Friday, November 30, 2012

Tallying the Votes

I'll have more links and analysis of yesterday's UN General Assembly vote to recognize the State of Palestine as a non-member observer on the 1967 borders later today, but for now I wanted to share Haaretz's breakdown of the who voted for and against, and who abstained.

Also, that dot-map is just about the most awful way I've seen to represent countries on a border and delineate borders between them. That giant black country in eastern Europe must be the newly formed nation of Balka-ukraine. I'm also pretty sure there's an erroneous Tetris piece hanging out in the North Atlantic. Haaretz really sold Israel short too, representing their entire country with just one little dot.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

UN General Assembly Votes to Recognize State of Palestine

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN

It's official. And that's the headline from the Washington Post article. Recognition of of Palestine is based on the 1967 borders too. The Palestinians will now enjoy the same status at the UN that the Vatican has - that of non-member observer. The vote was 138-9 with 41 abstentions.

Countries voting "no": U.S., Israel, Canada, Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and Panama. Germany and the UK abstained, while France, Italy, Spain, and Greece voted in favor.

The U.S. called this an unnecessary "obstacle" on the path to peace and Netanyahu is claiming this violates Israeli-Palestinian agreements under the Oslo Accords. Something about changing the status between the parties or of the Occupied Territories themselves. Apparently tens of thousands of new settlement units and hundreds of thousands more settlers in the West Bank didn't "change the status" of the West Bank, but this largely symbolic upgrade at the UN is going to single-handedly dash all hopes for the two-state solution...

Hanan Ashrawi's op-ed in the Guardian on eve of UN observer vote

Hanan Ashrawi, the first woman elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council, has an opinion piece today in the Guardian today. She urges the nations of the UN to approve Palestine's request for an upgrade in their standing to non-voting observer status, arguing that countries that oppose the move will quickly be on the wrong side of history.

Ashrawi also laments the painfully ineffective peace process of the last several years, (has there really even been much of a process since Clinton's failed Camp David attempt?) and she accuses the Israeli government of favoring "permanent negotiations" over a "permanent resolution" to the conflict. She provides scathing criticism of Netanyahu's approach to negotiations:

We are as far from having a serious peace partner than at any time since we began this "process". The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, at best views negotiations in the context of photo opportunities and handshakes to improve his international image and keep public opinion quiet. At worst he exploits the "process" to continue settlement expansion, the annexation of Jerusalem, and the "enjoyment" of an American-led legal cover to enable him to act with impunity. This, in fact, represents a severe provocation to our people who have been on the receiving end of such an enormous injustice without responding violently or illegally. While we have met our commitments, Israel continues to renege on its obligations and to build on the 22% of the remaining Palestinian land designated for the free sovereign state of Palestine.

Whether you agree with her assessment or not, Ashrawi's comments provide a very important insight into why the PLO under Mahmoud Abbas has been so hesitant to enter into negotiations without preconditions (especially a settlement freeze). The Palestinians, by and large, have lost confidence in the tired peace process paradigm of the past decade, where American mediators act as Israel's lawyer, the Israeli government continues to expand settlements, and Fatah loses more popularity from the Palestinian people due to another total failure in talks. While everyone goes through the peace process motions, Hamas continues to gain the confidence and respect of Palestinians by gaining concrete benefits to Palestinians in Gaza (and in the West Bank with the prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit).

Hanan Ashrawi doesn't outright say it, but another failed round of unstructured, unsuccessful talks where American mediators only bring pressure on the Palestinians, but not the Israelis when they act intransigent, will bolster Hamas and continue to weaken the far more moderate and decidedly non-violent Fatah.

Instead of marginalizing this multilateral, diplomatic approach to the peace process, the Israelis and Americans should work to help this bring about decisive peace talks that Palestinians can believe in.

Can you really blame the Palestinians for their lack of confidence in negotiations under the paradigm of the last decade?

Friday, November 16, 2012

DAM's New Video Targets Violence Against Women

Palestinian hip-hop group DAM has released a new video drawing attention to the senseless violence and subjugation directed by some families against their daughters and sisters in the Middle East. It's well worth the watch.