In Rebuke to Obama, Netanyahu– Much of Western Europe to Support Palestine as UN Observer State

The confidence scam that Israel and the United States have been running on the Palestinians, of a “peace process,” is finally about to meet a well-deserved demise. There are now over 600,000 Israeli settlers on the Occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank (including the areas unilaterally annexed by Israel to its ‘district of Jerusalem’).

It now seems all but certain that the United Nations General Assembly will vote on Friday to grant the Palestine Authority “observer state” status at the United Nations, the same position enjoyed by the Vatican. It is an upgrade from “entity” recognized as “permanent observer.” Its primary significance is that as an observer, Palestine will have some of the same prerogatives of members within the UN legal structure. In particular, it will be in a much strengthened position to launch protests against the war crimes and crimes against humanity practiced by Israel against the Palestinians.

Euronews has a report:

Aside from the new legal status of Palestine that will result, this event signals a sea change in the relationship of Europe to Palestine and Israel. For decades, Europeans felt guilt about the Holocaust, or saw the Israelis as underdogs, or viewed them as fellow Europeans facing barbarian hordes, and so consistently supported Israel against the Palestinians. That would still be the case if the Likud Party had not foolishly destroyed the Oslo Peace process and if Israeli governments had not implemented an illegal blockade on Gaza and pursued large-scale population transfer of Israelis into the Occupied West Bank, which is illegal under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The Lebanon and Gaza Wars, and the Israeli attack on the peaceful aide ship from Turkey, the Mavi Marmara, all drastically undermined Israel’s standing in the eyes of Europeans.

Reuters reported that “As of Wednesday afternoon Austria, Denmark, Norway, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland had all pledged to support the Palestinian resolution.” Other observers suggested that the same 11 that voted in 2011 for Palestinian membership in UNESCO were likely to repeat that vote this year, with the possible exception of Cyprus: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Spain. In addition, it was originally thought that the Netherlands might well vote for Palestine this time, since there has been a change of government there (they’ve now said now), and Portugal and Switzerland have already joined this group.

Here is a notional map of how the European voting might go (not just EU but the continent):

Once the Palestinians have gained a friend with the stature of France, in many ways the Israeli attempt to keep them in a box has already failed. Flanked by Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Switzerland, the pro-Palestinian bloc encompasses much of what was traditionally thought of as Western Europe. And Greece, after all, was the cradle of Europe.

Lots of reasons might be given for their willingness to give Palestinians their due. There is resentment of Anglo-American hegemony. These countries were all strong-armed by the Obama administration to deep-six the Palestinians, and they are refusing. The Irish now see Israel as doing to the Palestinians what the British used to do to them. Spain and France also have foreign policy aspirations in the Arab world. France has a significant Muslim voting bloc, which largely goes for the now-ruling Socialists.

But ultimately the real reason is that the high officials in Europe find the far right wing Israeli government and its Apartheid policies toward the Palestinians increasingly distasteful. The scales have just fallen from their eyes.

In the law, “standing” is a crucial concept. Standing dictates who has a right to bring a law suit. You can’t proceed with a civil action unless the judge agrees that you have standing. Typically, you couldn’t sue on behalf of your cousin if you weren’t affected by the alleged tort. Up until now, the “entity” of the Palestine Authority did not have the standing to bring complaints against Israel to the UN. But Palestine as a UN observer will have such standing, and it could be significant.

Since almost no one else in the US will do so, let me direct readers to the Palestinians’ own position paper on the step. (One of the consistent features of colonialism and Orientalism is that the oppressed are deprived of a voice first of all by being made invisible in mass media and only ever represented by their enemies and detractors. It is very rare that we see an actual Palestinian with good English interviewed about Palestine on American television evening magazine shows.)

As an “observer state,” Palestine can join UN bodies and can sign treaties. One it might like to sign is the Rome Statutes that created the International Criminal Court, a body that the United States and Israel, as hegemons, hate the way the devil hates holy water. Being a hegemon means never having to be tried for your war crimes (most of the government leaders prosecuted by the ICC so far have been from weak, despised African dictatorships).

