Why the UN Resolution on Israeli Squatting didn’t Go Far Enough

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The United Nations Security Council on Friday passed a resolution with 14 member states in favor and 1 abstaining (the US), condemning Israeli government support for Israeli squatters who steal Palestinian land and squat on it in the Palestinian West Bank.

Since Israel is in severe violation of a large number of treaties and instruments of international law on the treatment of persons in occupied territories by the Occupier, it could have had sanctions imposed on it for this shameful behavior.

Note that Netanyahu ran on a platform of no Palestinian state. And the Israeli government has announced thousands of new settlement apartments on Palestinian land just in the past few years. Tel Aviv is clearly intent on annexing all of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and pushing the Palestinians out. The UNSC wants to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution, but that path has already been forestalled by Israeli land theft on a cosmic scale.

But the resolution, while it condemned Israeli annexation of Palestinian land and Israeli squatting on it, did not specify any particular punishment for Israel, which is the government being condemned.

In contrast, the UNSC has made the lives of Iranians, Iraqis, and North Koreans miserable through sanctions.

Israeli’s crimes against the Palestinians are not comparable to crimes committed by any other conemporary government against people it occupies, and are unique in their horror. It is true that Morocco annexed the Western Sahara after Spain relinquished the latter as a colonial project. But Morocco bestowed citizenship on the Western Saharans, at least, and has not left them stateless.

That is how the Israeli project differs from other contemporary occupations. It has kept the Palestinians stateless and without the rights that derive from having citizenship in an autonomous state. Millions of Palestinians are stateless because of Israeli policy. Stateless people do not have stable property since it can be stolen from them at any time without repercussions. Stateless people can also be mistreated with impunity, so that countries (like Israel) can conclude a treaty with them (like Oslo in the 1990s) and then completely renege.

The US did not veto the resolution, as it usually does to protect Israeli governments from any consequence for their crimes. This time Barack Obama ordered UN Ambassador Samantha Power to abstain. But he should have asked her to vote in favor of the resolution. And the resolution itself should have had some teeth.

map-story-of-palestinian-nationhood The Map

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately pledged to disregard the resolution. He had also conspired with Donald Trump to have Egypt (author of the original resolution) withdraw its draft. This was to undermine President Obama. Trump is alleged to have called up Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and pressured him to withdraw the Egyptian draft. But Senegal and Malaysia, among others, moved the resolution without Egypt (Egypt still voted for it). It handily passed.

Here is a primer for the flood of Likud Party propaganda that is about to be unleashed, for instance, allegations that those who care about millions of stateless Palestinians being under military rule by a foreign power only do so because they are racially bigoted against Jews. On the contrary, to excuse Israelis from behaving in accordance with the same regime of international law to which we hold others would be to single them out for special treatment on racial grounds, the very essence of racism.

Even though right wing Americans typically don’t like the United Nations (and the tinfoil hat crowd promotes all kinds of conspiracy theories and fake news about it), it is actually sometimes a powerful body. The UN Security Council has decreed that North Korean ships may be boarded with impunity by navies of UN member states, which under other circumstances would be a violation of the law of the seas.

The UN helped kill some 500,000 Iraqi children with severe sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s in the wake of the Gulf War. The sanctions included interdicting chlorine, which can be used in bomb-making but is also essential to water purification. It turns out that if you don’t purify your drinking water, babies and toddlers drop like flies.

The Neoconservatives in the Bush era asserted that Iraq was out of compliance with UN Security Council resolutions on destruction of its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and weapons experimentation labs. They actually said that the US should go to war on Iraq as a way of upholding these UN resolutions!

So Washington ignores or lambastes the UN except when the latter has done something that the US can turn to its own advantage.

But let me repeat that. The pretext for Bush’s illegal war on Iraq was that the UN Security Council had condemned Baghdad repeatedly.

The UN put severe sanctions on Iran on the grounds that it wasn’t being transparent about its plans to enrich uranium and close the fuel cycle. In the period after 2012 some Iranians actually could not get the medicines they needed because the sanctions on Iran so hurt the economy as to prevent a middle class family from affording that medicine.

