By Juan Cole / Informed Comment

The United Nations Security Council on Friday passed a resolution with 14 member states in favor and 1 abstaining (the US), condemning Israeli government support for Israeli squatters who steal Palestinian land and squat on it in the Palestinian West Bank.

Since Israel is in severe violation of a large number of treaties and instruments of international law on the treatment of persons in occupied territories by the Occupier, it could have had sanctions imposed on it for this shameful behavior.

Note that Netanyahu ran on a platform of no Palestinian state. And the Israeli government has announced thousands of new settlement apartments on Palestinian land just in the past few years. Tel Aviv is clearly intent on annexing all of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and pushing the Palestinians out. The UNSC wants to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution, but that path has already been forestalled by Israeli land theft on a cosmic scale.

But the resolution, while it condemned Israeli annexation of Palestinian land and Israeli squatting on it, did not specify any particular punishment for Israel, which is the government being condemned.

In contrast, the UNSC has made the lives of Iranians, Iraqis, and North Koreans miserable through sanctions.

Israelis’ crimes against the Palestinians are not comparable to crimes committed by any other contemporary government against people it occupies, and are unique in their horror. It is true that Morocco annexed the Western Sahara after Spain relinquished the latter as a colonial project. But Morocco bestowed citizenship on the Western Saharans, at least, and has not left them stateless.

That is how the Israeli project differs from other contemporary occupations. It has kept the Palestinians stateless and without the rights that derive from having citizenship in an autonomous state. Millions of Palestinians are stateless because of Israeli policy. Stateless people do not have stable property since it can be stolen from them at any time without repercussions. Stateless people can also be mistreated with impunity, so that countries (like Israel) can conclude a treaty with them (like Oslo in the 1990s) and then completely renege.

The US did not veto the resolution, as it usually does to protect Israeli governments from any consequence for their crimes. This time Barack Obama ordered UN Ambassador Samantha Power to abstain. But he should have asked her to vote in favor of the resolution. And the resolution itself should have had some teeth.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately pledged to disregard the resolution. He had also conspired with Donald Trump to have Egypt (author of the original resolution) withdraw its draft. This was to undermine President Obama. Trump is alleged to have called up Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and pressured him to withdraw the Egyptian draft. But Senegal and Malaysia, among others, moved the resolution without Egypt (Egypt still voted for it). It handily passed.

Here is a primer for the flood of Likud Party propaganda that is about to be unleashed, for instance, allegations that those who care about millions of stateless Palestinians being under military rule by a foreign power only do so because they are racially bigoted against Jews. On the contrary, to excuse Israelis from behaving in accordance with the same regime of international law to which we hold others would be to single them out for special treatment on racial grounds, the very essence of racism.

Even though right wing Americans typically don’t like the United Nations (and the tinfoil hat crowd promotes all kinds of conspiracy theories and fake news about it), it is actually sometimes a powerful body. The UN Security Council has decreed that North Korean ships may be boarded with impunity by navies of UN member states, which under other circumstances would be a violation of the law of the seas.

The UN helped kill some 500,000 Iraqi children with severe sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s in the wake of the Gulf War. The sanctions included interdicting chlorine, which can be used in bomb-making but is also essential to water purification. It turns out that if you don’t purify your drinking water, babies and toddlers drop like flies.

The Neoconservatives in the Bush era asserted that Iraq was out of compliance with UN Security Council resolutions on destruction of its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and weapons experimentation labs. They actually said that the US should go to war on Iraq as a way of upholding these UN resolutions!

So Washington ignores or lambastes the UN except when the latter has done something that the US can turn to its own advantage.

But let me repeat that. The pretext for Bush’s illegal war on Iraq was that the UN Security Council had condemned Baghdad repeatedly.

The UN put severe sanctions on Iran on the grounds that it wasn’t being transparent about its plans to enrich uranium and close the fuel cycle. In the period after 2012 some Iranians actually could not get the medicines they needed because the sanctions on Iran so hurt the economy as to prevent a middle class family from affording that medicine.

After ruining Iraq and deeply harming Iran (which didn’t even have a nuclear weapons program, whereas Israel has 200-400 nuclear warheads), the least the UNSC could do with regard to Israel’s concerted colonization and Apartheid policies in Palestine is to give the nations and peoples of the world carte blanche to punish Israel for its blatant defiance of international law.

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