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The UN’s responsibilities in the case of Palestine

The United Nations have been criticised for wavering from their purpose of providing humanitarian aid, protecting human rights and maintaining peace and security between nations, by halting initiatives to convert Palestine into a free and sovereign state.


Javier E. Núñez Calderón



When the United Nations approved the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, there were more than a few people predicting that the Middle East was preparing itself for one of the bloodiest episodes in recent history: the Arab-Israeli conflict.

One of these people, a member of one of the most influential families in Palestine, recalls that whilst listening to the UN voting turnout his father expressed, “this is the start of a great tragedy for the entire region. Peace will never be restored.”

And he was not wrong: the situation in the Middle East was aggravated when the Jewish people stepped into the discussion. The process of land reform designed by the UN was opposed by the Arabs on the basis that it was interpreted as awarding the Israelis with an advantage.

The Israelis, making up a third of the population, were granted by the aforementioned organisation with 55 percent of the territory, whilst the Palestinians were left with just 45 percent. Currently, Israel controls more than 80 percent of the region.

The Palestinian people have always insisted in the creation of their own State before the United Nations, but they have come up against a powerful obstacle within the UN Security Council.

The United States, unconditional ally to Israel, have vetoed their inclusion under the pretext that they must first negotiate a road to peace through the areas in conflict, as well as denying the Palestinian Authority legitimacy for supporting terrorist groups like Hamas.

According to information published on the internet portal ‘The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’ (El Frente Democrático para la Liberación de Palestina:, between 1973 and 2011, the US vetoed 42 opportunities for resolution projects presented to the United Nations Security Council. Despite being proposed to condemn and carry out sanctions against Israel for violating human rights, occupying Palestinian territory and for carrying out violence and repression upon civilians, the projects were rejected for initiating the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

For example, on the first day of June in 1990, Washington vetoed a resolution project proposed by countries of the Non-Aligned Movement to allow an International Committee to investigate repressive Israeli practices against the Palestinian people.

In 2001, they also opposed a decision to allow the establishment of a body of international observers to protect the Palestinians in Cisjordania and Gaza. Moreover, two years ago, they rejected reports of Israeli colonialism in occupied Palestinian territory, being the only state out of 15 permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council to act in opposition.

And for many analysts, the right to veto, a right granted to only five permanent members of the Security Council as a means to opposing resolution projects presented by one or two members of the UN’s General Assembly, has been primarily employed as a way to put the brakes on projects that contradict national interests.

In the case of Palestine, it has been used to prevent their entry into the UN as a free, sovereign member state. Consequently, the UN has been showered in criticism for delegitimizing their role of providing humanitarian aid, protecting human rights and maintaining peace and security between nations.

“The veto has become one of the UN’s most criticised elements for contradicting, at least on a formal level, the principle recognised in its own Charter of sovereign equality between States, which in the end, obstructs the work of the organisation”, stated María Isabel Torres Cazorla, in an article published in a University magazine in Colombia in 2008.

However, many believe that eliminating the right to veto would not be enough to resolve the UN’s internal contradictions, for the problem lies within the structure of the Security Council: headed by a group of five permanent members, this small minority make decisions for the majority of countries that form the United Nations.

With this in mind, one could consider the UN as primarily responsible for the Palestinian tragedy, which has so far left more than five million people displaced, thousands dead and has allowed the Arab-Israeli conflict to become an impassable obstacle in which radical groups from both nations refuse to negotiate peace, simply for not taking the necessary action the instant the Jewish state was created.

From this perspective, it would not be imprudent to state that the United Nations, by agreeing to determine a Jewish territory, has problematised peaceful coexistence within the region, and therefore, should work towards finding an effective solution to the problem.

And the solution must not be reduced to declaring Palestine a non-member observer state, even though, given the historical and political circumstances, this would appear to constitute progress. The solution should, rather, involve adopting forward thinking decisions that will facilitate the conditions needed to stop aggression toward civilians, and finally, declare Palestine as a state granted full power, sovereignty and freedom.



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