Whither Palestine in the upcoming UN?
When the UN General assembly opens its annual meeting next week, the world’s eyes will be focused at the New York’s headquarters.
As has become a tradition, world leaders speak from the rostrum to the assembled delegates and through them to the world.
More and more leaders are using the occasion to speak to their own base from this highly important location. That is why most leaders will speak in their mother tongue, knowing well that it is faster for them to reach their people, while the delegates can understand what is being said through simultaneous translation.
While speaking in one’s mother tongue is important and at times necessary if one is not familiar with another language, the idea of using the mother tongue to reach one’s base even though one is able to speak in English reflects a bad understanding of the role of the UN.
The UN, and especially the general assembly, was created to allow for discussion, debate and hopefully positive results following the exchange of information and ideas.
Human communication is perhaps the most powerful element capable of effecting change and allowing for a reversal of positions no matter how entrenched they are.
While speeches are often followed by the press, the side meetings at the UN General Assembly are most important.
Even before arriving leaders a lineup of meetings are planned with other heads of state, with everyone jockeying to get appointments with the most important and powerful in the hope that such meetings can produce policy changes and, in case of meeting with wealthy donor countries, an increase in donor support.
Regarding the Middle East conflicts, and specifically in terms of Palestine, the UN has unfortunately been inept at causing change that would relieve people’s suffering.
UN resolutions dealing with the Palestinian issue could probably fill half the UN General Assembly hall if they were stacked up, yet no tangible result can be seen and there is no end in sight to this terrible tragedy.
Ironically, it was at the UN in 1947 that the controversial partition plan was approved by the general assembly, to the cheers of Jewish Zionists in Tel Aviv and throughout the world.
It was this partition plan that became the bedrock of the Israeli declaration of independence in May 15, 1948, yet at least half of this resolution, namely the creation of a Palestinian Arab state, has never seen the light of day despite many attempts at all levels.
The best Palestinians and Arabs were able to wrest from the UN general assembly was the recognition of Palestine just like the Vatican is recognised. No real sovereignty and no decision by the all-powerful and veto-enabled UN Security Council.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is expected to lay out the current situation in his speech, which will possibly include some new ideas, like a request to recognise Palestine as a state under occupation.
But without movement on the peace process, without serious efforts and political will of the key countries in the world that should work to end the crisis, there will be no changes in Hebron, Nablus, East Jerusalem, Khan Younis or Rafah.
Palestinians will continue to suffer under an illegal foreign military occupation accompanied by a colonial settlement campaign that has been declared by the various UN agencies and most of the world as being in total contradiction to international humanitarian law.
To be fair, an important agency was set up by the UN that has had some positive results in the region. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has done an important job in helping out Palestinian refugees who were forced out of their homes by Israel.
UNRWA has provided humanitarian, educational and health support to Palestinian refugees, and for that, credit must be given to the UN and the funding states that enabled the agency to carry out its mission.
UN resolutions are an important part of the Palestinian campaign for independence. They are a tangible proof that most of the world community does support and recognise the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
Time has come for these resolutions to be accompanied by strong punitive measures to ensure that they are enforced and not just passed in order to relieve the world community of its guilt for not doing anything to rectify the mistakes it was complicit in, directly or indirectly.