The Farce of the Indignant

The Farce of the Indignant

A procession has been making its way through the foreign offices of the world; it has passed through Russia, Brazil and even the UK. It has seen the establishment of diplomatic offices - one might even say embassies - but unusually there is no state whose diplomats might occupy them. Is this preliminary work for the unveiling of the newest United Nations member State? Perhaps, though most likely not; at least not yet.

This diplomatic procession is that of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has been laying the foundations for its appeal to statehood at the UN General Assembly in September. There are 120 States that support its claim, but this is academic, considering the only relevant state that does not holds all the cards. The US has stated it intends to veto the decision in the Security Council, which it will. This doesn't mean that Palestine will not be declared a state at all, though without US backing it will not be a voting member of the UN.

That the PA has chosen to take this route is not surprising. Since 1995 Israel has reneged on almost all of its substantial obligations under "peace process" agreements. Furthermore the period between 1991 and the present has seen the inexorable increase of settler populations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem which every Israeli government, be they Likud or Labour has unashamedly endorsed both officially and tacitly. Since the expansion of settlements and all that comes with them are relegated to "final status negotiations" Israel has managed to effectively keep them off the agenda for 20 years.

The US and Israel - with no sense of irony - criticise the Palestinian appeal as unhelpful unilateralism, arguing that the "peace process" must resume before any such issue as Palestinian statehood can be fruitfully debated at the UN. This is the same UN which recognized the state of Israel at a time when its enduring presence and legitimacy was hardly without question.

Slavoj Zizek has noted of the "peace process" that, since those in the West Bank have made efforts to renounce violence, 'The land is stolen from the Palestinians even faster'. Negotiations mean the further encroachment of Israeli settlers into the 22% of Mandate Palestine within which they reside, further erosion of what little sovereign rights a future Palestinian state hopes to maintain, continuing impoverishment, unemployment and diminishing access to resources.

Further still, continuation of negotiations along the current precedent means the incremental empowerment of the corrupt and authoritarian PA. What that has been bequeathed to the Palestinian people in the last 20 years of this farce is of greater note than Israel's "partner for peace"? With its numerous Western-trained security agencies, its atrocious human rights record, its incompetence, its corruption and its collusion with the US and Israel in their internment. The PA is hardly any more legitimate a government than other authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. The 'Tunis boys' have made a pretty place for themselves in the Bantustans: it even appears that now Hamas may return to the bosom of US-Israeli hegemony, from which they once suckled and later bit.

This is not to say there is a concerted plan or an unspoken agreement between Israel and the PA, but both sides of the political divide have been content to maintain the status quo since the end of the 2nd intifada.

The leak of negotiation documents painted a picture of Israeli intransience and rejectionism, of PA complicity and connivance with Israeli, US and European strategic designs. Yet were there protests against this? In the light of the widespread upheavals in the Middle East one wonders how the PA has managed to keep a lid on Palestine. But when we see how deep the influence and widespread the cooperation between the PA and Western intelligence agencies since 2001 perhaps it is not so surprising. Like Egypt and Yemen the PA is similarly embedded in the cobwebs of Western power and influence.

So what to make of the procession to the General Assembly at the UN? It would be cruel to say that it is just a publicity stunt - though publicity has its place. Noura Erakat thinks it could be just an exercise in manoeuvring on the part of the PA to gain some ground in renewed negotiations. If this is the case, and the same old rotten formula is trotted out again after September, then perhaps it will be fitting time for some days of rage in Ramallah. The Palestinian people need, and deserve, a genuinely popular leadership; the growth of civil society's efforts at combating the occupation in Palestine, Israel and throughout the rest of the world is a positive step.

The PA has spent the best part of 20 years getting nowhere besides the entrenchment of its regime. There need to be free and fair elections, as soon as is possible. If the progress to the UN can help mobilize a change in international recognition and further empower Palestinian and international civil society efforts to end the occupation, perhaps the PA can exit stage with a modicum of dignity.


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