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Israel and Palestine: Surreal Times at the UN Security Council

The traditional political paralysis in the UN Security Council reaches a new level as members turn usual stonewalling into reality denial

A Palestinian victim of Israeli demolition policy (Photo UNRWA)

While discussing the recent incursion of Israeli troops in the Palestinian territories of Sur Bahir and Wadi Hummus in which Israeli troops destroyed a number of Palestinian homes, the Israeli delegation at the UN Security Council used its time to talk about Iran without even mentioning the topic at hand. A new level in the de-humanization of the on-going Middle-East crisis

Last Monday Israeli troops entered the Palestinian settlements of Sur Bahir and Wadi Hummus, roused and forcefully evacuated many families from their homes in the early hours of the morning and razed the buildings where they resided.

The act was the result of a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court stating that the buildings were too close to the separation barrier that divides the two communities.

Following this new act of aggression, the UN Security Council proceeded to include this topic in the open debate on Middle Eastern issues already scheduled for the following day, on Tuesday July 23rd.

Aside from the predictable positions taken by the participants to the meeting, the debate reached an almost surreal tone when the Israeli Permanent Representative to the UN, Danny Danon, decided to devote the time allotted to his intervention to talk about the attempts on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran to develop and deploy nuclear weapons threatening the whole Middle Eastern region.

Not a single word was spent on the topic of the demolition and the expropriation of property perpetrated on the Palestinians in a stunning display of dehumanization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the people involved in it by choosing to completely ignore the issue at hand.

The decision on the part of the Israeli delegation to simply change the subject, was received with astonishment by the representatives of the other countries participating at the meeting, many of whom stated that the perpetrators of this new episode of violence [Israel] were capitalizing on the Council’s inability to implement its resolutions by shifting reality and that the representative of Israel was denying the very focus of the agenda.

Unlike Israel, the vast majority of the other delegations’ members kept the topic at the center of the discussion and proceeded to issue variously worded statements of condemnation for the Israeli actions and were critical of the Security Council’s inability to implement any consequential action that could dispel the perception of impunity.

Similarly predictable exception, was the intervention of the American representative Jason Greenblatt.

Mr. Greenblatt, who is also President Trump’s Special Advisor on Israel, claimed that international consensus does not equate to international law and therefore Israel could not be in violation of any recognized rule. This declaration was a de-facto delegitimization of the role of the UN in setting internationally binding guidelines.

Mr. Greenblatt nevertheless, seemed to take a partial cue from Danny Danon of Israel by also changing the topic of the discussion to the Palestinian organization Hamas and to the “lack of consensus” on designating it as a terrorist group and going as far as accusing the Palestinian Authority of “rewarding the perpetrators of terrorism.”

The United States position was strongly challenged by some individual European countries and by the Croatian representative speaking on behalf of the whole European Union. Christoph Heusgen of Germany in particular, turned specifically to face Mr. Greenblatt in reiterating that for Germany, international law is relevant not futile and reasserted his country’s support for the United Nations and Security Council’s resolutions, which are binding international law. Mr Heusgen, maybe trying to point out an inconsistency in the American position, reminded the group that resolution 2334 (2016) on Israeli settlements was the result of international consensus led specifically by the United States.

The same position was taken by the French delegation which, in the words of its representative Nicolas De Riviere, stated that France doesn’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over any occupied territory and that the Jewish state’s recent actions demonstrated, once again, how Israel settlement activities run counter to international law set out by the Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016).

So, while on the specific topic of the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes the participating countries’ positions turned out to be largely foreseeable, there was nevertheless another curious, surreal turn when the Syrian representative Bashar Ja’Afari, touched on the topic of the Golan region.

The area, that the United States used to consider “occupied territory”, has now been recognized by the Trump administration as part of Israel. Expressing regret that, in her opening statement, the UN Under-Secretary Rosemary Dicarlo did not refer to the area as “Syrian Golan”, Mr. Ja’Afari noted critically the intention on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rename the territory “Trump Heights” a gesture that should definitely please the American president who is known to appreciate having his name attached to grand projects and enterprises.


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