PLO leader President Mahmoud Abbas has spoken at the United Nations in support of full Palestinian membership of the United Nations. As he received standing ovations Israel looked a little isolated as their delegates maintained their seats and silence. The speech was passionate and was warmly received in Ramallah. I received a message from a citizen of Gaza who was greatly heartened by Abbas who has done something to rebuild a rather tarnished image. Still the name of Arafat elicits a huge response in spite of detractors who criticised him with allegations of corruption.
President Abbas didn’t mince his words and spoke of a range of injustices perpetrated by “the last colonial occupying force”. It was the policy of continuing to build settlements illegally on land which would form part of a future Palestinian that was the greatest obstacle, but the apartheid wall which divided communities and families, the destruction of farmland and ancient olive trees and the violence of the Israeli Occupying Force among his deep objections. “Enough, enough, enough” was his call to the assembled delegates and to the world watching events unfold.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanahyu followed up with attacks on the UN, Abbas and everyone who he feels wants Israel to go undefended. He ended by requesting Abbas to meet him there and then since “they were both together in New York in the same room”.
Back in Jerusalem there appeared to be an air of world weariness and resignation to the US veto. What Britain is going to do we’re left guessing – except again we know what to expect. Palestine has been failed once this century, as the article points out.
Jewish Voice for Peace report
Today, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, presented a bid for the state of Palestine, based on the 1967 borders, to be considered by the Security Council for full membership in the United Nations.
Shortly afterward, he addressed the General Assembly, where he reviewed, from the 1948 Nakba until today, the multitude of ways in which Israel has suppressed Palestinians’ rights. While the question remains if the UN statehood bid adequately addresses the larger issue of Palestinian rights, Abbas’ address importantly gave voice to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. While there is no uniform support for this UN bid, today was undoubtedly a historic and moving day. After over 63 years struggling for global recognition, it was moving to see the countries of the world represented in the UN general assembly give President Abbas a rousing standing ovation.
Not so for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who spoke shortly after Abbas. Netanyahu responded to the Palestinian leader with diversion and doublespeak instead of honest engagement, and peace slogans couched in hostility, aggression, and denial of Palestinian claims–a continuation of the standard Israeli tactic. We know from history that this empty rhetoric has been used by Israeli government for decades and will only mean further pain and oppression for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and all over the world.
As a Jewish-American organization, we believe it is important to remain focused on our primary responsibility: having an impact on U.S. policy. As such, we will continue to speak out strongly against the U.S. using its veto power in the Security Council to reject this bid for statehood.
We know now that President Obama will not do the right thing. Speaking at the UN on Wednesday, Obama lauded the Arab Spring–but rejected the Palestinian Autumn. The president retreated from his earlier positions that demanded Israeli accountability for its military occupation, and he did not acknowledge the ongoing role of the U.S. in maintaining that imbalance through its extraordinary economic, military, and diplomatic support for Israel, even when its actions violate international law, human rights, and U.S. policy. And he didn’t acknowledge that twenty years of the “peace process” has brought only a more entrenched occupation. Instead, Obama merely said that both sides should “sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and fears.” (1)
While this week has not been an easy one, we at JVP actually feel a redoubled assurance in the promise of our strategy to change the dynamics on display at the United Nations. We know now, more than ever, that the President or Congress will not change on their own. The array of power and money is simply too strong–for now. We know, as with the examples of the civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement, to name just two, that it is movements like ours that force our governments to change their policies. It was the steadfastness, the creativity, the demonstrations, the local organizing, and the BDS tactics that helped these movements and so many others for social justice eventually succeed. So we’ll let the politicians play their games, and meanwhile, our work will continue.
Jewish Voice for Peace