Tuesday, 14 October 2014

UK recognition of Palestinian state problematic, but still a useful stepping stone

The House of Commons has voted by 274-12  to recognise Palestine as a state. The resolved motion (with amendment), delivered in the late hours of Monday 13 October, reads:
That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution.
The first key point to note here is that this places the UK under no Governmental or parliamentary obligation to help bring about any such Palestinian state. Secondly, alongside re-stating adherence to the state of Israel, it serves to cement the deeply problematic Western posture of a 'negotiated two state solution'.

Taken together, the wording of the agreed motion with its amendment  - “a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution” - acknowledges the symbolic right to a future Palestinian state, but only, in actuality, as agreed to by Israel. In short, the motion can be seen as a protection of the Israeli state, and its right to determine the nature of any Palestinian one. 

Following a similar parliamentary decision by Sweden, Ali Abunimah made the very relevant point that:     
recognition of a Palestinian “state” in a fraction of Palestine actually negates the rights of most Palestinians and conflicts with the Palestinian right of self-determination. While recognizing the “State of Palestine” excites and pleases many who support the Palestinian cause, people should not to get carried away with the aesthetics of “statehood” in what would amount to a bantustan. Instead, I have argued, they should focus on the negative consequences for the right of return and the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel. The main purpose of the so-called two-state solution is not to restore Palestinian rights, but rather to preserve and recognize Israel’s so-called “right to exist as a Jewish state.”
After the Commons vote, Abunimah tweeted:
UK parliament has voted by large majority to #RecognisePalestine state "alongside" apartheid Israel. A vote for partition not for justice.
A logical conclusion.

Yet, for all its flaws, restrictions and inbuilt approval of Israel, there's still something to be gained from this token vote.

As much as it helps protect Israel as a Zionist entity, and maintains the power-serving notion of a 'two state peace process', the actual 'recognition' part also provides another major public relations boost for the Palestinian cause.

As the hostility of Israel and it's alarmed lobby showed, whatever the motion's limitations, this will be seen by much of the world as a defeat for Israel and another significant step towards justice for Palestine.    

As Jonathan Cook (via Facebook) notes:
Okay, it's only symbolic and it doesn't obligate the British government in any way (and I'm highly doubtful a Palestinian state can actually ever be viable on 22% of historic Palestine). But all that aside, the British parliament's overwhelming vote to recognise a Palestinian state is a tremendous victory for the Palestinian cause. The British created this mess with the Balfour Declaration, and this is one small sign that the British establishment and the west more generally are slowly waking up to this fact. Nonetheless, the large margin of victory – 274-12 – chiefly reflects the fact that MPs from the ruling Conservative Party mostly stayed away from the vote, in a reminder that when put to the test most of the political class, like their forebears nearly 100 years ago, will still prove to be a cowardly and treacherous bunch.
Again, all good comment. None of which negates what Ali Abunimah and others argue. The point here is to take all such views and actions as worthy and collective endeavours for Palestinian advancement.

This 'recognition' certainly goes nowhere near imposing any of the real pressure on Israel - sanctions, divestment, diplomatic ostracism - needed to bring about a just and long-lasting solution; in essence, one that addresses the inalienable rights of all Palestinians to equality and self-determination.    

But support for the motion by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the thousands who urged their MPs to vote for it also shows that public mobilisation and street action is working.

The basic truth is that any power establishment always has to be fought on many fronts. And this is a huge establishment. Little incremental victories like this help bring the case for Palestinian justice into the greater public realm. It shames other politicians. It gives confidence to Palestinians and those supporting their case. And, despite the motion's protective caveat, it hurts Israel and its allies.

So long as we remain conscious of, as Abunimah reminds us, the still central issue of Palestinian rights, the wider solidarity movement can use this small win as another useful stepping stone in the strategic building of public awareness and exposing of Israel's political protectors.

1 comment:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

It shames other politicians.

It's hard to imagine it happening here. Our politicians know no shame.

By 100-0, our Senate voted to condemn Hamas for the latest episode of lawn-mowing by Israel. Israel got no rebuke whatsoever.