UN again condemns Israel without sanctions, while settlements expand

 jan-2017-palestineBy MARK UGOLINI

On Dec. 23, the UN Security Council voted 14-0 to condemn Israel for “flagrant violation” of international law by constructing and expanding Jewish-exclusive settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The U.S. abstained from the vote rather than employ its standard practice of vetoing resolutions critical of Israel. Until now, the Democratic Party administration of Barak Obama had consistently shielded the Zionist state from UN criticism for violations of international law.

The resolution, initially sponsored by Egypt, was delayed after intense pressure from Israel and U.S. president-elect Donald Trump. Egypt temporarily pulled back the resolution; however, it was quickly reintroduced and jointly submitted for vote by New Zealand, Venezuela, Senegal, and Malaysia.

It demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory” and declares “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force.”

Much in the resolution is not new. For the most part it reaffirms and reiterates previous Security Council resolutions condemning Israel for land theft and other repressive aspects of Israel’s colonial occupation of Palestinian territory.

The current resolution demands that Israel halt “construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law.”

The UN renews its description of Israel as an “occupying power,” and as such requires that it provide all necessary protection of civilians guaranteed under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The UN also regards as unlawful “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.”

This UN action should be welcomed by all supporters of Palestinian rights. Once more, it brings world attention to the horrific plight of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and apartheid rule. As such, it provides impetus to the struggle for Palestinian self-determination, and the worldwide movement to expose the Israeli occupation and defend Palestinian rights.

However, this resolution, like past UN resolutions, is toothless, failing to include enforcement provisions and sanctions that could force compliance and restrain Israel from its ongoing colonial expansion.

In Electronic Intifada on Dec.22, Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American journalist and author, wrote: “… this resolution, like its predecessors, takes no action. In a masterful example of empty diplomatic phrasing, the draft only commits the Security Council ‘to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions.’… This leisurely ‘examination’ has been going on for half a century now while Israel continues to violently steal and colonize Palestinian land.”

Yet, according to reports, Israeli officials are very concerned that the whirlwind of international exposure around the resolution, and an emboldened Palestinian-rights movement, will widen support for sanctions against Israel and its products, and heighten likelihood of prosecution of Israeli officials before the International Criminal Court.

Israel, in fury over the UN vote responded by declaring the resolution a “shameful move against Israel” and retaliated against sponsoring countries New Zealand and Senegal, ordering their ambassadors to return home, and cutting off all aid programs to Senegal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also directed a reduction in diplomatic activities with countries that voted for the resolution, and called emergency meetings with leading diplomats from the U.S. and the 14 countries that participated in the vote.

Al-Jazeera reported on Dec. 25: “[Israel’s] army radio reported that [Defense Minister] Lieberman has ordered Israeli security to halt cooperation on civilian matters with the Palestinians, while retaining security coordination. … Right-wing Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Saturday night that Israel should ‘announce a full annexation of settlement blocs’ in response to the resolution. Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home told army radio that his party would ‘soon propose a bill to annex Maale Adumim’, a settlement city east of Jerusalem.”

Zionists rain fire on the Obama administration

Much of Israel’s fire has been directed against Barak Obama’s Democratic Party administration for this time failing to shield Israel from the wrath of international condemnation. Netanyahu charged that the Obama administration “not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it has colluded with it behind the scenes.” He indicated that he looked forward to working with Trump to negate the effects of the resolution.

A flurry of public attacks on Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry came from Israeli diplomats, U.S. Senators, right-wing blog sites, and lobbyists immediately following passage of the resolution. Morton Klein, the president of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, was furious, proclaiming, “Obama has made it clear that he’s a Jew-hating anti-Semite.”

All this is taking place despite Obama’s recent decision to grant Israel its largest military aid package ever—$38 billion over 10 years! If despite this huge windfall, which will be used to expand Israel’s military occupation, anyone still thinks that Obama’s actions at the UN makes him a defender of the Palestinian people, a closer look at the facts is warranted.

In a long line of U.S. presidential administrations that have staunchly backed the Zionist state, that of Obama is near the top of the list. Obama has done more to shield Israel than just about any of his predecessors, and has demonstrated in action the “unshakable bond” between his administration and the apartheid state of Israel and its policies.

The Dec. 23 UN resolution is the only one critical of Israel that Obama has refused to veto. George W. Bush allowed six similar UN resolutions through without veto; and his father, George H.W. Bush, proceeded in the same manner on nine resolutions critical of Israel.

An Op-Ed piece in the April 10 New York Times by Lara Friedman reports that “a careful examination of the record shows that, since 1967, every other American president allowed, or even had America vote for, Security Council resolutions taking Israel to task for actions and policies toward the Palestinians and other Arab neighbors.”

For a democratic, secular Palestine!

Despite the positive features mentioned above, some aspects of the resolution actually undercut the struggle for Palestinian rights. The resolution totally ignores the centrality of equal rights for Palestinians. Most significantly, it promotes the so-called two-state solution as central to resolving the historic issue, implying that a separate Palestinian state in and of itself is the answer.

Clearly the imposition of a Bantustan-like state on the Palestinian people, under conditions of squalor and poverty, without equal social or political rights, and without equal access to natural resources, housing. and other social necessities would be no solution at all.

Only a democratic and secular Palestine extending throughout the historic territory of the Palestinian people, with full rights guaranteed for all regardless of nationality or religion, can effectively replace the current system of settler-colonial domination.

The resolution also ignores and limits the right of Palestinians to resist the illegal occupation. It calls for confiscation of “illegal” weapons and equates the right of Palestinians to self-defense and military resistance to colonial occupation with “terrorism.”

In addition, nowhere in the resolution is there mention of the decade-long illegal siege of Gaza, or the right of Palestinians in the diaspora to return to their homeland.

In the midst of diplomatic maneuvering, finger-pointing, and political posturing between Israel, resolution backers, and U.S. government officials, the horrific reality on the ground for Palestinians is ever-worsening. Israel continues to act with impunity. It is clearly doubling down, stealing more land, expanding existing settlements, and adding new ones with reckless abandon.