A week after the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip scored a historic moral victory over nuclear armed Israel in the eight-day war, the Palestinian people are savouring another victory that will take them one step closer to a state of their own.
Yesterday, the 193-member United Nations General Assembly approved a landmark resolution admitting Palestine as a non-voting member state. It was indeed a victory for the Non-Aligned Movement, which has stood by the Palestinians. By its support for the Palestine resolution, NAM nations corrected an injustice that took place six decades ago in the precincts of the UN General Assembly where many resolutions were passed and norms of international law made while many developing countries were still under the yoke of colonialism.
Exactly 65 years ago, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a lopsided resolution – Number 181 – partitioning Palestine. Thirty-three countries voted for it and 13 against while ten abstained. Little did the countries which voted for the resolution know then that their yes vote would contribute to unending wars, hostility between neighbours and the instability in the region, besides misery to millions of Palestinian people. The rights of the Palestine people mattered little to the United Nations – an organisation, though set up to promote justice and peace, upholds injustice by allowing the big powers to manipulate it to suit their power-centred agendas.
The resolution to partition Palestine was based on a report the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) presented. The partisan report recommended the partition of Palestine in a lopsided manner although demographic factors were strongly in favour of native Palestinians.
Quoting sections from the report, investigative journalist Jeremy R. Hammond in an article he wrote to the Foreign Policy Journal says:
“The report noted that the population of Palestine at the end of 1946 was estimated to be almost 1,846,000, with 1,203,000 Arabs (65 per cent) and 608,000 Jews (33 per cent). Growth of the Jewish population had been mainly the result of immigration, while growth of the Arab population had been “almost entirely” due to natural increase. It observed that there was “no clear territorial separation of Jews and Arabs by large contiguous areas”, and even in the Jaffa district, which included Tel Aviv, Arabs constituted a majority. Land ownership statistics from 1945 showed that Arabs owned more land than Jews in every single district in Palestine. The district with the highest percentage of Jewish ownership was Jaffa, where 39 per cent of the land was owned by Jews, compared to 47 per cent owned by Arabs. In the whole of Palestine at the time UNSCOP issued its report, Arabs owned 85 per cent of the land, while Jews owned less than 7 per cent.”
If there were to be a partition of Palestine, an Ottoman province conquered by the British during World War I, justice demands that it should be done in proportion to the population strength of the area. But the UN partition plan gave no such consideration to the Palestinian people’s right. It divided Palestine giving 55 per cent to the new state of Israel founded by the Zionists who came from Europe and 45 per cent to the native Palestinians. What was more shocking was that the report failed to recognise the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. The omission, deliberate or otherwise, has only facilitated the unrolling of a Zionist plan to set up a Greater Israel little by little extending upto to the Nile in one direction and the Euphrates in the other.
What followed the partition plan was a sad story written in blood. The 45 per cent of Palestine which the UN resolution gave the Palestinian people has been reduced to 17 per cent with the tiny enclave of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank being separated by Palestinian land annexed by Israel. There is no contiguity between the two pieces of Palestine, which is shrinking by the day with Israel grabbing more Palestinian land to build settlements for Jews in violation of international law. As the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory continues, the Zionist regime is pampered and protected by the United States, Britain and some powerful media groups and journalists who craftily project the victim as the aggressor and the aggressor as victim.
That justice is just a slogan for some of Israel’s friends, especially the US and Britain, rings true in their refusal to support the Palestinian resolution yesterday at the UN General Assembly. The resolution, after all, sought to undo a historic injustice. Reaffirming and asserting the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination within the 1967 borders, the resolution, among other things, urges the General Assembly to accord to Palestine non-member observer state status and expresses the hope that the Security Council will consider favourably the Palestinian application submitted in September last year for admission to full membership in the United Nations.
It affirms the UN’s determination to contribute to the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the attainment of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfills the vision of two States: an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.
In an unusual turn of events, country after country in Europe decided to back the Palestinian resolution. Yet, in a shameless display of immoral political behaviour that upholds injustice and supports aggression, Britain, which was the root cause of the Palestinian crisis, had the cheek to place conditions for its support for the Palestine resolution.
In 1916, as World War I was coming to an end and the Ottomans who supported the Germans were facing defeat, Britain and France secretly met to divide the Middle East between themselves, as though the area was the property of the queen’s greatgrandmother. After WWI, Palestine came under Britain’s mandate in terms of a resolution in the League of Nations -- the predecessor of the United Nations. In 1917, Britain gave a pledge to the Zionist leaders in the form of the Balfour Declaration, permitting them to set up a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Israel was set up by expelling the Palestinian natives from their homes. These Palestinians live in exile or in refugee camps, hoping against hope that one day they will be returning to their homes. But Israel has denied them the right to return. One of Israel’s conditions for peace talks with the Palestinians is that they should not raise the Palestinians’ right to return. On the contrary, any Jew b
Traits of such historic injustice committed by Britain, an arrogant colonial power that robbed the resources of colonised countries under the guise of an outrageous slogan -- taking civilisation to the uncivilised -- were evident in the British attitude towards yesterday’s resolution.
Britain demanded from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a pledge that he would not use the new status of Palestine to bring war crime allegations against Israel before the International Criminal Court.
Is not there an admission in this demand that Israel has committed war crimes and Britain wants to protect its ally? If Britain in support of Israel could so depravedly uphold injustice, on what moral grounds can it voice its concern over war crimes and accountability issues in other countries?
Britain, the US and Israel fear that Palestine’s new status would enable it to go before the ICC and other international bodies and take or canvass action against Israel’s excesses.
The Palestinians’ quest for statehood through the UN mechanism began last year after Israel failed to heed calls to halt its settlement-building activities in occupied Palestinian territories. Israel’s ultra-hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even rejected United States President Barack Obama’s request not to build such settlements.
When Abbas floated the idea of seeking UN recognition, the US and Britain tried their best to dissuade him, threatening to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority – an administrative setup established under the 1993 Oslo deal. Abbas wilted under pressure but succeeded in winning recognition for Palestine as a state in the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO). The US punished UNESCO by stopping its financial assistance to it, thus proving that it puts the interest of Israel, a known violator of international law, ahead of the education rights of billions of children worldwide.
Similar pressure was applied on Abbas this time too. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland repeated US warnings that the move could hit US economic support for the Palestinians.
The US has instead advised the Palestinians to return to the negotiation table – a process the Palestinians have adopted without success. The Palestinians have learned through experience that negotiations only prolong their misery and the peace process is a tactic employed by Israel to grab more land and build more settlements even in East Jerusalem, the future capital of Palestine.
Israel, meanwhile, warned that it would punish the Palestinians by confiscating part of the taxes and customs tariffs it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
A Reuter report quoted Hanan Ashrawi, a top Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) official, as telling a news conference in Ramallah that “the Palestinians can’t be blackmailed all the time with money.”
“Some rights aren’t for sale,” Ashrawi said. “If Israel wants to destabilise the whole region, it can. We are talking to the Arab World about their support if Israel responds with financial measures, and the EU has indicated they will not stop their support to us.”
It’s high time the US and Israel realised that support for the Jewish state is eroding even in the developed world despite the money power of the Zionists.