The UN and Israel Are Manufacturing Humanitarian Narratives

United Nations General Assembly. (Photo: Patrick Gruban, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Ramona Wadi

Despite the dissonance between Israel and humanitarian aid, there is no lack of propaganda seeking to portray the settler-colonial state as a shining beacon for others to emulate. A forthcoming photo exhibition is now set to be hosted at the UN to showcase, in the words of Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon, “how far Israel will go to help others in need, regardless of who they are or where they live.” He could and, if he was honest, should have added, “as long as the people concerned are not Palestinians.”

Danon’s statement is telling. Israel will indeed do anything in order to create a false image of benevolence as it seeks to avoid scrutiny of its human rights violations against the Palestinians. Erasing its violence from public view is crucial to maintaining a humanitarian façade; an efficient way to do this is to spring into action wherever and whenever humanitarian emergencies can be milked for political points within the international arena.

In describing the exhibition, Danon declared it to be “another opportunity to show the UN the true and beautiful face of the State of Israel, and its moral values.” His romanticized hyperbole will not alter the fact that Israel was founded upon the terrorism of Zionist militias and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population. No amount of posturing as a humanitarian example to emulate can compensate for the ongoing Palestinian Nakba.

Ironically, given Danon’s gushing and self-congratulatory claims, Israel is most skilled at creating the conditions which render a colonized population dependent upon humanitarian aid. The world has seen recently how Israel lobbied successfully for Washington to withhold financial support to the UN Agency which provides humanitarian aid and essential services to the people of occupied Palestine.

Similarly, Israel has proven itself to be extremely competent when it comes to enforcing an illegal blockade which, compounded with intermittent military offensives and bombardments in Gaza, prompted the UN to assert that the enclave will become unliveable by next year.

The exhibition can thus be interpreted as the collaboration of two actors thriving upon humanitarian deprivation. Both the UN and Israel are dependent upon violations of one kind and another; an absence of victims will guarantee their collapse. In terms of obscuring the Palestinian narrative to promote aggressive Israeli diplomacy disguised as humanitarianism, there could be no better partner than the UN and its decades of jeopardizing Palestinian lives to accommodate the colonial agenda.

Bringing Israel to the UN is another reason behind the exhibition. The intent, as Danon explained, is to have UN representatives “change their disposition towards Israel” in the General Assembly. No matter what the latest humanitarian endeavor by the Zionist state was a strengthening of diplomatic ties between Israel and Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who also favors eliminating indigenous people in their own territories. The exhibition, therefore, has a duplicitous agenda rather than being an opportunity to showcase “humanitarian values”, with the UN playing the part of a willing stooge.

Behind Israel’s shameless façade, we see the ongoing colonization of what remains of Palestinian land, which Israel is intent on completing regardless of whether it finds international support for its violations of international law or not.

Whatever the UN may say or do, Israel will continue to act with impunity and contempt for the rest of us. Moreover, if it manages to normalize colonization by acting within humanitarian parameters in other locations, opposition to Palestine’s complete disappearance as a reality and a cause will dwindle even more within the international community.

– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor, where this article was originally published. She contributed this article to the Palestine Chronicle.

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