The international community must adopt the Palestinian narrative

Since 2021, criticism of Israel has focused heavily on its apartheid system and practices. The gradual awareness within the international community, since B’Tselem’s declaration, which was followed by that of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as other institutions, validated the Palestinian people’s earlier assertions of apartheid. Unfortunately, little recognition was given to Palestinians for raising awareness on their predicament before the more prominent non-governmental and human rights organisations brought Israeli apartheid to mainstream attention.

Amnesty International’s report came under harsh criticism from Palestinians when it tweeted a clarification that the organisation “has taken no position on the occupation itself,” opting to focus on “the Israeli government’s obligations, as the occupying power, under international law”.  As Palestinians rightly pointed out, Israel’s apartheid policies are derived from its settler-colonial ideology, practice and expansion. There is no exonerating Israel from its colonial violence when speaking about its current apartheid system.

Speaking about the escalation of Israeli violence in Jerusalem, the UN Special Rapporteur, Michael Lynk, unfortunately made a similar omission when calling upon the international community to halt the brutality of Israel’s security forces. “The past few weeks have seen a rising level of violence associated with Israel’s 55-year-old occupation of Palestine,” Lynk declared. Yet, the earliest association that should be made would require mention of Israel’s colonial existence and expansion.

“This entrenched Israeli occupation, which has become indistinguishable from practices of apartheid, is based on the institutional discrimination of one racial-national-ethnic group over another,” Lynk added.

Focusing on Israel’s military occupation is only a part of the Palestinian experience. Exclusive focus obliterates the fact that Israel is a settler-colonial entity and its apartheid practices exist to strengthen its earlier and subsequent land appropriation. Unfortunately, the two-state compromise has been instrumental in mellowing the focus on settler-colonialism, prioritising “an end to the occupation” with no consideration for the fact that Israel’s colonial structure would remain in place even without military occupation.

Lynk is correct to point out that Israel’s military occupation has become a permanently entrenched reality, mirroring the spineless diplomacy that keeps the international community relevant in terms of interfering with the Palestinian people’s political rights.

“Only by providing a horizon of hope, through the international community’s meaningful demand that the occupation must fully end with all deliberate speed, can this alarming rise in violence be reversed,” Lynk concluded. But the demand to end the occupation is not linked to decolonisation in the international community’s defunct framework.

If both the Israeli military occupation and apartheid are derivatives of Israeli colonialism, then colonialism needs to be addressed when speaking about both manifestations of violence. With Palestinians incurring repetitive losses, fragmented narratives such as these spouted by the international community and human rights organisations are only fuelling further impunity. Limiting the discourse to occupation and apartheid is focused on finding a temporary fix, while leaving Israel’s colonial structure intact. There is also no recognition of the earlier ethnic cleansing upon which Israel was founded, leaving Palestinians still vulnerable to various forms of colonial violence, compounded with the international community’s alienation from the political process which dissociated Palestinians from their history.

The international community must adopt the Palestinian narrative

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