Observing the UN World Day of Social Justice: Where is the justice for Palestinians?
Written by Dakota Rakestraw and Allison Glidden
It would be remiss to recognize the UN World Day of Social Justice, February 20, without a discussion of the Palestinian people. Their economy, their land, and their livelihoods have endured Israeli occupation for over half a century, restricting Palestinian mobility and creating conditions of hardship, of violence, and lack of autonomy. The UN has attempted to reproach Israel for the Occupation since its inception, yet it continues. A day such as World Day of Social Justice harnesses the growing visibility of social activism, but why has progress from the UN regarding Palestine been so slow?
The UN World Day of Social Justice was established 10 years ago when the International Labour Organization adopted the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization. Individual member states, including the United States and Israel, agreed to promote fair labour practices and to recognize the importance of national interdependence in economic affairs. However, the enormous economic power and influence wielded by the US as a member of the UN curtails many efforts by other member nations to hold the United States and its partner Israel accountable for the Occupation.
This year’s World Day of Social Justice theme is, “Workers on the Move: the Quest for Social Justice,” noting that “most migration today is linked directly or indirectly to the search for decent work opportunities. Even if employment is not the primary driver, it usually features in the migration process at some point.” With these ideas in mind, where is consideration for the Palestinian worker, unable to leave the West Bank or Gaza because of occupation?
At the end of 2017, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reported that almost 30% of Palestinians were unemployed, with the largest percentage being college graduates at almost 50% unemployment, as reported by Ha’aretz. Moreover, in Gaza, public employees have seen a sharp decrease in employment and salary, as reported by The New York Times, as a consequence of Israel reducing power, reducing trade permits, limiting imports to Gaza, and deflecting responsibility through political finger pointing at the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a moot argument when it is acknowledged that the ultimate responsibility lies with Israel, the occupying force.
The United States shares culpability for this increasingly desperate economic state, as it continues to send billions of dollars to Israel to fund its military operations in occupied Palestinian land, and historically has shielded Israel from UN Security Council Resolutions attempting to condemn the Occupation. Recently, the US has also threatened to withdraw millions in relief aid funds from UNRWA to Palestinian refugees — funding that, in addition to providing for basic humanitarian needs, also supplies educational, employment, and economic opportunities in Palestine. This threat came as a response to the UN trying to exert pressure on the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While it is reassuring to hear that the UN condemns the United States and Israel for their counterproductive policies, we encourage the world to ask about other options the UN can explore to hold these two powerful nations accountable, despite the imbalance of power.
We at the Rachel Corrie Foundation share the UN’s belief that “social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms,” and we recognize the paralyzing imbalance of power and influence that exists within the UN. We support the attempts that member nation-states have made to rein in and hold the United States accountable, but on this World Day of Social Justice, we challenge the UN to use its collective power to employ concrete actions to bring peace, security, and economic freedom to the Palestinian people.