Showing posts with label UN membership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UN membership. Show all posts

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Tale of Two Speeches


Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute of Policy Studies

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the United Nations General Assembly was as much about trying to reclaim his dwindling support among Palestinians as it was designed to outline Palestine’s intention to move for a new status at the UN. The consequence of “non-member state” status, while not granting full UN membership, would provide a UN imprimatur to the identity of Palestine as a state, meaning it would have the right to sign treaties. Of particular significance would be Palestine joining the Rome Treaty as a signatory to the International Criminal Court. That would, at least potentially, enable an ICC investigation of potential Israeli war crimes on Palestinian territory.


Beyond his anticipated call for the new UN recognition as a “state,” much of Abbas’ speech focused on Israeli violations of international law, particularly the Geneva Conventions. While he issued his usual call for resuming peace talks with Israel, he called for the United Nations, specifically the Security Council, to pass a binding resolution setting out the terms of reference for any renewed diplomatic process, something that seems to contradict his longstanding willingness to allow unchallenged U.S. control of the negotiating process.

In other parts of his speech, the PLO Chairman reasserted the PLO’s role as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, while rejecting the occupation’s efforts to divide Gaza from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and reaffirmed the need for a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees under the terms of UN resolution 194. In language clearly designed to win support from Palestinians both in the OPT and in the diaspora, many of whom remain dissatisfied with the current Palestinian leadership and whom he identified as "an angry people," he spoke of Israeli “apartheid,” asserted Palestinian rights and the need to continue “peaceful popular resistance” against occupation. In a clear effort to win support from Palestinian civil society, whose call for a global campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions has fundamentally challenged longstanding PLO/PA strategy, he spoke in a language of rights, rejecting the notion of statehood being bestowed on Palestinians, and identified Israel’s “settler colonialism” as something that must be “condemned, punished, and boycotted.”


As anticipated, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, reflecting the huge political gain that he has won from his year of escalating threats against Iran, barely touched the Palestinian question. He has taken advantage of the fact that as long as the claim (however specious) that Israel faces an “existential danger” from Iran is on the table, no one, certainly not the United States, has been willing to exert any real pressure on Israel regarding the occupation. His reference to Israel’s occupation was limited to a brief paragraph in which he claimed that “we seek peace with the Palestinians.” He then went on to lecture the Palestinians, saying “we won’t solve the conflict with libelous speeches at the UN, that’s not the way to solve them.” He said the conflict wouldn’t be solved with “unilateral declarations of statehood,” that the only goal can be a “mutual compromise in which a demilitarized Palestinian state [heavily emphasized in his delivery] recognizes the one and only Jewish state.”


Netanyahu’s speech focused almost solely on Iran, comparing it to Nazi Germany and calling for the world to join his crusade against it. He spoke derisively of those who claim that a nuclear-armed Iran might stabilize the Middle East, looking up from his prepared notes with a sarcastic “yeah, right.” Interestingly, he reminded the world — seemingly as a point of pride — that he had been speaking about “the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons for over 15 years.” It apparently didn’t appear to his speechwriting team that this admission, when all of those earlier warnings were shaped by the same “it’s almost too late” rhetoric that we heard today, might somehow discredit his unchanging claim.

Ignoring the fact that the United States, unfortunately, already has an “all options on the table” red line of its own (preventing Iran from obtaining a bomb), Netanyahu called on the United States to endorse his own specific red line for using force against Iran.  He set his red line as Iran’s ability to enrich uranium to bomb grade, and demanded that the U.S. join. While Iran has not enriched anywhere close to that level, Netanyahu’s language reflected his red line on Iran’s “capability,” a line that he argued is almost here. He spoke on the need to attack Iranian facilities while they are “still visible and still vulnerable.” Perhaps taking a lesson from then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s use of fake “anthrax” props when trying to persuade the Security Council of the need to go to war against Iraq in 2002, Netanyahu held up a primitive grade-school level poster prop and used insulting “this is a bomb, this is a fuse” language.

Netanyahu’s overall language, however, was significantly more conciliatory towards President Obama than much of his recent rhetoric. Perhaps it was the cohort of Jewish Democratic Party heavyweights who scolded the Israeli prime minister for interfering in U.S. politics, or perhaps it was his U.S. advisers, or perhaps his own political team at home — but whatever the reason, Netanyahu’s overt embrace of all things Romney, and his disdain for all things Obama, was kept well under wraps in New York.

Institute for Policy Studies

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Obama Admin. Catalogues Effort to Protect Israeli Occupation/Apartheid at UN

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that the Obama Administration has repeatedly taken decisive measures in the United Nations to protect Israeli occupation and apartheid toward the Palestinians and to prevent the international community from holding Israel accountable for its numerous violations of human rights and international law.

We've seen this over and over again.  From undermining UN fact-finding missions on "Operation Cast Lead" and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, to vetoing a mild condemnatory resolution in the Security Council about Israel's illegal settlements, to scotching Palestine's UN membership bid, the Obama Administration has doggedly worked to prevent the UN from protecting or advancing Palestinian human rights.

