138 for, 9 against, 41 abstentions.
65 years after the UN partition plan (that, it is hardly remembered, never went through the UN Security Council, which, in practice makes it legally dodgy) that envisaged to divide Palestine in 2 countries and more than 44 years after the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, Palestine has become a “non member State” at the United Nations.
But what does this upgrade means in symbolic and practical terms?
Let’s start with the symbolic.
This is a resounding symbolic victory for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinians in general. No doubt about it. The Palestinian flag being layed down on the floor of the UN General Assembly, in front of the Israeli and US ambassadors, is a huge slap in the face for them and put a smile on everyone on earth that supports justice for all peoples. This victory does empower the Palestinians and the fact that Hamas did congratulate Mahmoud Abbas for this, even if not too enthusiastically, opens potentially new avenues for the unity of the Palestinian movement.
The fact that countries like France and Italy voted for, is, in diplomatic terms, also a huge step forward.
The fact that Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and Australia did not vote against, is also a progress made and shows that Europe is less and less on the side of Israel, symbolically at least. Haaretz reported yesterday that an Israeli ambassador said: “We’ve lost Europe”.
The German reasoning was interesting. The ambassador said that Germany was not voting against, but instead abstaining “because Israel was not moving an inch on settlements”. (which in reality is wrong, as settlements are moving fast, expanding daily in Occupied Palestine).
This vote, which was expected, also isolate even more the US, Israel and Canada as on a completely different wavelength than the rest of the world. There is now, more than ever, them vs the rest of the world.
The Palestinian People hardly has a chance to celebrate anything, nowadays, so such an achievement, which keeps alive the tiny bit of hope that they have in the international community, must not be underestimated. But this does not mean that we have to fool ourselves and celebrate this day like no other because in practical, on the ground terms, this vote hardly changes a thing.
What is important after such an historic moment is what’s happening the day after.
While it is good news that France, Belgium, Italy…voted in favour, let’s remember that this was only to upgrade Palestine to a “non-member state” (Palestine now enjoys the same status as the Vatican) and that, if this vote is not followed by actions from those countries, it would have been totally meaningless. The facts are that France and the EU, for example, when it comes to concrete political steps, are active supporters of Israel should not be forgotten. France recently upgraded Israel status in the EU, in regards to trade agreements, and the association agreement between the EU and Israel, which gives Israel virtual EU membership and access to most EU bodies, still holds. The call from civil society to cancel or at least suspends this agreement until Israel respects its duties on human rights, has so far fallen on deaf ears. Those countries and the EU, via Catherine Ashton, also, not so long ago, when Israel launched “Operation Pillar of clouds”, only expressed regret at Israel’s actions while strongly condemning Hamas and the Palestinian People for exercising their right to resist a most powerful occupier. Ashton went as far as saying that she told Netanyahu that Israel had, like any other country, the right to self defence (which, under international law is completely bogus, as Hamas is not a State anyway and the Palestinian People are under Israeli Occupation) but that Israel should ‘respond’ in a proportionate manner. In non-diplomatic language, this meant “Go and do whatever you want”.
Being a non-member state at the UN gives Palestine one huge opportunity, in legal terms. Palestine could from today apply for admission at the ICC (International Criminal Court) and therefore take to court the various individuals (Israel Generals, Politicians..) that have been behind some of the most vicious and most importantly well documented War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in history. (we now have to add people responsible of “Operation Pillar of Cloud” to this list). It goes without saying that this was, for most Palestinians, the most important thing this statehood initiative could achieve. Symbolism is good, but actions and changes on the ground are what counts. As a victim, being given the chance to take your aggressor to court, should be an opportunity you grab with both hands.
So why would the PA not do this?
This is the most important question Abbas and its associates will now have to answer. Mahmoud Abbas, has throughout this whole process, repeated that negotiating with Israel was still its number one priority. He has also said that you could obviously not negotiate with someone while taking him to court the same time, which suggests that the day Palestine will ask for admission at the ICC has not come yet, unfortunately. Abbas and is entourage are the same people that have helped bury the Goldstone report at the UN Human Rights Council and are also the same people that never did anything with the 2004 impressive ICJ ruling on the Wall.
If Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, which are hardly popular in Palestine at the moment for good reasons (if people like Leila Shahid, who is the Palestinian delegate in Europe say that the PA has failed and that more than 20 years of negotiations have brought nothing to their people, in fact quite the opposite, they have brought more misery for the Palestinians. Why would the same PA want to pursue such a negative strategy?) do follow, once again, the path of sociocidal negotiations with a most powerful occupier and its partner the USA, it would be once again down to civil society both in Palestine and around the world, to take up the real fight and the real struggle.
This struggle is today, more than ever, an anti-colonial one, based on justice, human rights for all, and the right to self determination for the Palestinian People and goes further than standing in solidarity with the Palestinians.
Most people involved in the fight for justice in Palestine, have become Palestinians.