As the United Nations General Assembly is about to convene its 72nd regular session this month, it seems we are going to sadly witness yet another ritual act of self-preservation by this world organisation. The General Debate will open on September 19 when many dignitaries will take their places in the long queue of heads of state and prime ministers to address the Assembly. This year debate focuses, among others, on the theme of ‘People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet’.
The President of the 72nd session (2017-2018) of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak, himself a former foreign minister of Slovakia for three terms, identified six “overarching priorities” for his tenure following his selection for the post. At the top of his priorities is: ‘prevention and mediation for sustaining peace’.
Conflicts around the world are viciously on the increase and are getting aggressively bloodier and it is high time the General Assembly should realise that the world’s acute problems urgently need quick solutions rather good intentions. Even the UN Security Council, where decisive resolutions are supposedly determined by the five Permanent Members, has been equally shortcoming when addressing world conflicts.
If one takes the Security Council’s 242 Middle East resolution of 1967 as a case in point, it clearly shows not only the failure of the Security Council, but also the total paralysis of the world body. For half a century since the start of Israel’s colonisation of the West bank, Gaza Strip and occupied East Jerusalem, the Palestinians have been subjected to Israel’s grave acts of oppression, unprecedented violence and collective punishment.
Not a day goes by without horrible crimes being committed against them. During this time and according to the UN records themselves, Israel has managed to build no less than 125 Jewish colonies and more than 100 so-called ‘outposts’ on occupied Palestinian land.
All of this is being openly carried through in violation of international law and Security Council resolutions. The UN records show that roughly 650,000 illegal colonialists have been planted in Palestine: some 350,000 and 300,000 in occupied West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem respectively. The Israelis have as of June 20 imprisoned 800,000 Palestinians and destroyed 48,000 of their homes. They have also illegally revoked the residence permits of 250,000 Palestinians living in their own normal place of residence in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and more than 14,000 in occupied East Jerusalem.
To add insult to injury, successive Israeli occupation governments have deliberately fragmented the occupied West Bank by building the so-called ‘separation wall’, preventing people from going about their normal daily business and splitting up families, and imposing controls which inhumanely affect the dignity of the people under occupation.
When one considers the dire situation in the Gaza Strip, one would simply conclude that what’s happening there is plainly the most horrible crime against humanity. Gaza is depressingly marking the tenth anniversary of the imposition of a blockade that many consider collective punishment of its entire population of 1.7 million. So-called Israeli operations ‘Cast Lead’ and ‘Protective Edge’ in Gaza in 2008-2009 and 2014 respectively resulted in thousands of senseless deaths.
This writer had the experience of working for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in 2003-2004 and directly saw the intolerable life in Gaza. Any Gazan would tell you that Israel has blatantly put the population in a concentration camp. Despite the faults of the UN, and there are many, tireless efforts by the UNRWA and World Food Programme and regular interventions by the UN special envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, are instrumental in maintaining the Gazans’ survival. But what a life is it for them: high unemployment, huge destruction, densely crowded environment, water unfit for drinking, scarce electricity, deterioration in health standards and deprivation of basic human rights.
Hamas’ ill-advised regional alliances, once with Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt during Mohammad Mursi’s presidency, Qatar’s government and now possibly Iran, have all contributed to the misery of the population.
The UN failure does not stop at the Palestinian plight in the Middle East, it goes further. When it comes to the tragedy in Syria, the UN has only shown its shameful impotence to contain the unprecedentedly ugly killing machine. As has been clearly illustrated for many decades with the ready-to-use American veto to prevent any action against Israel’s colonial occupation, in Syria the Security Council is heavily curtailed by Russia’s veto power. People in the region are desperate because of the world body’s inaction and they are unfortunately on the verge of giving up on the UN.
— Mustapha Karkouti is a columnist and former president of the Foreign Press Association, London. You can follow him on Twitter at @mustaphatache