Tightening the screws on the occupation
Now, with the UN Security Council weighing in on the Palestinian issue independently, Pakistan – a vocal supporter of the Palestinian who called out "Israel’s" sanctions – can translate its principled position into tangible leverage that helps facilitate Palestine’s quest for statehood.
On January 17, more than ninety nations signed a statement rejecting the Israeli occupation’s so-called sanctions on the Palestinian Authority, calling for their “immediate reversal.” The punitive measures were imposed as an escapist reaction to the UN General Assembly’s motion to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an advisory opinion on "Israel’s" blatant occupation of the Palestinian territories. As such, it should be seen as a tacit confirmation that the Zionist regime is unnerved by any momentum that invites scrutiny and holds "Israel’s" flagrant oppression to account.
Now with the UN Security Council weighing in on the Palestinian issue independently, Pakistan – a vocal supporter of the Palestinian who called out "Israel’s" sanctions – can translate its principled position into tangible leverage that helps facilitate Palestine’s quest for statehood. Several considerations merit attention.
First, US-brokered ‘normalization’ agreements have only empowered "Israel" to further entrench its illegal occupation on Palestinian soil, and Islamabad should invest in its efforts to maintain aversion for all times to come. These agreements have failed to put the brakes on Israeli settlements, arrive without the consent of besieged Palestinians, and present new challenges for an enduring resistance that Pakistan has so openly and justly defended.
The 2020 normalization agreements are a case in point. The normalization deal between "Israel" and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was predicated on the assumption that "Israel" will suspend its planned annexation of Palestinian lands, and pursue a negotiated peace deal.
None of that happened. Instead, "Israel" has used the agreements as a cover to advance de-facto annexations with twice the force, greenlighting thousands of more illegal settlements where Palestinians seek statehood.
All this confirms that ‘normalization’ is no recipe for the “just and lasting peace” sought by Pakistan on the Palestinian issue, but is a license for Israeli occupation forces to deny Palestinian rights with enormous impunity. Islamabad recognizes the occupation’s penchant for blatant denial, as witnessed at the UN. It also shows in Pakistan’s resolute support against unwarranted Israeli sanctions on the Palestinian Authority, and its desire to get the UN’s top court to issue an advisory opinion on the longest military occupation in modern history.
For long, Islamabad has also put a premium on an internationally recognized two-state solution, and a Palestinian state that is “viable, independent and contiguous.” Illegal Israeli settlements target those very objectives. They represent forced demographic alterations in Palestinian territories that damage the credibility of a two-state solution, and make it increasingly difficult for Palestine to emerge as a state that is truly ‘independent’ of all Israeli occupation.
Islamabad is well-positioned to pursue targeted diplomacy and generate momentum for Palestinian statehood through key levers. From the United Kingdom to the European Union, it can leverage its diplomatic presence in key capitals to support countries’ own enforcement of existing laws. These include laws that make it illegal to supply arms to a nation in violation of international law, provisions against assisting an occupying power, provisions for non-recognition, and existing latitude to enforce sanctions and ban trade that helps sustain illegal settlements.
A starting point here can also strengthen the case for greater recognition of the state of Palestine, which is largely a result of unenforced obligations. Scores of countries have already come through on recognition, making it critical to partner with like-minded allies and focus on breakthrough votes for Palestine at the local level.
The absence of a coordinated campaign to draw attention towards Israeli aggression, and ensure that specific human rights obligations are met, has essentially confined Western support for Palestinian statehood to lip service. International outcry over the war in Ukraine brings stronger and more complex enforcement regimes to the fore. All this makes it critical for Pakistan to partner with diplomatic missions that share its commitment to ensuring fundamental rights for besieged Palestinians, and hold an illegal occupation to account for “war crimes and settler colonialism.”
Worldwide activism on development rights is picking up. It is powered by a global climate crisis, and affords a vital opportunity to Pakistan to accomplish meaningful change for Palestinians.
Government, non-profits, civil society groups, and international organizations are determined to treat food insecurity, acute water scarcity, barriers to empowerment, livelihood and survival – all as human rights, and central to human dignity. This multistakeholder pivot towards sustainable development makes occupied Palestinian territories a critical reference point for global visibility: hundreds and thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are forced to live on just 50 liters of water per day, well below the WHO standard, as Israeli settlers thrive. Similarly, "Israel’s" illegal appropriation of Palestinian resources – from fertile agricultural land, water, oil, to gas and minerals – severely impinges on Palestinians’ access to livelihoods and socio-economic rights, and is in direct violation of major targets associated with the global agenda on Sustainable Development.
These connections can play a key role in amplifying Pakistan’s voice for Palestinian rights, and demanding increased international scrutiny of "Israel’s" belligerent occupation. There is also a constitutional stake in all this: values of legal protection, life, liberty, and the inviolable “dignity of man” shine through Articles 4, 9, and 14 of the Pakistani constitution.
All this makes everlasting support for the Palestinian resistance a matter of core values and a fundamental principle. Add to it Pakistan’s active presence at major sustainable action forums, and there is ample space for meaningful diplomacy to hold the occupation to account, and remove any artificial barriers from getting the UN’s top court to issue an opinion on the occupation.