November 29th, 2012


On Recognition of Palestine

Today, there was a vote by the United Nations on recognising Palestine as a non-member state. Despite intense lobbying by the US, it passed with very few notable countries opposed. The US downplayed the importance of the vote, but I wonder why they lobbied so hard on it anyhow. My interpretation of the votes for the motion in the first world is that the current back-and-forth has amounted to a status quo that has been a low-grade continual war that has divided world politics, and that the current political recognitions perpetuate that conflict. One established nation-state and another half-established nation state, with as terrible a history as there is between the peoples involved, cannot actually either negotiate peace given the power disparities and different levels of political development or actually politically develop enough to become a reasonable partner. Leaving things the way they are now cannot solve anything. Everyone knows it; an acceptable peace won't come about given the way things are.

Unfortunately, the two easiest paths to peace are pretty hard to swallow:

  1. A move to a one-state solution would require an end to the racism in Israeli society, or it would require the Palestinians to accept a lesser status, forever shunned in housing aid and lacking the free citizenship that comes with being of the right race or the ability to use the state to run tourism in hopes that more Arabs will more in. In my view this is the right solution anyhow, despite the headaches and difficulties in adapting both societies towards peaceful coexistence and merger under a secular umbrella.
  2. Dissolving the existing state and having an international and theoretically neutral state managed entirely by outsiders would be tough, and probably hard to swallow for either side that wants to see it as their land.
There remains the problem of what this recognition means. Legally it may lead to arms sales to Palestine under the recognition that this is no longer one state interfering with the sovereignty of another so much as one state hoping another in a conflict with a third state. Socially it might mean that the international community will no longer be so indulgent of Israel.

One of the difficulties I see is that when people take a side on an issue, the sides are so far apart. Even as I entirely disregard religious claims and mostly disregard history by this point, people like me could take a range of positions depending on if they recognise the concept (and the actuality in this case) of institutionalised violence; I don't like the term, but there are heavy kinds of harm bound in the laws of Israel that are not even trying to be fair to the Palestinians. I believe that that could justify violence against the state and to a certain degree against the people (even to a certain extent innocent people; it's a collective harm brought by an elected government). Violence and strong enough institutional violence are fair to weigh against each other in my book. Innocents are greatly damaged on both sides, and without that idea of institutional violence one would be bound to lean towards taking Israel's side. Of course, not all Israelis desire these harms, nor do all Palestinians, but it's hard to deal with the ranges of opinions within each people.

I don't want Israelis or Palestinians to have the upper hand in negotiations for peace, I don't want Palestinians or Israelis to need to flee the area, either locally in the case of population exchanges or more broadly to entirely different countries. I don't want people to grow up and come to mean a lot to people and for their life to end either because they've decided to be a suicide bomber or they happened to be near where one blew him or herself up. I don't want either the Law of Return or the Right of Return to exist in the future. I don't want this conflict to continue to drive up tensions across the world or for it to be a tool for bad political leaders all over the world to use as a distraction for their own failings. I want this stupid conflict between people who are practically in the same ethnic group, divided only by flags and religion and culture and even then not divided that much, to be ended without any "ethnic homeland", without any expectation of large-scale future violence, and in a way that doesn't require or perpetuate great injustice either in the way the problem is solved or what will be required to exist next. No state has a "right" to exist, neither palestine nor israel, neither as it was, nor as some people would like it to be, nor as it is.

I am hoping this UN recognition of Palestine helps bring us closer to an acceptable solution. I have no idea if it will.