The Farce Of UN Statehood For Palestine

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There are a host of legitimate, substantive reasons to censure the recent Palestinian Authority (PA) application for statehood at the United Nations. Some observers have accused PA President Mahmoud Abbas of using the statehood bid as a cynical ploy to bolster his moribund popularity. Legal experts have asserted that the ramifications of the application could lead to a situation where diaspora Palestinians lose their internationally recognized right of return, codified in United Nations General Assembly resolution 194.

But perhaps the most trenchant criticism is the most simple: so what? Even if the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution, what change would it impact on the ground?

There is reason to laud the PA for this enterprise—without the approval or sanction of the United States—and asserting their own agency in the peace process. Although there are risible claims being regurgitated by the Israel for-right-or-for-wrong crowd that this is a “unilateral” maneuver, this is a very meaningful effort at internationalizing the conflict. In effect, the PA is attempting to move the conflict and the negotiations outside the penumbra of United States and Israeli control. Moreover, even if the Palestinians were to simply receive “observer status” through General Assembly ratification, they would have access to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. If anything, this could at least begin to bridge the massive differential power dyad between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The diplomatic and media brouhaha over the application demonstrates two points: 1) The two-state solution paradigm is obsolete; and 2) the United States will support nothing but a Israeli controlled and dictated Palestinian state. As I have written previously, Palestinian self-determination, following in the footsteps of their Arab brethren, will only truly be achieved through mass nonviolent civil resistance. Unfortunately, the PA is either unwilling or incapable of coordinating the already manifold efforts of nonviolent resisters. In early September, I heard a panel of PA representatives exhorting the participants of the discussion to accept and promote the statehood bid. When asked “what if it fails? What type of collaborative efforts is the PA engaged in with civil society?”, their answers were couched as though they were talking to US or Israeli officials. “We have informed demonstrators to remain within certain boundaries and not provoke,” they quickly retorted.

PA elites have a vested economic and political interest in the maintenance of both the two-state solution and the negotiations paradigm. Events on the ground, Israeli obduracy, US complicity, and the trajectory of continued Israeli expansion into the West Bank have made it clear; the hackneyed notion of “two states for two people” is neither producible nor feasible. Despite what the Israeli narrative or Western establishment media may report, there has been active nonviolent resistance by Palestinians for decades. Eventually, the call for political rights will become more and more salient with the realization that the Israelis have no intention of giving the Palestinians a state, and the United States will do nothing about it.

The United States, when pushed into a corner, will shamefully and reflexively resort to the Israeli position. Yes, the Obama administration has applied pressure (rather feebly) to Israelis in regards to settlements. However, the Obama administration also clandestinely gave the Israelis bunker buster bombs that not even the Bush administration was willing to sell—likely out of apprehension that the Israelis would actually use the bombs on Iran. President Obama’s recent speech at the UN was obsequious and seemed more like a sycophantic election pandering to the Israel lobby than anything else. As MJ Rosenberg noted, President Obama used over 120 words of his speech to mourn Jewish suffering and was utterly silent on Palestinian suffering. This despite the fact that since 2009 over 1600 Palestinians, including over 400 children, have been killed by Israeli forces. In the same period, only 13 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. In the sordid world of American politics, do Palestinians not named Mahmoud Abbas, Salaam Fayyad or Ismail Haniyeh even exist?

In a 2007 campaign speech in Iowa, Obama averred, “No one is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” Despite his nihilistic backtracking, there can be no doubt that Obama has a serious understanding of the abject plight, emanating from a draconian and illegal occupation that the Palestinians face. Before he was being advised by the likes of Dennis Ross, Obama had well documented relationships with Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi. To my mind, this makes his perfidy on Palestine all the more despicable.

However, we now know that Obama’s soaring rhetoric and progressive background are all meaningless. This is why once adamant supporter Brother Cornel West called Obama “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” Just as Obama has supinely submitted to the Washington consensus on taxes, (re)distribution of wealth, war, torture, regulating Wall Street—and on and on and on—he has similarly become just another cog in the machine of the peace process industry. Can there be any doubt that Obama is kowtowing to the influence of the Israel Lobby? Even Thomas Friedman, a self-professed Zionist and purveyor of conventional effluvium, is now discussing the pernicious and deleterious effects that pro-Israeli groups are having.

Of course, Obama cannot be held solely responsible for the farcical events at the UN. He is but a politician, concerned first and foremost with the maintenance of his power. If Obama is re-elected, perhaps in 2013 or 2014 we will see some sort of meaningful effort to pressure the Israelis to at the very least not daily and bombastically flout international law. However, I highly doubt it. The UN statehood fiasco should lay to rest any hopes that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza had for a two-state solution negotiated by Israeli, Palestinian, and American elites.

In differential calculus, an inflection is a point when a curve changes its direction. The farce that we see still playing out at the UN, as the Security Council considers the statehood bid, should be an inflection point for the Palestinians, particularly their leadership. Nonviolent civil resistance, in the face of seemingly insuperable structural obstacles, will be the only way for the Palestinians to achieve their political, economic, and social freedom. The brave Palestinians who actively resist all across the West Bank and those who do so through existence as resistance are the vanguard. The statehood bid could very likely be the move that pulls the shroud off the heads of those who would believe otherwise.


Adam Gallagher is a PhD student in Political Science at George Mason University, where his research interests include the political economy of the Middle East and Marxian political theory, and a contributor to the academic blog Tropics of Meta.

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