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Palestine takes a stab at statehood


The late Canadian-British business tycoon Lord Beaverbrook once remarked that giving certain countries independence was like giving a razor to a child. Such incapable creatures were ill-suited to independence, effectively disqualified from claims to sovereignty because of their poor resume in development.

In 1947, UN General Assembly resolution 181 was passed. It promised a Jewish and an Arab state out of the Mandate of Palestine. In time, it came to be known as the partition resolution. The United States, Soviet Union and Australia were among the countries voting for its adoption. The Arab world was furious. Israeli independence was unilaterally declared.

With these events in mind, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hopes to extract a Security Council resolution validating his effort to establish a Palestinian state along the borders of 4 June 1967.

The Israelis, with American support, are fuming, threatening to abandon the Oslo accords that give the Palestinian Authority control of part of Gaza and the West Bank. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Danny Danon of the Likud party have adopted extreme stances, claiming the status of east Jerusalem and the West Bank settlements will cease to be up for negotiation should the Palestinians unilaterally pursue recognition. They, it would seem, have not read the history books.

Danon has urged an annexation of the West Bank and a removal of Palestinians into Jordan, with Egypt taking over Gaza. Given the transformation of the Middle East, the overthrow of various tyrannical regimes and the continuing challenges to others, Israel will be pressed to join the train of history and make similar changes.

That the Palestinians, a recognised people, must mediate their sovereignty through channels that place them in a position of subservience is unacceptable. The question is not whether recognition should be granted, but how.

The US strategy on this has been to reverse the onus of recognition — it is the Palestinian people who must recognise Israel as a 'Jewish state'.

There are those among both Palestinians and the Israeli peace movement who feel the time for recognition is nigh, that it will bring benefits to citizens from both sides. They believe recognition of Palestine will get the parties talking again. Rather than destroy the conversation, it will invigorate it.

As Claudette Habesch, General Secretary of Caritas Jerusalem explains, the vote is a preliminary, 'a real opportunity to restart the negotiations'.

Statehood has its problems, but also its benefits. The precariousness of Palestinian existence before the encroachment of settlements would be contained. Access to the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court would also be guaranteed, and may well bring restraint to the violence.

Groups within the Israeli peace movement such as the Coalition for Women for Peace have voiced similar sentiments: 'International recognition of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people is an important and vital step in the process of internationalisation of the Palestinians' struggle for independence, freedom and equality.'

Gershon Baskin, an Israeli writer and broadcaster on All for Peace Radio, is even optimistic on the move, subtitling a recent piece in the Jerusalem Post: 'Maybe the whole world isn't against us?'

Baskin had been listening to a fatalistic radio conversation between journalist Yaron Dekel and lyricist Yoram Taharlev, who had written a song from the 1970s, 'Ha'olam kulo negdeinu' — 'The Whole world is against us'. Just as the Pharaohs were overcome 'we'll overcome this too'. But to ignore the UN, for all its hypocrisies, would be to ignore 'a political institution which embodies international law and reflects international opinion, whether we like it or not'.

The Palestinians, Baskin surmises, have learnt from Israel. After all, wasn't the birth certificate of Israel's existence obtained from the breeding grounds of the UN? The Palestinians 'are going to the United Nations in order to preserve what might be the very last chance to have a two-states-for-two-peoples solution to this conflict'.

A possibility for steering a middle ground has been voiced by the French. President Nicolas Sarkozy has broken with Washington on opposing recognition, suggesting instead that the Palestinian status be upgraded to that of a 'non-member observer state'. 'Let us cease our endless debates on the parameters. Let us being negotiations and adopt a precise timetable,' he said.

Contain the extremists, argues Sarkozy, and avoid the 'immobility' that would encourage conflict.

With all that said, there is a note of warning. Some Palestinian groups have expressed opposition to the plan. The Palestinian Youth Movement, for instance, feels the UN bid would place at risk 'the rights and aspirations of over two thirds of Palestinian people who live as refugees in countries of refuge and in exile, to return to their original homes'.

Ali Abunimah, policy advisor to the Palestinian Policy Network Al-Shabaka, questions the democratic credentials of the move, arguing that a 'toothless and illusory' state would be born.

In the end, Abunima's point is a sound one, wherever this bid for statehood goes. 'Ultimately, any successful strategy should focus not on statehood but on rights.'

Binoy KampmarkBinoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. 

