East Jerusalem Settlements: Recent UN Vote Does Nothing to Stop Israel

In response to the upgrade of Palestine to a United Nations non-member observer state, Israel confiscated NIS 460 million in Palestinian Authority funds this week (equivalent to about $121 million).

Unlike most Palestinians, I believe this so-called “upgrade” in status is meaningless because it does nothing to address the larger dilemmas that impede the creation of an actual sovereign Palestinian state. While most Palestinians celebrated this “advancement” in membership status, I mocked their jubilation at a decision they foolishly believe is the panacea for Palestine’s social, economic, and political problems.

The incompetent President of the Palestinian National Authority, an Israeli puppet of a leader (Yes, I’m referring to Mahmoud Abbas), vacuously demanded recognition from the very institution that recognizes Israel’s human rights violations, war crimes, and contravention of UN resolutions, but continues to ignore them. The United Nations recognition of Palestine is pointless because it disregards the major issues that make the reality of true and lasting peace between Palestine and Israel possible.

For this article, I chose to highlight three major issues: illegal settlements, the Gaza blockade, and Palestinian refugees; however, I recognize that there are various other issues that need to be addressed before peace can ever be achieved in that part of the world. For the purposes of this discussion, I believe the illegal settlements, refugee problem, and continued blockade of Gaza can illustrate how meaningless the wooden chair, embroidered with the word “Palestine” on nice blue fabric, will be in the actual decision-making process.

Israeli Settlements

The existence of illegal settlements in the West Bank remains a major obstacle to creating an actual Palestinian state. The number of illegal settlers in the West Bank increased by more than 15,000 just in the past year, reaching a total of over 350,000. An additional 300,000 occupying settlers live in pre-1967 East Jerusalem borders. This number is about to go up after Israel announced it will be building 3,000 more settlement homes in the West Bank and Jerusalem as a punishment for Palestine’s successful UN bid. This move has been heavily condemned by the international community.

Britain and the United States warned that these new housing settlements would destroy any prospects of creating a two-state solution. Several countries, which include France, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Australia, and Brazil protested Israel’s decision to expand illegal settlements by summoning the Israeli ambassadors to their respective capitals. The international community has always considered the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian territory to be an illegal action and a violation of Fourth Geneva Convention laws.

I've always wondered why Israel insists on becoming a signatory of international laws and protocols when it rarely ever abides by them. These settlements make the prospects of a creating a true Palestinian state, not the fake title offered by the UN, unattainable. For those of you not familiar with the illegal settlements in the West Bank, I suggest you do a quick Google search and you will find that the West Bank — an area deemed Palestine territory by the International community — is swarming with illegal settlements like ants on a piece of candy. Creating a Palestinian state with internationally recognized borders is impossible because of the presence, and continued expansion, of these illegal settlements.

Palestine’s new status provides no solutions to the existing settlement problem and I’m confident that Israel’s illegal settlement expansion will resume unabated.  

Refugees

People almost never abandon their homes for personal reasons. Instead they leave because they are left with no other choices. They become refugees because they are forcibly expelled and driven away from their homeland by persecution. It doesn't take much research to reject the Israeli account that holds that native Palestinians left present day Israel willingly. In fact, anyone with access to Israeli archives can refute this claim.

Palestinian refugees were ethnically cleansed during the 1948 war and continue to be expelled until this current day, but Israel attempts to rewrite this narrative. Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, explains this well: “we are still desperately concealing, denying, and repressing our major ethnic cleansing of 1948 - over 600,000 refugees, some who fled for fear of the Israel Defense Forces and its predecessors, some who were expelled by force - it turns out that 1948 never ended, that its spirit is still with us.”

Many recent Israeli historians, like Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, have refuted the myths of the creation of the Israeli state and recognize that Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homeland. The original 1948 plan resulted in the uprooting of more than half of Palestine's native population, and with it came the destruction of 531 Palestinian villages (See: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Illan Pappe, 2006, pg. 7). 

The creation of the Israeli state produced one of the largest unsettled refugee populations since World War II. Today, there are nearly 5 million registered Palestinian refugees (keep in mind this estimate would be much higher if it included unregistered refugees). The horrific refugee situation created by Zionist colonization will not be remedied by this new UN status. The creation of a true Palestinian state must include refugees right of return. The right to return to one's homeland is a protected universal human right that has yet to be extended to the Palestinian people.

Gaza Blockade

Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. A “prison” would provide a more accurate description of this area since Israel imposes a ground, sea, and air blockade. This blockade completely restricts the entry of much-needed consumer supplies and humanitarian aid. It completely cuts off the Palestinians living in Gaza from the rest of humanity. 

Israel has not reacted well to efforts to bring in much-needed supplies to Gaza in recent years. When the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” attempted to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza in 2010, Israel responded by boarding one of the boats and murdering 9 activists (8 Turkish nationals and 1 American). According to a recent UN report, the current status of the Gaza Strip will no longer be livable by 2020. The report provides that Gazans are worse off now than they were in the 1990's. In 2011, unemployment was at a high 29% and has gone up since.

Gaza's economy relies heavily on outside humanitarian assistance, which Israel denies in many cases. Besides this crippling blockade, every few years, when Israel gets bored, it comes up with a new “security” excuse to unleash a videogame-like massacre in Gaza. You know that scene from a sad war movie? When the enemy just completed their terror mission by annihilating an entire city with bombs and the civilians are returning to their homes only to find rubble and complete havoc? Then, the camera zooms in on the starving child reaching for the remains of a destroyed teddy bear. Well, that’s Gaza, except it isn’t a movie. It’s reality! The United Nations has not been shy about shedding light on the dire situation in Gaza but has done nothing to challenge Israel for its crimes against humanity. The new UN status for Palestine will not bring change to Gaza.

Statehood recognition from the United Nations will not change anything on the ground. This so-called status “upgrade” is inconsequential and will have a minimal contribution to the creation of a prosperous Palestine state. The creation of a true Palestinian state, at the very least, is one that both recognizes and provides solutions to the major problems in this conflict.

My pessimism of this new UN status stems from the fact that Palestine has been under brutal occupation for over 64 years. The Palestinians deserve more than just a symbolic victory and fake statehood. They deserve a state that is not occupied by illegal settlers; a state that Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to; a state where citizens enjoy the freedom of movement and are not denied the most basic standards of living; a state that is recognized by both Israel and the United States. They deserve a free state! A sovereign state! A Palestinian state!

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