Yesterday, the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to recognize a Palestinian state, a victory decades in the making for the Palestinians after years of occupation and war. But, it was a sharp rebuke for Israel and the United States. But Why?
Truth does not change. Truth is truth. If something was true 50 years ago, 40 years ago, 30 years ago, it is still true today.
The history of Palestine is one of immense richness; it was host to numerous prophets over the centuries and the home of many great civilisations. Palestine’s location at the centre of various routes linking three continents made it the melting pot for many religious and cultural influences, from Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor.
The earliest known mention is thought to be in Ancient Egyptian texts of the temple at Medinet Habu which record a people called the P-r-s-t (conventionally Peleset) among the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt in Ramesses III’s reign. The Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəléshseth)- usually translated as Philistia in English, is used in the Bible to denote the southern coastal region that was inhabited by the Philistines to the west of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.
Palestine (Greek: Παλαιστίνη, Palaistinē; Latin: Palaestina; the Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəléshseth); also פלשׂתינה, Palestina; Arabic: فلسطين Filasṭīn, Falasṭīn, Filisṭīn) is a conventional name used, among others, to describe a geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands.
As a geographic term, Palestine can refer to “ancient Palestine,” an area that today includes the State of Israel and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, as well as part of Jordan, and some of both Lebanon and Syria.
The boundaries of Palestine have varied throughout history. Prior to its being named Palestine, Ancient Egyptian texts (c. 14 century BCE) called the entire coastal area along the Mediterranean Sea between modern Egypt and Turkey.
The votes of the United States and other Western states on Palestine’s application for a United Nations status upgrade from “observer entity” to “observer state,” which was voted on by the General Assembly today, was absolutely critical to keeping alive the current slim hopes of achieving peace in the Middle East on the basis of the “two-state solution” which Western states profess to support.
The United States, it is said, should not assist Palestinians in gaining membership at the UN because some Palestinians still don’t recognize the right of Israel to exist. But guess what?
In 1947, there were “Zionists” identified with the Revisionist movement (parts of which later came together to create Likud) who denied the right of Palestinians to a state. They wanted all of Palestine and even Jordan for a Jewish state; and some of them were willing to use terror and assassination to achieve their ends. And there are still many Israelis who deny the right of Palestinians to a state. That didn’t preclude our helping Palestine’s Jews achieve statehood through the UN, and it shouldn’t impede our helping the Palestinians.
For compelling legal, moral, ethical and practical reasons, the United States and other Western states should join the great majority of UN member states, encompassing the vast majority of mankind, in honoring the moral obligations and legal responsibilities of the international community toward the Palestinian people by formally recognizing that, 65 years after the General Assembly’s fateful recommendation to partition Palestine, the two states envisioned by the General Assembly do indeed exist, even though one state is, temporarily, under military occupation by the other state.
Israel and Palestine, two states imagined to be side-by-side since the 1948 creation of Israel, have instead turned into a fantasy for the Judeo-Christian-Harry Truman-NATO armed-West and a painful reality for both the Jews, who were genocided out of Europe into their Biblical homeland, and for the Palestinians who had lost more than half their land to the bizarre ideology of a Greater Israel (or Palestine-renamed as a geopolitical objective) because they were not given statehood together with Israel in 1948.
By seeking to win statehood through UN recognition and assistance, the Palestinian leadership is visibly underscoring its commitment to a two-state solution; by doing that, and by rejecting a strategy based on terror and violence for one based on negotiation and multilateral assistance from the United Nations (which, again, was created to resolve exactly the kind of conflict that is occurring between the Israelis and the Palestinians). By backing the Palestinians at the UN, the United States would be making good on its own commitment to a two-state solution achieved peacefully rather than through terror and violence.
Moreover, America’s standing in the world could only have been improved by being on the side of a Palestinian state. It would have removed an important talking point for Islamic radicals; it would have allied the United States with the reform forces of the Arab Spring, who, as has become clear in Egypt, are very critical of the continued Israeli occupation.
American support could also have helped forestall the sort of explosive reaction among Arab publics that might follow rejection of the Palestinian bid in the Security Council. And backing Palestinian statehood would have put the United States in a position to work constructively with European and Middle Eastern countries, many of whom are hoping to see an end to the century-long standoff in Palestine and now Israel.
Instead, Obama’s stand has made the United States an outlier in the region. We are identified not so much with Israel (which we have rightly defended against attack from other states), but with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and with the expansionist ambitions of the Israeli rightwing.
Still, if the Obama administration had wanted to do what is right, and not what would spare it the slings and arrows of its domestic critics, it should not have rebuffed the Palestinians for appealing to the UN. The U.S. did the right thing in 1947. Why not do it in 2012?
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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