For anyone who doubts this to be the case or was perhaps unaware of this, the Obama Administration has now usefully encapsulated its myriad efforts to protect Israeli occupation and apartheid in the UN.

On April 24, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer--a key player in the Obama Administration's effort to protect Israeli occupation and apartheid in the UN--delivered a speech to the American Jewish Community of Greater Miami and Broward in which she enumerated all of the ways in which the Obama Administration shields Israel from accountability in the UN.

According to Brimmer, "We have opposed unbalanced, one-sided resolutions, at the UN General Assembly, the Security Council, UNESCO, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN Human Rights Council and elsewhere."

Brimmer rightfully notes that "Over the past several months, we have engaged in a global diplomatic marathon to oppose the Palestinian membership bid in New York and elsewhere in the UN system."

Not for the first time does Brimmer equate Palestinian efforts to secure their long-denied human and national rights through the UN as undermining Israel.  In her zero-sum mentality, "we vehemently reject [these] attempts to de-legitimize the State of Israel."

For an Administration that came to office supposedly rejecting the us versus them foreign policy dichotomy of its predecessor, it is distressing to see the Obama Administration adopt this same type of rhetoric when it comes to its approach toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: any advance in Palestinian rights is a diminution of Israel's legitimacy. Is the Obama Administration also then willing to argue the converse?  Namely, that Israel's "legitimacy" can only be predicated on the continual denial of Palestinian rights.  That seems a bit illogical.

Well, even if Brimmer failed to clarify how advancing Palestinian rights "delegitimizes Israel," at least she put in one succinct place all of the Obama Administration's efforts to protect Israeli occupation and apartheid.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No laughing matter: The cutting of UNESCO funding

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.

In classic fashion cable television's The Daily Show recently reminded those of us who have conveniently forgotten that, for the most cynical of reasons, the US government has cut funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The cut was carried out in October 2011 as a US response to UNESCO accepting Palestine as a participating member nation.  The US Congress, in its wisdom, has ruled that any such actions by an international body should come at great cost, in this case, the elimination of US funding - some 22 percent of UNESCO's budget.

The Daily Show rightly made the members of Congress out to be curmudgeons, hacks, and misanthropes who would rather score political points against the Palestinians than protect innocents being assisted by UNESCO. The program’s only shortcoming was its failure to assign blame to AIPAC for repeatedly pushing misguided policies toward the region.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
America's Problem with UNESCO Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The theory behind this ill-considered measure is that any recognition of Palestine as having an independent government and statehood aspirations should be discouraged in order that Palestinians and Israel may settle their nearly 64-year dispute via direct negotiations and with no outside assistance from the international community to balance the playing field between the state of Israel and the dispossessed Palestinian people. To some this may sound rational except that Israel holds all of the cards, even following the 1993 Oslo Accords that were supposed to lay the foundation for the establishment of an independent, legitimate Palestinian state living at peace with Israel.

It remains completely unclear to any independent observer how Palestine entering into UNESCO would influence negotiations that are not taking place.  What it does do is to display to all who wish to see that the Palestinians are viewed by most of the world as a legitimate nation of people who have the right to fully operate at the international level.

Continue Reading at The Hill

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

US Campaign Co-chair addresses U.N. General Assembly


This morning Peter Miller, Co-chair of the US Campaign's Steering Committee, gave the following address at the United Nations General Assembly, at the invitation of the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Solemn Commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People

United Nations 
New York
November 29, 2011


Remarks by Peter Miller 
President, Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights
Co-Chair, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. President, Excellencies:

I am honored to speak to you today on this solemn commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. I am but one voice among many from global civil society who are deeply concerned about the plight of Palestinians resulting from Israel's policies of occupation, settlement, siege and the denial of Palestinian rights. Many civil society activists around the world have dedicated their lives seeking a just resolution to the Palestine-Israel conflict. Some have paid a huge price for their efforts. And why must civil society pay such a high price? It is because of the failure, your excellencies, of the United Nations and governments to implement international law.

As an American, I am deeply disturbed, as are many Americans, by the role the my government plays in preventing Palestinians from achieving their aspirations and their human rights. The U.S. unconditionally gives Israel $3 billion every year in military aid and ignores Israel's many systematic and continuing human rights violations. Those include the illegal use of military weapons against civilian populations and the ever  expanding Israeli settlements, the expansion of its separation wall on Palestinian lands, the treatment of its Palestinian citizens as second class human beings and the denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees. One of the challenges to the UN and the international community, if you truly are committed to upholding the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, is to confront the deeply negative role of the U.S. in perpetuating injustice and enabling Israel to continue to violate international law and destroy the possibility of realizing Palestinian aspirations.

