(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 23, 2011
(PA) president Mahmoud Abbas finally walked the talk. In the
third week of
September he handed over a formal letter requesting full
membership in the United
Nations Organisation for the state of
the world today,
different yardsticks are applied to different countries. In the
preceding the UNGA meet, the Obama administration had subjected
leadership to tremendous diplomatic pressure in its efforts to
from seeking full fledged membership of the world organisation.
threats, the Obama administration has threatened to withhold aid
Palestinians. The government of
But this time Abbas and the PA leadership did not buckle under American pressure. President Abbas’s speech on September 23 in which he dramatically detailed the pain and suffering of the Palestinians in the last sixty three years was the highlight of this year’s UNGA meeting. “I do not believe that anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application for a full membership in the United Nations and our admission as an independent state”, he said. His speech this time to the assembled heads of State was more reminiscent of the speeches of his charismatic predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Many observers in fact compared Abbas’s speech to Arafat’s landmark 1974 speech. Arafat brandishing a holster in one hand and an olive branch in the other hand had in an emotional address told the UN general assembly—“Today I have come, bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”. Abbas also spoke in a similar vein but was careful to omit any references to the “gun” while still offering the “olive branch”.
Abbas is usually not given to such rhetorical flourishes but his emotion laden speech was also a powerful message to the international community. This time, he did not shy away from mentioning issues like the “right of return” and the plight of the millions of Palestinians living their lives as refugees in other countries. Palestinians in Ramallah and refugee camps all over the Arab world cheered for Abbas after a long time. With negotiations going nowhere coupled with exposes about Palestinian negotiators kowtowing before the Americans and Israelis, Abbas’s popularity ratings had plummeted. The UN initiative has not only restored his popularity but is currently at an all time high. Abbas, who has said on several occasions that he would not stand for elections again, seems intent to bow out with his head held high.
poll showed that
more than 80 per cent of the Palestinians in
copy of the
application for full statehood which he had earlier submitted to
the UN secretary
general, Ban ki-Moon, he called for the statehood request to be
the Security Council. According to reports, the majority of
countries who are
currently on the Security Council have already pledged support
Palestinian statehood. The number of votes needed for statehood
recognised is nine. Among the non-permanent members currently in
veto by one of the
five permanent members is sufficient to temporarily derail the
even if a symbolic political victory is achieved in the Security
President Barack Obama in his speech at the UNGA has pledged to
Palestinian bid for statehood. With an American veto almost
some miraculous eleventh hour developments, the Palestinians
will have no other
option but to approach the UN General Assembly and ask for
OBLIVIOUS TO PLIGHT
OF THE PALESTINIANS
next year, Obama has once again abjectly caved in to the
lobby in American politics. The Nobel Peace laureate in his
speech seemed to be
totally oblivious to the plight of the Palestinians. Hannan
articulate voice of the Fattah, who had accompanied Abbas to
did everything in its power to disrupt our project but we are
with it despite the obstacles and the pressure because we are
asking for our
rights”, Abbas said in a speech to the Palestinian community in
Abbas also held out the
olive branch by
reiterating that the Palestinians still remain committed to
peace talks. But he
again reiterated that for talks to resume
One of the key reasons Abbas and his advisers decided to go to the UN was to clear the path for the prosecution of Israeli government officials for war crimes and transgression of international law in the International Criminal Court and other UN mandated institutions. Even if the Palestinians at this juncture only succeed in getting non-member observer status, it could enable their State to atleast join treaties like the Law of the Sea. Such a development would help Palestine to challenge the illegal Israel sea blockade of Gaza. The Palestinian leadership hopes that UN membership will force groups like the EU to take a position on Israel’s continuing trampling of international law. After the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace agreement which was supposed to lead to full statehood for Palestine, the Israelis instead pock marked the West Bank with settlements, pushing in 600,000 more settlers.