After ruining Iraq and deeply harming Iran (which didn’t even have a nuclear weapons program, whereas Israel has 200-400 nuclear warheads), the least the UNSC could do with regard to Israel’s concerted colonization and Apartheid policies in Palestine is to give the nations and peoples of the world carte blanche to punish Israel for its blatant defiance of international law.

26 Responses

  1. ….Yes, and most pointedly stop the flow of US weapons and dollars to the greedy State of Israel, forever. Demand the return of any and all weapons and money already sent…end the blockades to Palestine. The crazy wars in the middle east would change radically.

  2. I think the resolution was helpful because it brought into focus for people like me Israel’s real intentions toward the Palestinians. Apparently, Israel is determined to push them out of the West Bank and to deal with them as exiles in other Arab countries. A one-state solution without Palestinians. I had missed that one.

    • As I have noted in several other posts, Israel has essentially “won,” in that they fully control all the land west of the Jordan River and there will never be a state of Palestine because there is simply no usable land to build the state on.

      BUT . . .

      – Israel also controls several million non-Jews that are NOT going anywhere because they have no place to go to.

      – NO other country in the middle east will take any more Palestinian refugees because to do so, would destabilize the receiving country. Jordan is just barely staying afloat and Al-Sisi is afraid adding Palestinians to Egypt would get him killed.

      – Europe will break all economic ties with Israel rather than take any Palestinian refugees. Without trade with Europe, the Israeli economy would collapse. And NO, Asia has no need for anything Israel has to sell since Asia pretty much can make anything they want.

      – The USA will NOT take any Palestinians. The USA will not take a few thousand Syrians, so taking millions of poor Palestinian is totally out of the question.

      So Israel is stuck with millions of very angry, hopeless humans who will make the lives of Israelis dangerous each and every day, no matter how brutal Israel becomes. Keep in mind the Nazi were extremely brutal, but no matter how many people they killed, the resistance fighters still killed German soldiers and blew up lots of German stuff.

      The Israel;is have painted themselves into a corner where there is ONLY (repeat ONLY) one long term solution – the land west of the Jordan River becomes a multi-ethnic secular (not Jewish or Muslim) state where Jews are a large MINORITY.

      No matter how many non-Jews the Israelis kill, the situation will only get worse for them. Eventually Israel is going to suffer from a “brain drain” because people with high skill levels can easily move to other parts of the globe and rent out their brains.

      The Israelis did NOT think through the long term implications when they started the “settler project.” They appear to have thought it would go just like the USA Manifest Destiny” with out looking at how that actually turned out (for example, the displaced people are full USA citizens and can live and work anywhere in the USA).

      In a fairly short time, Israelis are going to discover just how badly they have screwed themselves.

    • The “clue” you missed was Israel’s two ethnic cleansing campaigns in which they forced one million defenseless, native Palestinians from their homes in Israel at gunpoint and into refugee camps for the sole reason that the refugees were non-Jews and an obstacle to creating a Jewish demographic majority in the new Jewish state. Today there are over five million registered Christian and Muslim refugees from Israeli racist terror and ethnic cleansing.

  3. Beware appointee D Friedeman – beyond maps and reasonable thought.
    usa not helping israelis to help themselve – same as usa: no external saviours.
    Protest Loudly!

    • Sanctions would be vetoed, as would any stronger wording. Diplomacy aims to achieve the possible, not the ideal.

  4. This column by Mr. Cole should run alongside that of Elliot Abrams (formerly convicted of withholding information from Congress and censured for lying to Congress) in today’s Washington Post. Mr. Abrams needs a counter to his far right, maniacal gibberish.

