Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Denial of Political Teleology

A political teleology would seek to understand and establish an issue's underlying political causes. A denial of the causes would leave only the effects for discussion. Whether that denial is a strategy or an ideology I have not decided yet. In this blog I explore the issue in more detail regarding the debate on the Palestinians' right of return. While debates about what can be portmanteau'd "political teleology" are extreme and intense between Israelis and Palestinians themselves, there is a prevailing denial of that political teleology in the mainstream international press and in all sorts of NGO and international bodies.

The Statute of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states in the 2nd general provision that its work ought to be "entirely non-political in character." Meaning that the work it does is supposed to be strictly "humanitarian" in character.

I find it rather presumptuous that an international body for the amelioration of political and economic refugees believes that its work can be entirely non-political. Consider the Palestinian refugee crisis. If the work in Palestine is non-political in character, it essentially means doing nothing to address the underlying political causes of the crisis. Decidedly "temporary" solutions, or series of temporary solutions, appear to be the permanent objective of the UN in Palestine. But it is also historically untrue that the UN's work in Palestine has been non-political in character.

While Article 13 of the UN Charter guarantees that any person ought to have the ability to leave his country and have the right to return to it, what has followed Israel's creation in 1948 has been considerable political hypocrisy about it internationally. Of course, the UN established the state of Israel in 1948, and this was itself a highly political solution to a refugee crisis. Are the Palestinians to receive no political attention?

Yes, in fact, they receive some political attention from the UN. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has made all sorts of political recommendations to the UNGA and the Security Council that would allow for a Palestinian right of return. The GA Resolutions 194, 393, 394, and 513 are in agreement. Yasser Arafat and the PLO have used these recommendations in their speeches at UN bodies and other international forums. Further, every organization involved in the Palestinian conflict has a very distinct political agenda. The aid offered, the contractors involved with the UNRWA, their promotion of admission of refugees into neighboring states, etc., cannot be done without a political understanding and a political agenda in mind.

The UNHCR mandate implies that while a refugee crisis may be political in nature, its own work shall be entirely non-political. (Which is also not true, ideally and historically.) But the UNHCR mandate makes a terrible distinction; it is often understood to mean there are either political or humanitarian refugee crises. There are refugee crises that are caused by natural or environmental factors, a tsunami, for example. This would be a strictly non-political and humanitarian issue, unless there were political recommendations made about storm infrastructure, say. Yet the majority of refugee crisis have essentially political causes. The UNHCR treats all refugee crises in the non-political way.

This agenda is largely misguided. And we see misguided behavior reflected elsewhere. The American mainstream media treat the Palestinian Right of Return as an entirely non-political issue. Instead of addressing the issue as having distinct political causes and effects, it is often treated as a kind of natural phenomenon, much like a tsunami: there are forces which are naturally opposed to one another (which they are not prepared to explain) and thus the mitigation of conflict can be achieved by simply addressing the effects of the crisis. And we therefore fall into an ideology of accepting a non-political teleological account of the crisis.

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