One of the most insidious myths of the past 50 years or so years is this: the creation of a Palestinian State would be a threat to the nation of Israel. Frankly, nothing can be farther from the truth. Refusing the Palestinians their own state and complete autonomy has been a grave injustice. It is an injustice, not just to the people of that great land but, to all those who believe in the sanctity and equality of all peoples. The Palestinians, as with all freedom loving peoples everywhere in the world, have the inalienable right to self-government and to fully exercise their rights, duties and obligations at home and abroad. In simple truth, therefore, the creation of a Palestinian State is more than 50 years overdue!
In 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations, in Resolution 181(II), partitioned Palestine. But on May 14 the following year, under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, Israel declared itself a state: independent from the then British Mandate for Palestine. In spite of the controversy and/or circumstances of its being, the Jewish people – after years of wandering, suffering, exile, and persecution – rightfully attained statehood in their ancestors’ homeland. In the years since, Jews, no matter where they may live and no matter their occupation, religious bent, avocation, or worldview, call Israel home.
The Jews deserved their own state. They deserved the right to design and implement their own destiny. They deserved the right to individually and collectively exercise their fundamental human rights. They deserved the right to live in peace; and to thrive and prosper in the land of their ancestors. The international community, especially with the help of the United States, saw to it that the Israelis’ dream and aspirations were realized. And in the years since, no one can reasonably fault the existence of the State of Israel. It was right then, it is right today. But then, what about their next door neighbor, the Palestinians?
Before 1948, the British and the French and a few other western countries – along with some Arab/Middle East countries – saw to the confusion, the animosity, and the eventual attrition in and around Palestine. Today, not much has changed in terms of western powers and their penchant for imperialism. And this time around, the Arabs especially, seem confused and impotent insofar as helping the Palestinians. And the Palestinians themselves continue to suffer from both internal and external betrayal. Today, the most dominant power with the most imbedded influence is the United States of America.
In spite of several years of motion, there have not been genuine and actionable policies on the part of successive US presidents. America, from all indication, is not ready or willing to tell Tel Aviv “as it is.” The US Congress, along with Christian groups, is also not willing to do the right things. What’s more, the vast majority of the American public, it seems, have very little interest in the matter. As influential as Washington seems to be, many have indicated that the most powerful voice in this and related matter, is the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. This was the group, in late spring 2011, that almost made President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wet their pants.
Sixty-three years after Israel became a full-fledged state, the Palestinians have continually and consistently seen their hope and aspirations dashed. There was a time when some thought President Yassar Arafat was the stumbling block; believing that once out of the way, there would be progress in negotiations.
Well, Arafat was killed in 2004 and there is still no self-rule and complete sovereignty for his people. Then, Tel Aviv and Western capitals wanted the Palestinians to demonstrate their democratic credentials before meaningful concessions would be reached. But as soon as Harakat al-Muqwamah al-Islmiyyah, otherwise known as HAMAS won the elections, the rules, expectations, and the goal post were changed or moved.
Before long, Mahmoud Abbas -- America and Israel’s favorite -- became the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the President of the Palestinian National Authority. Abbas has been in those positions since 2004/2005; still, there has been no meaningful progress. In recent times, the focus has been on HAMAS. Frankly, there is nothing new or unusual about HAMAS. The group is nothing several anti-colonial, anti-imperial, and anti-apartheid groups of yesteryears were not. It is likely that without HAMAS, Israel would pulverize Palestine. This is the group, along with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, that has, in the view of many, put a stop to Tel Aviv’s military and political adventures.
The Palestinians want nothing more than to coexist peacefully with the Israelis. They have the people, the land, and the government; and are willing to abide by international laws and conventions. All they want is international recognition for their aspiration: Statehood.
Virtually all the countries in the Global South are willing to confer such recognition, but the US has cautioned many from doing so. In addition, the US has threatened to veto any such move within the UN Security Council. At this point, the Palestinians basically have two choices: go before the General Assembly of the United Nations, or unilaterally declare independence.
On September 14, 2011, the Cable News Network reported the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman, as saying that a unilateral declaration of independence would have “dire consequences” on future negotiations. What else does Tel Aviv want? For the Palestinians to wait another sixty-three years for their own independence and complete autonomy? These are people who have had their basic and governing infrastructure destroyed; its leadership systematic decimated; its educational, social and economic system almost wiped out; and its youths made to wander aimlessly.
Now or at any time in the future, should the Palestinians come before the UN General Assembly for a vote on “Full Membership” or “Complete Independence and Autonomy,” the Nigerian government should enthusiastically support such a bid. African and South American countries should support such a vote.
Members of the General Assembly should also support such a vote. And within the Security Council, if the United States is not courageous enough to do what is right, then, other members of the council should disregard her. In the end, if nothing tangible or meaningful comes out of the Palestinians’ petition, then, they should be allowed to employ other means to free themselves from the shackles of oppression and apartheid.
Just so you know: Palestinian statehood has always been a contentious question. For instance, we know that in 1937, the British Royal Commission, chaired by Lord Peel, examined the Palestinian question. The question of statehood also came up in the Balfour Declaration, the Sykes Picot Agreement, the McMahon Correspondence, and during the Camp David Accord in 1978. And in more recent times, the question of statehood was part of every peace accord by the Israelis and Palestinians namely, the Madrid Peace Conference (1991), the Oslo Accord (1993), the Camp David 2000 Summit, and the Road Map of 2002.
The irony here is that after several years of armed struggles and peaceful negotiation, the Palestinians are no closer to attaining their collective aspiration of a Palestinian State. And ironically, the Israelis, too, are no closer to achieving two of their national objectives: security and peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians and other countries in the Middle East.
In the words of H. L. Mencken, “If you want peace, work for justice.”
The men, women and children of Israel cannot continue to bask in freedom and prosperity, while their equals and contemporaries in Palestine continue to wallow in poverty and imprisonment and in fetid social and political conditions. The creation of a Palestinian State is now! It is the right and humane thing for us all.
Sabella Abidde lives and writes from Montgomery Alabama and can be reached at: [email protected]