Palestine Gains U.N. Observer Status - updated 12/4
Posted Dec 4, 2012

Palestine Gains U.N. Observer Status

by Sheila Musaji

Earlier today, November, 29, 2012, Juan Cole posted an article In Rebuke to Obama, Netanyahu– Much of Western Europe to Support Palestine as UN Observer State in which he accurately predicted this outcome.  A few points from his article:

...  Aside from the new legal status of Palestine that will result, this event signals a sea change in the relationship of Europe to Palestine and Israel. For decades, Europeans felt guilt about the Holocaust, or saw the Israelis as underdogs, or viewed them as fellow Europeans facing barbarian hordes, and so consistently supported Israel against the Palestinians. That would still be the case if the Likud Party had not foolishly destroyed the Oslo Peace process and if Israeli governments had not implemented an illegal blockade on Gaza and pursued large-scale population transfer of Israelis into the Occupied West Bank, which is illegal under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The Lebanon and Gaza Wars, and the Israeli attack on the peaceful aide ship from Turkey, the Mavi Marmara, all drastically undermined Israel’s standing in the eyes of Europeans.

...  Once the Palestinians have gained a friend with the stature of France, in many ways the Israeli attempt to keep them in a box has already failed. Flanked by Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Switzerland, the pro-Palestinian bloc encompasses much of what was traditionally thought of as Western Europe. And Greece, after all, was the cradle of Europe.

Lots of reasons might be given for their willingness to give Palestinians their due. There is resentment of Anglo-American hegemony. These countries were all strong-armed by the Obama administration to deep-six the Palestinians, and they are refusing. The Irish now see Israel as doing to the Palestinians what the British used to do to them. Spain and France also have foreign policy aspirations in the Arab world. France has a significant Muslim voting bloc, which largely goes for the now-ruling Socialists.

But ultimately the real reason is that the high officials in Europe find the far right wing Israeli government and its Apartheid policies toward the Palestinians increasingly distasteful. The scales have just fallen from their eyes.

In the law, “standing” is a crucial concept. Standing dictates who has a right to bring a law suit. You can’t proceed with a civil action unless the judge agrees that you have standing. Typically, you couldn’t sue on behalf of your cousin if you weren’t affected by the alleged tort. Up until now, the “entity” of the Palestine Authority did not have the standing to bring complaints against Israel to the UN. But Palestine as a UN observer will have such standing, and it could be significant.

Since almost no one else in the US will do so, let me direct readers to the Palestinians’ own position paper on the step. (One of the consistent features of colonialism and Orientalism is that the oppressed are deprived of a voice first of all by being made invisible in mass media and only ever represented by their enemies and detractors. It is very rare that we see an actual Palestinian with good English interviewed about Palestine on American television evening magazine shows.)

As an “observer state,” Palestine can join UN bodies and can sign treaties. One it might like to sign is the Rome Statutes that created the International Criminal Court, a body that the United States and Israel, as hegemons, hate the way the devil hates holy water. Being a hegemon means never having to be tried for your war crimes (most of the government leaders prosecuted by the ICC so far have been from weak, despised African dictatorships).

As a member of the ICC, Palestine could then bring complaints against Israel for its annexation of Palestinian land and practice of Apartheid (which is recognized in the Rome Statutes as a war crime).

Whereas the US consistently vetoes all condemnations of Israel by the four other UN Security Council members, making sure that the Palestinians are always screwed over, it has no ability to stop the UN committees of the General Assembly, the UNGA itself, or the ICC from criticizing or sanctioning Israel. The US and Israeli tactic has been to prevent any official world body from ever producing a text condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, lest a body of international law grow up that would stand in the way of further Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, or of its creepy and illegal blockade of the civilians of the Gaza Strip. That tactic is about to be defeated.

On November 29, 1947, the U.N. issued Resolution 181 (II). Future government of Palestine.  This document laid out a plan for the the creation of two independent Arab and Jewish States (and a Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem) after the end of the British Mandate.  On November 29, 2012, the U.N. recognized Palestine with “observer status”.  For the best short introduction and overview of the intervening 65 years see the video:  Israel and Palestine, an animated 6 minute introduction produced by Jewish Voice for Peace. 

This graphic representation of the final vote is from


Since this news has just broken, there will certainly be many responses.  This will be updated as those responses are received.  Here are the first responses from DAY ONE of Palestine’s recognition. 

— Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized the United Nations’ recognition of Palestine for creating ‘‘further obstacles in the path to peace’’ between Palestinians and Israelis.
— Hananan Ashrawi commented that statehood is ‘game-changer’ and US is damaging its standing in world by opposing it
— Palestinians are celebrating across the West Bank and Gaza. 
— Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, called the UN vote a “virtual move without any substance”.
— Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz report UN approves Palestinian status upgrade with 138-9 vote (and US Senators threaten to cut aid)
— Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court say they will study what the Palestinian Authority’s upgraded status means for its relationship with the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal.  In a one-paragraph reaction to the historic United Nations General Assembly vote, the court’s prosecution office said it “will consider the legal implications of this resolution”.
— Mahmoud Abbas said just before the historic vote “Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel.  The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.”
— former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saidI believe that the Palestinian request from the United Nations is congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution. Therefore, I see no reason to oppose it. Once the United Nations will lay the foundation for this idea, we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations, in order to agree on specific borders based on the 1967 lines, and resolve the other issues. It is time to give a hand, and encourage, the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. Abu-Mazen –an alias for Abbas- and Salam Fayyad need our help. It’s time to give it.”
—The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accused European countries of “capitulating to Arab intimidation” in voting to recognize Palestine as a non-member state at the United Nations.  “They have acted without courage and capitulated to Arab intimidation and pressure,” ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement.
— The headline of an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz read Israel suffers humiliating defeat at UN.  The subtitle was “Thursday’s UN vote was the international community’s warning light to Israel, as much as a show of support for the Palestinians. Germany, France, Britain, Italy and other friendly countries delivered messages to Israel with their votes – their patience with the occupation has worn off.”

Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now reports that Senators Barrasso (R-WY), Lee (R-UT), and Inhofe (R-OK)  have introduced an amendment National Defense Authorization Act whose purpose is defined as “To provide for restrictions on foreign assistance related to the status of the Palestinian mission to the United Nations.”  Full text of amendment here.  She notes that:

The amendment seeks to do three things:

(1) Compel the President to cut U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority by 50% if the PA “seeks at any time after November 25, 2012, at the United Nations General Assembly or any other United Nations entity status different than the status it held on November 25, 2012”—with such cuts continuing “until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved”;

(2) Compel the President to cut by 50% U.S. “appropriated contributions to any United Nations entity” that grants the Palestinians any upgrade in status after November 25, 2012, with such cuts continuing “until permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are fully resolved”; and

(3) Compel the President to cut by 20% U.S. assistance to any country that after November 25, 2012 votes to grant the Palestinians full membership in the UN, or votes to grant them non-member state status, or votes to otherwise “alter” the status of the Palestinians at the UN “that interferes with the resolution of permanent status issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” with such cuts continuing until the country in question “votes at the United Nations to revert the status of the Palestinian mission back to the status it held on November 25, 2012.”  The amendment permits the President to waive this one category of cuts (but not the others) for national security reasons.

I find it curious that the amendment was introduced for the Senate to consider on the 28th, but the wording makes it retroactive to the 25th.  It will be interesting to see how the Senate votes.

The ADC is the first national Arab or Muslim organization to issue a statement (11/29):

Washington, DC | | November 29, 2012—The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) congratulates the State of Palestine on gaining United Nations status. In a vote just moments ago, the U.N. member states voted in favor of conferring nonmember observer state status to Palestine. The vote passed with 138 countries voting “yes,” 9 voting “no,” and 41 countries abstaining from the vote.

The United States is one of the 9 countries that voted “no.” ADC is troubled by the unchanging and unwavering US policy to blindly support Israel. It is ADC’s hope that the US will join the international community in recognizing the Palestinian people and their right to be seated next to all other global voices.

ADC is committed to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and any peaceful resolution the Palestinian Israeli conflict requires: the dismantlement of the Israeli Wall, the cessation and dismantlement of all settlements, an end to Israeli occupation, the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the recognition and implementation of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.

MPAC has released a statement (11/30)

It may be one small step for Palestinians, but yesterday’s historic United Nations vote recognizing Palestine is a giant leap for the right of self-determination. In a stunning 138:9 vote, an overwhelming majority of the U.N. member nations granted Palestine recognition as a non-member observer state.

Upgrading their status from an observer entity to a non-member observer state, the vote means Palestine is eligible to join U.N. agencies, including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

While no one was surprised that the United States voted against the resolution, no one expected just how few countries voted with Israel.

In the words of Israel’s own leading paper, Ha’aretz:

Thursday’s UN vote was the international community’s warning light to Israel, as much as a show of support for the Palestinians. Germany, France, Britain, Italy and other friendly countries delivered messages to Israel with their votes – their patience with the occupation of the West Bank has worn off, they have had enough of the construction in the settlements and there’s no trust in Israeli declarations of hands outstretched in peace and desire to advance toward a Palestinian state.