The admission of Palestine into the UN Organization UNESCO is a great victory for the UN and the voice of people around the world. 107 countries, representing over 75% of the world's population voted to include Palestine, truly “We the Peoples of the United Nations.” Unfortunately, the Obama administration was eager to enforce archaic U.S. laws, and cut off U.S. dues to UNESCO. Also unfortunate is the fact that the Obama, and earlier U.S. administrations, have failed to uphold other U.S. laws conditioning military aid to countries, such as Israel, which use U.S. supplied weapons against civilian populations. The UN is challenged to uphold its Charter in the face of all the various anti-democratic pressures the US brings to bear, whether it is spying on UN officials, pressuring independent countries economically and politically, or threatening the UN itself with economic sanctions. The UN must defend its founding principles despite these pressures and the global community must be ready to increase economic and diplomatic support for the UN and UNESCO.

One of the great advancements of civilization has been the development of the concept of the rule of law, that human beings have universal rights, and that there should be international institutions that work to safeguard these rights, especially in times of conflict and military occupation. The principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and other laws lay out this framework. The challenge for the UN is not to develop new laws or to express new sentiments, but to implement these existing universal principles and its existing resolutions to protect Palestinian human rights. The whole concept of universal rights and protection of civilians is endangered when powerful nations can pick and chose, in defiance of international bodies and global opinion, to whom these laws apply and for whom they are ignored. The law should be universal.

So far, the UN and other established institutions have failed to implement these universal principles, and have been unable to hold the powerful accountable for their oppression of the weak. So it has become necessary for global civil society to step into the void. This is what is happening around the world, including in the United States, on behalf of Palestinian human rights. This is why there is a growing movement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions to bring non-violent pressure on the State of Israel to end its systematic violations.

The Russell Tribunal is yet another expression of global civil society responding to the failure of the UN and governments to uphold the law. One of Bertrand Russell's last accomplishments was the establishment, with French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, of the Russell Tribunal to investigate the role of the United States in the war in Vietnam. The tribunal was established as a means for civil society to bring to the light the evidence of war crimes ignored by the United States government and by other nations and international institutions. Russell declared “May this Tribunal prevent the crime of silence.”

A new Russell Tribunal on Palestine has been reconvened with three sessions to date to examine Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. The most recent session was held November of this year in South Africa, with judges including Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, emeritus judge of Spain’s Supreme Court José Antonio Martin Pallin, African-American poet Alice Walker and South African writer and activist Ronald Kasrils.  They examined the question of whether Israel is engaged in the crime of Apartheid. Israeli human rights activist Jeff Halper, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions said,

“States, along with the United Nations, are obligated to enforce international law and human rights conventions. When they don't, as in their failure to apply to Israel and its Occupation the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, the people themselves must rise up and demand that they do. Civil society forums such as the Russell Tribunal may not carry formal authority, but they represent millions of people the world over who believe that simply leaving governments free to pursue their narrow agendas driven by power, sectarian ideology, militarism and the profits of a few is to doom us all to continued war, bloodshed and injustice.”

The Tribunal concluded that Israel does indeed engage in the crime of Apartheid:

"Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalized regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law.... The Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the occupied Palestinian territory are subject to a particularly aggravated form of apartheid. Palestinian citizens of Israel, while entitled to vote, are not part of the Jewish nation as defined by Israeli law and are therefore excluded from the benefits of Jewish nationality and subject to systematic discrimination across the broad spectrum of recognized human rights. Irrespective of such differences, the Tribunal concludes that Israel's rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid."

The Russell Tribunal is not the first time Israeli apartheid has been identified. In 1961 Hendrik Verwoerd, then president of South Africa and considered the architect of the system of apartheid, stated, “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” Both Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela have expressed concerns that Israel's behavior was similar to what they experienced under South African apartheid. Mandela remarked that:

“The UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

In 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa issued a report concluding that Israel practices both Apartheid and colonialism. In 2010, Henry Siegman, former national director of the American Jewish Congress said, "Israel has crossed the threshold from 'the only democracy in the Middle East' to the only apartheid regime in the Western world."  Now in 2011, we can add the conclusions of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Palestinian rights must no longer be held hostage to the domestic politics of the United States. Israel should not escape UN censure simply because it refuses to cooperate with international institutions. International law demands condemnation of Israel's violations and crucially, Your Excellencies, decisive action to reverse them. Palestinian dignity is assaulted on a daily basis. Both the Palestinian and Israeli people are diminished each passing day as you allow these Israeli policies to continue. Every day, a tree is destroyed or a home is demolished. Every day, a Bedouin village inside Israel is ground down by bulldozers or Palestinians in the West Bank are attacked by settler pogroms that turn their lives into lives of fear.  Every day, critical medicines go lacking in Gaza, and Gazans are forced to drink brackish water unfit for human consumption.

