Last week, the UN launched the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”. According to UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, the aim is to encourage the peace process and help bring about a two-state solution to the conflict.
Undoubtedly, this brings more publicity to the peace negotiations.
But does the world really need reminding? Hardly a day goes by without the international media reporting on the conflict. UN bodies rarely hold a session in which Israel and Palestine are not discussed as an agenda item.
But there are many other conflicts and occupied peoples that could do with such attention.
The violent repression of protests in Egypt throughout 2013 was scarcely reported by the world’s media, and the UN ignored those human rights violations altogether. The principal UN human rights body, the Human Rights Council, failed to discuss the situation in Egypt, let alone pass a resolution or call a special session on those abuses.
In the final days of the 2009 civil war in Sri Lanka, some 20,000 people were killed, four times the number of Palestinians killed during the eight years of the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2008.
Despite decades of repression, occupation and abuses, the UN only focused on that conflict when the Sri Lankan army began its onslaught in the Tamil-populated areas.
Since 1974, Turkey has occupied Northern Cyprus. The UN has failed to show any solidarity with, or give any attention to, the Greek Cypriots who have been chased away or languish under that regime. Tibetans have for years demonstrated outside the UN offices in Geneva and New York, yet their plight is all but ignored. And the list goes on.
Of course the Palestinian people deserve their own state. Of course their plight merits attention. Of course the UN is right to be concerned about any people subject to human rights abuses and occupation of their land.
Will next year be an “International Year of Solidarity” with the Chechens, the people of Western Sahara, or the Kashmiris? If not, why not?
Dr Rosa Freedman is a law lecturer at the
University of Birmingham