The International Community’s Responsibility and Palestinian Rights
By Xavier Abu Eid
The struggle of the Palestinian people has won many supporters around the world among civil society organizations and governments. The goal of liberating our country and putting an end to Israel’s Apartheid policy in the occupied territory are a must and a challenge, not only as dictated by International Law, but also for the credibility of the purported Western aims of “democracy and human rights.”
The fairness of the Palestinian cause is not under discussion. Palestine sooner than later will be a state and Israel must act with dignity, understanding that its short-sighted foreign policy has only won the unconditional votes of three countries at the United Nations (USA, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands). It does not appear that Israel cares about the international community, since its construction of the Apartheid Wall, by-pass roads and settlements on confiscated Palestinian land goes on unabated. One of my best friends, Hassan, recently commented on the United Nations’ resolutions and their effect on the Palestinian people. The son of a refugee from the area of Bethlehem, he lost hope in the so-called “international community,” since where Palestine is concerned these resolutions are just a symbolic gesture, never materialising into pragmatic action towards the ideals that the UN claims to defend, including the negated right of return for Hassan and his family.
In the many times that I had the opportunity to represent Palestine in debates on the situation in the region, I was always surprised that the Israeli side never talked about the UN and its resolutions on the conflict, even though it was this organization that gave Israel the legitimacy to create a state in Palestine.
Unfortunately, other parties have begun to adopt Israel’s terms of discourse. A few months ago, in the annual meeting of the United Nations Committee for the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, Koffi Annan sent a letter calling for peace, but without mention that Israel is the occupying power and the Palestinians the occupied party, an important definition since under international law we cannot have the same responsibilities. We often wonder if the international community is hiding its responsibilities towards Palestinian rights, voting in favour of Palestine but then celebrating Israeli unilateral steps such as the pullout from Gaza or signing economic and military agreements with Israel, the occupying power. “Another UN resolution condemns the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem…” So what? 194, 242, 338, the IV Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention of 1907, the International Court of Justice... Did anything change for the Palestinian people? Can our brothers go freely to study or to work? Can they feed their families if there is 30% unemployment as a direct consequence of the occupation?
Israel has the right to be part of the international community, but to be part of a community means not only rights but also duties, and if you don’t accept the duties, how you can get recognized? The answer is easy. The countries must tell Israel, as the noted Israeli professor Jeff Halper once told me, “If you want to continue being our partner, you must respect international law,” otherwise, they must act the same way they did to the South African Apartheid. The legitimacy of an international system, as well as the United Nations itself, is threatened by a dangerous game that cannot go on, otherwise international law in Palestine will be meaningless.
The sense of collective responsibility must be present before the humanitarian catastrophe in the occupied Palestinian territories becomes irreparable. When in 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (known also as Malvinas, disputed territory between England and the Argentinean government), the European Community adopted economic counter-measures, basically through the suspension of imports of textiles and meat, two of the most important products for Buenos Aires. That was a matter of sovereignty that didn’t affect the integrity of the British people, with these isolated islands in the Pacific Ocean. Here we are talking about the freedom of a whole people, their recognized right to self determination and the respect of human rights (a universal responsibility). The international community must think again about its relations with Israel.
As Palestinians under the leadership of the PLO, we have already accepted the right of Israel to exist within safe borders (which until now have not been drawn), living beside the state of Palestine. But Israel cannot get international legitimacy while hiding the blood and suffering of the Palestinian people.
Our people cannot lose hope. It’s the most precious good we have now that allows us to continue the national struggle towards freedom. Similarly, the international community cannot lose its legitimacy, accepting anything from the powerful Zionist lobby. While I believe that the rich Jewish culture cannot be represented by an occupying army, I also believe that the international community cannot act in this absence of fairness, destroying a country (Iraq), sanctioning others (Cuba, Libya), and acting as if nothing had happened, as in the case with Israel, which holds the record for violations of human rights and United Nations resolutions.
If things don’t change, another resolution from the General Assembly will be just a good reminder that the international community has a voice, but that the Apartheid Wall, the exclusive Jewish roads and the settlements didn’t let the Palestinians listen to its message.
Xavier Abu Eid is a Palestinian-Chilean student of political science and Vice President of the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) in Chile.