By Ben Jamal, Director Palestine Solidarity Campaign
The significance of the UN Security Council resolution passed on December 23rd rests more in Israel’s reaction to it than the substance of the resolution itself. The resolution does not set any new policy position or commit the UN to any action to which it is not already committed. It reaffirms the view held by the UN and all national governments bar Israel that Israel is illegally occupying Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and that it’s policy of settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank violates international law and is a barrier to peace. Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, described the resolution as in line with US Policy going back 5 decades.
What is new is the US decision to reverse a policy of blocking Security Council resolutions critical of Israel and it is this which has provoked a reaction from the Israeli government that can only be described as hysterical and extreme. To recap, Israel has recalled its ambassador from New Zealand, sponsor of the resolution, withdrawn economic support from Senegal, a co sponsor, called in the ambassador of every nation supporting the motion, including the UK and the US for a Christmas Day dressing down threatening to review its diplomatic relations with all of them save the US, and threatened to withdraw all of its funding to the UN and review the right of UN bodies to work within Israel. In effect it has declared diplomatic war on the world.
Netanyahu has promised that the election of Donald Trump will herald a new world order where there will be harsh consequences for any nation that dares to criticise Israel. To add to the framing of the entire world ganging up on Israel, Naftali Bennet, Education Minister, described support for the resolution as akin to support for terrorism and Michael Oren, ex Israeli ambassador to the U S and Likud member of the Knesset called the vote simply antisemitic.
Israel’s reaction makes three things clear. Firstly, it is no longer possible for Israel’s supporters and defenders to sustain the myth that Israel is committed in any sense to allowing the development of a Palestinian state. It’s reaction to the resolution is rooted in a belief that it has a supreme claim to all of the territory which could form such a state and a denial of the world’s view that it is an illegal occupier.
Secondly that there are no limits to which Israel is prepared to push the narrative that criticism of its actions is inherently antisemitic or complicit with support for terrorism. Sadly and shamefully, some of Israel’s most prominent supporters in the UK including the Board of Deputies of British Jews have followed this line describing the vote as a hostile act, and questioning the motivations of those, including the UK Government, who supported it.
Israel’s strategy, if one can be discerned ,is to rely on the support of what can only be described as extreme elements within the incoming Trump administration who share the view that Israel’s claim to supremacy over all of the territory of historic Palestine supercedes international law, world opinion and democratic principles. Netanyahu’s hope must be that Israel’s power backed up by US support will cause the world to stand back and watch as Israel establishes an effective apartheid state.
The UK Government’s welcome support for the resolution is in line with its stated position on settlements and the illegality of Israel’s occupation. Given the clear evidence that Israel cannot be persuaded to accept this view and intends to continue to thumb its nose at world opinion it is time to follow up words with action. PSC has called for the UK to fulfill its obligations under International law by ensuring that settlements are excluded from all bilateral and multilateral arrangements between the UK and Israel and by banning the importation of settlement products to the UK. In short we need to stop talking about settlements as illegal and start treating them as such.