Ban Ki-moon affirms permanent dispossession and displacement ~ Ramona Wadi, MEMO, Thursday, 28 January 2016.
Speaking during the UN Security Council’s session on the Middle East last Tuesday, the organisation’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, managed to create both anger and agreement among his audience. For supporters of the Palestinians, the speech was surprising, given the slightly different rhetoric employed. Israel, which has condemned the UN routinely for the slightest criticism of the state’s illegal actions, has since surpassed itself through a media uproar, with newspapers devoting considerable space to lambasting Ban’s speech and his alleged support for “terror”.
At first glance, and after years of repetitive utterances, Ban’s address seems to be a departure from the usual futile UN rhetoric. Uncharacteristically, he criticised Israel’s security measures and declared, “Yet, as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”
Furthermore, the UN chief appeared to confront Israel regarding its additional settlement expansion and appropriation of yet more Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. “These provocative acts,” Ban pointed out, “are bound to increase the growth of settler populations, further heighten tensions, and undermine any prospects for a political road ahead.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu countered Ban’s remarks, accusing him of “bolstering terrorism” and the UN of having “long ago lost its neutrality and its moral powers.” Netanyahu’s comments, however, were just the prologue as Israeli media unleashed a bucketful of hateful resentment.
“Out of 1,273 words in the speech, a full 1,107 – or 87% — were devoted to the land dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbours,” thundered Israel National News. This angry outburst was also deceitful and sly, reducing Israel’s brutal military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territory to a “land dispute” with “Arab neighbours”. The outlet also published the full text of the speech and urged readers to “count the words for yourself and bear witness to the UN’s complicity in the ongoing horrors that it chooses to ignore.” The irony of this hypocrisy was obviously lost on the journalist.
Moreover, such bluster ignores the inconvenient — for Israel — fact that UN complicity provides the state with the necessary international platform through which to defend its abhorrent existence. The complicity exhibited since the 1947 UN Partition Plan has been followed diligently, and Ban’s speech was no exception, despite its unexpected departure from the usual “neutral” drivel; he omitted to mention the colonial monster, opting to stick with the more acceptable reference to “the occupation”, thus playing into the convenient “occupation started in 1967” narrative and obliterating the Palestinian experience of ethnic cleansing from 1948.
However, putting the furore in Israel to one side, Ban’s speech leaves much to be desired. Apart from availing himself of the opportunity to use a series of different synonyms, he gave us more of the same, commencing with the usual laments, albeit with some stronger emphasis, and returned to the predictable epilogue that urged the existence of “two-states living side by side in peace and security,” in order for Israel to “retain both its Jewish majority and democratic status.”
As he nears the end of his tenure as UN Secretary General, Ban’s late attempt to feign indignation on behalf of the Palestinians is hypocritical and, frankly, repugnant. Ultimately, his chosen role is to serve dutifully at the helm of a corrupt institution that claims to have abolished colonialism while supporting Israel’s establishment and colonial expansion in Palestine. This late shift in favour of Palestine is, ultimately, nothing but a facade built by the use of expedient and carefully constructed vocabulary. Apart from the intentional deception, the UN is still expecting Palestinians to opt for the diplomatic hypothesis of the two-state compromise, and thus having to endure permanent dispossession and displacement.