Thursday, November 10, 2011

Palestine and the United Nations

November 8, 2011

Palestine and the United Nations

Angie Todd

PALESTINE is advancing in its aspirations for international recognition as a nation state, with its borders prior to the Israeli war of expansion in 1967 and East Jerusalem as its capital.

In the wake of the overwhelming vote of 65.8% in favor of Palestinian statehood in the UN General Assembly in September, UNESCO voted to accept it as a full member on October 31, and applications are underway for the nation’s acceptance within the UN’s 16 institutions.

In fact, Palestine’s UNESCO membership also automatically extends to the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), through these agencies’ regulations.

There was jubilation in the hall when the vote by 173 countries of the 194 members of UNESCO was announced: 107 in favor, 52 abstentions and 14 against.

Countries voting against, apart from the United States and Israel, included Australia, Canada, Germany and Sweden.

Votes in favor came from nearly all of the ALBA countries, most of Latin America and the Caribbean, the majority of African nations, the Russian Federation, China and Vietnam, France and Spain.

Countries abstaining ranged from Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The reaction from the United States was immediate, taking the form of the withdrawal of $60 million in dues scheduled to be given over to UNESCO this November. To date the U.S. has funded 22% of UNESCO’s budget.

Canada’s similar response raises this budget reduction to approximately 25%.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the rapid escalation of 2,000 new settlement units in the Palestinian governorates of Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

They are concentrated in Har Homa, an illegal settlement built next to Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, and Neve Ya’akov, near Ramallah. This move was accompanied with a withholding of taxes payable to the Palestinian Authority.

"The land on which these settlement units are to be built is occupied Palestinian land," affirmed Palestine’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. "The money that Israel is withholding is also Palestinian money. This theft is happening in broad daylight and the international community is bearing witness… This will not change our course of action."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s also swiftly responded to UNESCO’s positive decision. Speaking at the G-20 Summit in Cannes, he lamented, "Palestinian efforts to join other United Nations agencies beyond its cultural arm are not beneficial for Palestine and not beneficial for anybody… Millions of people could be affected if UN agencies see their funding cut as a result of the Palestinian bids."

His statement seems to blame Palestine for its legitimate aspirations to statehood rather than countries which elect to cut off funding to its agencies.

In this context, on November 11, the 15 members of the Security Council will discuss a report from the special committee set up to consider the issue of Palestinian statehood in the wake of the General Assembly vote.

No date has been set for a final Council vote, at which the United States has already stated it will use its veto in the event of a minimum of nine members of this body approving the resolution.

Brazil, China, India, Lebanon, Russia and South Africa have publicly expressed their support for the Palestinian cause.

In their roles as self-appointed exponents of European neocolonialism, British Prime Minister Cameron, having instructed abstention in the UNESCO vote, has made his position clear, while Sarkozy, whose representative actually voted in favor, is still pushing for what he calls "super-observer status" for Palestine within the UN.

Without any doubt, the United States, its European and other allies, insisting on the pretext of a necessary resuscitation of the defunct peace process, will continue to manipulate the Security Council in order to gain hegemony in the Middle East, but Palestinian aspirations, shared by many peoples, are not going to be deterred.

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