The so-called “Quartet” has failed.  But while many question whether the UN should have ever agreed to participate in such sham diplomacy, you can still play a constructive role by moving quickly to implement the necessary pre-conditions for serious and honest negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians based on the enforcement of international law. Excellencies, you must separate Israel’s legitimate security concerns from its illegitimate political agenda. The International Court of Justice ruling on the illegality of Israel's wall made just this sort of distinction: determining that Israel may build its wall on Israeli land, but Israel cannot build its wall on Palestinian land, destroying Palestinian farms and homes, and separating Palestinian villages and towns from each other. It is illegal, not simply “unhelpful,” for Israel to build settlements on Palestinian lands. Israel violates international law when it imposes collective punishment on the people of Gaza. UN-based solutions must be found to mitigate all of these issues.  The international community must demand that Israel end its assaults on Gaza that kill and injure civilians, and destroy civilian infrastructure in an endless cycle of  international development assistance repeatedly destroyed by Israel's U.S. supplied bombs and missiles and Israel's U.S. supplied Caterpillar bulldozers. All that is lacking is your will to impose solutions rooted in international law.

One of the great privileges of working within civil society for Palestinian justice is witnessing the coming together of people from many origins working together for justice. In my own small group, we have Jewish Americans, Palestinian Americans, Christians, Muslims, and secular people who recognize in each other our common humanity. This is replicated around the world. We in global civil society seek to rise above narrow national and tribal self interest and truly believe that peace is possible when our common humanity is recognized and justice is implemented. We honor the efforts of those Israelis who recognize that peace for Israel comes through justice for Palestinians, we honor the efforts of activists and UN workers from around the world, many who have risked their comfort and sometimes their lives in the name of justice. Though there are wide ranges of opinion about what the various solutions might be, we are united in the recognition of our common humanity and our dreams of living together, as equals, on this small blue planet.

Thank you.

-- END --

Friday, November 4, 2011

Salon.com publishes US Campaign member's analysis of UNESCO debacle

Salon.com recently published the following article, written by US Campaign Steering Committee member and director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Phyllis Bennis. The US Campaign has been organizing around the issue of Palestinian membership in the UN in recent months, and has assembled educational material on the subject which can be found here.

Defunding UNESCO for the 1 percent
Putting Israeli interests ahead of American interests begins to backfire

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the 1 percent — the rich, the powerful, the ones who buy off our government, impose their wars, avoid paying their taxes, you know the ones. The 99 percent — the rest of us - are the ones who pay the price.

But there’s another 99/1 percent divide: over U.S. policy toward Israel and the whole world. Here the 1 percent are really on a roll. Right over the rest of us.

Bennis
This struggle concerns the American people’s support for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization known as UNESCO. The organization does a lot of important work, including identifying and protecting World Heritage Sites, working to broaden educational opportunities around the world and helping poor countries get access to scientific information.

One could certainly argue that for a self-interested American, UNESCO isn’t crucial to U.S. national interests. One might say it does nothing more than make sure that tourist sites like the Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are still there when you want to see them. In fact, during the Cold War, Ronald Reagan pulled the U.S. out of UNESCO altogether; no one except maybe the historians, anthropologists, educators, cultural workers and a few insignificant others seemed to mind. It was almost a decade later that George Bush rejoined the organization.

And here we are again. This time the U.S. Congress announced it is withholding this year’s UNESCO dues, within hours of the global organization welcoming a new member: Palestine. In certain basic ways, UNESCO (like the United Nations itself) is like every little kids’ club: You don’t pay your dues, you’re out. In her press briefing just after the Paris vote, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is “regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of accomplishing a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The United States remains steadfast in its support for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. But such a state can only be realized through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

CONTINUE READING HERE

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Josh Ruebner Challenges Washington Post Editorial on Palestine's UN Statehood Bid

In last week's episode of The Listening Post, on Al-Jazeera English, Josh Ruebner appeared in the segment "Global Village Voices," which showcases quick clips from a handful of English-language new-media commentators around the world.



The full 25-minute program can be seen here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

What is Next for Palestinian Reconciliation and the United Nations Bid?


Mouin Rabbani, an independent analyst of Palestine and Israel, shares his thoughts on the Palestinian bid for statehood in the United Nations and a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation.  View two recorded interviews he did this month below.





Mouin Rabbani  is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) in Washington DC.  He is an independent Middle East-based analyst specializing on Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict

He shared his initial thoughts on the UN initiative in this Palestine Studies TV video in mid-September.  He also penned short responses to the speeches by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in front of the United Natiosn General Assembly.
   
He will be in Washington, DC until October 9th and can speak at events or make media appearances. To book Rabbani, email us or call him directly at:


Thursday, September 29, 2011

New York Times' Ethan Bronner suddenly sounds like us!


