Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Palestinian Bid for UN Statehood Recognition
By Lawrence Davidson
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 1, 2011
Lawrence Davidson argues that, while UN recognition of
Palestinian statehood could be potentially of psychological value to the
Palestinian cause, “boycott, divestment and sanctions within the context of
increasing worldwide awareness of Israel’s essential racist nature shows
real promise of results in the long term”.
Going to the UN for recognition
On 26 July 2011 Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for
the Middle East peace process, appeared before the UN Security Council. Mr
Serry is a career Dutch diplomat and had led the Middle Eastern Affairs
Division of the Dutch Foreign Ministry. There is every reason to believe
that he knows what he is talking about.
He told the Security Council
that the "peace process", that is the political process allegedly seeking a
negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, had reached a
stage of "profound and
persistent deadlock". Attempts to resume negotiations are "extremely
difficult", he said. And, "in the absence of a framework for meaningful
talks, and with Israeli settlement activity continuing, the Palestinians are
actively exploring approaching the UN". That is actively considering asking
for UN recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state within pre-1967
Mr Serry’s description of the negotiations seems pretty
straightforward. The two sides are at a dead end. And, as Palestinian
negotiator Saeb Erekat
noted, this dead end follows negotiations that have stretched out over
at least 20 years.
“The reason decades of negotiation have settled nothing
is because they were meant to settle nothing. The Israelis
from the word go used the ‘peace process’ as a cover to
steal Palestinian property.”
Indeed, we know that in the most recent phase of these marathon
negotiations the Palestinian team had dropped just about all of their
original demands. Erekat told US Middle East envoy George Mitchell that the
Palestinian negotiators had done everything but "convert
Yet, the Israelis scorned the Palestinians offered compromises. As Mr
Serry indicated, Israel’s settlement of Palestinian land continues. In fact,
throughout this entire 20 year process colonization has gone on unabated.
And, of course, all of it is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. One of
the reasons that restarting any negotiations is so "extremely difficult" is
that the Palestinian side has insisted that, as a prerequisite for any new
talks, Israel must begin to abide by international law. Israel has refused.
So, it might come as something of a surprise to the uninitiated observer
that Israel and the United States are pointing fingers at the Palestinians
in this affair.
For instance, the Israeli ambassador to the United
Nations, Ron Prosor,
stated in the Security Council on 26 July that "now is the time for the
international community to tell the Palestinian leadership what it refuses
to tell its own people – there are no shortcuts to statehood. You cannot
bypass the only path to peace."
For the initiated this statement
makes no sense at all. If 20 years of negotiating gets you nothing but more
violence and more theft, to describe that process as the "only path to
peace" is to contradict yourself. Something that has proven incapable of
achieving X, cannot be the "only path" to X. Just so, to say that there can
be no shortcuts to X and therefore one must persist along a road that has
historically proven not lead to X is, well, a non-sequitur.
staunch ally, the United States, also opposes, with equal illogic, the
Palestinian move toward UN recognition. Rosemary DiCarlo, the US deputy
ambassador to the UN, announced that the US will oppose any "unilateral
action"on the part of the Palestinians at the UN. She interpreted the
Palestinian move as an effort to "isolate Israel at the United Nations". She
insisted that the Palestinians resume negotiations.
In response to
DiCarlo, Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s UN observer, pointed out that "120
countries already recognize an independent Palestinian state" and so coming
to the UN is hardly a "unilateral" action on the part of the Palestinians.
He went on to explain that UN recognition of a Palestinian state at this
time would be "the consecration of the of the two-state solution" and help
make that solution more inevitable.
Unfortunately for Mansour, his
words belie the fact that Israel has no intention of allowing a meaningful
two-state solution. In fact, all this Palestinian National Authority (PNA)
talk and manoeuvring goes on against the background of a stark reality:
Israel is inexorably eating up Palestine. The reason decades of negotiation
have settled nothing is because they were meant to settle nothing. The
Israelis from the word go used the "peace process" as a cover to steal
Palestinian property. They are close now to being able to present the world
with a fait accompli, those ugly "facts on the ground" and they
don’t want any complications.
What sort of complications? Actually,
these are more psychological than concrete. As Ali Abunimah has
pointed out, the United Nations has never done anything to stop Israeli
theft and this "symbolic" gesture of UN recognition will not impact it
either. So why should the Israelis care?
Well, here are a couple of
possibilities: a) such a move toward recognition on the part of the UN
General Assembly would actually replicate the process by which Israel itself
became recognized as a state and b) this move would also echo the original
intention of the UN to have Palestine divided between Jews and Arabs.
Psychologically, the entire process must resonate deeply within
Israeli/Zionist consciousness. It is giving them a sort of national anxiety
Leaving aside Israel’s psychological angst and the PNA’s fantasy that
their manoeuvres will make a viable solution "inevitable," we come back to
the question of what is really most likely to work in the long term? I think
that we have to confront some hard truths at this point.
1. Israel will continue to illegally swallow Palestine. For the Zionists
this is a zero sum, one-state game.
2. The United States will continue be an accomplice to the crime by
protecting the criminal.
3. The PNA is helpless to stop this.
4. Sadly, the peace process is a fraud. A cover for the on-going crime.
So what is the path of resistance that has the greatest chance of
changing the facts on the ground?
1. Well there is Hamas. Hamas is in fact the real government in Palestine
if we are to take seriously the notion of democracy. That was confirmed by
its victory in free and fair elections in January 2006. That makes Hamas a
lot more legitimate than the present PNA and in fact as legitimate as the
Israeli government. True, Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and would
destroy the Zionist state if it could. But then Israel refuses to recognize
Hamas and is in fact trying to destroy it. Both governments have used
terrorist methods, though Israel has used them more consistently. In the end
the real issue is, once more, one of power. Hamas cannot destroy Israel.
Ultimately Israel can destroy Hamas. As an option for long-term success, for
changing the facts on the ground, Hamas does not look like the answer.
2. That brings us back to BDS:
and sanctions. The Israeli historian and advocate of Palestinian rights,
Ilan Pappe, has
pointed out that BDS, as part and parcel of an overall "civil society
struggle in support of Palestinian rights, has been successful in key
There can be little doubt that public opinion is shifting away from
Israel even in the heartland of Zionist influence, the United States. The
aim of this movement is to replicate with Israel the process that brought
apartheid South Africa to its knees. And, through this process, to actually
realize a one-state solution for Palestine. Not, of course, the one-state
solution the Israelis seek, but rather a new state of Palestine/Israel that
offers "equality and prosperity for all the people who live there now or
were expelled from it by force in the last 63 years."
In my opinion
there is actually a good chance that a worldwide BDS movement, growing
steadily for say the next quarter century, can actually achieve the de-Zionization
of Israel. On the other hand, creating "equality" and "prosperity" in the
new state that results will have its own problems, but that is a different
struggle for a different time.
Right now, Ali Abunimah is right, UN
recognition of Palestine as a pseudo state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip
will solve nothing and may well cause more problems for the Palestinians on
the ground. Alternatively, boycott, divestment and sanctions within the
context of increasing worldwide awareness of Israel’s essential racist
nature shows real promise of results in the long term.
We should go
with what works.