US attacks on UN a distraction from White House’s pro-Israel bias
The news from Gaza on August 12 was distressing: The Ministry of Health announced that it would no longer be able to treat cancer patients in the Israel-besieged Strip. “Colon and lung cancer, as well as lymphoma patients, cannot be provided with the necessary therapy now,” said Dr. Mohammed Abu Silmiya, director of Abdulaziz Al-Rantisi Hospital for Children.
Israel is ultimately responsible for the Gaza siege, which has extended for more than 11 years. With direct US backing, Israel has launched three major wars on the Strip in the name of fighting terrorism, destroying much of the tiny region’s infrastructure. A hermetic siege has punished ordinary Gazans, who are now lacking everything, including the most basic needs of clean water and electricity. Now, even chemotherapy is no longer available.
But the war on the Palestinians has been a joint venture right from the start. The US has stood by Israel for many years and, as of late, orchestrated the demise of Gaza.
Washington does everything in its power to isolate the impoverished Strip. It warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party against reconciliation with its Hamas rivals. It fuels and sustains the Israeli war and siege on Gaza. And it backs Israel politically on every available platform to shield Tel Aviv from its war crimes in the Strip and throughout the Occupied Territories.
For many years, the US acted as if a peace broker. Although the American act failed to impress Palestinians, it perpetuated the illusion in the minds of US allies that successive administrations were forces for good, standing at an equal distance between two parties in an even-handed “conflict.”
The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House has ended the charade.
While the new administration brazenly defied international law by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it also took a series of measures to financially punish international bodies that extended recognition, political support or any sort of aid to Palestinians. In the course of a few months, the US took on the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, pulled out of the UN Human Rights Council and cut aid to the Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.
The attack on UN organizations was led by US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who has played a central role in the new, anti-Palestinian discourse. But she is not alone. In an article for CNN, Haley, along with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and US special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, articulated an American point of view that read like textbook Israeli Zionist narrative. They placed all the blame on Palestinians and spared Israel from any wrongdoing.
“Unfortunately,” they wrote, “Hamas’ malign activity is pushing Israel to engage in increasingly significant acts of self-defense. As in the case of past conflicts, Hamas starts a clash, loses the battle and its people suffer. That is the reality that needs to change.”
That was on July 23. A day later, Haley, using twisted language, chastised Arabs for failing Palestine and the Palestinians. In an eight-minute address to the UN, Haley spoke as if a pro-Palestinian activist, agonizing over the losses and suffering of the Palestinian people.
“Country after country claims solidarity with the Palestinian people… Talk is cheap. No group of countries is more generous with their words than the Palestinians’ Arab neighbors,” she said. “But all of the words spoken here in New York do not feed, clothe or educate a single Palestinian child. All they do is get the international community riled up.”
Welcome to “post-truth” America.
While the Arabs are expected — in fact, required — to stand in solidarity with their Palestinian brethren, the primary reason for the subjugation of the Palestinian people is the continued US support for Israel.
Since 1999, the US has supported Israel through 10-year long Memorandums of Understanding. According to these arrangements, support for Israel does not require Senate approval. The last US president to sign a decade-long commitment of funding to Israel, which is set to last from 2019 to 2028, was President Barack Obama, who provided Israel with more money than any other president in US history.
According to the US Congressional Research Service, as of April 2018, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II.” To date, “the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding.”
The primary reason for the subjugation of the Palestinian people is the continued US support for Israel
Most of that military assistance has been used to fight Palestinians and other Arab neighbors, to support the Israeli military occupation of Palestine, and to reinforce the blockade of Gaza. For Haley to rebuke Arabs for not doing enough to help Palestinians is simply disingenuous.
As harmful as the US military support for Israel and the manipulation of the comparatively limited aid to Palestinians has been, US interference in Palestinian political affairs has been equally destructive. This blatant interference is juxtaposed with complete insubordination to the Israeli government, regardless of the fact that Tel Aviv has moved sharply to the right, and is increasingly shedding any claims to true democracy.
Considering that the US’ anti-Palestine and pro-Israel stances have accentuated in recent months, one is hardly moved by Haley’s false sympathy with Gaza and the Palestinians. Only weeks before she criticized the lack of Arab support, she lectured the international community on Israel’s benevolent approach to what she saw as Palestinian violence.
“No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she said on May 15, shortly after many UN ambassadors stood for a minute’s silence to mourn the 60 Palestinians who were killed while peacefully protesting the siege at the fence separating Gaza from Israel.
Haley’s peculiar attacks on unsupportive Arab governments is designed to distract from the US’ own role that has emboldened Israel and held Palestinians as prisoners to military occupation and an inhumane siege for far too long.
- Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net. Twitter: @RamzyBaroud