I chose to include the term “bantustan” in the title because it literally describes the desperate move the Palestinian leadership is leading Palestine into:
“But it’s no exaggeration to propose that this idea, although well-meant by some, raises the clearest danger to the Palestinian national movement in its entire history, threatening to wall Palestinian aspirations into a political cul-de-sac from which it may never emerge. The irony is indeed that, through this maneuver, the PA is seizing — even declaring as a right — precisely the same dead-end formula that the African National Congress (ANC) fought so bitterly for decades because the ANC leadership rightly saw it as disastrous. That formula can be summed up in one word: Bantustan,” wrote Virginia Tilley in “Bantustans and the unilateral declaration of statehood.”
If we can’t learn from recent history, what will we ever achieve? We are being lured into a trap where the rights of millions of dispossessed refugees are at risk, but who is listening?
I said it before and I am willing to say it a thousand times more: Our struggle is not a struggle for symbolic statehood; it is a struggle to gain Palestinians’ basic rights! For more than six decades we have been fighting for our right of return, our right to live in our ancestral homeland, our right to be treated as equal citizens, our right to live in dignity. And our leadership is risking all of that in order to establish a sovereign state on a tiny piece of land of our much bigger homeland.
It was only a few months ago when I published my first ever widely-read article on my personal blog, which was later published on +972 magazine. In that article, originally titled “How do you define coexistence” and later titled “Letter to Israeli Left: chose one state, not apartheid,” I questioned the motives of many Israeli anti-occupation leftist groups, and asked them to endorse the one democratic state solution as it is the only solution out there that could end the struggle and guarantee justice and equality for both sides.
If I have learned anything from debating with my Palestinian friends in the last few weeks about the September move, it is that I should address them, my fellow Palestinian countrymen, in the same tone, if not harsher regarding this topic. Let us get over talking hope, and move to understand actions and consequences of this move.
I believe that if I was to see the West Bank and Gaza instantaneously liberated as soon as the United Nations recognizes us as a state, I wouldn’t worry as much because then the leadership would be slightly more able to sort out bigger matters related to refugees. But the ground reality says something else.
Quoting Ali Abunimah’s opinion piece on Aljazeera English news site, he says:
Lebanon has been a member state of the United Nations since 1945 and yet this did not prevent Israel from occupying southern Lebanon from 1978 until 2000. Israel’s occupation of Lebanon ended not because of any international pressure, but only because the Lebanese resistance drove Israel and its collaborating militias out. […] Similarly, since 1967 Israel has occupied the Golan Heights, which belong to Syria (also a UN member since 1945). There has been virtually no armed resistance on the Golan Heights nor has there been any international pressure for Israel to withdraw or for Syrian refugees to return to their homes. […] Why would the situation in the “State of Palestine” be any different?
Besides the fact on the ground in the West Bank that the Israeli occupation is going nowhere after 20 September, our leadership insists that this is the time to declare statehood ignoring many consequences of this action. The Palestinian delegation to the United Nations has been warned that the September move risks the rights of all diaspora and 1948 Palestinians as it officially “terminates the legal status held by the PLO in the UN since 1975 that it is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
In his seven-page legal document, Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of international law at Oxford University, sheds light on the legal risks behind the recognition of the Palestinian state. He said that millions of Palestinian refugees are at risk of losing their representation at the UN if the bid succeeds. He concludes:
“In my opinion, current moves to secure recognition of statehood do not appear to reflect fully the role of the Palestinian people as a principle party in the resolution of the situation in the Middle East. The interests of the Palestinian people are at risk of prejudice and fragmentation, unless steps are taken to ensure and maintain their representation through the Palestinian Liberation Organization, until such time as there is in place a State competent and fully able to assume these responsibilities towards the people at large.”
Meanwhile, the Boycott National Committee has issued its own statement warning of harsh consequences to the UN statehood bid.
Many non-Palestinian activists, rights groups, politicians, and lawyers are voicing their concerns, but not all are able to protest the Palestinian leadership’s decision because it is an exclusively Palestinian matter. Unfortunately, not many Palestinians are fully aware of the risks, and currently over 6.5 million Palestinians in the diaspora are going to face the consequences of an action taken by someone they didn’t vote for or agree that he speaks for them. The UN move for the state is an action a low percentage of Palestinians agree upon, but unfortunately it is going to be forced upon them.
The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is fully aware of the consequences of this move, but personally I feel that their action is coming from anger towards the failing peace process that they went into for decades. This anger is pushing them for an irrational move, anything that they’d be able to claim as a success of their own, ignoring consequences. This move aims to separate and break the bond between Palestinians all over the world, the Palestinian leadership should know better and seek a solution that guarantees the rights of all the Palestinians they “represent.”
Security Council Veto
Whenever you talk about the September bid for the state, you hear Veto. Everyone is almost certain that the United States will use its veto power to halt any unilateral attempt seeking a declaration of a Palestinian state on 1967 lines; some say the Palestinian UN delegation will seek other routes to bypass the Security Council, and others say it will be the end of the road.
Most Palestinians I meet claim that the move for the state in the United Nations is a win-win situation. If we succeed, we get our state. If we don’t succeed, we’d avoid the consequences of having succeeded and we can seek another solution. It is irrational, I know. But those Palestinians are ready and will gladly accept any outcome from the September move.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the Palestinian move because he benefits when he maintains control over all of the illegal settlements in the West Bank. He wants to maintain control over all strategic areas and water wells and springs. He aims to maintain our status quo living in many separate, open air prisons across the West Bank. But, in my opinion, I believe there is no reason US President Barack Obama would oppose the move for two states.
Personally, I doubt the United States will use its veto power. The United States is able to put an end to 64 years of continuous struggle and favor the Zionist end of the equation in this solution. Of course, having said this, putting an end to our struggle in this way will harm us a lot as I have argued earlier.
The two-state solution will cause fragmentation of the Palestinian people, more separation between those in the West Bank and Gaza, those in Israel, and those living in the diaspora. It will forcibly take away the rights of millions.