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Op-Ed

Palestinian statehood: What is the U.N.'s role?

A divisive showdown is almost certain.

June 12, 2011

Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook insists that a vote this fall in the General Assembly cannot be stopped.

The Israeli prime minister's recent trip to the United States was a blatant effort to stop the march of history.

Increasingly, nations throughout the world community are refusing to acquiesce to the U.S.-Israel axis that has kept Palestinians voiceless in the world community for more than six decades. An international movement currently underway will probably culminate this fall in a vote by the U.N. General Assembly to recognize statehood for Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders. Because this movement is beyond the control of the United States and Israel, their agenda has become one of obstruction, and the public relations battle has begun.

For the United States, this has meant a predictable effort to resurrect and promote the long moribund and discredited "peace process." President Obama assured the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, last month that "no vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state," dismissing the effort as a plot "to delegitimize the state of Israel."

Israel, for its part, is issuing dire warnings to European capitals about violence on the ground in Palestine. Israel is also moving to consolidate its West Bank settlements, meaning more annexations and increased occupation. Both leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama, insist that any U.N. declaration of statehood would be invalid.

Can someone please explain to 6 million Palestinians why a 1947 U.N. vote could lead to the establishment of Israel — but cannot do the same for us today?

For decades the U.S. has positioned itself as the "neutral" guarantor of the peace process, holding out eventual statehood for Palestinians. Yet all the while it has tolerated Israel's illegal settlements and annexations, and ensured its rise as a world military power. The U.S. has allowed its ally to preside over an apartheid system with ruthless and often fatal consequences for Palestinians who dare to resist. Long ago the U.S. forfeited its status as a disinterested referee. Given America's complete support for the occupation, why should Palestinians believe its president's promise of statehood?

At his recent pep rally in Washington, Netanyahu received a hero's welcome from AIPAC and a gushing display of congressional fealty from a roomful of people who heard what they came for but left none the wiser. He characterized the Palestinian economy as "booming," thanks to Israel's "help." It is unclear if this was meant to mock the millions in the Gaza Strip who live in abject poverty with their homes and infrastructure, airport and seaport still shattered from the last Israeli onslaught. And while Netanyahu demands we accept the Jewish state as a precondition for talks, Israel accepts no preconditions itself, especially not with regard to its illegal and universally-condemned settlements. In fact, Zionism has never had any intentions of allowing a Palestinian state—not in 1948, not in 1967, not at Oslo, not at Camp David, and not now.

Palestinians alive at the time we were expelled from our land to make way for the Jewish state — the Nakba, or catastrophe, as we call it — are today elderly. Many of them have known little else since that time but the despair of refugee camps, scattered throughout the Middle East for more than 60 years. Those born when the 1967 land grab first began are today middle-aged and have lived under occupation all their lives. Our young, born against the backdrop of the flawed Oslo accords, are yet another lost generation, their essential freedoms curtailed in every way imaginable, by blockade and checkpoint, or hemmed in by armed settlers who steal ever more land with their trailer parks and hilltop towers.

The peace process has given nothing to Palestinians. All of us — no matter what our aspirations, politics or religious beliefs — share one thing: We are stateless. It is high time that the force of international law play its part in guaranteeing a future for our people. The U.N. vote would recognize a state of Palestine, which would be a crucial starting point for participation in community of nations, rebuilding our country and determining our own future without interference or control of others.

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