. Normalising Israel is a political act which accepts and condones the fact that Israel is inherently violent and has been since its creation on Palestinian land. The forthcoming annexation, which is a formality to legitimise colonialism within Israel’s narrative, is a violent political act, not just a question of human rights violations. How long will Palestinians be subjugated under a narrative that makes a mockery of their humanitarian plight, while dismissing their political rights?