Likud Government takes Revenge on Palestinians for UNESCO Membership

The Pan-Arab London daily, al-Hayat, editorializes today that President Obama’s vote against Palestine’s membership in UNESCO demonstrates that his 2009 Cairo speech was “empty words.” Obama’s forays into outreach to the Muslim world are crashing and burning as he adopts anti-Palestinian positions little different from those of his predecessors.

As for the far rightwing government of Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel, it announced that it was “punishing” Palestine for joining UNESCO. Since Israel isn’t Palestine’s parents, what he really means is that Israel is taking revenge. The vengeful measures consisted of building 2000 more dwellings for Israeli squatters on Palestinian land in and around East Jerusalem, and withholding from the Palestinians tens of millions of dollars a month in custom and sales tax revenue collected for the Palestine Authority at ports and checkpoints by the Israelis, which control them.

As I have asked before, if the Israelis are the good guys, why is it that their leadership so often sounds like a James Bond villain. (“No, Mr. Abbas, I expect you to drop dead.”)

Since the Israelis regularly announce new settlement building on Palestinian land in the West Bank, moreover, this “punishment” (“revenge”) is really just business as usual, and calling it punishment is nothing more than posturing.

Palestine declines to enter into further negotiations with Israel precisely because the Israelis are gobbling up the very land over which the negotiations would be held, so that the talks would really just offer a Palestinian fig leaf to Israeli grand larceny. The Palestinians can’t see why they should do that.

As for the customs revenue, the Israelis regular freeze those payments, and they have a third of the occupied Palestinians, in Gaza, under an ongoing blockade of civilians that prevents them from exporting their made goods and keeps most of them living in penury and on the edge of food insecurity.

In other words, if these measures are actually revenge, then the Israelis have been vengeful for many years toward the Palestinians.

Israel is also excluding UNESCO from that country, probably in a bid to prevent the organization from recognizing Palestinian sites as world heritage sites, strengthening the Palestinian claim to them and the territory on which they stand.

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray argues that Palestine can now join the International Criminal Court. Murray writes:

“… the UNESCO membership is crucial recognition of Palestine’s statehood, not an empty gesture. With this evidence of international acceptance, there is now absolutely no reason why Palestine cannot, instantly and without a vote, join the International Criminal Court. Palestine can now become a member of the International Criminal Court simply by submitting an instrument of accession to the Statute of Rome, and joining the list of states parties.

As both the USA and Israel refuse to join the ICC because of their desire to commit war crimes with impunity, acceding to the statute of Rome would not only confirm absolutely that Palestine is a state, it would reinforce the fact that Palestine is a better international citizen with more moral legitimacy than Israel.

There is an extremely crucial point here: if Palestine accedes to the Statute of Rome, under Article 12 of the Statute of Rome, the International Criminal Court would have jurisdiction over Israelis committing war crimes on Palestinian soil. Other states parties – including the UK – would be obliged by law to hand over indicted Israeli war criminals to the court at the Hague. This would be a massive blow to the Israeli propaganda and lobbying machine.”

It is often said that the ICC cannot move against non-signatories. But since the Israelis are operating in Palestinian territory in the West Bank and Gaza, they thereby open themselves to prosecution were Palestine to join the ICC.

The Human Province blog has a complete vote tally for the UNESCO decision. It turns out that Spain, France, Ireland, Austria, Finland and Greece in Europe voted “yes,” which is a pretty big set of defections from US leadership. And, the UK, Italy and Denmark all abstained, which given the way this vote worked, essentially supported the Palestinians.

“No” votes were Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, United States of America, Vanuatu.

With all due respect to the island nations, they aren’t very important in world affairs. Germany, Canada and Australia are the only medium-sized countries here, while Sweden, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands are relatively small despite being wealthy. The Rejectionist states toward Palestine are no longer very numerous or weighty, and mostly they are just being arm-twisted by the US to give Washington cover so that it doesn’t look like the US is the only one standing against basic Palestinian human rights.

As for the fall-out for the United States, an informed reader wrote to remind me that if the Palestinians are welcomed into other UN bodies, the US could well lose substantial influence and have its interests adversely affected. He notes that the International Telecommunication Union allocates radio spectrum usage globally, “including the spectrum reserved for military and commercial use.” The World Health Organization is clearly important to the US for combating epidemics. The World Meteorological Organization is a matrix of information about weather that has agricultural and military implications. The World Intellectual Property Organization recognizes patents and copyrights worldwide.

These sorts of UN organizations, which are, whether Americans want to recognize it or not, important to the United States, could be forced to expel the US and cease sharing information with it if it does not pay its dues. Congress in the 1990s, under the influence of the Israel lobbies, passed a law forbidding the US government from giving money to bodies that recognize Palestine.

The upshot: Netanyahu’s talk about “punishment” (“revenge”) seems likely to inspire buyers’ remorse in countries like Sweden and Australia that voted against the Palestinians at UNESCO, and reinforces the very image of Israel as regional bully that led to the vote in the first place. Obama’s vote against the Palestinians has cost him significant political capital in the Muslim world. And, the US now could face a series of debilitating expulsions from a whole range of essential international organizations.

The US and Israel are experiencing these setbacks because both are de facto supporting Greater Israel expansionism, which is illegal in international law. Ironically, there are very unlikely to be enough Israelis actually to displace the Palestinians from the West Bank, and they are probably just paving the way for a one-state solution after a few decades of Apartheid that likely will result in boycotts of Israel.

