This month marks the 73rd anniversary of the creation of Israel following the adoption of United Nations resolution 181 (1947). This political decision was made at UN Headquarters in New York, shunning and circumventing the human right of self-determination by the indigenous inhabitants of the historic land of Palestine. Rather, it was at the behest of the United States, Great Britain and their allies, that Great Britain’s former colony be divided into Jewish and Arab states. Israel was given 55 percent of the land, and more than 750,000 Christian and Muslim Palestinians were forcibly evicted in the resultant war in which Israel took control of 78 percent of the land and destroyed 500 towns and villages. Today, the number of Palestinian refugees and their descendants is more than 7 million, many of whom languish in refugee camps and are awaiting their “Right to Return” as enshrined in UN resolution 194 (1948), which states:
“refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
While Israel does not honor United Nations resolution 194 (1948), it also does not comply with well over 1000 UN resolutions including Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) calling for its withdrawal from illegally annexed East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the illegally annexed Syrian Golan. Nor does it comply with scores of Security Council resolutions including 2334 (2016), demanding the dismantlement of its settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem,” which constitute a “flagrant violation” of international humanitarian law and have “no legal validity.” These resolutions implore Israel to stop settlement activities, dismantle the settlements, and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention (1950), which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its population into the land it is occupying. Further, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) affirms that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his or her own, and return to it.”
Currently, more than 675,000 Jews are living in illegal settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem. Israel’s expansionist settler colonial project is done strategically to divide and conquer East Jerusalem and the West Bank, while annexing more and more land and isolating Palestinian communities into cantons and Bantustans, much like apartheid-era South Africa. Last month, Human Rights Watch issued a 213-page report detailing Israel’s crimes against humanity, including apartheid and persecution. In 2016, the Movement for Black Lives accused Israel of committing genocide against the people of Palestine, and called on the United States to end military aid to Israel and support the call made by Palestinian civil society in 2005 for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). “Fighting Israeli apartheid,” the statement said, “is inseparable from fighting racism in America.”
Dozens of Jewish organizations, including B’Tselem, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Jews for a Just Peace, Gush Shalom, the New Israel Fund, the Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, the orthodox Neturei Karta, and others, support various forms of BDS, the plainest form of which is the boycott of products made in illegal settlements. These Jewish groups distinguish between the religion of Judaism and the ideology of Zionism, while insisting that boycotting settlements is neither anti-Israel nor anti-Jewish.
This month, we witnessed the expulsion of hundreds of Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and Humsa in the West Bank. And, we watched in horror as 70,000 worshippers were violently attacked on the holiest night of Ramadan by Israeli military forces at Al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third holiest site. We have watched viral videos of riots, mob violence, and an attempted lynching against Palestinians living in Israel and East Jerusalem, who have been attacked in their homes, places of work, and in the street by right-wing Zionist extremists.
And, in a disproportionate response to retaliatory rockets launched by Hamas that killed 12 people in Israel this week, we have seen Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza that have killed 243 thus far, including 66 children. According to the United Nations, these bombardments have erased numerous residential neighborhoods and left more than 58,000 homeless. Three hospitals and a Doctors Without Borders clinic have been targeted, along with a number of prominent doctors in their homes – in the midst of the COVID pandemic while the vast majority of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have not been given access to vaccines – as well as the destruction of Gaza’s media center, much essential infrastructure, factories and businesses. Following a cease-fire brokered by the United States between Israel and Hamas on Thursday, May 20th, Israeli forces promptly violated it with attacks at Al-Aqsa Mosque the very next day, wounding dozens of peaceful worshippers during Friday prayers.
We understand this moment within the context of Israel’s litany of wars on Gaza (2008-9, 2012, 2014) and its 14-year illegal blockade on the territory, which has crippled its isolated population with severe shortages of life-saving medicines and medical equipment, food, clean water, electricity, or even cement to rebuild what was bombed years ago. This Thursday, May 20, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel to allow rapid and unhindered aid access and told the General Assembly he would launch a full humanitarian appeal for funding the people of Gaza as soon as possible. “If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza today,” he said.
Today, all eyes are on Israel as it continues its decades-long ethnic cleansing and cultural erasure of Palestinians. World leaders at the United Nations stand by complacently while many of their governments are complicit in military, political, and economic relationships with Israel. In the case of the United States, which gives Israel $3.8 billion in military aid each year with no conditions, and this week sold Israel another $735 million in “precision-guided” weapons – it enables Israel to continue its crimes of humanity against the Palestinian people, including children who are beaten, put in administrative detention, incarcerated, put in solitary confinement, and denied due legal process. Nonetheless, in the past week – in cities across the United States, and in countries around the world – people are demonstrating in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Millions are chanting peacefully, “Free Free Palestine” and “Palestinian Lives Matter.” In the US Congress, in both the Senate and House of Representatives, efforts are underway to block the $735 million in arms sales. We call upon the UN to hear and respond to this global call and struggle against racist regimes. We implore the UN Security Council to take accountability and respond immediately and appropriately.
While scores of United Nations resolutions have condemned Israel, not one has taken measures to stop its apartheid and human rights violations against the Palestinians. Furthermore, the United States, Germany, Great Britain and other countries supplying military aid to Israel are complicit in its crimes against humanity and war crimes, and must be held accountable. Until now, resolutions have been adopted under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, which are non-binding. FOR-USA believes that the time has come to hold Israel accountable by invoking Chapter VII of the UN Charter. In 1977, the world galvanized to confront apartheid in South Africa with the introduction of sanctions through UN Security Council Resolution 418. Said Nelson Mandela, after assuming the presidency of South Africa, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Israeli apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people need to be stopped once and for all through nonviolent – and proven – means.
Today, while Russia and Turkey discuss creating a no-fly zone over Palestine/Israel, and after the United Nations-sanctioned countries of Syria and Iran backed Hezbollah in attacking Israel from Lebanon, it is clear the situation in the Middle East and beyond may be ignited to apocalyptic proportions. It is high time that the question of Palestine – which has been on the annals of the UN since the adoption of resolution 181 in 1947 – needs to be resolved, in part, by implementing that resolution once and for all.
FOR-USA calls upon the UN Security-Council to implement international laws and covenants multilaterally, convene an urgent session to demand a ceasefire, implement sanctions on the pariah state, and stop its impunity. As the late great civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The time has come for the United Nations to restore and exercise its moral authority, prevent further escalation of violence, institute the rule of law, and implement one yardstick of international justice.