Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Will Palestine Be the Newest UN Member? What Is Our Role?

This September, Palestinians are expected to push for the State of Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations and to get additional countries to recognize Palestinian statehood. 

Will this important diplomatic initiative succeed? It probably won't if the United States wields its veto in the Security Council to block Palestine's application for UN membership. Given the Obama Administration's track record of shielding Israel from accountability, there's every reason to believe that the United States will once again try to thwart Palestinian rights.

Just last month at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, President Barack Obama declared:

"No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state... the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations... Israel's legitimacy is not a matter for debate."

By equating Palestinian efforts to seek their long-denied rights at the UN with the "delegitimization" of Israel, President Obama is subjecting Palestinian freedom to Israel's timetable.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail: "For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!'... This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'" The worst stumbling block to freedom's advance, King argued, is the person who "believes he can set the timetable for another" person's freedom.

After two decades of waiting for statehood through negotiations with Israel in a U.S.-dominated "peace process" that always relegated Palestinian human rights to the back of the bus, Palestinians are now taking their case directly to the UN.

Although the US Campaign is not taking a position on this Palestinian initiative, we do affirm:

"Mr. President, you are wrong to stand in their way."

Our country's support for Israeli occupation and apartheid is the key stumbling block to Palestinian freedom and it is up to us to change that.

To help us do so, we're launching a Frequently Asked Questions document to tackle the tricky legal, political, and historical issues raised by this initiative, as well as the implications for our coalition's work to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality.

Here are some of the important questions addressed in our FAQ:

Will UN membership for Palestine change realities on the ground for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation?

Will recognition of Palestinian statehood by additional countries advance or set back Palestinian human rights?


We don't claim to have all the answers or to know how this will work out at the UN this September and beyond.  But we do hope that the FAQ helps us all think about this important policy development. 

We've also assembled links to additional resources highlighting different perspectives on the subject.

Whatever happens between now and the fall, this is the time for us to redouble our efforts to change U.S. policy to support Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality and end Israeli occupation and apartheid.