Is International Recognition Helpful? Part 2

Basing the conflict on 1967 allows Israel to further bury the Nakbah of 1948

Since my last post concerning Brazil’s recognition of Palestine along 1967 borders, fellow South American countries have followed suit.  Argentina recognized the Palestinian state a few days later and Uruguay gave hints that it will offer formal recognition in January.  Moreover, it seems as though the set of recognition dominoes might continue to fall.  Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Salvador might also recognize Palestinian in the near future, according to Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath.  Abbas is said to have spoken with Greece as well about possibly pushing West European countries to offer recognition (though it seems as though France is out).

[tweetmeme] Palestine is overtly pushing for a unilateral declaration of statehood and attempting to secure the international recognition that goes with it.  Despite the growing recognition of 1967 Palestine (in the above map the dark green represents those countries that have formally recognized 1967 Palestine), I still question the wisdom of his push for international recognition.

Reza Aslan thinks that the path towards statehood is more easily achieved in this unilateral (as in, including the entire world, but not Israel) means of recognition.  Aslan predicts that if enough countries recognize Palestine, the United States will be forced not to use its veto in the Security Council:

Obama claims the U.S. will veto any such vote. Let’s call his bluff. Let’s find out if this president is ready to stand utterly alone on the world stage as the sole head of state refusing to recognize the existence of a Palestinian state just so he can appease an ally, Israel, that over the last year has repeatedly gone of out its way to embarrass his administration and stifle his attempts at achieving a two-state solution.

Andrew Sullivan wants more; have the US join in recognizing Palestine and offer original bridging proposals.  Unfortunately, for Sullivan and Aslan, can anyone imagine the US recognizing Palestine, or even not blocking such recognition?  As the Palestine Center’s Yousef Munayyer put it, America is used to defending the indefensible for Israel:

However, a truly international domino effect, featuring state after state recognizing Palestine, would undoubtedly raise the pressure on Israel to end the occupation or face increased isolation in the international community. One could easily envision a situation where more countries recognize Palestine, with the last eventual holdouts being Israel and the United States – a duo that is often left standing alone at the U.N defending the indefensible.

Perhaps a sign of things to come is that the US unequivocally rejected the South American countries recognition as “severely misguided” and “regrettable.”  Considering the attacks on Brazil in the US Congress following the recognition, it is not difficult to imagine the US and Israel being the lone countries withholding recognition of Palestine.   There are obvious downfalls to this strategy.  The Israeli occupation will only end when Israel wants it to end and the US will always be protecting Israel’s diplomatic back in the international sphere.  Indeed, international recognition is more symbolic than anything.

Yet what does international recognition actually symbolize for the Palestinians?  Sure it means that the West Bank and Gaza would constitute a Palestinian state, but more importantly, it revitalizes the Israeli denial of the Nakbah of 1948.  Any two state solution will have one major Israeli precondition: no right of return for Palestinian refugees of 1948.  Furthermore, the two state solution is completely premised on the assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict finds its roots in 1967.  To recognize Palestine along 1967 borders is to play an active role in the erasure of the catastrophe, in which 531 Palestinian localities and villages were ethnically cleansed, destroyed and buried under the guise of heroic Israeli nationalism.

Unfortunately, international observers do not seem to understand the emotional resonance that 1948 holds for all Palestinians.  In 2001, when Arafat rejected a substantial two state peace plan because it did not include the right of return, he was castigated in the US and Israel for not wanting peace.  He wanted peace, but he also wanted justice for the over 7 million dispossessed refugees that are scattered across the Middle East.  The Right of Return for Palestinians is sacred.  It is not something that can be negotiated away nor can it be denied.  It is a right that is enshrined in the UN, under Resolution 194:

(The General Assembly) Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.

It is clear that Israel will continue to postpone this legal right of Palestinians, a right that could be indefinitely postponed should a two state solution be forged.  International recognition of 1967 borders certainly symbolizes the illegality and brutality of the Israeli occupation (as well as the American failure to remain neutral), but it uses the Israeli line as a foundation for peace.  If Brazil and Argentina truly support the rights of Palestinians, there would be a greater push to recognize the Palestinians’ Right to Return, rather than burying this right under 1967 recognition.

Photo from Wikipedia

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16 thoughts on “Is International Recognition Helpful? Part 2

  1. So, if I understand your points regarding previous posts about the Two state solution and now this one I come to the conclusion that Israel has the choice of between accepting 4 million Palestinians as Israeli citizens after a presumed dismantlement of the PA, or accepting 4 million Palestinians (might be more, or less) under the Right of Return as Israeli citizens.

    So Israel has no choice but to embed itself with an untold number of people who democratically elected, or support ideologically, a political/militant group that it’s charter calls for the active elimination of Jews?

    1. First off, my jumping off point is that the two state solution is dead and, Tom, if I remember correctly, you once said that you would like to see a democratic one state solution, meaning, of course, Israel would embed itself with an untold number of…..

      Secondly, I assume you are referring to Hamas at the end. The biggest ideological commitment of Hamas is the Right of Return. Furthermore, the leaders of the group has said on numerous occasions that Jewish people are not the problem, but rather the occupation and Nakbah denial.

