Dubai: The United Nations is turning 70 — and the Palestinian question remains its longest and most intractable issue.
With more than 226 resolutions from the Security Council and 285 from the General Assembly, Palestine has generated more ink, more and more debate than any other single issue at the New York body.
Analysts now say the UN has played a role in prolonging the Palestinian cause by not enforcing any solution to it — leading to increased frustration and resentment among Palestinians.
While the UN General Assembly passed recently a resolution allowing the Palestinian flag to fly on the UN building in New York, Palestinians complained that the world body didn’t take any action on the ground to end “Israeli aggressions” on the Al Aqsa Mosque in cccupied east Jerusalem. Al Haram Al Sharif is located in Palestinian land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war — and UN Security Council resolution 242 has called for Israel to withdraw from it.
“Since the First and Second World Wars, the Palestinian question has been a focus of discussion, negotiation, conflict and disagreement among different powers, being international or regional powers,” said Mahdi Abdul Hadi in an interview with Gulf News. He is a veteran political analyst based in occupied east Jerusalem.
“The Palestinian question is of international making,” said Wafa Abdul Rahman, a political activist and head of Falasteniat, a Palestinian non-governmental organisation aiming to empower women and youth in Palestinian society.
The world, represented by the UN, has created the problem — starting from Balfour Declaration and then the establishment of a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Wafi told Gulf News. She said UNRWA “transformed us to beggars and made our cause more of a humanitarian issue rather than a political issue and an issue of giving people their rights, including the right for self-determination”.
“This is the root cause of the problem,” she added.
It was back in November 1917, when the UK Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour sent a letter to a leader of the British Jewish community, Walter Rothschild, stating that “His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object”.
In 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 181 “recommending the partition of the British Mandate for Palestine into Arab and Jewish States”.
The resolution was among the very few resolutions to be implemented in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
After the Second World War, Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte was unanimously chosen to be the United Nations Security Council mediator in the Arab–Israeli conflict of 1947–1948, but he was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1948 by Lehi, a militant Zionist group, while he was carrying out his duties.
“This has an impact on the behaviour of following UN envoys,” Abdul Hadi said.
Until today, all resolutions calling for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes are still hanging. Those resolutions dealing with the right of the Palestinians for self-determination are also still pending. Even then, those resolutions don’t reflect that the Palestinians now hold only 22 per cent of their historical lands — less than what resolution 181 stated, analysts said.
In September, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution allowing the Palestinian flag to be raised at the UN headquarters and UN offices — just like the flags of any other member state.
The vote was passed with 119 votes out of 193 in favour. Among the European countries that voted ‘yes’ were France, Russia, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Malta and Poland.
But as the flag resolution came into effect, tension increases in the Palestinian territories as a result of “Israeli provocative measures in the Al Aqsa area”.
“If you do a public survey, you will conclude that the Palestinians are highly disappointed by the continuous statements of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon expressing his concerns over the developments in Palestinians territories,” said Wafa. “It is becoming a joke in Palestine that he is getting his salary to feel concerned.”
“Israel is committing aggression against Muslims sites in [occupied] east Jerusalem and the Muslim practices,” said Abdul Hadi, in reference to the closure of the Al Aqsa mosque for four hours daily to allow Jews to pray in the area close to Al Buraq wall.
Abdul Hadi also criticised the use of the word “dividing” when talking on the Israeli measures in occupied east Jerusalem.
“Dividing means there is an other; there is a right for that other; there is a dispute. But this is not the case in [occupied] East Jerusalem,” he said. “Israel is tarnishing the Islamic site and twisting facts.”
Meanwhile, the UN positions are causing “a dilemma” for Palestinian activists, Wafi said.
“All the nice talk on the rights of people in the world and justice that was compiled by the UN is not implemented on the Palestinians, and the UN has no mechanism to implement it,” she said. “The UN is the first to breach its own laws when it comes to the Palestinians.”
So why should Palestinians continue to rely on the UN to find a solution?
“It is because the UN is the body that keeps order and security around the world,” Palestinian political science lecturer and writer Jihad Harb told Gulf News. “Palestinians don’t trust the US, the superpower, because they believe it is biased towards Israel. So they are looking at a body capable of taking decisions to give them back their rights,” he said.
“An active and real role for the UN is needed to find a solution to the Palestinian question,” Wafa said.