September 26, 2014

How Israel became Vice-Chair of the UN Committee on Decolonization

By Adrien Welsh

What did Big Brother say in 1984? "War is peace", right? Well, today we can say "decolonization is colonization"...

It happened in secret, with little noise on June 18th. During the election of the six committees of the General Assembly of the United Nations, a wild political oxymoron emerged: Israel, an occupying power, was elected vice-chair of a committee for the rights of the Palestinian people and the occupied territories. The corresponding document, a statement to the UN, states that, "despite the strong opposition of the Group of Arab States, Mr. Mordechai Amohai, of Israel, was today elected Vice Chairman of the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly on Special Political and Decolonization”.

This move was tasteless joke in the face of the Israeli criminal operation "Protective Edge" which has left over 2,000 dead and over 10,000 wounded (08/19/14) and has brought Gaza farther towards its full destruction.

Israel's position challenged: an unprecedented event

Critics of Israel have joined with the Group of Arab States who argue that it is illegitimate for this state to be part of this committee. For many, Israel’s participation in the Fourth Committee was motivated by a desire to obstruct the work of the committee. As the delegate of Lebanon stressed, "Israel is the Member State which was the most condemned by this organization," while Qatar reaffirmed its "categorical rejection" of Israel’s inclusion, recalling that this state has continued to violate international law, the Charter of the United Nations, and many of its resolutions.

Accordingly, a few days before the formation of the committees, the Group of Arab States sent two letters to the chairperson of the Fourth Committee indicating their rejection of Israel's application in which they asked to have a reelection by secret ballot. After the vote, Israel's application was approved by 74 votes against 68 abstentions. It was an unprecedented show of dissent in a vote that was uncontested by any another country, much to the chagrin of countries supporting the Zionist state. The United Kingdom who spoke on behalf of the ‘Western European and Other States’ regional group, stated that: "Contesting a candidate that was supported by a regional group application is contrary to the standards and established practices, and sets a dangerous precedent for future elections". We note here that this is the same regional group that supported the candidacy of Israel, which coincides with the fact that the EU is Israel’s main economic partner.

Canada, meanwhile, did not lose the opportunity to add their support for Israel expressing "deep disappointment at this unusual, unprecedented step". But this view did not stop Canada from opposing the appointment of Mr. Hossein Gharibi, from Iran as Vice-Chairman of the Sixth Committee dealing with legal issues, on the grounds that the Islamic Republic blatantly violates international law, commits abuses against religious minorities and cannot meet its nuclear obligations. Of all the states present, only Israel joined Canada in denouncing the appointment of Mr. Gharibi. This example further illustrates the imperialist aims of Canada take precedence over such considerations. Indeed, every complaint made against Iran was laughable, especially when you unconditionally support the state of Israel and its Zionist project, which has been repeatedly criticized by the United Nations.

How can we only call out Iran for violating international law when Israel stubbornly refuses to recognize the right of Palestinians to self-determination by violating several UN resolutions and triggering a deadly operation for the sole purpose of keeping afloat an electoral coalition and preventing the formation of a stronger Palestinian unity government? As for abuses against religious minorities, it should be remembered that Iran recognizes several cultural rights while Israel distinguishes Jewish citizens from others for whom certain rights are limited or prohibited. Finally, concerning the so-called nuclear obligations of Iran, we cannot say with certainty whether Iran has nuclear weapons, but it is commonly accepted that Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East. In 2012, while Iran agreed to take part, Israel refused to participate in the Helsinki Conference on the denuclearization of the Middle East. Finally, it must be added that Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that the country allocates 5.6% of its GDP on military expenditures (against 3.8% for the United States).

Of course, the idea here is not to brag about the candidacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran continues to hold many political prisoners, and repress popular democratic movements, as was the case this spring with the repression of the student movement directed especially by the youth of the underground Tudeh Party (Communist Party). But we need to highlight the shameful and inconsistent position of Canada, which supports Israel as one of only two states in the world without a constitution, and able to hold prisoners without charges. Yet, Canada chooses to declare Iran not worthy of being part of a UN committee for Justice.

This support is more than just ideological. Canada is an imperialist country itself, and is still colonizing Indigenous peoples. Western powers (including Canada) are supporting Israel because it is the main ally in the Middle East. Israel will never oppose the plans of imperialism in the region. Indeed, the Zionist entity has always played a key role in the destabilization of the Middle East (those who benefit are the Canadian tar sands oil producers by increasing the price of a barrel of crude) and paves the way for a redistribution of Middle Eastern borders in the Greater Middle East plan promoted by the United States. It's for a reason that during the Lebanon war, Israeli forces supported the most reactionary forces advocating the creation of a Maronite confessional state.