As a member of the ICC, Palestine could then bring complaints against Israel for its annexation of Palestinian land and practice of Apartheid (which is recognized in the Rome Statutes as a war crime).

Whereas the US consistently vetoes all condemnations of Israel by the four other UN Security Council members, making sure that the Palestinians are always screwed over, it has no ability to stop the UN committees of the General Assembly, the UNGA itself, or the ICC from criticizing or sanctioning Israel. The US and Israeli tactic has been to prevent any official world body from ever producing a text condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, lest a body of international law grow up that would stand in the way of further Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, or of its creepy and illegal blockade of the civilians of the Gaza Strip. That tactic is about to be defeated.

West Bank Archipelago
H/t this site

The some 11 million Palestinians, promised a state (no, not Jordan) by the League of Nations and by the British mandatory powers, were largely uprooted and rendered stateless by a concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing by Jewish settlers in Palestine in 1947-48, who had been planted there by a combination of British imperial interests and the rise in Europe of a terrifying and vicious fascist racism in the 1930s.

The helpless, stateless Palestinians, many still living in refugee camps, were successfully slandered by Israel’s fanatic supporters as mindlessly violent oppressors of the Jews. When the West remembered National Socialism vividly, the Palestinians were depicted in Zionist propaganda as Nazis. At the height of the Cold War, the burghers, retailers and engineers among the Palestinians were painted as dangerous Communists. After 9/11, the Palestinians (among the more secular groups in the Middle East) were reconfigured as al-Qaeda. While some Palestinians (amazingly few) did mobilize some 20 years after the disaster of their expulsion from their homeland to resist further Israeli expansionism in the region, with the taking of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, and Israel has at times been embattled (so that you could understand fear of or anger toward its enemies) it was never acceptable to smear and marginalize an entire people.

Meanwhile, in the decade after the Oslo Peace Accords were signed in the early 1990s, the Israelis doubled the number of settlers on Palestinian land, land from which the Israelis had dishonestly pledged to withdraw by 1998 (they still haven’t withdrawn).

40 Responses

  1. The Dutch foreign minister said he will vote NO, despite that he was in favor of it before he became minister. Do they put something in their food when they become ministers?

  2. of course, Mallorca, Malta, Corsica, Crete and Eastern Thrace would all be green, on that map of European support.
    .
    What is that green spot midway between Malta and Pelponnesus ? I don’t think there’s an island there. If that’s Atlantis, …

  3. Dear Professor Cole

    It seems the Germans have got over their guilt and will abstain.

    link to haaretz.com

    “By Thursday morning Israel time, that support had turned into a full-on landslide, as more European nations decided to alter their positions, essentially leaving… ”

    What is really interesting is that Claire Spencer at Chatham House says that the Pivot to Asia might be leaving the Palestine situation in European hands.

    link to chathamhouse.org

    In the summit’s joint Cairo Declaration on November 14, all present ‘reaffirmed their shared position not to recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by both parties including with regard to Jerusalem’. In a world in which the EU ‘has sub-contracted its geopolitical thinking to the US since the Second World War’, as a colleague who specializes on EU affairs put it recently, this is a small, but potentially significant start to rethinking who decides what in the Middle East.

  4. What do you make of the fact that neocon Elliot Abrams supports the statehood bid (see his blog at the council for foreign relations). Outgoing defense minister Barak supports it as well.

    • I too want to know. There are few if any neocons more slippery than Abrams, and that’s saying a lot. Barak has always shown relatively moderate tendencies, as in his remark (essentially) that if he were a Palestinian he’d have ben the first to pick up a gun. Still, at this point to talk of a 2-state solution has got to be a ploy of some sort, or simply a distraction, or perhaps a way to come back and say it was the Palestinians who have given-up on the “Peace Process.”

      • While Abrams is a neocon he is basically rational and realizes that the sooner Israel enters into good faith negotiations with the Palestinians:
        (1) the less disruption there will be to US interests in the region;
        (2) the less disruption there will be to Israeli society; and,
        (3) the more control the US will have over the process.

