Palestine and the World

SUBHEAD: Despite those countries voting "no" against Palestine in the UN, it is clear the majority of the world disagrees.

By John V. Whitbeck on 2 December 2012 for Aljazeera -

Image above: Palestinians dance in front of the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in celebration of the Palestinian bid for “nonmember observer state” status at the United Nation. From (

The UN General Assembly has now voted, by 138 votes to 9, with 41 abstentions and 5 no-shows, to recognise the existence as a state "of the State of Palestine on the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967".

The "no" votes were cast by Israel, the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama.

The Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau, all former components of the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, are "freely associated states" of the United States, with US zip/postal codes and "Compacts of Free Association" which require them to be guided by the United States in their foreign relations. They more closely resemble territories of the United States than genuine sovereign states - rather like the Cook Islands and Niue, "freely associated states" of New Zealand which make no claim to sovereign statehood and are not UN member states. They snuck into the UN in the flood of new members consequent upon the dissolutions of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, when the previous standards for admission were effectively ignored.

Nauru, a tiny island of 10,000 people in the central Pacific, has, since the exhaustion of the phosphate deposits which briefly made it the country with the world's highest per capital income, had virtually no sources of income other than marketing its UN votes (reliably joining the United States in voting against Palestine) and diplomatic recognitions (joining Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela in recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and housing in tents aspiring illegal immigrants who had been hoping to reach Australia. It is a sad place, an island with no beaches, the world's highest obesity rate and no real alternative to diplomatic prostitution.

Accordingly, only three "real" states joined Israel and the United States in voting against Palestine and the two-state solution: Canada, the Czech Republic and Panama. They must make their own excuses.

In population terms, the opponents of Palestine represent approximately 5 per cent of the world's population, 370 million out of over 7 billion, and, of those, the United States accounts for 314 million. It follows that countries with less than one per cent of the world's population supported the United States in this vote.

The 41 states abstaining in the vote were Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Congo (DRC), Croatia, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Togo, Tonga, the United Kingdom and Vanuatu.

It is worth noting (and a bit puzzling) that 15 of these states (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Congo (DRC), Hungary, Malawi, Mongolia, Montenegro, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Togo and Vanuatu) have extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine, although most of the formerly communist states of eastern Europe did so when they had communist governments.

They have been more than balanced out by the 27 states which have not yet recognised the State of Palestine but which voted in favour of Palestine: Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Eritrea, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago and Tuvalu.

Five states did not vote: Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Liberia, Madagascar and Ukraine. Kiribati is no surprise. For economic reasons, it is the only UN member state which does not maintain a permanent mission in New York. Why the other four, all of which have extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine, failed to push any of the three buttons is a mystery.

The European Union vote was 14 "yes", 1 "no" and 12 abstentions. Aside from Germany, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, all of the old "Western" members voted for Palestine. All ten of the new "Eastern" members (the three Baltic states, formerly part of the USSR, the six former members of the Warsaw Pact and Slovenia) abstained or, in one case, voted against Palestine. These "Eastern" states have passed from domination by one empire to domination by another empire without ever daring to fully assert their independence. That said, all except the Czech Republic did at least dare to abstain.

It may take some time for the results of this vote to be fully digested. In the best of all possible worlds, one might hope that the United States would finally recognise that, on the issue of Palestine, it is totally divorced and isolated from the moral and ethical conscience of mankind and must now stop blocking progress toward peace with some measure of justice, step aside and permit other states with a genuine interest in actually achieving peace with some measure of justice to take the lead in helping Israelis and Palestinians to achieve it.

Since we do not live in the best of all possible worlds, and since Americans persist in believing that they are the "indispensable" nation, other states will need to make clear to the United States that its vote on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People has definitively disqualified it not only from its prior monopoly control over the "Middle East peace process" but even from any further role in it and that its further involvement in the preeminent moral issue facing the international community is no longer needed or wanted.

Abbas and Israel
SUBHEAD: The Palestinian president has accomplished more for Israel than he has for Palestine.

By Ali Abunimah on 2 December 2012 for Aljazeera -

A day after the UN voted to admit "Palestine" as a non-member state, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly praised the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas for its collaboration with the Israeli occupation army.

