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What we say we are for is irrelevant

September 21, 2011

According to the political class (e.g., Republican and Democratic politicians, the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, the Obama Administration more generally, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague) and pundits (too many to be worth naming): The Palestinians should not pursue statehood before the U.N.. And the reason that they should not is that, while we support Palestinian statehood, trying to gain it through the U.N. is a dead end, because we will veto it.

This line of argument should prove that the one espousing it is a patent scoundrel. When dealing with scoundrels, one cannot trust their words. One must ferret out where they are misleading. In this case, it is not difficult to locate the core untruth. I think we can take at face value that they oppose, as they say they do, the Palestinians taking their cause to the U.N.. I think we can take roughly equally at face value that, if it comes to it and they must for their sake, they will veto any resolution that would make the Palestinian territories a member state of the U.N.. So it can only be that they lie when they say they support Palestinian statehood. And, what is more, if they lie about this, they also lie about wanting Middle East peace, as for decades they have said that the way to Middle East peace is a two-state solution (sure, there have been other proposals and ideas floated, but this is the only one around which they all have  been in broad consensus).

Now let us ask, Why do they oppose U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state? They would most likely give a vague answer such as: because it will destabilize the situation. We should ask, then, How? The answer is: because it will frighten Israel. Why will it frighten Israel? Because Palestine will be recognized with the force of international law behind it as a state.

Like all other major parties, Israel says it is for a two-state solution. Nothing in Palestine will change the moment it becomes a state. If it has weapons and terrorists or militants in it before it may still have all of these after. Although, in fact, these things and the threats they may pose will most likely be reduced after Palestinians have been brought into the net of international law and must thereby assume certain responsibilities of their own.

This is the point. What changes, what fundamentally comes of international recognition of statehood—in particular, as a U.N. member state—is the requirement that as such one becomes more fully the “subject” (the standard jurisprudential parlance) of international law, meaning there is greater requirement to act in accordance with international law. This means that states have the legal responsibility, lest face the possibility of internationally sanctioned intervention, not to allow terrorists or militants to operate out of them in any way which is substantially in violation of the laws of armed conflict and the use of violence. This also means such things as that Israeli occupation and settlement in the territory of a Palestinian state contrary to the legitimate demands of said state is illegal and would constitute an act of war which the enforcement of international law would require the U.N. to intervene in and restore any disputed territory through a legal process such as by way of the rulings of international legal tribunals. This also means such things as that, as the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas correctly indicates, the Palestinians (as well as Israel, if it had cases it wished to pursue) could take claims of the violation of human rights (such as in Israel’s indiscriminant bombings of Gaza in 2008-07) to the International Court of Justice.

When Israel and the U.S. oppose the Palestinians’ attempt to gain statehood at the U.N. this is what they most directly oppose: the encroachment of international law. The encroachment of the international law into their racket, we should add. Politicians and pundits say that the Palestinians are trying to score a diplomatic victory. This may be so. But such victory cannot come without the concomitants of nation-state status I have mentioned.

When the U.S. and Israel oppose the Palestinian’s attempt to gain statehood they impy that the status quo is preferable. The situation is similar to the U.S.’s stance on the “Arab Spring”. When the Arab Spring takes place in U.S. client states, e.g., Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, the U.S. opposes it. Again, mind not their words but the record of their deeds.

Sometimes the push to quell uprisings  in client states scores victories, as when Saudi Arabia invades and occupies Bahrain or when the U.S.-Iraqi regime imprisons and tortures hundreds of artists, journalists and activists. But when it appears inevitable that the uprisings will seize the day, as in the U.S. client states, of one time or another, of Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, begrudgingly applaud them and proclaim to have supported these movements all along, even while having had its members imprisoned, tortured and murdered for years and decades.

The U.S. and Israel say they are for Palestinian statehood, but the problem is that this U.N. move could bring it. Thus it must be opposed and, if it makes it far enough, vetoed. The status quo is good enough. Yes, we mean what we say. Yes, we want Palestinian statehood but just not when we can have it. Whatever pace we are moving towards or away from peace is better. Thus whether we are moving towards or away from peace is irrelevant. What we say we are for is irrelevant.—Then what they say is true.

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