The following excerpt is from an editorial on page A10 of today's edition of the New York Times. It comes under the headline "Israelis Happy at Home but Glum About Peace," and it sounds surprisingly agreeable -- given Ethan Bronner's usual point of view -- to what the US Campaign has been insisting for weeks in our efforts to mobilize grassroots opposition against the Obama Administration's obstruction of Palestinian UN membership...
Bronner
"...The sense over the past two years that President Obama was growing angry with Israel and steering American policy away from its interests subsided last week. The parts of Mr. Obama’s United Nations speech about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could have been written by any official here. It said nothing about Israeli settlements, the 1967 lines, occupation or Palestinian suffering, focusing instead on Israel’s defense needs.
Avigdor Lieberman, the hawkish foreign minister, said afterward that he would be happy to sign Mr. Obama’s speech “with both hands.”
SEE FULL ARTICLE... 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Opportunities to Learn about Palestine UN Membership Bid

Join the US Campaign this week for two opportunities to learn more about Palestine's UN membership bid.

Tonight, Wednesday, September 21, 8-9pm join us at Georgetown University for a panel discussion with National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner, Noura Erakat, and Mouin Rabbani, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine and the Lecture Fund.


Video streaming by Ustream
Streaming video by Ustream

Palestine’s Statehood Bid: Implications on the Peace Process
Wednesday, September 21st
8:00pm to 9:00pm
ICC 104

Join Students for Justice in Palestine and the Lecture Fund for a panel discussion of the Palestinian statehood bid and its consequences with an international human rights law expert, an advocacy director, and a journalist.

Speakers: Noura Erakat, Josh Ruebner, Mouin Rabbani

If you can't make it to Georgetown tonight, or live outside of the Washington, DC area, tune in for a livestream broadcast of the panel at: http://www.endtheoccupation.org

Then on Thursday, September 22, you're invited to a conference call with National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner, organized by US Campaign member group Jewish Fast for Gaza to discuss the Palestine UN membership bid. Details below:

Our September phone conference will be on Thursday, September 22 at 12 noon Eastern Time (Call in number: 800-920-7487 Code: 92247763# ) with Josh Ruebner and we hope you will join us. There is a lot of misinformation about the Palestinian U.N. initiative. The call will be an opportunity to discuss the meaning of the U.N. initiative, to explore its implications, and also to find out more about the U.S. Campaign's position on this and other related issues.

Ruebner is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service, a federal government agency providing Members of Congress with policy analysis. His analysis and commentary on U.S. policy toward the Middle East appear frequently in media such as NBC, ABC Nightline, CSPAN, Al Jazeera, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Hill, Detroit Free Press, Huffington Post, Middle East Report, and more. You can read articles by Ruebner and related articles on the U.N. initiative on our website.

We hope you will join us for this important conversation. There will be time for questions and answers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Book Review: The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict


Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 40, no. 4 (Summer 2011), p. 98

The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict, by John Quigley. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. vii + 252 pages. Notes to p. 307. Bibliography to p. 319. Index to p. 326. $27.99 paper. 

Reviewed by Diana Buttu 

For years, the Palestinian Authority has clung to the idea of a “Palestinian state/dawla filastiniyya,” often repeating the slogan of a “Palestinian state on the 1967 borders,” or the “two-state solution,” as the proposed means of securing freedom for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. On 16 May 2011, in an op-ed in the New York Times, PLO chairman Mahmud Abbas affirmed his intention to declare statehood in September 2011 and seek full admission to the UN as a member state, following the same plan as laid out by his predecessor, Yasir Arafat, in 2000.

Abbas’s announcement does not come as a surprise: for over two years, acting prime minister Salam Fayyad has been pushing his plan, titled “Ending the Occupation—Establishing the State,” while the PA has undertaken a diplomatic offensive to get states and international bodies to lend their support to the idea. The Fayyad/Abbas plan seems to be working, with over one hundred states now recognizing Palestine as a “state.” It is in this context that John Quigley’s latest book, The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict, emerges.

The book is the most recent in a relatively new line of academic research on Palestine that aims to use the framework of law, and in particular international law, to highlight the injustices perpetrated against Palestinians by Zionist and other imperialist forces. Quigley is not a newcomer to this field, and his past titles include The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective (Duke, 2005) and Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice (Duke, 1990).

Divided into four parts and spanning twenty chapters, Quigley begins by tracing the Palestinian Arab quest for independence and the impact of the British Mandate system on Palestine. In the first two parts, the author methodically points out that like other Class A Mandates, “Palestine had relations with other states that required the conclusion of treaties. Palestine’s citizens had connections with other states and required for that purpose a nationality. Palestine’s status came up as an issue in a variety of ways during the time of Britain’s administration. In all of these interactions, the states of the international community dealt with Palestine as a state” (pp. 52-3). But unlike other Class A Mandates, Palestine did not gain its independence; rather, it soon fell subject to endless proposals and plans—including for trusteeship—to accommodate a Jewish minority and its nationalist aspirations at the expense of the rights of Palestinian Arab majority.

BOOK REVIEW CONTINUES HERE...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

We published in The Hill today: "Hold Israel accountable with Leahy law."

Our National Advocacy Director, Josh Ruebner, has a great op-ed today in The Hill, supporting Sen. Leahy's efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violations of U.S. weapons laws. Josh touched a raw nerve with his hard-hitting analysis. Lots of people are attacking him (but not his arguments). Check it out and leave YOUR comment!