  5. Oh really? There is a UN resolution that states Israel should go back to its borders in 1967. ALL annexations are ILLEGAL and represent one more issue to deal with the APARTHEID IRAELI REGIME

  6. I agree that the UN resolution did not go far enough but United Nations has a great burden on its shoulders as the party in large part responsible for the plight of Pal’s.. It gave more than half of Palestine to newly arrived colonizers in 1947. And the newly created country ethnically cleansed the original inhabitants from most of the the other 50% of the land. Now it wants to squeeze out Palestinians from the remaining 22% of the original Palestine and finish the job. Gentlemen, Israel was a settler colonial state right from the beginning. I remember prime minister Begin in a moment of candor saying: ” what settlers? we are all settlers.”
    P.S. I should correct myself. When I said finish the job, I meant finish with Palestinians. Authentic Zionists speak of ancient Israel extending to Euphrates. It could be that we are are witnessing only phase one of the colonial project!!

    • As I recall, Israel occupied the territories after being attacked by and defeating her Arab neighbors. I doubt we are looking at the beginning of a colonial project. To me it looks more like an incredibly botched occupation, although I wonder if something like reeducation and a Marshall Plan for Palestine would have had much chance of working.

        • This is the age of New Historicism but this little Wiki account sums up my memory of events. No doubt there are Palestinian accounts that assume Egypt had no aggressive intentions when it mobilized on Israel’s border.

          Relations between Israel and its neighbours had never fully normalised following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. In the period leading up to June 1967, tensions became dangerously heightened. In reaction to the mobilisation of Egyptian forces along the Israeli border in the Sinai Peninsula, Israel launched a series of preemptive airstrikes against Egyptian airfields. The Egyptians were caught by surprise, and nearly the entire Egyptian air force was destroyed with few Israeli losses, giving the Israelis air superiority. Simultaneously, the Israelis launched a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip and the Sinai, which again caught the Egyptians by surprise. After some initial resistance, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered the evacuation of the Sinai. Israeli forces rushed westward in pursuit of the Egyptians, inflicted heavy losses, and conquered the Sinai.

          Nasser induced Syria and Jordan to begin attacks on Israel by using the initially confused situation to claim that Egypt had defeated the Israeli air strike. Israeli counterattacks resulted in the seizure of East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank from the Jordanians, while Israel’s retaliation against Syria resulted in its occupation of the Golan Heights.

        • If the discussion is 1967, Israel fired the first shot, as is clear from Rabin’s memoirs (he thought it a bad idea)

  7. Why are we debating if this resolution was the right thing to do? Obviously it has not gone as far as we wanted to, a resolution condemning the military occupation and insisting Israel end it would have been ideal, but this is a small step, and for Obama to risk everything and make this final (even symbolic) gesture, has been accepted well in the world, will remove the restraints the US has used to stifle other nations who genuinely may want to help the Palestinians but are afraid, and will encourage others to stand up against illegal settlements and will treat the culprit as a pariah.

  8. Proud of my little country for putting up that resolution. Israel has already pulled out its ambassador to New Zealand but no-one is sad to see him go. The taste of stolen passports lasts a long time.
    Pity it wasn’t voted on a few weeks ago when John Key, who has Jewish ancestry, was the Prime Minister. It is not antisemitism to stand up for a Palestinian state.

  9. World is changing. UN resolution leadership is coming from small countries like New Zealand & Senegal. US have gone to war with Iraq to implement UN’s resolutions & other trumped up charges of WMD against Iraq. At least US should show Israel that it still has its backbone.

    BB reminded Senegal that Israel gives it AID, but totally forgetting that Israel survives on US AID; money & military both.

    British, is no more an empire. Its old marriage with Scotland may end soon in a divorce after 307 years. To end the Middle East refugee crises in Europe, UN should draw like a Durand Line or pass like a Balfour Declaration against the wishes of England & settle the refugees there. England & UN had created Palestinian Refugees in 1948. How long more they have to remain as refugees?

    • “BB reminded Senegal that Israel gives it AID, but totally forgetting that Israel survives on US AID; money & military both.”

      Ironic isn’t it, at the first sign of their aid stopping they send hundreds of lobbyists to beg and butter up congress to not do so. Look how arrogant the welfare state is today.