Topic tags: Binoy Kampmark, Palestine, Israel, Two-state solution, middle east conflict



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Existing comments

Lord Beaverbrook was right- giving independence, in this case, to Israel is like giving a razor to a child. Since 1947 Israel, under the auspices of the razor donors, Britain and America, has brutally slashed away at Palestinian land, livelihoods, lives and rights. When Britain dishonorably opened the Balfour Box it unleashed Zionist terror and greed on the indigenous Palestinians and contaminated the Western political conscience. Palestine's right to self-determination and sovereignty remains enshrined under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations which is still binding for all members states of the UN under UN Charter article 80(1), thus the legitimacy of the State of Israel on 88% of stolen land begins unravelling and the settling for 22% of Palestinian soil becomes ludicrous. In February 1947 Britain desiring to terminate the mandate handed over the fate of Palestine to the United Nations which, on 29 November 1947, passed Resolution 181, naturally against the will of the Palestinians, voting for the partition of Palestine - a partition it had no mandate to approve or enforce. According to Safty, "The United Nations had no business offering the nation of one people to the people of many nations. Its General Assembly had neither the legal nor the legislative powers to impose such a resolution or to convey title of a territory; Articles 10, 11 and 14 of the UN Charter bestows the right on the General Assembly merely to recommend resolutions." At this momentous time, member states must recover the ailing credibility of the UN by upholding the integrity of international law so that Palestine attains its rightful independence and closes the box in a spirit of peace.

Vacy Vlazna | 23 September 2011  

excellent article , the colonial view of the west toward the east must not be allowed to prevail . Question , do we know what the Australian excuse for a governments view is , are we going to split with the USA on this ?

john crew | 23 September 2011  

Binoy: you seem to be contradicting yourself here. Most of your essay rightly suggests that a two-state solution is the only realistic way of resolving the conflict, and that a UN vote for a Palestinian State living in peace alongside Israel should be supported in principle. This is also the position of many on the mainstream Israeli Left albeit not without qualifications. Everything in the Middle East has unintended consequences, and nobody really knows whether a UN vote for Palestine will promote peace, or rather lead to intensified conflict and war.

Regardless, your sensible argument is marred by the last few paras which quotes extremists such as Abunima who favour the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an exclusivist Arab State of Greater Palestine. His arguments are part of the problem, not the solution.

philip mendes | 23 September 2011  

Thank you for an excellent and up to date summary.

There is a very interesting question that's occupying the minds of those behind the scenes in Australia....and that is not as to whether Australia should vote for or against or to abstain from the vote...but rather what will be the outcome of the tussle between Prime Minister Gillard...who is yet to announce the government's decision..and Foreign Minister Rudd who took the recent and unusual public position of revealing he'd urged the PM to have Australia abstain on the issue.

The questions arising out of that are a) Is Rudd concerning himself primarily more with how such a decision...absention...would play out among the nations he is seeking to enlist tgo support his efforts to win Australia a seat on the Secuoiry Council...and b) whether Gillard needs to assert her authority and opt to side with the Americans and vote against Statehood.

Thus Australians may never know the motives for whatever Australia announces given the byplay behind the scenes.

The personal tussles between the prime Minister and the Foreign Minister should not influence a statesmanlike responce..although, sadly, it will.

Palestine needs to be admitted into the family of nations....while it still has some lands in its possession. Israel makes much of the issue of security...but the wider community also needs to be aware that it is the only nuclear armed nation in the region and that while it bombs underground supply tunnels into occupied gaza, it is freely supplied with weapons by the Americans.The greater pity is that US Presidential elections are so heavily dependent on Jewish financial backing.

Brian Haill - Melbourne | 23 September 2011  

Brian Haill: I would be interested in reading your empirical research evidence in support of your claim that "Jewish finance decides US Presidential elections". Sounds like a bit of an old conspiracy theory (i.e. Protocols of the Elders of Zion) to me, but maybe you hold some secret information that nobody else has.

philip mendes | 23 September 2011  

After reading the above emails, I would like to mention that Israel is a small country the size of El Salvador surrounded by Islamic countries. The total Moslem counties in the world is 40 who hate the Jews.Also to remind what a previous Israeli PM said "that there will only be peace in the Middle East when the Palestinians love their children more than they hate the Jews".

Ron Cini | 23 September 2011  

J.J. Goldberg wrote in his 1994 book Jewish Power that 45% of the Democratic Party’s fundraising and 25% of that for the Republican Party came from Jewish-funded Political Action Committees.[48] Richard Cohen, a columnist for the Washington Post, updated those figures in 2006 citing figures of 60% and 35% respectively for the Democratic and Republican Parties. According to the Washington Post, Democratic presidential candidates depend on Jewish sources for 60% of money from private sources.

Brian Haill - Melbourne | 23 September 2011  

Re "Jewish finance decides US Presidential elections". Truman rejected the Morrison-Grady plan for continued UN trusteeship of Palestine which angered the British because Truman "was more sensitive to his advisors' claim that a pro-Zionist position would help raise funds for the Democratic party machine" -

"In October 1948 the New York Democratic Party delegation paid a visit to Truman and warned him unless he endorsed the widest possible boundaries for Israel..the President would certainly lose New York State in the coming presidential election."

Truman himself rejected self-determination entreaties for Palestine - " I am sorry , gentlemen,but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents."
Quotes taken from Adel Safty's "Might over Right."

Vacy Vlazna | 23 September 2011  

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