The “State” of Palestine: fallacies at the footsteps to the UN

November 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

The potential of Palestine becoming a United Nations non-member observer state, but a state, nonetheless, is eliciting a similar feeling of excitement in the West Bank that local elections produced here in October (on a slightly larger scale, mind you). Both moments pose opportunities for change and a cause for celebration, but are illegitimate representations of Palestinians’ will – a play at politics that undercuts fundamental rights.

Mahmoud Abbas’ pursuit of UN upgrades last year and today, representing both the PLO and PA, deepens a binary Oslo-ization begun in the 1990s. The deeply faulty process towards ‘statehood’ forgoes Palestinian self-determination by dispossessing Palestinian refugees originating from Israel proper (the vast majority of 6.8 million refugees) and Palestinian citizens of Israel (1.5 million). Secondly, pursuing statehood risks further institutionalizing the pseudo-sovereignty that has become the status quo within the West Bank and Gaza Strip – Israel will continue to partition the West Bank into enclaves of PA jurisdiction while extracting resources, transplanting its settler population and perpetuating the structural and naked violence of occupation; as was witnessed last week, the people of Gaza will continue to live under siege and a constant threat of violence.

On the bright side, elevating Palestine to observer state status may provide some benefits. The continuing occupation of what will now be formally recognized by the international community as a state, increases the legal burden on Israel and the moral imperative for international intervention. Palestine based on 1967 borders (excluding the portions expropriated by settlements, Israeli military control, buffer zone in Gaza and the Wall) will have an opportunity to press charges on crimes committed in its (remaining) territory. Media has been abuzz with the enticing option available to the prospective Palestinian state: becoming a member of the International Criminal Court. For the hopeful, it has a ring of accountability to it. Assuming Palestine will be accepted into the ICC (expect heavy resistance from team USA), it will have the potential to submit cases against individuals who have committed international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide) within its territory. The chance of acquiring a limited form of justice is a grand feat for an impunity-stricken  population (See here for a fuller discussion of the implications of Palestine’s potential membership to the ICC.). Finally, the seemingly limited UN bid may in-fact have the potential for an unforeseen coalescence of political shifts that spur a broader movement capable of achieving rights for all Palestinians.

Can UN non-member  status better secure rights for Palestinians? Unlikely and it may damage them – for example, Israel may use Palestine’s upgrade as a tool for affirming Israeli government-commissioned Levy Report published in June 2012 that claims, counter to international legal opinion, Israel is not occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Palestine may, however, gain some meaningful diplomatic leverage if Abbas secures 130 out of 193 possible votes at 10pm Palestine-time.

To date – 132 countries have recognized the state of Palestine and around 150 are expected to vote in favor of non-member status today.


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