  10. Apparently there was applause in the chamber when the result was announced, which is as close as one can get to a formal global response. Those who oppose Israeli actions in Palestine have been able to look through the mist and see how many they are. The Resolution might have been more critical but Israeli self-justification is deep rooted it may be better to let this Resolution work its effect on the BDS movement, and more extensive recognition of Palestinian statehood, particularly from those nations that have already passed non-legislative motions and may now move forward. Eventually, as with South Africa, it has to be a global ground root movement with its own momentum that brings Israel to heel. Hitherto the US position has been like a dam holding that in check but this is a fracture which means the whole thing will come tumbling down one day since it is irreparable. Trump could be a problem in many ways but principally because Israel’s nuclear reactors are said to be well passed their shelf life* and the world needs stand firm and not let anyone renew them.

    * link to

  11. Some of this is a bit intuitive, but statesmen and historians indulge it routinely when they look forward in their work, and I can not resist.

    The Obama abstention was simple, brilliant and irreversible. It will have a massive impact over time.

    Theoretically the International Court of Justice could have been used to generate a broad and coherent basis for economic sanctions, but it is not designed to create a comprehensive equivalent of the UNSC Resolution. The latter became law instantaneously and may be enforced as it is, tailor-made for the situation. The UNSC is a miniature legislature, not a court.

    The prime candidate for leadership in this very welcome new era is the European Union, and the technique used will be carefully designed economic sanctions on the entirety of the Israeli economy until its leadership,whomever they may be, comply with the Resolution.

    Our history since 1948 has made it clear that the United States simply can not bring itself to deal with the massive, indirect political influence of Israel. Accordingly, what has been done with a single ambassadorial act, the abstention, is to shift the center of gravity on Israel policy to Europe.

    The statesmanship displayed by the French in particular has been pivotal. The EU has made its decision and has been practicing the habit of unity in accord with its interests very carefully. In fact Europe has a more natural interest in the issue by far than does the U.S. and it is more vulnerable to the inevitable terroristic results of Israeli stubbornness than are we.

    For what my individual opinion is worth, I believe this to be the defining moment, the ‘hinge of fate’ so to speak even though it may take a couple of years to unfold.

  12. Actually, this was a significant move by the Obama administration. Netanyahu is livid because the vote makes it possible that future Israeli politicians could be tried for war crimes.

    Israel has pursued two strategies that can eventually hurt it.

    First, by building a wall that is not actually designed to protect Israel from Palestinians, but to steal their land. Second, the expansion of settlements in order to create facts on the ground.

    These two strategies occurring in tandem are not only extremely brutal but are creating a massive demographic problem for Israelis. (Myanmar has also followed Israel’s example in the treatment the stateless Rohingya Muslims during the last 40 years. Rohingya are denied even limited humanitarian aid and they are unable to be migrate back to Bangladesh and since 2014, have become the targets of lethal violence encouraged by some senior Burmese Buddhist monks).

    Israel’s annexation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Palestinian land has also created serious domestic problems. For example, although Israel welcomes Jews from around the world such as the Cochin Jews of India after the partition of South Asia and Ethiopia’s Falasha Jews in 1984 and 1991, racism is quite prevalent.

    European Jews are viewed as superior to Mediterranean Jews (kin complexion matters). And only a minority of Israeli Jews are religious, another domestic fault line since the illegal settlements are occupied by the most conservative religious Jews with much larger families than those living elsewhere. Israel’s economy cannot continue to support the expansion of these settlements and maintain a viable economy.

    I think that it is entirely conceivable that the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt could unravel given how fragile Egypt’s political situation is at the moment, especially as tourism from Russia has largely evaporated and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Egypt is increasing.

    So far, Israel has avoided serious blowback from the proxy wars that are not only destabilizing the Middle East, but affected North African countries such as Tunisia and Morocco.

    If the campaign to boycott Israel continues to gain momentum, Israel’s economy will continue to contract and U.S. military aid will do nothing to stabilize the economy.