Hold Israel accountable with Leahy law

By Josh Ruebner
August 17, 2011

Apologists for Israeli occupation and apartheid claim that advocates for holding Israel accountable for its human rights abuses of Palestinians are “singling Israel out for extra scrutiny” or “holding Israel to a higher standard than other countries.”

Ruebner
Yet, ironically, Israel’s supporters also claim that U.S. military aid to Israel is sacrosanct and, unlike every other governmental program on the chopping block these days, cannot be questioned due to the “special U.S.-Israeli relationship." Dan Carle, a spokesperson for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), has noted correctly that you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

In response to an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz suggesting that the Vermont Senator will attempt to apply sanctions to certain units of the Israeli military for human rights violations, Carle explained that “the [Leahy] law applies to U.S. aid to foreign security forces around the globe and is intended to be applied consistently across the spectrum of U.S. military aid abroad. Under the law the State Department is responsible for evaluations and enforcement decisions and over the years Senator Leahy has pressed for faithful and consistent application of the law.”

The possibility of Senator Leahy consistently applying this eponymous legislation and holding Israel to the exact same standard as every other country has Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose office may have leaked the story in an effort to kill the initiative, in a tizzy.

The “Leahy Law,” as it is commonly known, prohibits the United States from providing any weapons or training to “any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights.” In the past, this law has been invoked to curtail military aid to countries as diverse as Indonesia, Colombia, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Along with other provisions in the Foreign Assistance Act, of which it is a part, and the Arms Export Control Act, it forms the basis of an across-the-board policy that is supposed to ensure that U.S. assistance does not contribute to human rights abuses.

ARTICLE CONTINUES ON THEHILL.COM...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Straining Every Nerve Against UN Membership for Palestine

Josh Ruebner is the US Campaign's National Advocacy Director. His article below appeared yesterday in Dissident Voice. Learn more about the US Campaign's actions and perspectives on Palestine UN membership here on our website.


The Roman philosopher and politician Cicero urged orators to “Strain every nerve to gain your point.”  The Obama Administration appears to have taken his advice to heart in its attempts to make the case that the United States should oppose Palestinian efforts to gain membership in the United Nations this fall.
However, its rhetoric has been so convoluted, its logic so flawed, and its reasoning so shoddy that its efforts have been desultory and unconvincing.  Take, for example, the following quotes:
No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state.  And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum. (Applause.)  Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.
— President Barack Obama, Remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, May 22, 2011
There are so many historical inaccuracies, deliberate obfuscations of political realities, and hyperbolic assumptions that it is difficult to know where to begin to unpack these three crucial sentences.
To assert, boldly, that no action will ever achieve its goal, then at the very least the President should have the historical record on his side. Despite the President’s bluster, he is powerless to stop the UN from voting to create an independent Palestinian state because it already did so—in 1947. UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which ironically never would have passed were it not for the intensive diplomatic arm-twisting of the United States, recommended partitioning Palestine into two states: a Jewish State comprising 55 percent of historic Palestine, and an Arab State totaling 45 percent, with Jerusalem as acorpus separatum, an open, international city administered by the UN.  The UN voted to endorse this partition plan, which was never implemented, at a time when Palestinian Arabs owned approximately 93 percent of the land, and Jews owned 7 percent.
For these past 64 years, Israel’s actions to ethnically cleanse as much of historic Palestine of as many Palestinians as possible has been the primary obstacle to implementing the UN Partition Plan. Today, Israel relentlessly continues to colonize the 22 percent of historic Palestine (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip) that has been envisioned as a Palestinian state in proposed two-state resolutions to the conflict since 1967, rendering even this bread crumb a remote likelihood.
Also, if the President is going to stake out such an unequivocal position on an issue, then at the very least he should state clearly the actual issue at hand. As the President knows, the UN may be asked to admit the State of Palestine as a member, not to vote on creating a Palestinian state. Since the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) declared independence in 1988, more than 120 countries have recognized and established some form of diplomatic relations with the State of Palestine.  As the international lawyers of the State Department must surely know, the UN does not recognize states.  Only states can recognize other states.  The UN can only determine if that state is admitted as a member.  By conflating these two issues, the President intentionally ups the ante of what is at stake as a pretext to justify his opposition to this Palestinian initiative.
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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jewish Voice for Peace and UN Recognition of Palestinian Statehood

Jewish Voice for Peace is a coalition member of the US Campaign. Learn more here about our coalition's actions and positions on Palestinian UN membership and statehood.


From Jesse Bacon's blog at jewishvoiceforpeace.org

Joel Beinin
For a more in-depth statement by Joel Benin, a long-time JVP member who is the Donald J. Maclachlan Professor of Middle Eastern History at Stanford University, click here.

Jewish Voice for Peace supports the Palestinian people’s struggle to fulfill their aspirations and secure their internationally recognized rights to freedom, national self-determination, justice, and equality. We regard any non-violent tactic as a legitimate tool in this struggle. Palestinians have the right to freedom from Israeli occupation, justice for Palestinian refugees, and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has affirmed that this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, it will seek a vote on international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and admission as a full member of the United Nations.

