How Israel's US-backed impunity helped break the UN system

Israel's US-sanctioned impunity broke the UN system. But sooner or later, apartheid will come back to bite it
5 min read
25 Nov, 2021
Opinion: International normalisation of Israel's occupation and settler-colonialism in Palestine has a shelf life, even if the US-led world order chooses to do nothing, writes Jordan's ex-UN envoy Hasan Abu Nimah.

Palestinians protest in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank against Israeli normalisation deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on September 15, 2020 (Getty Images)

Political leaders addressing the question of Palestine love to call on the parties to return to "negotiations." They may also pronounce their support for the "two-state solution." By paying lip service to this magic formula they exonerate themselves from any action. It is noncommittal and most importantly it does not upset the Israelis. The latest world leader to repeat this mantra was US President Joe Biden, at the recent UN General Assembly. While expressing his belief that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel's future as a "Jewish democratic state," Biden acknowledged, "We are a long way from that goal this moment."

"Israel may bask in the belief that normalizing ties with some regional states, which it was never at war with any way, means that resistance and opposition to its crimes against the Palestinians will simply disappear. But this is self-deception"

Such leaders are undoubtedly aware that the two-state formula is no more than a face-saving slogan. For one thing, very little Palestinian territory is left uncolonised to allow any kind of a Palestinian state. At one point, the two-state solution meant a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along the 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Does anyone imagine that through negotiations Israel would remove a single stone from the settlements it has been building for half a century? Or would Israel relinquish, through negotiations, any part of Jerusalem, which President Trump recognised as Israel's capital? Would any of those who constantly proclaim their support for the two-state formula dare say a word against Israel's continued occupation, against the Gaza siege and the daily destruction and humiliation of the Palestinian people?

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The result of decades of so-called peace efforts is not just total failure but that such efforts have squandered any basis for the goal they claim to seek: a Palestinian state. From the start, Israel was granted a veto on any idea it did not like. With unconditional US protection, Israel is perhaps the only state allowed to reject UN resolutions, disregard all the rules and the principles of international law and escape any accountability. With time, the unquestioning US adoption of Israel's extremist positions has caused enormous damage to peace and security in our region and globally. It has undermined the entire UN system with the notorious application of double standards and selective enforcement of UN decisions. It has hollowed out all efforts to establish a functioning international system: Any and all international institutions, from UNESCO to the UN Human Rights Council to the International Criminal Court, face attack and threats of defunding, especially from the US, if they make any move to recognise Palestinian rights or hold Israel accountable.

"Slow but growing global recognition that Israel is an apartheid regime will eventually catch up with the fiction that it is a normal country to be embraced by its neighbors"

The prize for Sudan's decision to normalise was its removal from the US list of "terrorist" states, in addition to some supposed economic benefits. Was Sudan placed on the "terrorist" list because it is a terrorist state? If so why should it be removed? If it is no more a "terrorist" state why should the price of removal be normalisation with Israel, again, against the wishes of the majority of the Sudanese people? Sudan most likely submitted to pressure under severe economic difficulties. But normalisation only made things worse, economically and politically. The latest disturbances, plunging the country into further instability bear the fingerprints of Israel. Israeli media reported in recent weeks that a high-level Israeli delegation, including a representative of the Mossad spy agency, travelled to Sudan and met with senior officers involved in the recent military takeover.

"While much of the Western world has condemned the coup, Israel has remained noticeably silent," The Times of Israel reported. "Sudanese military leaders have taken note of the response in Jerusalem and believe it constitutes approval of their actions." And approval from Israel, Sudanese military leaders may hope, could translate into approval from Washington. Israel may bask in the belief that normalising ties with some regional states, which it was never at war with anyway, means that resistance and opposition to its crimes against the Palestinians will simply disappear. But this is self-deception. Slow but growing global recognition that Israel is an apartheid regime will eventually catch up with the fiction that it is a normal country that must be embraced by its unreasonable neighbours. Indeed, normality and "peace" cannot be built on so many deep and growing layers of injustice.

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With so much US, European and even Arab official support, and with continued UN paralysis, Israel is not likely to face that reality any time soon. Israel is also counting on the continued existence of the Palestinian Authority which remains fully committed to "security coordination" with the occupation. But these seemingly firm realities can evaporate with little warning. In May, Palestinians across their homeland rose up in unison for the first time in generations to resist Israel's aggression in Jerusalem and Gaza. It underscored that whatever delusions the authors of the Abraham Accords may have, the people of Palestine remain alive and determined to pursue their rights even at a high price. It was also a sign that in future, the confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians will not be restricted to the West Bank or Gaza, but will engulf the whole country, just as it did before 1948.


Hasan Abu Nimah is the former ambassador of Jordan to the United Nations, New York

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Opinions expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of The New Arab and its editorial board or staff.