By Ramona Wadi
News that Tzipi Livni could be nominated for the post of UN under-secretary-general was overshadowed swiftly by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Donald Trump. It is safe to say that even the most elementary norms have long been shunned by the international institution, despite the unabashed pontificating at its manipulated charters.
Haaretz has published an intricate narration of how Livni was offered this senior position — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke to her by phone — as well as how the former Israeli foreign minister was acquainted with the ex-Portuguese prime minister throughout her stint in the Israeli government between 2006 and 2009.
A related story that sought to divert attention away from Livni’s possible appointment was Guterres’ nomination of Palestinian Salam Fayyad as UN Special Representative to Libya, a move that was opposed by Israel and the US. “The UN has been unfairly biased in favour of the Palestinian authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” bleated US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. Livni’s appointment has been portrayed as a measure that counters such alleged anti-Israel bias.
However, the manufactured crisis over Fayyad’s appointment is, most likely, similar to the usual, convenient and short-lived temper tantrums typical of the Israeli government and its diplomats (and, increasingly, pro-Israel stooges in Western governments). As for the UN and Guterres, the dismal expectation is one that not only consolidates the deterioration wrought in previous years, but also eliminates all pretences when it comes to upholding the normalisation of colonialism in general, and Israeli colonialism in particular, and its ensuing violence in all forms.
On the surface it appears that Guterres is seeking to oppose Trump’s recent admission which dismissed absolute adherence to the two-state compromise. Speaking during a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, the UN chief insisted that there is “no alternative to the two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.”
However, there is great danger in limiting the “no alternative” narrative which the international community, particularly through the UN, is so fond of evoking. There are various alternatives; one obvious option would be to support the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle with more than empty rhetoric. By emphasising the two-state imposition, the UN has chosen its own version of an alternative, which can be analysed through historical decisions taken by the organisation as well as Livni’s possible role.
The UN has consistently displayed and affirmed capitulation to the colonial demands of the Zionists; the 1947 Partition Plan provides the best example, albeit now remembered hypocritically as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. While individual countries have, throughout the decades, expressed criticism of Israel, particularly following the admission of former colonies into the international umbrella body, the UN itself remains completely complicit with regard to the colonisation of Palestine. It has adamantly refused to refer to Israel as a colonial entity, thus implementing double standards and, as a result, invalidating Palestinian narratives at an international level.
Livni was a decision-making participant behind the scenes of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which took place in December 2008 and January 2009. The Israeli military offensive against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, which included the use of white phosphorus, was lauded by the then foreign minister. According to Human Rights Watch, she declared that, “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded.”
Since then, Israel has made headlines with its periodic massacres of Palestinian civilians in the besieged territory, the latest being Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Israeli leaders have been persistent in their talk of imminent aggression against the enclave with not even a word of censure from the UN. With Livni in such a senior position in the organisation, Israel will be better placed to dictate the “Greater Israel” ideology without running the risk of even perfunctory criticism.
Contrary to what Israel has repeatedly claimed, there is no inherent bias against it at the UN. Nevertheless, regurgitating the same deceitful phrases, it was able to ensure its gradual inclusion as a full member in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) in 2013. In 2014, Israel was elected — and the irony was surely lost on those who voted — as vice-chair of the UN Special Political and Decolonisation Committee and thus allowed further leverage to influence the organisation in favour of colonial tactics such as forced displacement, ethnic cleansing and murder, all of which are cherished by Israeli leaders and supporters. Livni’s appointment is another step in the same direction, the most blatant one to date given the associated consequences for Palestine.
Most of all, proposing Livni as under-secretary-general completely exposes the UN’s treachery. No longer will the institution be obliged to conceal, or make excuses for, the acquiescence exhibited towards Israel’s violations of and contempt for international law. It has long been recognised that the UN’s existence is a façade masquerading under the protection of human rights to perpetrate perpetual violence. This cycle has become normalised and expected through the exaggerated importance given to its veneer rather than its covert and overt actions.
In turn, this has led to the manipulation of language and terminology, enabling basic concepts such as history and memory to be marginalised in favour of opportunistic exploits. Palestine bears the greatest lacerations of such reasoning. If Israel can be singled out as the colonial entity in Palestine, the UN should also be exposed as a willing accomplice that has divested Palestinians of rights by refuting their narratives. The greatest problem is the absence of an alternative to the UN, which can be constructed within a proper internationalist context and is ready to support Palestinian liberation. Such a possibility is non-existent, yet resorting persistently to the UN to solve Palestine’s problems only plays into Israel’s ambitions.
Now that the UN has alleviated itself of its previous burden, it might as well indulge in some introspection and absorb the monstrosity it has spawned through its actions. If Livni indeed becomes a senior official at the organisation, it should be read as a manifestation of the UN’s essence and ambitions. The similarities between Israel and the UN are striking, particularly their penchant for disregarding international law and ensuring that there is a constant supply of victims to displace, exploit and murder, all in the name of safeguarding human rights and security. This sober reality should provide more than enough incentive for a unified mobilisation among Palestinians who are not scared of their own history, unlike their so-called leadership which has facilitated Palestine’s disappearance at an international level.
– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor, where this article was first published. She is also a columnist in various newspaper, and an artist.