23 Responses

  1. I disagree with you, Juan, about the need for arm-twisting as to Canada and Australia.

    These countries seem to have their own reasons for extreme knee-jerk pro-Israelism by government and establishment — perhaps they enjoy the beneficent services of their own AIPAC, I don’t know. But their records suggest an ideological (the government’s or the local AIPAC branch’s, doesn’t much matter) anti-Palestine mind-set rather than a result of arm-twisting.

    • That’s true pabelmount. Actually Canada, I’m saddened to admit my home and native land, is more pro Zionist than even the Unlimited Supply of A**£%les.

    • Bipartisan support for the US “alliance” has almost always been solid in Australia (I use inverted commas because its not a defence guarantee, even though we constantly join US wars to maintain it). Fear of the “yellow peril” to the North, though more muted these days, is still a strong undercurrent in our politics, and this makes us far less independent of the US than Canada. The only Australian PM to question the alliance was Whitlam, in the 70s, and he was removed from power soon afterwards.
      Despite our enduring loyalty, we have very little clout in Washington, and the fear would be that the israeli lobby could shut us out even more were we to take a pro-israeli position. We do have our own version of AIPAC, but we don’t have anything like the US Jewish community; our craven stance stems from cowardice, not vicarious ethnic chauvinism.

  2. How embarrassing – I had hoped our pathetic government (Labor/Liberal- there’s no difference) had at least abstained from the vote , but no, seems we are still playing the loyal ‘Deputy Sheriff’ . (cringe)

  3. Before Palestine joins another UN organization, Palestine will be mired in war. Mark my words. The US will not allow tiny Palestine to belittle it at the UN again and Israel cannot handle leveling of the diplomatic playing field. Hence, war is the Great Delay needed to avoid US expulsion from pro-business organizations such as WIPO.

    Mark my words.

    BRICS will soon call the shots and hopefully for the betterment of world peace.

    • As if on cue, one of my yahoo headlines was “immenient Isreali/US attack on Iran” least they interviewed Marc Lynch so the piece was remotely tethered to reality.

  4. Following the successful test of an Israeli long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, the Netanyahu government is reported to be planning an Israeli preemptive military strike against Iran.

    The news is being greeted with macho displays of bravado in Tehran and in Western capitals. But the Iranian minister and his evil twins in Israel aren’t the ones who will die if they get their way. Unfortunately.

  5. I am ashamed that Australia, my homeland, voted no, but not surpised, especially with the fanatical zionist Gizzard as PM.

    btw, Juan, I read that UNESCO is one of the few UN bodies which is pro-Israel, but with US not paying for Holocaust education in ignorant countries any more, this will sadly be lost.

  6. There may be riots. This nation is war weary.(especially bogus ones) Both the tea party and ows have big isolationist streaks.

  7. Sad that I have such a hypocritical government representing me here in USA. Thanks Juan for fighting the good fight

  8. Just would like to apologize as a Swede for my government’s vote – I believe this was a minor concession to a small coalition party and it won’t happen again at the general UN vote.

  9. One wonders whether Palestinian political strategists will not seek to join every international body they can, not only to secure greater voice and legitimacy for Palestine but to systematically isolate the United States. It is beyond understanding and logic that the US will turn over to Palestine the power to decide in which international organizations this country holds memberships. From Moscow to Beijing to Teheran our rivals must be howling in delight. Five years from now we could be without a voice in almost every major international forum in the world. Yet somehow this will be seen as the fault of the Palestinians, not the predictable outcome of turning our foreign policy decisions over to foreign governments.

    And what happens if these organizations then decide there is no need to re-admit countries that surrendered membership as part of blackmail schemes?

  10. The possibility of US expulsion from WIPO is a big deal for companies like Microsoft. Maybe congress will change that law so that the US doesn’t have to walk away from all these international bodies.
    A one-state solution would mean the end of the Jewish state, and so is unacceptable to many powerful people. But the demographics suggest that it is inevitable. Israel is desperate for Jews. Even within the 1967 borders, it will be hard to keep it a Jewish state because there are so many non-Jews. Palestine could be seen as one state now, one state in which 40 % of the people have no rights. In 30 years, ‘Greater Israel’ may have more Arabs than Jews.

  11. The decision of the Swedish government to stand with the US is very disturbing. It is one more piece of evidence that this government is not a neutral party but is allied with the US. Simultaneously, Julian Assange has lost his battle to prevent extradition from Sweden, and one has to ask, how long will it before before he is moved from London to Stockholm to the US, to be given the Bradley Manning treatment?

    Denmark is certainly no paragon when it comes to even-handed behavior toward Muslims, but it did not get in bed with Washington on this. Why did Sweden do this?

    • Denmark just had election and for first time in a decade, progressive won on the promise of tax increases. Proud that DK votes in favor!

  12. I don’t agree either that Harper’s Canada needed arm twisting.
    As I understand it, since the Conservatives are in power, Canada’s foreign policy has essentially been aligned to the US’s. On every occasion I have seen, Canada’s reaction came after America’s and was identical.

  13. USA can with hold the UNESCO funds. It is no big deal anymore.

    World has changed & changing rapidly. BRIC countries & other rising powers can foot the bill.

    The old world order is changing. While the west is falling apart, BRIC countries & many others are rising rapidly.

    The cold war, that was the glue to keep the west united, is showing the signs of wear & tear. There is no greater a purpose to remain united. In the long run, the end of cold war is not that good for the west to hold together.

    Time is approaching fast when China will be in the forefront to resolve the world problems. It is just a matter of time.

    • Unlikely. China has a host of logistical problems on the way, that they are ignoring and will be unable to cope with in the future.

    • Don’t think China will be much better than USA.

      There needs to be a power sharing of sorts, not a single Global power. BRICS is possible or BRIS vs. China vs. USA

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