At most, recognizing Palestine as a non-member state helps to begin leveling the playing field between Palestine and Israel when it comes time for peace talks and further resolutions on creating a sustainable two-state solution. 

At the very least, giving Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, this diplomatic victory by the U.N. levels his playing field with Hamas, which was courted by the international community, including the U.S., after its latest military exchange with Israel.

In her remarks before the UN General Assembly immediately following the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice called the vote “unfortunate” and “counterproductive to the path toward peace.”

Startling more in tone than substance, her speech made two things clear: The United States cannot serve as an unbiased broker in Israeli-Palestinian affairs; and the U.S. is isolating itself further from the international community on the Palestinian issue.

To surpass Rice’s remarks on behalf of the Administration, Republican members of the Congress, such as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), have called for financial punitive measures against Abbas for the latest U.N. vote and even defunding the U.N.

Protests from U.S. officials may make news in American media, but they ring hallow in Palestine and the broader region.  They actually hurt U.S. interests, because the protests have no impact on a people who have developed immunity to oppression by Israel and the West for more than a century.

While it’s certainly true that yesterday’s vote will not change the quality of life or legal status for the average Palestinian today, this historic and necessary vote is a powerful symbol of the international community’s support for Palestinian human rights, self-determination and freedom from occupation.

God willing, it will also serve as a much-needed catalyst for resuming negotiations that will lead to a just peace between Israel and Palestine.

On 11/30, DAY TWO, Haaretz reports that In response to UN vote, Israel to build 3,000 new homes in settlements.  “Netanyahu orders thousands of new housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; controversial plans for new construction in the E1 area near Jerusalem will be advanced, contrary to commitments made to the Obama administration.”

Canada is recalling its’ diplomats from Israel, the West Bank and the UN over the Palestinian vote.

On 12/2 DAY FOUR Haaretz reports that Israel has made its second response to the UN decision.  Israel seizes $120m in Palestinian tax revenue over UN statehood vote  “An Israeli official said Israel was entitled to deduct the sum from a debt of more than $200m (£125m) owed by the PA to the Israel Electric Corporation. But he conceded that the move was in response to the UN vote, and that it could be repeated next month. “A lot depends on what the Palestinians do or don’t do,” he said.  The Israeli finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, told Israel Radio: “I do not intend this month to transfer the funds to the Palestinians. In the coming period I intend to use the money to deduct debts the PA owes to the Israel Electric Corporation and other bodies.”

Ali Abunimah reports Effective annexation: Israel now stamping passports of West Bank visitors “Judea and Samaria only”.

Time reports “If the U.N. has moved to declare Palestine is a state, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then has a few things to say — and do — about that. The 1.6 million Palestinians living on the Gaza Strip are already separated by 40 km (25 miles) from the 2.4 million on the West Bank. The project Netanyahu’s government began moving forward on Friday would cut the West Bank itself in half, dividing its north from its south while barricading off a bit of Jerusalem in the bargain, and with it, in all likelihood, the plans to name the Arab sections of the city as Palestine’s capital. “The impact,” says Seidemann, whom foreign embassies routinely consult as an expert on settlements and the boundaries of the contentious city, “is basically the creation of facts on the ground that would make the two-state solution dead. It’s not only a game changer, it’s a game ender.”

972 magazine has a detailed explanation of why Netanyahu’s plans to build in the E1 area are important What is the E1 area, and why is it so important?

On 12/3 DAY FIVE  Haaretz reports For first time, Britain, France may recall ambassadors to protest Israel’s settlement construction “Britain and France are poised to take action − possibly including the unprecedented step of recalling their ambassadors, according to senior European diplomats − in protest at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to move settlement construction ahead in the area known as E1, between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem. “This time it won’t just be a condemnation, there will be real action taken against Israel,” a senior European diplomat said.”

Germany is urging Netanyahu to stop the settlements.  German, Dutch, British, and French envoys communicated their protest over Israel’s plan to construct 3,000 housing units in East Jerusalem, as well as other West Bank settlement blocs, announced after UN vote on Palestine.

It has now been reported that Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark have summoned Israeli envoys, [url=]as have Australia and Brazil

Even the U.S. made a statement expressing concern about Israel’s plans:  The White House and State Department said the plans run counter to longstanding U.S. policy, particularly as they relate to a sensitive piece of land outside Jerusalem known as E1.

“We reiterate our long standing opposition to Israeli settlement activity and East Jerusalem construction,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “We oppose all unilateral actions, including settlement activity and housing construction as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations and this including building in the so called E-1 area.”

