Muddle and mixed messages precede Palestinian bid for UN recognition


By Stuart Littlewood * | Sabbah Report | | Jun 11, 2011

There are hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of dedicated pro-Palestinian activists out there waiting, straining at the leash, hoping for a call from the Palestinian leadership to mobilize, get stuck in, set the mood and pave the way for the make-or-break bid for UN recognition and statehood in September.

They long to hear a coherent theme, a gutsy strategy and a strong, persuasive message that puts across the Palestinian case in terms that cannot be argued with. But the big day is only three months away and “the silly season”, as the media call it, is nearly upon us. It’ll need sharp thinking and superhuman effort to make enough noise to get the world’s attention.

Mixed messages

And the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) – also known as the Palestinian Authority (PA) – is off to an unpromising start with the depressing news that “a statehood push at the United Nations will not advance the Palestinians’ cause”, according to President Mahmoud Abbas. The initiative, he is reported as saying, will be compromised by the fact that the Palestinians first have to seek support from the Security Council before going to the General Assembly.

The most that can be hoped for is “a non-binding affirmation of previous resolutions saying the Palestinians have the right to a state”. The Palestinian leadership is only going ahead with its plan to approach the UN “in order to save face among the Palestinian people”, said the report.

According to Ma’an News Agency, a member of the negotiating team denied the report, saying some of the world’s most important international lawyers are backing the initiative and the Palestinians are hopeful they will succeed.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) negotiators have made a career of bolloxing up negotiations for years. So who exactly are the “negotiating team”? It’s time we knew their faces and background.

Unwanted baggage

And here’s more silliness: The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) – what’s with all these names saying different things? Those of us in the world outside should only have to listen to one authority, otherwise we’ll lose patience. Which one is it going to be?

Surely not the PLO. This organization has strong paramilitary overtones, being Yasser Arafat’s old outfit. How clever is it to bring to the negotiating table or to the UN a name like that at a time like this? Yet it has a Negotiations Affairs Department, which in turn has a Public Relations Unit. A fat lot of good either of them are. Do they seriously intend heading up this statehood move?

Now is the time to dump all unwanted baggage. Like Abbas. He may be the Americans’ and Israelis’ pet dinosaur but it won’t help in this situation and has never helped the Palestinian cause in any event. There is surely considerable talent among the “Palestinian Forum”, which has been quietly pulling things together behind the scenes. It was left to Robert Fisk to bring us news of their work while Abbas’s useless PLO and worthless public relations units kept us in the dark.

And I thought chief negotiator Saeb Erakat resigned following the scandal of the “Palestine Papers“, which revealed the shameful behaviour of the Palestinian team in their pathetic peace talks with the Israelis. But no, he’s still there issuing press releases. His seems to be the only voice and he continues to have a high profile role. Erakat is reported to be in Washington talking with US officials about reviving the peace process.

Adding to the confusion and showing the world that he can face two ways at once, Abbas was reported welcoming a scheme by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe to arrange a conference in Paris in July where the discredited “peace talks” could be resumed. Juppe says Abbas “responded favourably”.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad also welcomed the idea, we’re told. Nothing is more likely to kick their application for UN recognition and statehood into the long grass than resumption of dragged-out, lopsided “negotiations” with an illegal occupier who’s determined to make the occupation permanent

And why is Juppe doing this? If he is so concerned about Middle East peace why doesn’t he concentrate on ensuring that in September the UN recognizes Palestine as an independent state on pre-1967 borders? A just and proper peace will flow from that.

The PA/PLO’s “enlightened road map to peace”

On 7 June I received a press release from the Palestinian embassy in London which said:

The Palestinian leadership has … concluded that endless negotiations with Israel have not led to a just solution to the conflict… The Palestinian leadership’s decision to pursue a September United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines comes as a result of the deadlock in the peace process. This legitimate move has been welcomed by many countries that have recognized the Palestinian leadership’s strenuous efforts to secure a negotiated settlement and that recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and statehood.

The document quoted the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Professor Manuel Hassassian, as saying:

The foundations upon which Palestinians seek the establishment of a homeland are based upon peace, prosperity, freedom and security, against which Israel justifies its brutal occupation. Home demolitions, family evictions, revoking ID cards, the illegal occupation over Palestinian land, the remapping of Jerusalem, stalling peace talks and defying international law are tactics employed by Israel to stall the establishment of a viable Palestinian state…

Professor Hassassian calls on the international community to “seize the moment” and support recognition of a Palestinian state in September. “This is the enlightened road map to peace,” he says.

Is it the call to action? Who knows? It isn’t enough to email a press release. You have to follow up and make sure key publications broadcast it. And I cannot find it on the embassy’s website, so there’s no link.

For activists it contains no action plan, no briefing material, no “killer” statistics for activists to arm themselves with, no “lines to take” against stooges of the US-Israel axis, no contact details of articulate and media-savvy spokespeople on hand at a moment’s notice. Nothing to support a campaign.

Maybe information packs are on the way.

And why spoil it with words that grovel, like “Palestinians seek to establish a homeland”? That’s the language used by Zionist bribers and manipulators after World War I when trying to wheedle their way into Palestine. Palestinians already have a homeland, for God’s sake! They just want it back.

Professor Hassassian is the PA/PLO’s mouthpiece here in the UK. Presumably, he is told to stick to Ramallah’s script. According to Ramallah, then, the foundations for establishing a homeland are “peace, prosperity, freedom and security”. But the real purpose of the application, surely, are to end the brutal occupation, secure the return of stolen lands and natural resources, restore refugees to their homes if they wish, and become an independent self-determining state. There can be no peace, prosperity, freedom and security until these things are achieved.

The Palestinians’ demands are based squarely on international law and numerous UN resolutions, which are waiting to be implemented. Not least, they are enshrined in human rights legislation and the principles of the UN Charter.

The question is, will senior member-states respect these solemn principles when the crunch comes in September? Or will they show the world how lawless, grasping and corrupted they have become?

One of the strongest cards in the Palestinian hand is the realization that there never has been and never could be any meaningful negotiation with Israel in present circumstances. No-one can reasonably be expected to “negotiate” with a gun to their head. Furthermore, the Israeli prime minister has refused to talk with a Palestinian government that includes certain democratically elected elements. Clearly, the only way forward is an application to the UN.

So what are we to make of the mixed messages at this eleventh hour? Does the Palestinian left hand know what the right hand is doing? Is the PA/PLO going wholeheartedly for UN recognition or is it determined to scupper its people’s hopes by entertaining more “peace talks”?

If I were a Palestinian I’d be tearing my hair out.

* Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. Read other articles by Stuart, or visit Stuart’s website.

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