    Prof. Cole makes a valid point about how Israel, under American patronage at the UN Security Council (through veto power) has largely been protected from the harsh treatment that was meted out to Iraq and Iran. I think the dilemma for U.S. foreign policy is that our dichotomous standards (support the Gulf states with horrific human rights and active support of jihadist groups) while punishing Iran who have not violated any international laws regarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy is unsustainable.

    Iran, given its geography and population size, is already a regional power just as China is in East Asia.

    There is every indication that Russia with its resurgence as a world power in virtual of its alliance with Syria, Iran and now China, will be able to influence any and all overtures to a comprehensive peace and reconstruction plan for Syria and Yemen and possibly even for the Turkish Kurdistan.

    It’s clear that the U.S. cannot resolve the extreme violence that has been unleashed in the states surrounding Israel without Russia. There are too many contradictory factors in play at this point and I’m unsure we have witnessed the apogee of failed states yet.

    Israel has become more isolated with Friday’s UNSC vote and that is why Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is worried.

    Plus, the war crimes that have been especially pronounced under successive Likud leaders, is undermining domestic stability and leading Israel down a path where American support is no longer sufficient to guarantee its long-term viability.

    • “Plus the war crimes that have been especially pronounced under successive Likud leaders, is undermining domestic stability……….”

      Thank you for your important observation.

      The Likud (“Consolidation”) Party must be studied in order to understand the Middle East situation.

      Likud took power in 1977 in “the Upheaval” in which Israel elected a conservative government for the first time in its existence. Its party membership has differed from other right-wing parties in Israel’s history to the extent that the membership and leaders have consisted chiefly of Israel’s top veterans of both its military and intelligence hierarchy. The party has dominated Israeli politics since that time.

      PM Netanyahu has been elected as chairman of the Likud Party for seven successive terms, the last election being in January of 2016.

      The Israeli government’s most serious enemy are its own citizens who demand equal rights under the law for all such citizens and who oppose continued military occupation of the West Bank. These citizens have been active in such organizations as the Meretz Party (Israel’s equivalent of the Green Party) and human rights groups such as Yesh Din, Machsom Watch, and B’Tselem.

      Former MK Uri Avinery has described the eventual creation of a “Second Israeli Republic” which would embody true democracy, which would be via the efforts of the Israel Mahar (“Tomorrow”) movement led by J-14 organizer Daphni Leef. Leef, in an interview has described the interference she has received by the Israeli government since commencing her movement – having her home telephone wiretapped, assigning 300 undercover agents to infiltrate the J-14 social reform movement, police breaking her hand during an arrest, and having spurious riot incitement charges filed against her (which were dismissed).

      PM Netanyahu’s most serious threat to the Likud Party’s dominance has been the Israeli Left – who merely seek equal rights and and an equitable final status agreement for the West Bank.


      link to jewishvirtuallibrary.org

  13. Israel was created by European Jews who colonized a land that had been overwhelmingly non-Jewish for two thousand years through a decade-plus campaign of savage terrorism – blowing up bombs in crowded buses, markets and cafes – and two ethnic cleansing campaigns in which the Israelis forced one million defenseless, native Palestinians from their homes at gunpoint and into refugee camps, massacring entire villages, executing anyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t flee, raping women and then systematically destroying over 400 Palestinian towns and villages.

    It always amazes me the lengths otherwise rational people will go to to make those actions look like something other than racism, terrorism, colonialism, mass murder and ethnic cleansing.

  14. I keep wondering how long Israelis will tolerate the deteriorating situation before they throw Netanyahu overboard as a sacrifice.
    With any luck Trump will be too busy protecting his own rear to do much about the UN. Good possibility the country is going to flip out under Trumpism. See how smart Trump really is. Let Netanyahu tie himself to a sinking ship.
    It’s a shame that a good and humanitarian idea like sanctuary for a persecuted people was perverted and corrupted to the point where it can only be sustained by violence and authority. A missed opportunity of Biblical proportions.

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