Rashid Khalidi evaluates the PLO's September "UN bid"

PLO and Fatah strategist Nabil Shaath told journalists in Bethlehem just before Christmas that the Palestinians are observing a “hudna” or truce in pursuing the “UN bid” they filed at UNHQ in NY on 23 September for full UN membership for the Palestinian State declared in 1988 — after the failure of negotiations brokered by the United States and backed by the Quartet [USA, EU, Russia + UN.

Shaath said that this “hudna” would last until January 26, the end of the three-month period that the Quartet gave the two parties [Israel + the PLO] to meet and agree on intitial steps to resume negotiations.

After that, Shaath indicated — and unless Israel stops settlement building by then — the PLO will resume its international efforts, including the suspended “UN bid”.

The admission of the State of Palestine to full membership in UNESCO in Paris on 31 October was something of an unplanned surprise, Shaath suggested: “It’s been on the agenda every year since 1989”, he suggested, but this year, it just happened: “we won”, he said. After that, Shaath told journalists, Abu Mazen [Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas] declared a moratorium on any further moves [well, a lot of donor funding, including USAID money, as well as the immediately-important Israeli transfer of the PA VAT + Customs duties it collects, which goes to pay PA salaries, was at stake].

Shaath also said that separate efforts to join distinct UN agencies and international bodies was just a lot of wasted effort, because if accomplished through the “UN bid” — or, otherwise, by taking the easier and more immediately productive route of going to the UN General Assembly to ask for an upgrade in status from observer organization to observer but non-member state.

Meanwhile, Palestinian-American professor Rashid Khalidi has talked to Victor Kattan — the transcript is published here — analyzing the PLO strategy for its “UN bid” filed on 23 September for full UN membership for the Palestinian state:

Rashid Khalidi [RK]: “…If your objective is a narrow diplomatic one to obtain maximum benefits at minimum costs, which is a perfectly rational approach, it might have been advisable to have avoided the Security Council and to have gone directly to the General Assembly. If, however, this was part of what I would call a declaration of independence from the United States, and the idea was to illustrate the fact that the United States is an obstacle to a just resolution of the conflict, then I don’t see why a defeat in the Security Council, by a U.S. veto or a lack of necessary votes, doesn’t serve that purpose and then that could be followed by going to the General Assembly and achieving the same objective. Obviously you don’t want to suffer a defeat if you don’t have to and another argument would be why should the Palestinians accentuate their differences with the U.S..

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On "Invented People"

This one got under my skin.

An American politician [and presidential candidate — it doesn’t matter which one, but it happens to be Newt Gingrich] picked up and mindlessly repeated one of the more insufferable commonly-expressed attitudes in Israel: Palestinians are an “invented people”.

This argument goes like this: the Palestinians don’t exist, they’re just a collection of opportunists who moved to Palestine for jobs or economic opportunity or whatever, they never had their own state before [so, why should they have one now]? etc, etc, etc…

I have heard this from people who I otherwise consider to be friends. I have heard this on the media. I have heard this from educated Israelis. I have heard this from educated Israelis who had responsible positions in major international organizations including the United Nations… it is repeated almost non-stop, without shame, without a bat of the eye, without a flush of the skin, without a quiver of the chin.

This is despite the decision of the United Nations from 1974 [yes, following the visit of PLO Yasser Arafat, in fatigues, waving an olive branch with a pistol in a holster at his waist] endorsing the Palestinian right of self-determination — a right that belongs to a people, the Palestinian people…

And, as M.J. Rosenberg wrote, in an article entitled “The Real ‘Invented’ People” published on Al-Jazeera’s English-language website, Jews were recognized as a people for the first time less than seven decades earlier, in the Balfour Declaration — that later was incorporated in the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate .

Rosenberg attributes this, in his opening paragraphs, to the Zionist movement. But, it became a fact — the Jewish people were recognized as a people for the first time in history — however little understood, after this proposition was formally accepted by the post-First-World-War League of Nations.

True, many Palestinians don’t like this — they do not like the colonialist idea, taken up by the essentially anti-colonial League of Nations, that their ancestral homeland was given for sharing to another people [declared as a people before the Palestinians were awarded the same courtesy], so long as their own national rights were safeguarded [which they were clearly not].

True, many Palestinians think they can define Jewishness as membership in a religious community, and continue to refuse to recognize the Jewish people as a people, not too much unlike themselves.

M.J. Rosenberg wrote, in his article posted here, that:

    “Seventy-plus years later, it is impossible to argue that the Israeli nation is not as authentic and worthy of recognition as any in the world (more authentic than some, in fact). The Hebrew language is spoken by millions of Jews and Palestinians. The Israeli culture is unique: Bearing little resemblance to any other in the world … And the Palestinians are every bit as much a nation. If the ultimate definition of authentic nationhood is continuous residence in a land for thousands of years, the Palestinian claim to nationhood is ironclad. They never left Palestine (except for those who either emigrated or became refugees after the establishment of Israel).

    Those who deny that Palestinians have a nation base their case on two arguments, both of which are logically incoherent. The first is that Palestinians never exercised self-determination in Palestine; they were always governed by others from ancient times to the present day.

    The answer to this is: So what?

    Most nations in the world lacked self-determination for long periods of their history. The Polish nation existed between 1790 and 1918 even though the state was erased from the map – divided between Russia and Austro-Hungary. It achieved independence in 1918 only to again lose it to the Nazis, and then the Soviets from 1939 until 1989. Would anyone today argue that the Polish nation was invented? The idea of it is ridiculous, especially when offered by Israelis or Americans (or Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians… ) whose national existence would have been unimaginable a few centuries ago.

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