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Statehood bid opposed by Palestinian activists

Key Palestinian organisations have united to denounce the attempt by president Mahmoud Abbas and his supporters to achieve a chair at the United Nations for a so-called Palestinian state.

His attempt to have a chair at the UN for his little fiefdom would be at the expense of the only body which truly has the right to represent the WHOLE Palestinian people.

The great achievement of the generation of Yasser Arafat and his supporters was the transformation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation into a unified representative body, with a Charter and the support and affiliation of all Palestinian organisations, inside Israel, in the occupied territories and in exile.

Then in 1974 they achieved recognition for the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the United Nations, where it still has observer status.

Abbas’ move would replace the PLO with his own Palestine National Authority. That is turning the clock back to the time when a series of sheikhs and faction leaders of the old generation were patronised by Western leaders and permitted to speak for Palestine in international forums.

Abbas returned from the UN to his headquarters in Ramallah, through a series of Israeli army checkpoints, to declare that the "Palestinian Spring" has begun. But the rally he addressed had the orchestrated style of a New Labour conference. The carefully constructed UN “chair” held above the heads of the crowd was not made by an enthusiastic citizen, but commissioned by an advertising executive.

Ali Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada and a leading proponent of the one-state solution, points out that there is little support for this move, either inside the occupied territories or in the diaspora. The movement for an international boycott BDS, the Palestinian Youth Movement and many others are entirely against enshrining a fake government of a fake state in the UN to represent their interests.

The Palestinian Youth Movement declares itself "steadfastly against" the UN bid because it could jeopardise "the rights and aspirations of over two-thirds of the Palestinian people who live as refugees in countries of refuge and in exile, to return to their original homes."

The legal obstacles that Abbas is attempting to ignore are highlighted in an opinion written by Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of public international law at Oxford University. He says:

Within the constitutional structure of the PLO … the Palestinian Authority is a subsidiary body, competent only to exercise those powers conferred on it by the Palestinian National Council. By definition, it does not have the capacity to assume greater powers, to 'dissolve' its parent body, or otherwise to establish itself independently of the Palestinian National Council and the PLO.

Of course the Netanyahu government in Israel is ranting and bullying, threatening violence as usual. Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, warned of "tough repercussions" if the UN backed the Palestinian move. To underline his point, West Bank paramilitary “settlers” promptly made a punitive raid into a Palestinian farm near the West Bank village of Qusra, where they tore up 400 olive trees.

Abbas may claim that his move is the start of the Palestinian Spring, but this is nothing of the kind. The Arab Spring was a leap forward by the people of Egypt and Tunisia and elsewhere towards something new. It has entirely disrupted all the conspiracies and corrupt diplomacy that have dominated Middle East politics for decades.

Much more in tune with its spirit is the demand put forward in June by youth from all the different Palestinian parties in both Gaza and the West Bank for a renewal of the PLO, as a united voice for Palestinians everywhere.

The Israeli Summer shows that there too the social and political structures that supported Zionist ideology are increasingly under threat, as a result of their inability to deliver a decent life to citizens. The challenge for everyone in the region is to take a leap over the heads of Abbas, Liebermann and Netanyahu, and talk to each other about a common route to a shared future within a single, secular state.

Penny Cole
26 September 2011


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