The UN application for the State of Palestine and the future of the PLO
As expected, rhetoric notwithstanding, the actual application submitted by Mr. Abbas to the UN General Secretary for admission of the “State of Palestine” as a full member in the UN does not contain any clause that may arguably protect the status of the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative of the entire Palestinian people.
For fairness, Abbas did, without doubt, raise the ceiling of his political and legal discourse from -10 to just about +50 (out of a 100). His description of Israel as an apartheid state (twice); his mention of the 1948 Nakba and dispossession; his condemnation of Israeli state terrorism; his endorsement of peaceful resistance (it is not everyday that Abbas even utters the R word!), etc. were all appreciated departures from his usual, lackluster, compromised, low-ceiling discourse, for sure.
Still, the fact remains that the very application for membership undermines Palestinian interests and directly jeopardizes the representation of most Palestinians at the UN and their ability to politically assert their inalienable rights. While our inalienable rights cannot be voided or extinguished by this or any other “diplomatic” maneuver, our ability to struggle for these rights in international forums will be severely damaged if the PLO is replaced by this imaginary “State of Palestine” at the UN.
Also, nothing has changed about the fact that we do not have a democratically elected leadership that is mandated to speak for all of us. It is more urgent than ever to revive — or what I’ve called, take back — the PLO from the grassroots up by holding free, democratic, representative, inclusive elections for the Palestine National Council (PNC), our parliament in exile, in which every Palestinian is formally represented.
I, therefore, stand by every word I’d written in my opinion column prior to Abbas’s UN speech. I ended that piece saying:
Ignoring the will of the people and potentially sacrificing their basic rights in order to secure some illusory advantages at the “negotiations” table hurts Palestinian interests and endangers the great advances our popular and civil struggle has achieved to date, particularly as a result of the global BDS movement. It would in effect reduce the Arab Spring to a Palestinian autumn.
Going to the UN should be strongly supported by all Palestinians – and, consequently, by solidarity groups worldwide – if done by a trusted, democratically elected, accountable leadership and if it expressly represents the will of the Palestinian people and our collective right to self determination.
Alas, neither condition is met in the current “September Initiative,” which may end up replacing the “194” we’ve always struggled to implement with a “194” that is little more than another irresponsible leap away from accountability and from the inevitable repercussions of the sweeping Arab Spring.
Also, even in his speech, Abbas repeated his religious commitment to the patently futile and damaging “negotiations” and, more crucially, to the most dangerous concession ever made by any Palestinian official — replacing the inalienable right of the Palestinian refugees to return, in accordance with UN res. 194, with the “just and agreed upon solution” adopted in the so-called Arab Peace Initiative under heavy pressures from the US. This formulation effectively gives Israel veto power over our refugees’ return. Not to mention Abbas’s failure, still, to even mention the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. He did, to his credit, describe them for the first time as Palestinians, when in the past he used to consider them, more or less, part of Israel’s “domestic issues.”
Finally, Abbas reiterated his opposition to “isolating Israel.” This must go down in the history of national liberation movements (I know, I know!) as the first time an ostensible leader of the colonized rejects any attempt by his own people and those in solidarity with them internationally to isolate the colonizer! I hope Mandela does not get a heart attack from reading this. Gandhi, Che Guevara and many others must be turning like mad in their graves!
It is not for nothing that Israel’s wisest Zionist, Shimon Peres, today called Abbas “the best Palestinian leader Israel will work with.”