By Robert Fantina:
Equal Rights for Everyone (Except Palestinians)
On June 17, 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution expressing support for equal rights for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. The United States had pushed for this resolution, and fully supported it.
Much was made of the resolution, with twenty-three nations voting for it, and nineteen opposing it (three abstained). Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said that the resolution “…marks a victory for defenders of human rights.”
While this is, indeed, a great step forward in the long battle for universal human rights, this writer is puzzled by Ms. Rice’s apparent satisfaction at taking a stand for human rights. It was just four short months ago that this same Ms. Rice, in her role as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, vetoed a resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity in occupied Palestine. Would the passage of that resolution not have marked ‘a victory for defenders of human rights’?
When issuing that veto, Ms. Rice said that while the United States agrees about “…the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians.” Might she not, on June 17, have vetoed the resolution supporting equal rights, with a statement saying that, while the United States agrees about “the folly of harassing, beating, and killing people based on their sexual orientation, we think it unwise for this council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide GLBT people and heterosexuals”?
Had she vetoed this resolution, with such a patently absurd statement as the one suggested by this writer, she would have been criticized around the world. The U.S. would have resumed the role it held under President George W. Bush as a pariah, a laughing stock, and a nation with no conscience, and no consideration for anyone but the rich, white, male elite.
Yet when that ridiculous statement was made in regard to the veto of legislation that would have gone a long way toward alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people, it was greeted with little more than an international whimper.
In the last fifty years, the U.N. has passed over seventy resolutions critical of Israel, many of them involving the unspeakable oppression of the Palestinian people. Ms. Rice is, at best, naïve, to think that the ‘core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians’ can possibly be resolved by those two parties alone.
In order for negotiations between any two parties to be successful, each must possess something owned by the other that can only be obtained by surrendering something else.
A quick look at the two parties involved here shows the absolute nonsense of any belief that they can negotiate their own agreement. Israel has the second most powerful military in the world, financed and backed by the most powerful one in the world. Palestine is a third world country. Israel occupies much of Palestine, and freely occupies more Palestinian territory, in violation of international law, whenever it feels like doing so. Palestinians wait hours at checkpoints to go to work or school, checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers. They also wait hours for emergency medical treatment. Palestine’s borders are controlled by Israel.
The brutal oppression of the Palestinian people is shown in the comparative number of deaths resulting from what often start as acts of civil disobedience by the Palestinians. In the intifada of 1987 – 1993, Israeli forces killed approximately 1,100 Palestinians, while the Palestinians killed about 164 Israelis. The second intifada, starting in 2000, saw the deaths of about 6,500 Palestinians, and 1,100 Israelis. Commentator Richard Beeker reported on what he saw first hand: “Israel’s hugely superior firepower was deployed indiscriminately against Palestinian civilian areas in the West Bank and Gaza.” (Becker, Richard. Palestine, Israel and the U.S. Empire. PSL Publications, San Francisco, 2009. Page 109.)
What, one might ask, does Israel want from the Palestinians that is must negotiate for? What do the Palestinians have that Israel cannot simply take from them, with no consequences from the international community? Israel can, and does, simply decide to build more housing, moving in with the necessary equipment, bulldozing the homes of Palestinians and erecting thousands of more homes for Israeli settlers. Any minor disturbance by the Palestinians is put down by the powerful Israeli military, so there is certainly no fear that Israel’s existence is threatened by them.
Let us return to Ms. Rice’s statement. If it is unwise for the U.N. Security Council to work to resolve the conflicts between the Palestinian and Israeli people, who might she suggest make the attempt? Would she prefer the Israeli and Palestinian representatives sit down together, so the Palestinians can surrender everything they have? The Israelis need make no concessions; if they want something from the Palestinians, they simply take it. The amount of land the Palestinians can almost call their own has been reduced drastically over the last several years, and continued Israeli settlement expansion only further reduces it.
Although ineffective in many ways, the U.N. should be the best hope for anything close to a fair settlement, and justice for the people of Palestine. The U.S. Congress, beholden to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest, richest, and most generous-to-members-of-Congress- who-dance-to-its-tune Israeli lobby, cares nothing for human rights when doing so might jeopardize donations to its individual re-elections campaigns.
So despite Ms. Rice’s bizarre comment, which certainly came at the direction of President Obama, the U.N.is the correct vehicle to work toward a resolution of the conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The United States is both famous and infamous for its long history of human rights violations, and/or countenancing the human rights violations of other nations, when doing so serves the corporate bottom line. Political donations from various wealthy lobbies, and vast amounts of oil cause the nation to relegate its pretty talk of human rights to an ignored and neglected sideline. The most tragic and long-term example of that is with the Palestinian people.
Robert Fantina is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.