Self-Determination: an important concept, now lost?

Both Israeli and Palestinian theoreticians have argued that the partition of the British Mandate Palestine, as decided at British request by the United Nations in General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 1947, violated the principle of self-determination, which is a central — it could even be said, sacred — concept in modern international law.

(Britain then abstained in the UNGA vote on Resolution 181, as did Turkey, the successor to the Ottoman empire).

A recent policy brief published by Dore Gold’s Jewish Center for Policy Affairs [JCPA] in Jerusalem, recently stated openly that Israel’s claim to the West Bank, and the legitimacy of its settlements there, is based on the 1922 Palestine Mandate.

[This is interesting, as the Palestine Mandate was only formally adopted by the Council of the League of Nations in 1923 — after the formal surrender of the Ottoman Empire in Lausanne, and, significantly, after Britain informed the League of Nations that Transjordan was being administered separately, thereby effectively limiting Jewish immigration, which the Mandate was designed to encourage, to the areas west of the Jordan River.]

Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network based in Berkeley, California, has a stated mission of educating and fostering “public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law”. In May 2010, it published a policy brief written by Ali Abunimah, entitled “Reclaiming Self-Determination”, and posted here, which says that “any commitment to self-determination in principle or in practice” has been lost or given up (including by the Palestinian leadership) during the “peace process” of the
past two decades.

Abunimah wrote that “The peace process that began with the 1991 Madrid Conference has gradually excluded the majority of Palestinians from having any role in determining the future of their country. In the eyes of peace process sponsors, the ‘Palestinian people’ constitutes at most residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, though even Gaza now finds itself as marginalized as the Diaspora. It is this exclusion that has allowed a cause of decolonization and self-determination to be reduced to little more than a ‘border dispute’.”

In his analysis, Abunimah then wrote that self-determination is a right “legitimate residents” of the territories — not of national groups (as the League of Nations recognized the Jewish people, for the first time, by incorporating the language of the Balfour Declaration and its advocacy of a Jewish homeland directly into the Palestine Mandate). However, he then argued, Jewish settlers could be considered, if …

He explained: “[T]he notion that Israeli Jews are legitimate residents, provided they shed their colonial character and privileges, derives directly from the traditional conception of Palestinian self-determination. As Arafat put it in his 1974 UN speech, ‘when we speak of our common hopes for the Palestine of tomorrow we include in our perspective all Jews now living in Palestine who choose to live with us there in peace and without discrimination’.”

Jeff Halper: Do it! Palestinian leadership must involve its own people + supporters worldwide in September plan to seek UN membership

Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) wrote this week that “the Palestinians’ most loyal and powerful ally is civil society. And yet, this most solid base of support remains unappreciated, underutilized and ignored”.

His article was a critique of the failure of the Palestinian leadership to involve its own people in the diaspora, it’s own people in the occupied Palestinian territory, and civil society around the world — particularly in the reported plan to go to the United Nations in September to seek UN membership for a Palestinian State.

From 1974, the PLO waged a battle seeking UN recognition as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

In November 1988, the late PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] leader Yasser Arafat issued a Declaration of Independence for a Palestinian State, at a meeting of the PLO’s legislative assembly, the Palestine National Council [PNC], in Algeriers. This Declaration was repeated before a session of the UN General Assembly, which moved to Geneva for the occasion, in December 1988. Over 100 UN member states recognized that declaration of independent statehood.

After that, the UN “upgraded” the status of the PLO observer delegation, which was henceforth called the Observer Delegation of Palestine.

Now, the effort will be to seek full UN membership for the State of Palestine. If that fails, a fall-back position might be to seek full observer status for the Palestinian State (similar to the Vatican — or, to Switzerland, before it opted to become a full UN member a little less than a decade ago.

Halper wrote: “Inside the UN, Abbas would present Palestine’s compelling case for independence and UN membership, as he did in his New York Times piece of May 16th. He would also re-frame the conflict. It is not security issues that lay at the roots of the conflict, but Israel ’s refusal to respect Palestinian national rights and to end the Occupation. As he also did in the New York Times article, Abbas must also make it clear that recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in no way compromises the right of refugees to return to their homes, a key point of future negotiations with Israel. He should also state up-front that the establishment of a Palestinian state does not end the Palestinian quest, through peaceful means, of an inclusive single-state solution. If international mobilization is pursued vigorously and Abbas exudes a genuine determination to see a Palestinian state established and recognized, more than 130 countries, including many of the leading European ones, will vote to accept Palestine into the UN. Even if this does not overrule the US veto in the Security Council, it is far more than a merely symbolic achievement and certainly cannot be considered a failure. Such a massive expression of support would demonstrate the inevitability of Palestinian statehood. It would signal the beginning rather than the end of an international campaign for Palestinian rights, one now joined by governments as well as civil society”.

Continue reading Jeff Halper: Do it! Palestinian leadership must involve its own people + supporters worldwide in September plan to seek UN membership

Nathan J. Brown: Salam Fayyad is "No Savior"


My only real disagreement with Nathan J. Brown’s article on Salam Fayyad being “No Savior”, published on the Foreign Policy website here, is that I would not blame Salam Fayyad for fostering this misimpression.

This was entirely the creation of Western donors.

Salam Fayyad didn’t really mind. He did absolutely nothing to discourage it.

Maybe, you could say, he tried to use this un-elected accolade to leverage maximum benefits for the Palestinian Authority.

Brown himself wrote in his concluding paragraph that “Fayyad cannot be held primarily responsible for this collective self-delusion; at most, he facilitated it. And in the process he provided all actors with a breathing space that is now disappearing. Ultimately, the ones who convinced themselves he was capable of completely transforming Palestine are most responsible for squandering the brief respite his premiership offered”.

But, as Brown argued earlier in his piece, “His optimistic smile obscured an impossible situation: Fayyad’s main achievement has not been to build the structures of a Palestinian state, but to stave off the collapse of those structures that did exist. An equally important achievement was his ability to persuade Western observers that he was doing much more. In the process, however, he raised expectations far beyond his ability to deliver”.

Continue reading Nathan J. Brown: Salam Fayyad is "No Savior"

Netanyahu to Knesset: Palestinian state will not (even) be contiguous

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Knesset Committee on Wednesday. according to a report in the Jerusalem Post today, that “The prime minister laid down what he called a ‘framework’ Israel must bring to negotiations, including insistence on a unified Jerusalem, maintaining large settlement blocs located beyond the Green Line under Israeli sovereignty, an Israeli presence on the Jordan River valley, and a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue outside Israel proper. He said the Palestinian state will be ‘broken up’ but will have clearly demarcated borders [emphasis added here]”.

This is published here.

American policy has continued to emphasize that a future Palestinian state must be “contiguous”, as U.S. President Obama said in a couple of statements a few weeks ago.

Obama also said that the U.S. believes direct negotiations should be renewed, and the starting point should be the 1967 borders, with agreed swaps. Netanyahu and the Israeli government then said this raised questions which needed clarification about U.S. support for a 2004 letter of assurances sent by U.S. President George W. Bush, which mentioned demographic realities on the ground — a formula taken to mean some kind of acceptance of large Israeli “settlement blocs” in occupied Palestinian territory.

The JPost report added that “The prime minister, reiterating the platform he laid out before the US Congress last month, said that negotiations for a two-state solution with Israel fully recognized as a Jewish state would lead to peace, and not unilateral moves. He said he had received support from the US Congress, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and ‘other European leaders’.”