Speaking at a Zionist think tank in Washington on Friday, Clinton defended the PA from criticism by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. According to Ha'aretz Clinton said, "With very little money, and no natural resources, they [the PA] have accomplished quite a bit, building a security force that works every single day with the IDF (Israel Defence Forces). They have entrepreneurial successes. They are nationalistic - but largely secular. Israel should support them."

This is the same "IDF" that just a few days ago was massacring entire Palestinian families in Gaza and shooting dead West Bank Palestinians who dared to protest those crimes.

And during and after its latest attack on Gaza, the same Israeli army embarked on a rampage of arrests in the West Bank, detaining hundreds of people for expressing their views. In light of Clinton's comments, it is legitimate to ask how much the PA participated in these acts of rage and vengeance by Israel for its failure in Gaza.

Clinton could have added that daily collaboration with the occupation was not the only notable "accomplishment" of the Abbas-led US-backed PA. For years, the PA has been equipped and trained under US supervision to act as an auxiliary for Israeli occupation forces to suppress any and all forms of Palestinian resistance, to beat and suppress Palestinians expressing their views and to arrest and harrass journalists who dare to criticise it.

This is exactly the kind of repressive client regime the United States has always supported in Arab countries, and why Clinton commended the PA to her Israeli partner.

A shameful record

The Abbas PA's record of collaboration with Israel, against the interests of the Palestinian people is long, shameful and well documented. It includes plotting secretly with Israel, the US and the former Mubarak regime in Egypt to overthrow the elected Hamas-led Palestinian Authority after 2006, colluding with Israel to bury the Goldstone report into Israel's war crimes in Gaza in 2008-2009, begging Israel not to release Palestinian prisoners so as not to give credit to Hamas, and more recently Abbas' public renunciation of the Palestinian right of return, a reflection of his longstanding position in negotiations.

These harsh realities should bring into focus the misguided celebrations over the UN vote, which as I explained on Al Jazeera is at best no more significant than winning an international football match, and at worst, as Joseph Massad argued in The Guardian, ratifies a racist status quo.

Bait and switch

Quite a few people nonetheless tried to market the UN vote as a great victory, answering scepticism about it by saying it would give Palestinians access to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to hold Israeli war criminals accountable. Can anyone seriously believe that the Abbas-led PA that has done all this, and which Clinton praises for its close collaboration with the the occupation army, will do anything to bring Israeli war criminals to justice?

Already, the bait-and-switch has happened. Just a day after the UN vote, Abbas poured cold water on any such hope. "We now have the right to appeal the ICC, but we are not going to do it now and will not do it except in the case of Israeli aggression," Abbas told reporters. While Palestinians in Gaza still mourn, and those in the West Bank struggle to retain their land as Israel and its settlers steal it, the ostensible Palestinian leader sees no Israeli "aggression".

A hollow strategy

The emptiness of the UN vote could not have been more clearly illustrated than by what has happened - or not happened - since.

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?

Other than ritual condemnations, will there be real, specific action - including sanctions - by the 138 countries that voted for "Palestine" to force Israel to halt, and begin to reverse its illegal colonisation of the 1967 occupied territories? Sadly, that is unlikely, an indication that the UN vote was nothing more than a hollow gesture and a substitute for effective action to halt Israel's crimes.

It is also a reminder that there is no "two-state solution". There is one geopolitical entity in historic Palestine. Israel must not be allowed to continue to entrench its apartheid, racist and colonial rule throughout that land.

What ought to give us hope are not more empty gestures at the UN, but the growing Palestinian-led grassroots solidarity movement, pushing to hold Israel accountable. This movement scored a significant milestone this week when international music legend Stevie Wonder pulled out of a benefit gig for the Israeli army after an activist campaign.

Actions like this by prominent cultural figures indicate that the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, modelled on the one that helped end apartheid in South Africa, is gaining strength and legitimacy. It is a movement based not on trading Palestinian rights for a West Bank mini-state under a dictatorial US-backed regime, but on restoring the rights of all Palestinians everywhere.

Ali Abunimah is author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. He is a co-founder of the online publication The Electronic Intifada and a policy adviser with Al-Shabaka.

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