November 2, 2011
Now that Palestine has been recognized by the United Nations’ cultural organization, UNESCO, it will be no more of a non-state and no less occupied than it was before. Its citizens will be no less unfree than they are today, no less under the yoke of Israeli foreign rule. But their civil disobedience versus Israel, the United States and the Quartet raises the hope that the Palestinians will not return to the negotiating table – because negotiations have become an obstacle to the decolonization process, the essential condition for peace.
The Palestinians’ application for membership in the United Nations was welcomed, even by critics of the Palestinian Authority, because it was understood as the close, albeit belated, of an overly long chapter. This was the chapter in which the Palestinian leadership, in exchange for dubious guarantees and slivers of privilege for a small group, took part in a charade of negotiations, while in reality, the area intended for the realization of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination kept being reduced and fragmented. This chapter exposed the fact that the parties in Israel’s various coalition governments disagree on only one thing: the number and size of the Palestinian Bantustans in Israel’s master plan.
Ordinary Palestinians understood the application to the United Nations as an act that creates new rules of the game. Therefore, many supporters of the move wake up in the morning with trepidation: Have the steamroller tactics of the European Union and the United States worked? Have PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his eternal negotiators returned to the same sterile table, when it is clear that Israel has no intention of changing its master plan?
The extent to which the term “peace negotiations” has been prostituted can be gleaned from a remark by the EU’s envoy to the Quartet, Helga Schmid. On October 26, in a last-ditch attempt by the Quartet to stop the Palestinians from applying to UNESCO, she said – according to sources in Ramallah – that the application for membership is like construction in the settlements: a provocation. It is not enough that the EU countries are not punishing Israel for building the settlements (Ma’aleh Adumim or Givat Assaf, all are equally felonious ); now the EU envoy is creating symmetry between years of violence by the occupying overlord and legitimate defense of the occupied.
Indeed, the Oslo Accords created false symmetry between the occupier/colonizer and the occupied/colonized. This symmetry denied the Palestinians an important asset in negotiations for their independence: recognition in principle of Israeli and international responsibility for having wronged the Palestinians and robbed them of their homeland and rights.
But Western countries, first and foremost the United States, did not even uphold this symmetry. At most, they scolded Israel while bolstering its international economic and political status, demonstrating that occupation pays. But they punished, and continue to punish, the Palestinians as if they were the aggressors.
The Quartet, in a conditioned neo-colonialist reflex, threatened that the big boss would stop contributing to UNESCO: Shame on you, natives, it’s your fault. It is a threat that grates on the ears, so unlike the music emerging from Occupy Wall Street and its like-minded movements.
But diplomatic moves in the United Nations, no matter how refreshingly daring, are not enough. Hints that the Palestinian Authority could be dismantled are also not enough to make clear that the pyromaniacs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are putting both Palestinian and Israeli wellbeing at risk, if not the wellbeing of many others in and beyond this region.
There is no substitute for the strategy of popular resistance, in which there are no distinguished VIPs watching from the sidelines (and also no more Qassam rockets or other methods that target civilians, which have proven their practical and moral worthlessness ). But not returning to negotiations is an essential step in order to disrupt the routine of dispossession, to which the Quartet is a partner.