New Internationalist

Time for a Palestinian Spring


Mahmoud Abbas has called for an end to the horrors of Israeli occupation.
Photo by Olivier Pacteau under a CC Licence.

September 23, 2011 was a historic day for Palestinians. President Mahmoud Abbas submitted a bid for Palestine to be admitted as a full member state of the United Nations.

Palestinian officials are seeking recognition as an independent state based on the 1967 borders which includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Palestine currently holds ‘observer’ status at the United Nations, which means that it can speak at UN General Assembly meetings but cannot vote on resolutions.

Full admittance to the UN will allow Palestine to be part of UN agencies and international treaties, and give it the right to legally challenge Israel’s occupation of the territory, and other important issues.

This was a day that Palestinians have long anticipated, and it gave Palestinians around the world a reason to celebrate – their chance to finally gain recognition, security and an independent country – something that was taken from them in 1948, when the historic land of Palestine was partitioned.

Abbas’s speech struck an emotional chord with many Palestinians. He complained that Israel is not complying with international law and UN resolutions, and how it continues to build settlements on Palestinian territory. Speaking about the more than 200 settlements and outposts in the West Bank and east Jerusalem which are home to close to half a million people, he explained: ‘Settlement activities embody the core of the policy of colonial military occupation of the land of the Palestinian people and all of the brutality of aggression and racial discrimination against our people that this policy entails.’

He went on to say that as the policy of building settlements continues, so does the construction of the annexation wall that divides and separates thousands of Palestinian families. The wall, of which 85 per cent lies deep in the West Bank rather than on the 1967 border, will be, upon completion, 810 kilometers long and will annex 46 per cent of the West Bank.

Abbas also touched on the ‘decades-long campaign of demolition and confiscation of homes, displacing Palestinian owners and residents under a multi-pronged policy of ethnic cleansing aimed at pushing them away from their ancestral homeland.’  Since 1967, thousands of Arab homes in the West Bank and in Israel have been demolished, and as a result, thousands of people have been displaced.  According to the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions, in 2011 alone, 408 structures have been demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing a total of 781 people.

Abbas summed up the occupation with these words: ‘The occupying power also continues its incursions in areas of the Palestinian National Authority through raids, arrests and killings at the checkpoints. In recent years, the criminal actions of armed settler militias, who enjoy the special protection of the occupation army, has intensified with the perpetration of frequent attacks against our people, targeting their homes, schools, universities, mosques, fields, crops and trees. Despite our repeated warnings, the occupying power has not acted to curb these attacks and we hold them fully responsible for the crimes of the settlers.’

Following his emotional recollection of al-Nakba (the Catastrophe) in 1948 when his own family and thousands of people were ‘forced to leave their homes and their towns and villages, carrying only some of our belongings and our grief and our memories and the keys of our homes to the camps of exile……’ he confirmed that the Palestinians have ‘agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22 per cent of the territory of historical Palestine – on all the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in 1967.’

Abbas, just as the late President Yasser Arafat, came to the United Nations with a commitment to pursue peace. He reminded those gathered of Arafat’s words: ‘“Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”’

He promised that Palestinians will continue their peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation ‘armed only with their dreams, courage, hope and slogans in the face of bullets, tanks, tear gas and bulldozers.’

Admittance as a full member state depends on the approval of the 15-member UN Security Council., followed by a two-thirds majority vote of the 193-member General Assembly.

The United States' attempt to dissuade Abbas from making the bid as a full member state failed. The US has stated that it will veto the bid.

Millions of Palestinians scattered around the world feel that their dreams and aspirations of finally having an independent homeland are being sold out for Barack Obama’s own selfish personal gain.

However, the Palestinians can still submit a resolution to the General Assembly requesting that Palestine’s status be changed to ‘non-member observer state’, which offers more rights than just ‘observer’.

Time will tell.  As Abbas said: ‘At a time when the Arab peoples affirm their quest for democracy - the Arab Spring - the time is now for the Palestinian Spring, the time for independence.’

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