What the vote counts for

Welcome Palestine

29 November 2012: despite aggressive lobbying by the US and Israel, 138 member states voted for uplift of Palestine’s status, 41 (including Australia) abstained while only 9 voted against. France, Spain and Belgium voted in favor, while the US, Israel were only able to convert Canada, Czech Republic, Panama, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands to their cause. Even after the highest world forum has made its decision to acknowledge Palestinians’ right to self determination the United States remains loyal to her ally. The United States has threatened to withhold funds to the Gaza strip; Netanyahu condemned President Abbas for spreading hatred and war crime rumors. He criticized Abbas for blowing the matter out of proportion; for his hypocrisy in preferring the General Assembly over a trip for ‘peace talks’ with the Likud government in Jerusalem. So how successful has dialogue between the two been?

In 1949 “Palestine” had been wiped off the map. 78% of the country had become Israel, the other 22% divided between Jordan and Egypt. The very existence of a Palestinian people was vehemently denied by the Israeli establishment. This denial had been turned into an article of faith, an inseparable part of the Zionist ideology that had brought the Jews to the Promised Land. Much later, Golda Meir famously declared that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people”. Respected charlatans wrote popular books “proving” that the Arabs in Palestine were pretenders who had only recently arrived. The Israeli leadership was convinced that the “Palestinian problem” had disappeared, once and forever.

The Palestinians however have continued to struggle. Rebellion has become part of their nature, more accurately a state of existence. However by denying them their identity, their status as a people who belonged to that land, Israelis have adopted an ideology that can only create more hurdles in the path of any reconciliation. This ideology of hatred and denial is therefore the first hurdle in the way of peace talks between the two.

The resolution adopted by the United Nations forum 65 years ago to the day, to partition historical Palestine between a Jewish and an Arab state, has finally been reaffirmed. And yet the powerful vote in Palestine’s favor comes as a surprise, and has left those fighting for an independent Palestine overwhelmed. Even though the bloodshed on Gazans over the past few weeks invited a lot of criticism, the pro-US and anti-Hamas narrative remains equally convincing.

“At 1:00 a.m. the bank was bombed, and everyone in the area was awakened from sleep.  Doors were broken and windows were shattered.  There was an agonizing sound, as if we were in a battlefield.”

“The bombing went on every day.  F16 U.S. jets were hitting hard.”

“This is more than anyone can tolerate.  We were unsafe at any place at any time.”

U.S. media and government statements are full of accounts about the scattershot Hamas rocket fire that had taken one Israeli life in the months before the Israeli bombing campaign.  The U.S. government demands that Gazans disarm completely.  Due to simple racism and a xenophobic eagerness to get in sync with U.S. military policy, Western commentators disregard the bombardment of Gazan neighborhoods by the Israelis which has caused thousands of casualties over just the past few years. They robotically frame Israel’s actions as self-defense and the only conceivable response to Palestinians who, under whatever provocations, dare to make themselves a threat.

Mahmud Abbas apparently has achieved a milestone for his people, a legacy that historical leader Yasir Arafat had begun has been continued, or so it seems. Unfortunately the fact is that Palestinian politics has been tampered with badly. Their political representatives are labeled terrorists funded by Iran (Hamas) who disrespect the international decorum. Mahmud, between the Western disapproval of Hamas  and the international sympathy towards the Palestinian cause has discovered a fine niche where he ‘controls’ the digressers in the West bank, and lets the Israelis know he is still the better option. Abbas has been accused of plotting with Israel to overthrow the elected Hamas government, helped brushed the Goldstone report aside (that revealed Israeli war crimes), and for lobbying against the Shalit swap to keep Hamas on the peripheries.

On Thursday, the UN General Assembly voted to admit “Palestine” as a non-member state. On Friday, Israel announced its intention to build thousands more settler housing units on the territory of this supposed state. What now will be the international response in the wake of the UN vote? How can NATO forces, the only physical manifestation of the UN, be deployed to save the Palestinians if the United States is going to veto against any such intervention? Last year Palestine went to the United Nations Security Council with a case to enter the United Nations as a member-state on equal footing as Israel. With this plea rejected, this year Abbas went and appealed to the nations of the World and won them over. Yet, even after an overwhelming majority in favor of the independence of Palestinian people, their problems remain unsettled.

An important point to note is how helpless and ineffective the international community’s voice has been made, by creating institutions and systems which don’t push anything forward unless the few powerful agree. The hypocrisy of the United States in stressing that the nations of the World have erred by voting for the Palestinian cause is appalling. Not only do these representatives leave the explanation to the media that starts bickering, they leave themselves clear of any dirt, letting the people rot in a sea of confusion.

With Abbas not the perfect leader, the sudden celebration seemingly premature, and the increasingly diverging narratives on both sides, the recent UN vote on Palestine seems to have raised more concerns than it has rested.

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