      If there is going to be a peaceful settlement in this region, Israel is going to have to face up to the ethnic cleansing it started in 1948 because Palestinians are not going to forget. I think the only viable option at this point is one state and for one state to work, there must be some recognition of the dispossession and brutality used to create Israel. Otherwise there will always be resentment and hatred.

      1. You are correct – I’d be happy to live in a Secular democracy, where Church and State (and Mosque and Temple…) are separated: but as I stated this notion is held by a very small minority both in the Israeli side and on the Palestinian side… they both elect parties with a religious ideology and tend to follow religion not just in a cultural manner but as a way of life with serious political and social meanings. So it’s not just my personal opinion.

        Yes – I was referring to Hamas: It seems that Hamas leaders are saying a lot of things. It depends on the leader and to whom he’s speaking to, the only thing that endured through all the years Hamas existed is the charter, and it seems it isn’t going to change. If Hamas and other Palestinian leaders will show willingness to forgo that “outdated piece of history” and replace it with something more in the spirit of the Houston Declaration I’m sure maybe I’ll be more willing to agree with you that the biggest ideological commitment of Hamas is the Right of Return, and that the Jews are not the problem. BTW there are also numerous occasions, some of which very recently, in which Hamas leaders referred to the Jews as more than just “a problem”.

        I too, think that Israel should acknowledge its own history. All the wrongs that had taken place in the birth of Israel should be righted (after some historical research by a third party). What I don’t think is that the only solution is giving the Right to Return to millions and by doing so dooming Israel’s whole reason for existing: living in Israel and living anywhere else in the middle east will be just the same (for the Jewish people), so why live there at all? – There are other ways to compensate a civilian population, most notably amongst them is monetary compensation and symbolically allowing a reunion of families.

      2. Tom, you are contradicting yourself here. If you are to live in a secular democracy where all forms of church are separated from state, you will be taking away “Israel’s whole reason for existing.” If you are living in such a system, it shouldn’t matter whether you submit to the right of return. Moreover, the West Bank is led by Fatah, which is a secular party. Abbas, in 10 days, will be be attending midnight mass at the Church of the Nativity, like Arafat did every year (of course there is some ignorant hostility towards Jews thanks to the occupation, but 99 of 100 Palestinians asked will answer they have no problems with Jews, but with occupying Israelis). Furthermore, yes Hamas was elected, but not on its religious backbone. It was elected because its devotion to corruption-free resistance.

        I realize that accepting Palestinian refugees back into Israel would end Israel’s Jewish character. But how can you properly compensate someone for forcibly removing them from their homes, killing those close to them, (in some well documented cases) raping women, stealing their land, destroying their religious symbols? A simple I am sorry is not enough. Completely denying that it happened is far from enough. International resolutions in the UN give Palestinians the right to return to their homes and land that were stolen in 48. This has been ignored by Israel. My point is that creation of a state along 67 lines ignores this UN resolution and is therefore setting terms along Israeli lines while ignoring the rights of those who were expelled during the Nakbah.

    2. To clarify: to me, the choice you present (accepting Palestinians through dissolution of PA or through Right of Return) is a choice between two of the same thing. As a proponent of a one state solution, I see the PA as propping up the occupation and allowing for the continuation of the two-state fallacy. Dissolving the PA pushes forward a one state solution in which, hopefully, Palestinians are justly compensated and allowed to return to their homes.

      1. Oops… didn’t see your first reply…

        I’m not contradicting myself since I actually presented two different views: both my personal view – regarding a Secular Democracy, and the views of the overwhelming Israeli majority – regarding a Jewish Democracy.

        And I disagree with you about Hamas: I think one of the major reasons it was elected is its devotion to corruption-free resistance, but it’s certainly not the only one. I think more of the Palestinians than to believe they just ignored, or failed to realize, Hamas’s highly religious nature when they were at the ballot box. So, I think both the Israeli majority and the Palestinian majority are not on par with my personal views regarding a Secular Democracy.

      2. Hey Tom,

        I guess I misunderstood you. Now I suppose I agree with you on that. And, re: Hamas, I do not think that the only reason that Hamas was elected was its anti-corruption stance. A major part of it is the (still growing) belief that negotiations are not working. A major reason for the Second Intifada was that many Palestinians saw Oslo as defunct. By 2000, there was supposed to be a negotiated Palestinian state, but yet throughout the entire process, and up until, and continuing past, the 2006 elections, Israeli settlers kept taking Palestinian land. Palestinians witnessed failed negotiations in 1993, 95, 2000, 2003, 2006 … (2010?). The election of Hamas also represented a general belief that negotiations will not lead to anything productive. The elections showed a shift towards resistance – and, be sure, despite the Hamas charter, not everyone who voted for Hamas wanted to get rid of Jews or impose a religious government.

        Perhaps I am putting too much weight on the switch from corrupt negotiations to an anti-corruption based resistance movement. But I believe that you are leaning too heavily on the religious undertones of Hamas. (Or, of course, we are both far off.) Being in the West Bank, it is difficult to gage the religiosity of Hamas supporters (as Fatah keeps arresting them), but I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians here would be fine with a secular democracy. Most here like the secular nature of Fatah, but hate its crippling inefficacy.

        In any event, I enjoy your input and hope for more.

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