In December 2010, 26 former EU leaders had called for sanctions to be imposed on Israel for the illegal settlement activity on the West Bank and Jerusalem. EU headquarters in Brussels remained unmoved. However the forthcoming vote in the UN on Palestinian statehood is sure to divide the EU. France already has indicated that it is sympathetic to the Palestinian move while Germany has already announced that it would go along with Israel and the US. American hypocrisy over the Palestine issue will be further highlighted especially in the context of the Obama administration’s zeal to institute regime change and democracy by laser bombing in Arab countries opposed to Israel. In the Arab world, America would find it difficult to retain its traditional allies. The former Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington, Turki al- Faisal, writing in influential US publications warned that Saudi-American relations could be irreparably harmed if the Obama administration vetoes the Palestinian statehood bid in the UNSC. Faisal, a senior prince in the ruling al-Saud family, is an influential figure in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia besides supplying oil to the US is also a firm backer of Washington in the region.
Many Palestinian critics of the statehood bid have not softened their stance after Abbas’s spirited performance in the UN. The Hamas spokesperson said that the bid would undercut the Palestinians right to return. “I don’t believe that the Palestinians want a seat in the UN, but rather they want freedom and self determination in their own land”, he said. Dawood Shehab, the spokesman for the Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian faction, observed that 120 countries had recognised Palestine as a State after the famous speech by Yasser Arafat in Algiers in 1988 announcing the arrival of the State of Palestine. Shehab said that no tangible benefits followed for the Palestinians despite the de facto recognition of their statehood by the majority of the UN members. “All factions within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) have aimed at liberating Palestine, not establishing a State. A State comes after liberating Palestine”, said Shehab.
Critics of the new initiative also debunk the notion that UN membership will help the Palestinian in making Israel accountable for the litany of war crimes and other infringements of international law. Those opposed to Abbas point out that the PA did not seriously pursue international legal channels to hold Israel accountable after the 2004 International Court of Justice ruling that deemed the construction of the Separation Wall and settlements on occupied territories as illegal. Another serious allegation against the PA is that it first tried to bury the Goldstone Report on Israel’s assault on Gaza under pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv. When there was an international outcry, the PA reverted course but then did nothing to get the recommendations adopted by the UN.
The fear among Palestinians, especially those in the Diaspora is that recognition of the 1967 borders would close the doors for the Palestinian refugees holed up in camps in Syria and other neighbouring countries. A Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders would comprise of only 22 per cent of historic Palestine. Even in the part of Palestine they could inherit, Israeli settlements have monopolised the best land and most of the natural and scarce water resources. The UN anyway has consistently recognised the Palestinian people, regardless of their place of residence “as the principle party in the question of Palestine”. Leftist groups in PLO like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have been generally supportive of the statehood bid. A PFLP leader, Rabah Mhanna said that his group considers the UN bid as part of the ongoing struggle against Israeli occupation. But he cautioned that going to the UN “should not end up with improving the bilateral peace negotiations under US patronage”. Mhanna admitted that the PA’s move to apply for statehood was not backed by a Palestinian consensus.
Joseph Massad, who lectures on modern Arab history and intellectual history at Colombia University, recently wrote a thought provoking article on the latest diplomatic initiative. He wrote that the UN would not be able to resolve issues relating to the borders or human rights violations. Palestine, Massad observed, “is a mini-State with a disfigured geography and no sovereignty”. Massad is of the opinion that it is Washington’s unblinking support to Israel and the methods it has used to stonewall the legitimate demands of the Palestinians that lies at the root of the problem. The US has used its veto 40 times on behalf of its ally, Israel, on resolutions pertaining to the occupation in the UNSC.
“The unending ‘peace process’ will continue with more stringent conditions and an angry US upset at the PA challenge, will go back exactly to where the PA is today, if not to a weaker position. President Obama and future US administrations will continue to push for PA and Arab recognition for Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ that has the right to discriminate by law against non-Jews in exchange for an ever-deferred recognition of a Palestinian state—a place where Palestinian neoliberal businessmen can make profits off international aid and investment”, Massad has observed. Abu Abunimah, a Palestinian activist who started the widely read on-line journal Electronic Intifada and is the author of the book One Country: A Bold proposal to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, has said that the PA did not have the “democratic mandate” from the Palestinian people to go to the UN or “to gamble with their rights and future”.