While 100 countries already recognize Palestine as a state, the question of pressing for UN membership remains controversial among Palestinians. Some support the move as historic and others believe such a vote is either purely symbolic or may sacrifice important Palestinian claims.

Jewish Voice for Peace believes that such a vote, even if it were to pass, would not change facts on the ground or suddenly create a Palestinian state. Regardless of what happens at the UN, the lives of ordinary Palestinian people and the ongoing massive violations of their human rights will remain at the forefront of our concerns.

That said, we do believe the campaign for Palestinian statehood has and can catalyze an important global conversation about the fundamental Palestinian right to self-determination, and the United States’ and Israel’s ongoing role in thwarting that right.

The PA’s decision to bring the case for statehood to the United Nations after years of frustration with so-called peace talks has highlighted the fact that the US-brokered “peace process” has actually helped entrench the occupation. It has equally underscored the reality that Israel’s current Prime Minister has absolutely no intention of stopping settlement expansion.

Further, Israeli and US efforts to weaken or stop a UN vote that in no way is anti-Israel, including US Congress’ threat to withhold millions in aid should the PA push for the vote, and the US affirmation that it will veto it if it goes to the UN Security Council, reveal the obstructive role the United States continues to play in the region— contributing to further injustice and bloodshed that threatens both Palestinians and Israelis.

Finally, we believe that the vote, and the conversation it is engendering among those who believe it’s time for Palestinians to finally achieve their freedom, should be understood in the context of a series of milestones that all point towards an acceleration of the decades old movement for justice.
These milestones include the unexpected rise of the Arab Spring, the rapid growth of the Palestinian nonviolent resistant movement inside of the West Bank, and the growing successes of the global nonviolent solidarity actions in the form of the Gaza flotilla and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). These, coupled with Israel’s increasingly controversial and anti-democratic measures, which are all adding to its sense of isolation and pressure, all mark a hopeful shift in the decades old movement for justice for Palestinians.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Media Release: 125+ Groups & 25,000+ Individuals: "Don't Veto Palestinian UN Membership"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2011

Washington, DC -- The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation delivered today to the State Department an open letter signed by more than 125 groups, including 30 national organizations, and petitions signed by more than 25,000 people urging the Obama Administration not to veto Palestinian UN membership if the issue arises in the Security Council.

National organizations Code Pink, Grassroots International, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Just Foreign Policy contributed petition signatures to the overall count. 

The open letter reads in part:

"Palestinians have been prevented from exercising their rights to freedom and self-determination on even a portion of their historic homeland due to Israel's historic and ongoing policies of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, military occupation, and colonization... Palestinians have waited more than 63 years for their human rights. We urge you—do not set a timetable for Palestinian freedom by vetoing Palestinian membership in the United Nations."

Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign, stated that:

"The American people are ahead of the administration in recognizing that our policy towards the region has failed. Even though the State Department has been unwilling to meet with us yet, we have made clear to the Obama Administration that thousands of people across this country, and a diverse and growing coalition of organizations representing hundreds of thousands more will continue to organize until we end unconditional U.S. support for Israel's illegal military occupation and apartheid policies toward Palestinians. Through our efforts, the U.S. government will realize what so many people already know: that the way to achieve a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace is to base our country's policies on human rights, international law, and equality, and not to deny Palestinians freedom and self-determination."

Other national organizations endorsing the open letter include: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Educational Trust, American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine, American Jews for a Just Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine-Israel Network, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Friends of Sabeel—North America ,Global Exchange, Interfaith Peace-Builders, Intersect Worldwide, Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.), Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)—USA, Middle East Children's Alliance, Paulist Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Peace Action, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship,  Progressive Democrats of America, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice , Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, United for Peace and Justice,  United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, U.S. Peace Council, and War Resisters League.

For the complete text of the open letter and the complete list of organizational endorsements, click here.

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a national coalition of more than 350 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality. For more information see www.endtheoccupation.org.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The UN Already Voted for a Palestinian state -- in 1947


Our National Advocacy Director wrote an opinion article that was published in today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

By Josh Ruebner
June 29, 2011

For all intents and purposes, the two-decade-long U.S. "peace process" — premised on privileging Israeli occupation and apartheid at the expense of Palestinian human and national rights — is dead in the water. Is it any wonder that the United States, a country that provides Israel each year with the $3 billion in weapons to oppress Palestinians and that functions as "Israel's lawyer," according to former U.S. "peace process" insider Aaron David Miller, has repeatedly failed to broker a just peace?

The jig is up and it is unlikely that the Palestinian political leadership would agree to return to such a rigged U.S. negotiating table. Were Palestinian leaders inclined to do so, it is doubtful that the Palestinian public would stand for it.

