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UN Fiddles While Palestine Burns

For a whole generation of Palestinians who have grown up since the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, daily life continues to deteriorate.

The United Nations General Assembly voted by a wide margin in December to demand Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources under Israeli occupation.

Like numerous other resolutions opposing the occupation, it is unlikely to offer any relief to Palestinians, who continue to be jailed, beaten and killed by military forces and robbed of their lands by settlements.

The resolution was adopted by 164 votes in favour and five against. Predictably, the United States, Canada, Israel and two US neo-colonies – Micronesia and the Marshall Islands – voted against. Australia was among 10 states that abstained.

The vote is the latest in a series of diplomatic salvos from Palestinian Liberation Organisation after decades of failed peace negotiations.

According to the Palestinian Water Authority, 85 percent of water in the occupied territories is allocated to Israeli settlers. The NGO Al Shabaka reported in December that 599,901 Israeli settlers use six times more water than nearly three million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Accompanying the settlement expansion has been a network of roads, checkpoints and the apartheid wall, which together serve to appropriate more Palestinian land and to leave Palestinians isolated and surrounded. According to a 2013 World Bank report, 68 percent of Area C, which includes the resource-rich Jordan Valley, has been reserved for Israeli settlements, while less than one percent has been allocated for Palestinian use.

The UN resolution comes after a European Parliament resolution, adopted in September, which requires exports from Israeli settlements to be labelled accordingly, rather than mislabelled as “made in Israel”, denying such exports preferential trade under the European Union Israel Association Agreement.

The EU resolution, which supposedly allows consumers to make informed decisions regarding the purchase of Israeli settlement products, received a hostile response from Israel, a significant EU trading partner.

However, product labelling falls well short of Palestine solidarity activists’ demands for trade sanctions and a military embargo against the apartheid state. Palestinian human rights advocate Omar Barghouti slammed the EU decision.

“Europe remains largely complicit in supporting Israel’s occupation and violations of Palestinian rights, despite the empty rhetoric coming from the European Union”, he wrote in an article published in Politico on 12 November.

Barghouti noted that the EU, despite its claim to uphold human rights, “maintains a web of military relations, weapons research, banking transactions and settlement trade with Israeli companies, banks and institutions that are deeply implicated in human rights violations”.

BDS Starts to Bite

Barghouti has strongly advocated the international campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, a campaign that has gathered momentum in recent years.

In November 2014, in the aftermath of Israel’s last military offensive in Gaza, more than 300 European trade unions, campaign groups and political parties issued a call for the suspension of the EU-Israel trade agreement, which came into effect in 2000.

Last June, a co-author of a report published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development cited BDS as significant contributor to a 46 percent decline in foreign direct investment in Israel in 2014. In October, the international credit ratings agency Moody’s warned, “[T]he Israeli economy could suffer should BDS gain greater traction”.

French telecom company Orange is the latest multinational to announce its withdrawal from Israel as a result of BDS. It will cease to operate in Israel from February, according to Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz.

Orange became the target of a boycott campaign in 2010, involving unions and activist groups in France, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, where Orange and its affiliates have millions of mobile phone subscribers. According to the website Electronic Intifada, Orange provided free service to Israeli soldiers deployed near Gaza during the 2014 offensive, in which more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed.

Orange’s decision to pull out of Israel follows that of French multinational Veolia, which sold its investments in the country last year. Veolia, which had invested in light rail and bus services between Jerusalem and Israeli West bank settlements, was the target of a seven-year global boycott campaign.

A New Intifada?

Adding to Israel’s woes has been a new uprising by Palestinian youth in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, provoked by Israel’s assaults on the al Aqsa mosque in early October.

According to the UN monitoring group OCHA, at least 136 West Bank Palestinians had been killed, and nearly 14,000 injured, by the end of December. This is the highest number of West Bank casualties in a decade, yet it has failed to quell daily demonstrations by Palestinian youths armed only with stones.

Driving the protests, described by some Palestinian commentators as a new intifada, is a sense of despair at the unrelenting theft of Palestinian land by encroaching settlements, and the collusion of the Palestinian Authority with the Israeli army and Shin Bet secret police.

For a whole generation of Palestinians who have grown up since the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, daily life under the PA regime continues to deteriorate.

In an article published by Al Jazeera on 7 December, Palestinian-American journalist Ramzy Baroud observed that the PA since its establishment “has served as a matrix of control that worked closely with Israel, partly through ‘security coordination’ to suppress dissent in the West Bank” and has “done its utmost to control any grassroots movement in Palestinian communities”.

The uprising now faces a “critical juncture”, Baroud argues: “It must evolve into a revolt with a clear political programme and an alternative grassroots leadership, or fizzle out altogether”.

After decades of betrayal by the Abbas-led PLO, Palestinian youth are once again finding their voice. International solidarity with their struggle, especially in the imperialist states that back apartheid Israel, remains a vitally important task.

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