29th November is a United Nations-organized observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This year, the observance includes a meeting being convened today by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a body of the UN General Assembly promoting the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence. There is also a virtual exhibit being organized around the Wall built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which has been ruled to be illegal by the International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion. The day is observed world over by groups that stand in solidarity with Palestinian rights.
For the last seven decades, the issue of Palestinian self-determination and people’s rights has been a recurring and urgent question on the tables of the UN and its affiliate bodies. And yet, despite Israel’s flagrant violations, most UN resolutions on Palestine have remained on paper and not translated into action. By no small measure, this is due to the pressure from global north powers, especially the US. More recently, the UN Human Rights Office’s list 112 companies involved in activities relating to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, issued in February 2020, is a move in the direction of long-awaited concrete action, demanding accountability from businesses profiting from Israel’s settlement enterprise.
This year has been challenging globally, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the situation for Palestinians living under Israel’s apartheid and occupation regime. This year, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, backed by his friends in the White House, announced the formal annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. This would only make the ongoing de facto annexation of occupied territories de jure. The illegal settlements, theft of resources and home demolitions, carried out under military occupation, everyday actualize this annexation.
Apart from completely nullifying any resolution of the issue, this move also violates the fundamental principle against forced conquest of territory under international law. A collective call from Palestinia civil society, in response to this move, called upon third states to take countermeasures in the form of ending trade and military-security ties with Israel. Members of Parliament as well as civil society groups from across the world have pushed on these demands. Notable in this is also the emphatic response from global south, where 7 ex-presidents from Latin America and 2 ex-presidents from South Africa have joined hundreds of sitting and former MPs and diplomats calling for a UN investigation into Israel’s apartheid, ending trade ties and calling for lawful, targeted sanctions. Over 450 movements, political parties and civil society groups have taken these demands to the UN General Assembly.
“The General Assembly of the UN played a central role in the successful dismantling of apartheid in South Africa… it should play an equally important role in ending Israel’s apartheid regime against Palestinians” – UN diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi. #UNInvestigateApartheid pic.twitter.com/ykcwNTnptO
— BDS movement (@BDSmovement) November 29, 2020
In the past, the UN has intervened concretely and de-escalated conflicts. The apartheid regime in South Africa came to an end after decades of grassroots movement, including boycotts against South Africa, finally translated into diplomatic action and the UN imposed santiosn on the regime. The demands, therefore, of a UN investigation into apartheid and lawful targeted sanctions are resonable and necessary. The onus is now on the UN to respond to these growing demands.