Thursday, September 22, 2011

Israel's Win-Win at the UN

Palestinian-American academic Joseph Massad's essay, State of recognition (, 15/9/11), is one of the best I've read on the Palestinian Authority's current bid for statehood through the UN.

He believes that whether the UN recognises a nominally PA-controlled but still Israeli-occupied Palestinian statelet or not, "either outcome will be in the interest of Israel."

Massad reminds us of the PA's dubious motives: "The ongoing Arab uprisings have raised Palestinian expectations about the necessity of ending the occupation and have challenged the modus vivendi the PA has with Israel. Furthermore, with the increase in Palestinian grassroots activism to resist the Israeli occupation, the PA has decided to shift the Palestinian struggle from popular mobilisation it will not be able to control, and which it fears could topple it, to the international legal arena. The PA hopes that this shift from the popular to the juridical will demobilise Palestinian political energies and displace them onto an arena that is less threatening to the survival of the PA itself."*

According to Massad, while the PA hopes statehood will better enable it to "challenge Israel internationally using legal instruments only available to member states to force it to grant 'independence'," the US would always use its Security Council veto to shield Israel from such challenges, something it has already done 41 times.

Moreover, Massad also believes that any new powers wielded by a PA-controlled, Israeli-occupied, UN-recognised 'Palestine' would come at an "enormous cost to the Palestinian people." He lists the negative implications of a successful UN vote as:

"(1) The PLO will cease to represent the Palestinian people at the UN, and the PA will replace it as their presumed state.

"(2) The PLO, which represents all Palestinians (about 12 million people in historic Palestine and in the diaspora), and was recognised as their sole representative at the UN in 1974, will be truncated to the PA, which represents only West Bank Palestinians (about 2 million people). Incidentally, this was the vision presented by the infamous Geneva Accords that went nowhere.

"(3) It will politically weaken Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes and be compensated, as stipulated in UN resolutions. The PA does not represent the refugees, even though it claims to represent their 'hopes' of establishing a Palestinian state at their expense. Indeed, some international legal experts fear it could even abrogate the Palestinian right of return altogether. It will also forfeit the rights of Palestinian citizens living in Israel who face institutional and legal racism in the Israeli state, as it presents them with a fait accompli of the existence of the Palestinian state (its phantasmatic nature not withstanding). This will only give credence to Israeli claims that the Jews have a state and the Palestinians now have one too and if Palestinians citizens of Israel were unhappy, or even if they were happy, with their third-class status in Israel, they should move or can be forced to move to the Palestinian state at any rate.

"(4) Israel could ostensibly come around soon after a UN vote in favour of Palestinian statehood and inform the PA that the territories it now controls (a small fraction of the West Bank) is all the territory Israel will concede and that this will be the territorial basis of the Palestinian state. The Israelis do not tire of reminding the PA that the Palestinians will not have sovereignty, an army, control of their borders, control of their water resources, control over the number of refugees it could allow back, or even jurisdiction over Jewish colonial settlers. Indeed, the Israelis have already obtained UN assurances about their right to 'defend themselves' and to preserve their security with whatever means they think are necessary to achieve these goals. In short, the PA will have the exact same Bantustan state that Israel and the US have been promising to grant it for two decades!.

"(5) The US and Israel could also, through their many allies, inject a language of 'compromise' in the projected UN recognition of the PA state, stipulating that such a state must exist peacefully side by side with the 'Jewish State' of Israel. This would in turn exact a precious UN recognition of Israel's 'right' to be a Jewish state, which the UN and the international community, the US excepted, have refused to recognize thus far. This will directly link the UN recognition of a phantasmatic non-existent Palestinian state to UN recognition of an actually existing state of Israel that discriminatews legally and institutionally against non-Jews as a 'Jewish state'.

"(6) The US and Israel will insist after a positive vote that, while the PA is right to make certain political demands as a member state, it would have to abrogate its recent reconciliation agreement with Hamas. Additionally, sanctions could befall the PA state itself for associating with Hamas, which the US and Israel consider a terrorist group. The US Congress has already threatened to punish the PA and will not hesitate to urge the Obama administration to add Palestine to its list of 'State Sponsors of Terrorism' along with Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria."

All that will advance Israeli interests, says Massad, but so too will "a US veto, and/or the ability of the US to pressure and twist the arms of tens of countries around the world to reject the bid of the PA in the General Assembly, resulting in failure to recognise PA statehood." This will mean a return to "the unending 'peace process'," during which a stroppier US "will continue to push for PA and Arab recognition of Israel as a 'Jewish state' that has the right to discriminate by law against non-Jews in exchange for an ever-deferred recognition of a Palestinian Bantustan as an 'economically viable' Palestinian state - a place where Palestinian neoliberal businessmen can make profits off international aid and investment."

Massad concludes that "either outcome will keep the Palestinian people colonised, discriminated against, oppressed, and exiled. This entire brouhaha over the UN vote is ultimately about which of the two scenarios is better for Israeli interests."

[*"Israel has given approval for the PA to equip its security forces with riot-control gear, such as tear gas grenades and rubber bullets. The PA has approached Israeli firms to buy such equipment in advance of expected demonstrations on the West Bank around the Palestinian's request for UN recognition as an independent state." (Israel okays acquisition of anti-riot gear ahead of UN vote, Amos Harel, Haaretz, 15/9/11)]

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