There are many Muslim lands under foreign occupation. Some date back decades while others have been occupied in recent years. Let us identify some of the areas under foreign occupation.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine are best known. Both lands were occupied in the late nineteen-forties and their people have endured great suffering at the hands of the brutal occupiers. Parts of Lebanon (Sheba Farms) and Syria’s Golan Heights are also occupied. So is Afghanistan. Recently, Karabakh was also in the news, a part of which has been liberated from the clutches of Armenians.
Naturally, Muslims would like to liberate these lands so that they can live according to their own values and norms. What is the best way to achieve their cherished goal? Before we discuss this aspect, let us name some international institutions that claim to work for people’s rights.
The United Nations (UN) is the best-known international body. There are others: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). All these institutions are under tight Western control.
While the UN has many branches, its two most influential bodies are the Security Council and the General Assembly. The Security Council comprises only 15 members of which five are permanent. The other ten serve on a rotating basis for two years. The five permanent members also have veto power. This means any one of them can block any resolution from being adopted if the member casts a veto. Thus, decision-making at the Security Council is the monopoly of the five permanent members.
The UN General Assembly comprises all its members. At present there are 193 member states, each with one vote. There are also two non-member states that have observer status: The Holy See (Vatican) and the State of Palestine. Even though the General Assembly represents the collective will of the world, its vote does not carry as much weight as that of the 15-member Security Council. The only time General Assembly resolutions are enforceable if they are passed by a two-thirds majority.
The United Nations came into formal existence on October 24, 1945 at an international conference in San Francisco although its name was coined by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 1, 1942. At the time, 26 countries had gathered to pledge to continue the fight against the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy etc.) during the Second World War.
The principal purpose for which the UN was created was to prevent future wars and to work for peace and equality in the world. Its predecessor, the League of Nations, was established following the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. It collapsed because it failed to prevent the eruption of World War Two.
How successful has the UN been in preventing wars and establishing peace in the world? While no direct wars have erupted between the major powers—the US, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, China etc— since the UN was created, there have been numerous wars between other states causing millions of deaths. Major powers, especially the US, Britain, France and Russia, have also attacked smaller countries and inflicted untold misery of their people.
One of the first acts of betrayals perpetrated by the UN was the General Assembly vote in November 1947 to create the Zionist State of Israel in Palestine. The Palestinian people whose land was being handed over to the Zionists, were not even consulted. Not surprisingly, the Palestinians and their friends and allies rejected this gross injustice. The Zionists used that as a pretext to grab more land and today, Palestinians are reduced to patchworks of Bantustans while the heavily-armed Zionist occupations troops and Zionist settler thugs continue to terrorize and murder Palestinians.
The other major Muslim area under occupation—the state of Jammu and Kashmir—while not the direct result of UN intrigue, also dates back to the same time. Like Palestine, the problem of Kashmir too was caused by the British. In fact, Britain was directly involved in creating the problem that has kept tensions simmering between India and Pakistan resulting in three wars.
In both instances—Palestine and Kashmir—the victims have repeatedly sought UN help to resolve the dispute. In Kashmir’s case, Pakistan is also an affected party so it has carried the banner of the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. There are 12 UN Security Council resolutions that affirm the Kashmiris’ right calling for a referendum. The issue remains unresolved. In fact, India has tightened its grip on the state by deploying nearly one million troops. Demographic changes are also underway to change the character of the state. The same process of ethnic cleansing is under way in Palestine.
Given this history, the question is whether the UN is the right forum to secure the rights of the Palestinian and Kashmiri peoples? Further, has the UN resolved any issues in all of its 75-year existence? What does the experience of other people struggling under occupation tell us?
Let us consider some examples. In September 1980, Iraq attacked the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iraqi regime had the backing not only of almost all the Arabian regimes but also most Western regimes as well as the erstwhile Soviet Union. What did the UN do? All it did was call for a ceasefire. There was no attempt to name the aggressor. It did not muster the courage to name the party guilty of using chemical weapons (Iraq) against Iran that are banned under the Geneva Conventions.
Iran had to fight singlehandedly to defend its revolution and drive the invading forces out of its lands. Here was a striking example of UN failure to prevent war or restore peace and equality in the world.
In June 1982, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon and went all the way to Beirut. Then they facilitated the massacre by Phalangist militias of thousands of elderly Palestinian men, women and children in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. Did the UN take notice? Perish the thought. It was left to Hizbullah, the Islamic resistance movement to emerge to fight the Zionist occupation forces. They were driven out of all of Lebanese territory except the Sheba Farms in May 2000.
In September-October 2020, fighting erupted in the Armenian-occupied Azerbaijan territory of Karabakh. It had been under Armenian occupation since 1994. No country in the world recognized Armenian occupation of Karabakh but nobody, not even the UN was prepared to help Azerbaijan regain its territory. When Turkey decided to assist Azerbaijan, the latter was successful in achieving partial victory.
The US invaded Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in October 2001 on the spurious pretext that they had helped al-Qaeda terrorists in the 911 attacks. Afghanistan was bombed beyond the Stone Age. The Taliban were driven from power and declared terrorists. They decided to fight back and after 18 years of resistance, they forced the US to the negotiating table. The Taliban did not run to the UN to get foreign troops out of their land.
What do the above examples of resistance tell us? Occupiers are not persuaded by legal or moral arguments. They only understand the language of force. Resistance is the only way to end their illegal and criminal conduct. When the oppressed are able to increase the cost of occupation to the point that it is no longer bearable for the occupiers, they are forced to withdraw. In 2005, the Zionists abandoned the tiny Gaza Strip not because they are such good people; they fled when the Palestinians increased the cost of occupation.
This is the lesson all people under occupation must internalize if they want to gain freedom and lead a life of dignity.