The United Nations marked last Tuesday the "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People" held every year on 29 November. Paradoxically, this is the day the General Assembly adopted in 1947 Resolution 181 on the "Future Government of Palestine" –a landmark if forgotten resolution that set forth the "Plan of Partition with Economic Union" that was to establish an "Arab State" in 43.5 percent of then British-occupied Palestine, a "Jewish State" in 56.5 percent of that territory, and an international enclave to include Jerusalem and its surroundings. In adopting the Partition Plan, the United Nations committed two sins. The first one, by paving the way towards the establishment of two States, the United Nations legislated a fundamentally artificial political segregation between "Arabs" and "Jews", as if an Arab could not belong to the Jewish faith and a Jew to the Arab world. It laid a barrier between communities that more often than not intersected, had more to unite than divide them. It was a conceptual distinction that pitted communities against each other that had coexisted peacefully for centuries and, aided by the migratory influx of European Jews into Palestine, fuelled hatred and deepened the sense of injustice. The second sin of the United Nations was to adopt a Plan and not ensure its implementation. To say the least, this is undoubtedly the international organization’s biggest blunder.
In a way today, the most glaring proof of the UN’s failure since the adoption of Resolution 181, which delineates the border between the two States in a bucolic way, is the Wall that is being built by Israel on parts of Palestinian occupied land in the West Bank – a Wall that has dispossessed Palestinians whose villages are being bulldozed, whose orchards and olive groves are being deracinated and destroyed in order to erect a monstrous structure of concrete financed by the American taxpayer; a Wall that purports to "protect" Israel but in reality seeks to establish facts on the ground; a Wall designed to secure water resources for the State of Israel, preserve most Jewish settlements of the West Bank within Israel, and prevent East Jerusalem from one day evading Israeli control; a Wall that is being erected with the marked indifference of those who could stop this snake-like structure from jugulating the West Bank. Because with the wall, a future Palestinian State will be nothing but Bantustans linked to one another by tunnels, roads and narrow corridors.
The UN cannot be expected, by itself, to compel Sharon to bring down his Wall (even if it did contribute in no small way to bringing down Apartheid). The General Assembly, however, did request the Secretary-General in August 2004 to carry out one simple task relating to the Wall. But when I challenged Annan last March about his refusal to visit the Wall during his trip to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories –a Wall he still consistently calls, like the United States a "barrier" — he responded "I think that the General Assembly resolution on the decision of the International Court of Justice is clear, and they did give us a mandate to establish a register of claims, which we are doing. I do not think the General Assembly, or any member of the Council, believes I am not fulfilling that mandate, or that I have abrogated it by taking, or not taking, a certain action." Regrettably, that is not so evident.
Sixteen months after the Assembly requested the establishment of a registry of damages suffered by Palestinians since the construction of the Wall begun, it is difficult to accept that the UN has not abrogated this particular mandate: the registry has yet to be established. And with the passing of time, the gathering of physical evidence, the registration of displaced and dispossessed Palestinians become more and more elusive. On second thoughts, however, why should Annan be diligent and irk the United States and Israel when the Palestinian Authority itself and the Arab Member States of the UN remain largely passive on this issue, not to mention Muslim nations who have not raised a serious objection to the Wall even though it also seeks to include East Jerusalem and Al-Haram Ash-Shareef on the Israeli side.
More fundamental, however, is what John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, stated at the United Nations, and what no Arab government has dared to question: the participation of the United Nations in the Quartet. Dugard, a South African lawyer who fought Apartheid, underscored in a UN report that "the road map seems to contemplate the acceptance of certain sections of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the inclusion of major Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in Israeli territory. This process places the United Nations in an awkward situation as it clearly cannot be a party to negotiations that ignore the advisory opinion of its own judicial organ." Even if an advisory opinion is non-binding on Member States, Dugard asserted that it was "law" for the United Nations. And hence, if the law so dictates, the Quartet should become a Trio as long as it goes against the legal opinion of the UN’s International Court of Justice. Dura lex, sed lex (The law is harsh, but it is the law).