In addition, under the banner of free trade, an arms trade of over 400 million dollars exists between the two countries. This includes 50 Canadian companies supplying weapons and military equipment to the Israeli occupation army.

Israel, a colonial project

In a statement in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike (but force-fed by the Israeli authorities) dated June 10, the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) sums up the imperialist role of Israel in the Middle-East: "We can think of no better description of imperialism than through the actions of the Zionist entity: occupation, displacement, attacks, settlements, wars and economic sanctions against the Palestinians, interventions throughout the Middle East, mainly in Lebanon and Syria in addition to their control of the region."

From the outset, the Zionist project grew at the expense the Palestinian right to self-determination. Far from trying to solve the problem, the Oslo Accords of 1993 actually helped to "normalize" the situation in favor of the Zionist state. We need to return to the context of the early 1990s: in 1991, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority were weaker than ever after their support for Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War and, with the temporary victory of counter-revolution in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Palestine found itself dramatically isolated on the international scene. All Arab allies from 1967 had made peace with Israel, with the notable exception of Lebanon (rebuilding after a bloody civil war) and Syria.

Thus, during the negotiations, Palestine ironically only played a limited role, which enabled Israel to enjoy a tailor-made agreement and can constantly reject the creation of a Palestinian state on the grounds that their safety is not guaranteed (although law enforcement under the Palestinian Authority, directed at its own population, is probably the best equipped and trained in the world). Israel has been able to consolidate its hold, including its economic grip, on the occupied territories in an even more direct way while delegating some of the costs of occupation such as security functions to the Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile, Israel had been signing trade agreements, establishing diplomatic relations with many countries, including China and India, and has therefore embedded itself into the world economy. Foreign investment increased from $17 million in 1993 to $584 million three years later.

As part of the Oslo Accords, it was expected that after five years, in 1999, the final status of the West Bank would be resolved. From the beginning, the plan was not followed. Then, after Israeli Prime Minister Rabin's assassination in 1996, all Israeli governments have been content to undertake new negotiations. We remember when Netanyahu, the current prime minister, came to power after the 1996 election, he publicly expressed his refusal to see a Palestinian state form, surrender the Golan region to Syria, or to negotiate the status of Jerusalem.

The colonial settlements don’t stop proliferating, while living conditions don’t stop deteriorating, with an unemployment rate of 40% in the Gaza Strip (note that the unemployment rate went from 11% in 1993 to 23% in 1995 for all of Palestine). Faced with the impossibility of the Palestinian Authority solving these problems, it is hardly surprising that a part of the population has become disillusioned, believes that only struggle wins gains and moved towards an Islamist political group; Hamas (initially funded by Saudi Arabia as the ‘Islamic Centre of Gaza’ under the watchful gaze of Israel). The tension on the ground hit its peak in 2000, leading to the second intifada, and then the construction of the ‘separation’ or ‘apartheid’ wall in 2002.

The apartheid wall is 3-8 meters high and designed to cut off the Israeli population from the Palestinian population in the West Bank. It more or less follows the route of the Green Line while including Israeli settlements. It therefore consumes between 10 and 15% of the West Bank. Colonization continues to worsen (there were 375 000 settlers in 2013, an increase of 2,534, compared to a 1,133 settler increase in 2012). It is estimated that the wall affects about 875,000 people in ways such as preventing some movement within the territory, and isolates some communities (eg, Qalqiliya). For Palestinians residing in annexed areas, the situation is even more delicate. While being physically cut off from the West Bank, they do not officially have the right of residence in Israel, so they cannot use any social services and do not have the opportunity to travel.

In short, while the Palestinian situation continues to deteriorate, Israel has every interest in maintaining the status quo. In the current situation, with the Palestinian Authority discredited and very isolated, it would be illusory to believe that negotiation attempts such as those arranged by the United States in 2013 - currently on hold - can lead to ending the conflict.

The appointment of Israel as the Vice-Chair of a committee responsible for matters of decolonization, is shameful. This is from the United Nations, an organization created to ensure peace in the world. How can we claim to guarantee peace in the world by giving a committee to a state that, in the last decade, has conducted four military operations against neighbouring populations: Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2010 against Palestine, the war against Lebanon in 2006, and the current massacre that is unfolding before our eyes now?

For communists, the answer is clear: Israel is part of the global imperialist system, which is destabilizing the region by fanning conflict. The formation of strong sovereign states that may hamper the plans of the Western powers in the region is rendered impossible by Israel. This is part of the new division of the world under the "New Middle East" plan that is so dear to NATO diplomacy.

It is not so much because of support for Israel that European states supported its candidacy, but to guarantee the interests of a system that is sinking quickly with the deepening of the economic crisis. However, it is the 1.8 million Gazans who pay the heavy price today.


This article is published in Issue 17 of the new Rebel Youth!

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