Is International Palestine Solidarity Just a Symbolic Gesture?
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As the world prepares to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Palestinians themselves continue to live under one of the most brutal occupations in history.

A man waves the Palestinian national flag as he shouts, "Free Palestine", during a march demanding an end to the escalating Israeli-Palestinian hostilities in that region, in midtown Manhattan, New York July 9, 2014.

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The state of Israel continues to humiliate the Palestinian people, deny them basic human and civil rights while at the same time receiving legitimacy from most world powers who hold the last say over international resolutions that at times condemn Israel and its abuses.

In Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nation’s General Assembly adopted the resolution on the partition of Palestine paving the way for the establishment and international recognition of the Israeli settler state.

In what seems to be a symbolic attempt at redemption, on the same day in 1977, the U.N. passed a resolution recognizing Nov. 29 as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and urged member states to observe the day.

Since then, Palestinians have been receiving symbolic gestures of support from the U.N. and some of its members, the latest being the recognition of Palestine as a non-member state and the raising of the Palestinian flag at the the U.N.’s headquarters in New York and Vienna.

Meanwhile, the U.N. has passed numerous resolutions against Israel as well as many reports, carefully-worded in most cases, documenting Israeli abuses against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

However, some argue that none of these resolutions or reports were translated into real action by the international organization and remain as symbolic as the U.N.’s day of solidarity with the Palestinians.

“The U.N. has passed resolutions, issued statements and made gestures, like this year's day of solidarity, against Israel's crimes. It has yet to apply a single actual sanction, making these symbolic protests a hollow charade,” Joe Carton, journalist and analyst who lived and worked in the Gaza strip for over three years, told teleSUR English last year.

Asserting the point that the UN’s symbolic action rarely have any serious impact, Catron recalled that in 2014, “the UN declared not only a day, but an entire year, in solidarity with the Palestinian people. However, he said, “Israel massacred thousands of them with complete impunity.”

In fact, the U.N. has also been accused of applying different standards when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in comparison to other conflicts around the world, and at times even bowing to pressure from Israel and its friends.

A few years ago, a leading U.N. expert came under fire after retracting the results of a fact-finding report on the Israeli abuses in the 2009 Gaza war. The U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza Conflict, also known as the Goldstone Report, released September 2009, accused the Israeli military of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, the head of the investigation, South African jurist Richard Joseph Goldstone, retracted in April 2011 the report’s claim that Israeli government policies deliberately targeted citizens in what would constitute a crime against humanity.

Israel and its Western allies came out against the report, condemning its findings and its criticism of Israel. Goldstone was criticized by the three other U.N. experts who coauthored the report, who then assured the validity of the report and its claims.

“The U.N. and a number of its member states use symbolic gestures, like the day of solidarity, to distract attention from their failure to apply actual sanctions in response to Israel's crimes,” Catron said.

While the U.N.’s Security Council is mostly blamed for the lack of action against Israel due to the veto power of the U.S. and other allies of Israel, Catron said the “U.N.'s General Assembly, its specialized agencies and member states “have sanctioned many countries in the past, at times bypassing the Security Council to do so.”

On Nov. 23, 2015, the U.N. General Assembly commemorated in advance the day with several ambassadors of member states giving speeches, mostly in support of the Palestinians, including the Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour and his Israeli counterpart Danny Danon. 

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However, the assembly, as it does every year, issued non-binding recommendations and passed resolutions condemning the settlements expansion and the Israeli occupation.

“The U.N. General Assembly has once again resorted to symbolic support, issuing recommendations that are non-binding,” Ramona Wadi, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger, wrote in an article for the Middle East Monitor on Nov. 24, 2015. “ [A]nd despite professing alleged support for Palestinians, sending a strong suggestion that an annual commemoration is all that the Palestinians deserve from the international community.”

Wadi argued that the reality in Palestine and the continuing bloody Israeli occupation will not change if the solutions are “based upon the acceptance of colonial exploitation and terror” adding that “no amount of symbolic solidarity is likely to make one iota of difference to the reality of Israel’s brutal military occupation.”

Meanwhile, away from the U.N.’s shortcomings in solidarity with Palestine, states and organizations at times seem to be patronizing and imposing on Palestinians, while others seem to be using the Palestinian cause to advance their own political or social agendas. In the Middle East, countries and organizations use the Palestinian cause to gain the support of their populations and score their votes.

For instance, in Turkey for more than a decade President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been using the Palestinian cause, which Turkey’s population has great sympathy for, to score political gains while in fact doing very little for the Palestinians. 

“Palestine is not common property. It's not your career boost, hot topic to dialogue on or cause to manipulate for your agenda,” Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian-American performance poet and human rights activist said on Twitter. “It’s simple. Non-Palestinian Muslims don’t set the agenda on Palestine. Palestinians do. End of story.”

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Furthermore, solidarity with the Palestinians must come from an understanding of the realities and the complexity on the ground and the history of the conflict starting with 1948 and the foundation of Israel itself.

Families, men and women in the West Bank and Gaza, as all peoples around the world, seek a better life, work and a roof over their heads through whatever means possible even if that means the coexistence with Israel.

Keeping that in mind, those same Palestinians will not stop demanding their rights that include a sovereign state, respecting their religious and historic monuments and an end to the brutal occupation and the illegal settlement expansion that is biting into their already small chunk of land they are allowed to have.

While solidarity efforts must be hailed and encouraged, Palestinians and others abroad who watch the situation from afar should be careful not to impose their understanding of the decades-long conflict from the comfort of their homes in stable Arab and Muslim countries and Western countries.


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