On reading Joseph Massad's take on the UN General Assembly resolution conferring non member observer state status on the Palestinian Authority, it occurs to me that in my post 'Raining on the parade', I may have read too much into the wording of point 2, the operative decision, and not enough into points 1 and 5, which reaffirm the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and urge negotiations, respectively.
Yesterday, the general assembly voted to admit Palestine as a state with observer status. Despite assurances to the contrary, the new state is likely to undermine the status of the PLO at the UN.
On reflection, I was too hasty to accept the 'assurances to the contrary', specifically,
without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people
The first article of the resolution, which I gather provides the frame for the balance of the resolution,
Reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 [my emphasis]
The plain meaning of this, which I fear I missed at the time is that the Palestinian people as a whole are only entitled to exercise their rights within the occupied territory. Since the Palestinian people incorporates not just the denizens of the West Bank and Gaza, but also the refugees, it seems that what the General Assembly is saying here is that their right of return will not be 'to their homes' as provided in UNGA Resolution 194, but to the State of Palestine. This is in accord with abu Mazen's recent declaration, 'I want to see Safed. It's my right to see it, but not to live there', widely, and I believe correctly, interpreted as relinquishing the right of return, protestations that 'the remarks were his personal stance, rather than a change of policy' to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Palestinian people of course also include some 1.5 million Israeli citizens, who will also enjoy the right to self determination in the State of Palestine, just as then Foreign Minsiter Tzipi Livni promised in December 2008,
Once a Palestinian state is established, I can come to the Palestinian citizens, whom we call Israeli Arabs, and say to them 'you are citizens with equal rights, but the national solution for you is elsewhere'.
Beyond this, in clause 5, the GeneralAssembly enunciated adherence to 'the Quartet road map', along with 'the principle of land for peace', among the guidelines within which negotiations 'for the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides that resolves all outstanding core issues, namely the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security and water'.
The Roadmap demands that the
Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security
Such a statement alone would suffice to cement the Palestinian State's acquiescence in the Palestinian people's permanent exile from at least the 78% of their homeland comprising 'Israel proper'. But it wasn't good enough for Israel, whose response to The Roadmap demanded the absolute end of all resistance and disarming of all Palestinians before they would even consider adherence to The Roadmap's modest provisions applying to Israel. They insisted that 'declared references must be made to Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state'.
You wouldn't expect anything that actually makes sense to emerge from the George W Bush White House. But to suggest 'an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue' is just a sick joke. There can be a just and fair solution, or there can be an agreed and realistic 'solution', but certainly not both if the right of return means anything at all. And true to form, Israel insisted on 'the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel'.
So I'm convinced that the General Assembly has no intention of acknowledging the majority of the Palestinian people who are outside the PA's jurisdiction, even through the imperfect, compromised and moribund PLO. In future, I'll try not to be so gullible.
As for the parades, it seems that the report in the Independent I sourced that information from may have been exaggerating. Haggai Matar reports,
In spite of the headlines, the international media attention, and the flow of pictures showing celebrating Palestinians waving flags – the UN resolution sparked little excitement or joy in the streets of Ramallah, which is still surrounded by walls and settlements on all sides. If anything, it was an evening of sadness and despair.
By 22:00, when the live video from the General Assembly came up, there were few more than 300 people gathered near the screen. By 22:30 the event reached its peak, with about 1,000 people – leaving the small square about half empty. About half were police, journalists, foreigners, and young men who were said to be Fatah Youth, called up in a hurry when officials realized how grim things were looking
In the Telegraph, Robert Tait reports
In the cramped, ramshackle streets of Al Am’ari refugee camp – home to around 6,000 Palestinians displaced in the 1948 war that ushered in the state of Israel – the mood was as grim as the setting, despite the historic vote at the United Nations.
Nor was I alone in noticing the dark cloud surrounding Abbas's silver lining, such as it is.
The Electronic Intifada's Ali Abunimah wrote on the al Jazeera site,
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.
Tait quotes a Ramallah waiter,
“I don’t expect anything from this. This is a state in theory, not in practice,” he said.
“Israel doesn’t pay any attention to international public opinion and the UN can pass all the resolutions it likes but Israel just says no.
Is Israel going to leave the [West Bank] settlements now? Am I going to be able to go to the Al-Aqsa mosque (in Jerusalem) to pray? I don’t think so.”
In Ha'aretz, Abeer Ayyoub wrote,
...I couldn't see anything but the darkness falling over my land...
It's no surprise that most of the people who are going with the step are pro-Fatah; it seems that most of them agree with anything Abu Mazen says by default. I always wonder how a Palestinian can be a refugee and adopt the 1967 borders state at the same time. How can you admit that you don’t have the right to live in your own home?
I was talking to my classmate on Skype when he told me that he’s praying that all the countries will vote against the bid; I was surprised it wasn’t just me who was praying. Abu Ramzi told me that he can’t think of Palestine as anything but the territory from the sea to the river and that having 22% of historical Palestine doesn’t mean anything but a loss to him.
...the Palestinians got their non-member status at the UN by securing the votes of the majority. Let Palestinians who want to enjoy the 22% of their lands enjoy it. No matter what, I’ll always have the 100% inside; where Christians, Jews and Muslims will co-exist in peace, like they always did. I’ll celebrate with the five million refugees when they go back to their homes one day.
And finally, in Massad's view,
By recognising a diminished Palestinian state, the vote effectively abandons the UN understanding of the "Jewish state" as one that has no right to discriminate against or ethnically cleanse non-Jews. The new arrangement confers the blessing of this international forum on the Israeli understanding of what a "Jewish state" entails– namely, the actually existing legal discrimination and ethnic cleansing practised by Israel –as acceptable. That this occurred on 29 November, the date of the partition plan, reiterates this date as one of continuing defeats for the Palestinians who continue to suffer from Israel's colonial laws, and repeats UN guilt in denying Palestinians their rights not to suffer dispossession and racism. The Palestinians, however, whose majority is not represented by the PA, will no more heed this new partition plan than they did the last one and will continue to resist Israeli colonialism until it comes to an end and until Israel becomes a state for all its citizens with equal rights to all regardless of national, religious, or ethnic background.