Palestine: Between Unjust International System and Discredited Leadership

By Hasan Afif El-Hasan

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) passed a motion on November 29, 2012 recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state by a vote of 138 supporting the motion to 9 including the US against it, and 41 abstentions including Britain and Germany. Susan Rice, the representative of the US, said that she voted against the “unfortunate and counterproductive resolution” because it places further obstacles in the path to peace. She argued that with this resolution, the Palestinians will “find out that little about their lives had changed” and that any progress toward peace must be accomplished only through negotiations between the two parties to the conflict. For the US policy makers, the perpetual “peace process” since 1993 is threatened by a peaceful resolution by a UN organization! The US believes that establishing an independent state for the Palestinians on twenty percent of their ancestral homeland is just an aspiration that must not be realized without Israeli consent. The US vote against the resolution raises questions regarding the integrity and credibility of the US role in preserving peace and justice.

The non-membership status entitles the Palestinians to join many international treatments and conventions, and challenge the status quo and Israel’s human rights violations. They can sue Israel and its leaders for war crimes committed against the Palestinian people in former wars. There is sympathy for the Palestinian cause in Africa, South America and in some European countries. But in the absence of US pressure on Israel, no other party, including the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, can have any influence.

On October 12, 2014, members of Britain’s House of Commons, mostly from the opposition Labour Party, voted by 274 to 12 to pass a non-binding resolution stating that: “This House believes that the Government should recognize the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.” The vote suggests that Israel is losing the public opinion and some of its staunch supporters in Britain. This is a welcome development, but it cannot be treated as a payback for Britain’s sponsorship of the ruthless Zionist colonialism in Palestine. The vote is not likely to change the British Government policy of opposing a Palestinian state at this point, but even if the vote is binding, it does not make any difference in the lives of generations of homeless Palestinian refugees, or the loss of thousands of innocent lives, victims of Britain’s racist policies. This vote hardly matters today when a Palestinian State, if materialized, will be in the West Bank and Jerusalem areas that are riddled with Jewish-only settlements and highways built in Palestinian lands. And Britain that gave Palestine to the Zionists in the early twentieth century is not Britain which may recognize “a State of Palestine” today.

When Great Britain issued Balfour Declaration, it was the World Super power with unmatched global power-projection that dominated over so many portions of the Earth, it was said, “The sun never set on the British Empire.” Its declarations meant something then, but today, Britain’s House of Commons non-binding resolution has far less weight than Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefa Lofven announcement that his center-left government will recognize the State of Palestine. One week later, the Swedish Government fulfilled its promise. Even with its permanent membership in the UN Security Council, the government in London does not show independence from Washington on major foreign policy decisions. According to Richard Halloran, a previous correspondent for The New York Times, “Britain has become in some ways a US colony or (lapdog, as some self-deprecating British wags put it).” Britain has its own internal problems too. A few weeks ago, Britain was about to get even embarrassingly smaller if the Scottish people had decided to secede.

Years after the so called “Oslo Agreements”, “Peace Negotiations”, “Road Maps”, and disappointment by the international community failure to end the Israeli occupation or halt Israeli settlement’s activities, leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced plans to unilaterally declare a Palestinian State over the 1967 occupied lands one more time, and ask for recognition by the UNGA and the UN Security Council. The Palestinians had declared such a state in 1988, but it was ignored by the international community and the subject has been forgotten after the Oslo agreements. The Palestinian leadership plans to establish their state by seeking a Security Council resolution calling for Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines within three years. But the Security Council will not be accommodating to the Palestinians as the UNGA, since the big powers can exercise their veto.

I wish that the Security Council would rein in Israel and bring the half-a-century occupation to an end, but this is closer to a dream than reality. Such a resolution will certainly be vetoed by the US. The Security Council that was established to maintain peace and security in the World failed even to condemn the massive Israeli illegal settlement activities, the annexation of Jerusalem, land confiscation, the apartheid wall, and the daily human rights violations against the Palestinians. Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Tutu concluded that Israel practiced colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinians in the occupied lands. The UNGA passed a resolution in 2003 condemning the apartheid wall and called for all construction to halt, but Israel ignored it.

The permanent members’ veto power is at the root of the Security Council failure to do its declared job. Its Charter was adopted by delegates of 50 nations in 1945 to maintain peace and security, but it has failed, time and again, to resolve international conflicts since then. The only roads to independence and freedom left for the colonized and oppressed nations have been through economic boycott, civil disobedience, violence, war and bloodshed.

The most celebrated independence of a nation through non-violence was that of India in 1947, but it was the Indian people boycott of the British products and the civil disobedience that made colonizing India too costly to maintain. The independence of Pakistan from India was at the cost of a civil war that took the lives of as many as half million civilians in what is described by historians as “retributive genocide” and millions were displaced. Then in 1971, the Bengali nation of East Pakistan demanded independence from Pakistan, war broke out and India joined the fight on the side of the Bengalis. Systematic genocide and atrocities against the Bengali civilians were committed before Pakistan was defeated, and the Bengalis established the State of Bangladesh.

Should the UN Security Council recognize the Palestinian State, any Israeli presence across the 1967 border without the Palestinian’s approval, including settlements and military bases, will be a breach of the UN resolution. After such a recognition, Oslo agreements become obsolete, the A,B, and C areas, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the crossings to Jordan and Egypt become legally under the Palestinian Government jurisdiction. The Palestinian leadership should have a strategy of how to transform the new acquired statehood into a sovereign state. They should have plans for what to do in case Israel ignored the Security Council recognition as it had ignored other UN resolutions and the International Court of Justice. They should not expect the NATO military to intervene on their behalf against Israel as they did for ethnic Albanians of Kosovo against Serbia in 1999.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President who declared that “security coordination with the occupation is sacred”, had no stomach to follow up on the 2009 Goldstone Report, and hesitates to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes in the occupied lands. According to the Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea, Abbas had bent over backwards to accommodate virtually every Israeli demand during the nine-month long negotiations during Secretary Kerry peace mission. Abbas will not challenge Israel even if he can! He never promoted peaceful struggle through mass action and civil disobedience or called for boycotting Israel’s products. He was responsible for the Oslo agreements and their problems that brought the Palestinians to their present hopeless situation, and he overstayed his role as their leader. The Palestinians need new fresh thinking generation to lead them through the new phase of their struggle now, before it is too late!

The Palestinians learnt that the international nation-state system is chaotic; political decisions are not based on ethics or morality; only might makes right; and when resolving disputes and conflicts, the weaker side pays the price of its weakness.

But the Palestinians have not learnt how to replace discredited leaders who keep giving them empty rhetoric and no state of their own. Palestinian leaders’ standing among their people is sinking, and yet they are going nowhere.

- Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to

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