Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

The UN: a lesson in power, not justice

Karama Fadel | 22-09-2016

Karama (middle, third from left) and her model UN team members

Politics is simply a matter of affiliation for many people, a label many adopt almost unthinkingly, based on family or friends.  Others regard politics as “dirty”; they are disgusted with the corruption and games our politicians play and thus would rather divorce themselves from it completely. Still others are just too worried about putting our daily meals on the table; politics is a useless “luxury.”

Personally, I care deeply about politics; it’s what decides so much of our future. I really want to understand who makes decisions that make our life hell (or not), and how. I have long dreamt of serving as an ambassador for my country. 

Many questions were in my mind, and I was searching for answers when I heard about an intriguing program—a “model United Nations” for youth. I rushed to apply so I could finally participate in the political field, learning about the world of diplomacy, negotiation and decision making.

Youth chosen as delegates to the program learned how the international community acts through the UN on concerns about peace and security, human rights, the environment, food and hunger, economic development, and globalization. And I was proud to be the one chosen to represent my country Palestine. I began the exercise believing that if we learn to express our convictions well, we can bring about change, or at least get a fair hearing. On the agenda was a discussion of the Palestine-Israeli conflict of 2008-9 and the Goldstone Fact-Finding Mission clearly showing that Israel committed criminal acts.

But the more I learned about how the UN operates, the more I doubted. The question at the forefront of my mind was just how effective this organization really is. After all, in the past 70 years, the General Assembly has passed more than 75 resolutions censuring Israel for unlawful attacks on its neighbors; violations of the human rights of the Palestinians, including deportations, demolitions of homes and other forms of collective punishment; confiscation of Palestinian land; establishment of illegal settlements; and refusal to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Yet Israel blatantly continues those practices.

In addition to the ease with which Israel tramples international law, consider the Syrian crisis. Now in its sixth year, virtually every super power and even some secondary players are contributing to the mayhem by proxy.

Is it time to think about the cancellation of the UN, as happened with the original League of Nations? The League of Nations was a miserable failure in maintaining security and peace, and thus the world lived through World War II. Twenty years after its inception, the league folded.

I’m willing to concede that the survival of the United Nations may be a better alternative than its abolition. But there is no doubt in my mind now that it needs radical reforms in all of its institutions. For example, the Security Council has five permanent member countries (the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China) that each have the right to veto any “substantive” resolution passed by the General Assembly, as well as decide how to define “substantive.”  

In fact, just a few days ago, the United States vetoed a resolution before the UN Security Council condemning settlements in the Occupied Territories. That veto killed the resolution despite support from all 14 other members of the Security Council, including the four other permanent members! I consider that grossly unfair.

Can the United Nations take a meaningful stand in the case of actions involving Israel? Can it stop criminal deeds or even just protect civilians?

In the end, I decided the answer is “no” and dropped out of the model UN program. It seemed to be a farce designed to convince us youth to play by rules that have been stacked against us. As long as the UN is controlled by countries that are controlled by Israel, it will never help Palestinians.

Posted September 22, 2016


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