        The main obstacle to a reasonable settlement is the right-wing (~fascist) bloc in Israel’s Knesset. This bloc is growing and, like some elements in the US Republican Party, is impervious to rational arguments. Abrams and many other right-wing Americans are concerned by this trend.

        When a formerly right-leaning commentator on Israel (Beinart) can write the following in his recent book, we know matters have reached a new stage: As painful as it is for “Jews to admit that race hatred can take root among a people that has suffered so profoundly from it, the ground truth is this: occupying another people requires racism, and breeds it. It is very difficult to work day after day at a checkpoint, making miserable people bake in the sun, or to blow up a family’s house as they watch, or to cut off water to a village in the Jordan Valley because Palestinians are barred from living in most of that section of the West Bank, and still see the people you are dominating as fully human.” American Jews should “distinguish between supporting the State of Israel and supporting whoever happens to be in the current, transitory government of Israel.” link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

  5. Of course, the Palestinian people deserve “standing” at the UN, they are humans too.Denying it is indecent.

  6. The Australians will abstain, another sign of crumbling support for the U.S.-Israeli position.

    • Leader of the Opposition Mark Latham once said: (Prime Minister) ‘Howard has got his tongue up Bush’s clacker that often the poor guy must think he’s got an extra haemorrhoid’. At least the Australians have moved to the moral confidence of abstaining so as not to offend their ‘ally’.

  7. The map is too clever. It leaves (somehow…) the impression of some idealistic archipelago, set in some peaceful sea with the ferry lanes shown. I don’t know how they would put it in proper context, but this misses the mark.

  8. Speaking of the Palestinians never getting their case made in the MSM by people capable of doing so effectively, not to mention the total domination of The Lobby in drowning them out, Walt did a great column last week:

    link to walt.foreignpolicy.com

    It is astounding how the Big Four: Indyk, Ross, Malley and Miller, dominate “discourse” in the US. I was amazed last week on NPR to hear Rami Khouri (sp?) included, and even though outnumbered 3:1 by “even-handed” Israel backers, he did wonderfully.

  9. Obama’s opposition to the Palestinian initiative at the UN was short sighted and has put the interests of Israel ahead of long term American interests. The US will take a beating today at the UN as a result of the disposition of our major allies,and most of the rest fo the world, to defy the US and asserts their own independence thus further isolating the US and Israel in the world and signaling a declining American influence, as well as stimulating a further decline of American influence. It is not hard to look forward and to visualize the further isolation of the US and Israel from the world with the US Congress going blithely goes about its usual business of acting as an auxiliary to AIPAC as the coupled islands drift further out to sea increasing isolated from the mainlands.

    • “Obama’s opposition to the Palestinian initiative at the UN was short sighted and has put the interests of Israel ahead of long term American interests.”

      Nothing new there. To first get elected president, Obama and his handlers reversed candidate Obama’s former pro-Palestinian sympathies by toeing the AIPAC/Likud Party line and selling the Palestinians and Obama’s pro-Palestinian mentor, Ref. Benjamin Wright, down the River Jordan.

    • President Obama can not do much without the support of the American public on the Israel-Palestina so called “conflict.”

      • The US did all it could up to the very last minute to keep this from happening. The vast majority of the world ignored the threats and bribes and declared it is not up to the US to control the Israel-Palestine standoff. Since Nixon at least, the US has channeled all talks and by backing one side, has made the situation worse.

        The US is the barrier to peace and progress will not be made until the US stranglehold is broken. The “International Community” has spoken and want the conflict to be resolved through the UN.

    • I’d like to think (but do not believe) that Obama — lusting in his heart — wants to do the decent thing as his Cairo speech suggests, and is looking for a way to break AIPAC’s stranglehold whilst appearing to cave in to it. So he goes overboard outwardly doing AIPAC’s bidding (maybe not secretly, as on Gaza) and the USA and Israel get laughed at in EU and elsewhere and he is happy (inwardly) and goes about other business waiting for the USA to wake up and tell him to behave decently. (Gee, I thought that’s what the election was for!)

      • Obama hasn’t exactly made Netanyahu happy regarding Iran.