Instead, Palestinians appear to be pursuing a diplomatic strategy of going around and not through the United States to achieve their long-denied rights. In February, Palestinians forced the Obama administration to use its first and only veto in the Security Council to prevent the United Nations from condemning Israel's illegal settlements. By doing so, Palestinians exposed the hypocrisy of the United States shielding Israel from accountability for a policy which even the Obama administration opposes and demonstrated how disconnected the United States is from the rest of the international community on this issue.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Will Palestine Be the Newest UN Member? What Is Our Role?

This September, Palestinians are expected to push for the State of Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations and to get additional countries to recognize Palestinian statehood. 

Will this important diplomatic initiative succeed? It probably won't if the United States wields its veto in the Security Council to block Palestine's application for UN membership. Given the Obama Administration's track record of shielding Israel from accountability, there's every reason to believe that the United States will once again try to thwart Palestinian rights.

Just last month at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, President Barack Obama declared:

"No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state... the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations... Israel's legitimacy is not a matter for debate."

By equating Palestinian efforts to seek their long-denied rights at the UN with the "delegitimization" of Israel, President Obama is subjecting Palestinian freedom to Israel's timetable.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail: "For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!'... This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'" The worst stumbling block to freedom's advance, King argued, is the person who "believes he can set the timetable for another" person's freedom.

After two decades of waiting for statehood through negotiations with Israel in a U.S.-dominated "peace process" that always relegated Palestinian human rights to the back of the bus, Palestinians are now taking their case directly to the UN.

Although the US Campaign is not taking a position on this Palestinian initiative, we do affirm:

"Mr. President, you are wrong to stand in their way."

Our country's support for Israeli occupation and apartheid is the key stumbling block to Palestinian freedom and it is up to us to change that.

To help us do so, we're launching a Frequently Asked Questions document to tackle the tricky legal, political, and historical issues raised by this initiative, as well as the implications for our coalition's work to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality.

Here are some of the important questions addressed in our FAQ:

Will UN membership for Palestine change realities on the ground for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation?

Will recognition of Palestinian statehood by additional countries advance or set back Palestinian human rights?


We don't claim to have all the answers or to know how this will work out at the UN this September and beyond.  But we do hope that the FAQ helps us all think about this important policy development. 

We've also assembled links to additional resources highlighting different perspectives on the subject.

Whatever happens between now and the fall, this is the time for us to redouble our efforts to change U.S. policy to support Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality and end Israeli occupation and apartheid.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A State of Palestine: The Case for UN Recognition and Membership

Editor's Note: Al-Shabaka is directed by Nadia Hijab, a member of the Advisory Board of the US Campaign. Our blog also featured this op-ed by Victor Kattan on May 1, 2011. Kattan is the author of From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949 (London: Pluto Books, 2009) and The Palestine Question in International Law (London: British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2008). Victor was a Teaching Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London from 2008-2011 where he is presently completing his PhD. Previously Victor worked for the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (2006-2008), Arab Media Watch (2004-2006), and the BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights as a UNDP TOKTEN consultant (2003-2004).

By Victor Kattan
May 27, 2011

Overview

Is the strategy of seeking international recognition from and membership of the United Nations (UN) this September for the State of Palestine a meaningful move or just a gimmick? What benefits would UN membership bring given that Israel may still retain de facto control over the occupied Palestinian territories? What would the impact be on the growing movement for a one-state solution? In this policy brief, Al-Shabaka Policy Advisor Victor Kattan tackles these and other questions below and finds that on balance UN membership for a State of Palestine would be a strategic asset to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, although there are risks involved.

The Strategy in Question

Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President of the Palestinian National Authority (PA), affirmed in the New York Times on 17 May 2011 that “this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, we will request international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and that our state be admitted as a full member of the United Nations.”

Although this announcement has provoked a storm of indignation amongst certain constituencies in the United States, it will not come as a complete surprise to those who have been following developments closely. In the past six months several Latin American countries have recognized the state of Palestine, bringing the total number of countries to have done so since 1988 to over 100. In addition, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom have upgraded the Palestine General Delegations in their capitals to diplomatic missions and embassies—a status normally reserved for states.

From Abbas’s op-ed it would appear that there are two prongs to this strategy: international recognition of Palestine as a state, and membership of the UN.

Recognition

Although the Palestinian strategy has not been fully articulated, it appears that the PLO hopes to use the opening plenary of the UN General Assembly in September as a forum to call upon other states to recognize it. In other words it will seek collective recognition.

According to Riyad al-Maliki, the PA Foreign Minister, some 150 countries have said that they will recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in September.4 If this number is achieved it could be significant, especially if it includes recognition from some of the countries in the European Union (EU.) This is because if recognition of a Palestinian state is viewed as constitutive (the argument that statehood is a matter of recognition only) then the number and quality of states that recognize Palestine is important. If, however, recognition of a Palestinian state is viewed as declaratory (the argument that recognition alone cannot confer statehood but must be accompanied by other factors, independence being particularly important) then there is of course a problem if Israel retains control over the occupied territories.

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