By Ramona Wadi
Under US President Donald Trump, international organizations have become targets for repression and vehicles by which Israeli oppression is maintained. Following the financial restrictions it imposed upon the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) last year, Washington has now set its sights on cuts in funding to another three organizations. The move follows the statement by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov that Palestine has submitted applications to join the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Reports by various media, including Press TV and the Times of Israel, quote an unnamed US official saying that “It has been the consistent position of the United States that efforts by the Palestinians to join international organizations are premature and counterproductive.” Since Trump’s election, the US-Israeli alliance has shed its veneer of restraint in terms of how much visible support should be flaunted internationally.
Financial dependence aside, it is clear that the US aims to leave Palestine with mere spectator status across the international community. It goes without saying that access to international organizations does not translate automatically into prominence for the Palestinians.
America’s move, therefore, is not only a punitive measure targeting and thus threatening the international organizations but also a means of increasing ways to deter Palestinians from pursuing their options in the international community. Nevertheless, whether or not Palestinians will utilize the international platform is still a contentious issue. Speaking about Palestinian accession to international organizations is still presented mainly from an angle that legitimizes Israel’s purported anger, as in the case of the International Criminal Court (ICC). To eclipse Palestinian rights by Israel’s anger is a recipe for oblivion.
The same tactic was used when UNRWA faced an existential threat due to the US decision to slash funding. While UNRWA attempted to illustrate how such a decision would exacerbate the existing limitations on its work in support of Palestinian refugees, it was done from an organizational perspective, shifting the Palestinians in the process to a secondary and less visible position.
If international organizations worked independently of a political agenda, Palestine might have a chance to further its cause and development. UNCTAD has a special unit – the Assistance to the Palestinian People Unit (APPU) — which has the mandate to monitor the socio-economic impact of Israel’s military occupation. However, like other organizations, the Palestine issue is restricted to reports that state the obvious. UNCTAD’s April 2018 report, for example, said that Palestinians have been denied the human right to development; its conclusions and recommendations, like those of other organizations, are based upon legislation that Israel routinely and blatantly ignores.
The past seven decades have provided enough proof of the futility of the international community’s safeguarding of Palestinian rights; it is now ridiculed as the subject of mere rhetoric. It is more likely, therefore, that Trump, in coordination with Israel, is sending a message to Palestinians that their presence on international platforms will be hindered and obscured at all costs. One way to do this is to shift attention from Palestinians onto the organizations that might be affected.
This exposes the static structure of such international organizations which, due to their dependence upon financial aid from oppressive powers, prioritize their existence rather than use their position to safeguard Palestinian rights. If one thing is to be taken from the manipulation of financial aid and international institutions for political purposes, it is how the debate generated will also contribute towards marginalizing and silencing Palestinians.
– Ramona Wadi is a staff writer for Middle East Monitor, where this article was originally published. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.