        His happy talk in public seems transparently, deliberately phony.

        He seems to be doing the minimum necessary to observe the forms.

  10. Are the Palestinian actually human beings? Chaim Weizmann did not think so:

    • Excerpt from “What Price Israel? by Alfred Lilienthal;

    … took me to Princeton to seek Professor Einstein’s views on the incident. Dr Einstein told me that, strangely enough, he had never been a Zionist and had never favored the creation of the State of Israel. Also, he told me of a significant conversation with Weizmann. Einstein had asked him: “What about the Arabs if Palestine were given to the Jews?” and Weizmann sai: “What Arabs? they are hardly of any consequence.

    • Dr. Alfred Lilienthal was a great man. His words on the ME should be revived.

  11. Great piece, Juan. One thing, Likud didn’t destroy the peace process, Labor did just as much… the majority of the settlement expansion actually occurred under labor governments during oslo, as far as i remember and both peres and barak while PM did nothing to stop the process or move towards removing the settlements and offering a viable plan for a territorially contiguous state.

    • Israel is intrinsically expansionists. Israel was founded by those, both Laborites and Revisionists who had no doubt but that Israel would expand beyond the 55% alocated to them by the General Assembly resolution, beyond the 78% which the Israeli army actually took, and beyond that to all of Mandate Palestine, and, for the Revisionnists, of which the Lukud party is its scion, to a state stretching between the Nile and the Euphrates.

    • Rabin seems to have realized eventually that expansionism was a fool’s game and decided to actually support a Palestinian state.

      For his troubles, he was assassinated by an extremist right-wing Israeli.

  12. Some US spokes-lackey said, “The road to statehood does not lay in getting UN recognition.”

    I think that is the most asinine thing anyone has said (recently)/.

  13. Notice SoS Hillary repeating that the solution for two states should come from talks between Ramallah and JERUSALEM, ie the divided but occupied “international city” being judaized illegally after annexation not recognised internationally is now taken by Hillary to be the capital of Israel for the “talks” to decide Palestine/Israel .

  14. Columnist Karl Vick just authored a column “How Palestine Won Big at the U.N.”

    He states that the Gaza conflict and the U.N. General Assembly vote have steeled the defiance of Palestinians. He cites that Hilary Clinton advised this to Netanyahu to get him to accept a cease-fire agreement.

    Indeed, the Israeli PM promised Gazans “crushing responses” to rocket attacks and also threatened to cut off payments to the Palestinian Authority in response to the bid for a statehood declaration. In fact, Hamas was able to strike both Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv areas in unprecedented fashion with Iranian-manufactured missiles; six Israelis died and 270 wounded in the week-long conflict Hamas dropped their prior opposition to the U.N. statehood bid for Palestine. Israel and the U.S. were alone in the U.N. General Assembly today arguing against the Palestine statehood bid – the lopsided G.A. vote an embarrassment for both nations.

    The upcoming election polls had indicated that Tzipi Livni – a centrist peace candidate – has a shot at defeating Netanyahu in the race for prime minister. Today’s U.N. vote will likely not help Netanyahu in his re-election bid.

    • The emigration of sane Israelis means that Livni has only a long shot chance of winning the PMs seat. I also doubt that she has the guts to evict the terrorist settlers and shoot those who resist, which is what is needed to provide peace.

      If she does win and she does have the guts… she’d better have damned good bodyguards because of what happened to Rabin.

  15. This seems to be a great development and hopefully it will draw in the US media so that more people can get some info on how this 1947 mandate has played out.

    I’m not pro or anti either group as I know that many of them and most US citizens just want a fair and equitable settlement.
    It is hard to study this and not see the USA and Israel as totally wrong for the last few decades!

  16. Israel isn’t a party state to the Treaty of Rome and therefore its nationals can only be indicted by the ICC if referred by the Security Council. This, of course, will never happen given the US veto. If Palestine were to become a party state Palestinians could be indicted however. Probably not a wise move…

  17. In Canada our neocon Harper government voted against it and had threatened to punish the Palistinians. WTF !

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