“We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two state solution,” he said.

On 12/4 DAY 6  The Guardian reports The UN tells Israel to let in nuclear inspectors.

The UN general assembly has overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Israel to open its nuclear programme for inspection.

The resolution, approved by a vote of 174 to six with six abstentions, calls on Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) “without further delay” and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Those voting against were Israel, the US, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

Resolutions adopted by the 193-member general assembly are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight. And the resolution adds to pressure on Israel as it faces criticism over plans to increase settlement in the West Bank, a move seen as retaliation for the assembly recognising Palestinian statehood.

Israel refuses to confirm or deny possessing nuclear bombs though it is widely believed to have them. It has refused to join the non-proliferation treaty along with three nuclear weapon states: India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Israel insists there must first be a Middle East peace agreement before the establishment of a proposed regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Its rivals in the region argue that Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal presents the greatest threat to peace in the region.

While the US voted against the resolution, it voted in favour of two paragraphs in it that were put to separate votes. Both support universal adherence to the NPT and call on those countries that aren’t parties to ratify it “at the earliest date”. The only no votes on those paragraphs were Israel and India….



AAI Statement on DNC Platform Amendment on Jerusalem

All Israel, No Palestinians

Apartheid in the Holy Land, Desmond Tutu

Broken UN Resolutions

Jimmy Carter: Israel has dropped the two-state solution for a ‘Greater Israel’, Allison Deger

Jimmy Carter Says Middle East Peace Is ‘Vanishing’ During Jerusalem Speech

Christian Religious leaders ask Congress to condition Israel military aid on human rights compliance

Civilian deaths: Incompetence Or Indifference?, Emily Hauser

The death of the Israel-Palestine two-state solution brings fresh hope, Rachel Shabi

Defining ‘Jewish state’: For many, term has different meanings, Glenn Kessler

DNC Platform amended to state Jerusalem is the capital of Israel? (status of Jerusalem), Sheila Musaji

The Galilee First: Equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel is essential for peace and reconciliation, Sam Bahour

Gaza’s Holocaust, Uri Avnery

The ‘honest broker’ comes clean: Obama admits the US is ‘more attentive’ to Israel than Palestinians, Adam Horowitz

HUDNA (truce)
- Hudna:  A Long-Range Islamic Strategy for Conflict Resolution, Dr. Robert D. Crane
- Preparing the Way for Hudna, Irfan Husain
- Hudna:  Those Who Live by the Sword Shall Die by It, Dr. Robert D. Crane
- Hudna: An Islamic Strategy in the Offing?, Dr. Robert D. Crane
- Hudna:  A Rationale and Platform for Peaceful Engagement, Dr. Robert D. Crane
- The War Between Israel and the Neo-Cons:  Can Muslims Save the Jews?, Dr. Robert D. Crane
- Peace through Justice:  A Strategy of Hudna to Eliminate the Iranian Nuclear Bomb, Dr. Robert D. Crane
- Hudna or Apocalypse: A Tipping Point for Palestine?, Dr. Robert D. Crane 
- Hamas and Hudna: Keys to Peace in the Holy Land, Dr. Robert D. Crane

In Jerusalem, Carter Derides Netanyahu and Obama

International attention must be paid to the Palestinian nonviolent movement, Mustafa Barghouthi

Israel: The Nation that has violated more UN resolutions than all other countries in the Mid East put together

Israel-Palestine Conflict: Death Toll (with charts, history, timeline)

Israeli Apartheid topic of serious discussion in Israel, Sheila Musaji

Israelis favour discrimination against Arabs - poll

Israeli poll finds majority in favour of ‘apartheid’ policies, Harriet Sherwood

Israel’s Grand Design: Leaders Crave Area from Egypt to Iraq (Greater Israel), John Mitchell Henshaw

Justice requires action to stop subjugation of Palestinians, Desmond Tutu

The meaning of Gaza’s ‘shoah’ :: Israel plots another Palestinian exodus, by Jonathan Cook

More On Savage Israel—An Analysis, Lawrence Davidson—A-by-Lawrence-Davidson-121027-785.html

Must Read Articles on Israel’s Savage Attacks on Gaza, Sheila Musaji

Netanyahu visits Gilo to defend Jerusalem construction

The new Israeli apartheid: Poll reveals widespread Jewish support for policy of discrimination against Arab minority

Nonviolent resistance in Palestine, Patrick O’Connor 

PALESTINE - ISRAEL - TAM article collection
Muslim Voices Promoting Islamic Non Violent Solutions - TAM article collection

Palestine - An Appeal For a Non-Violent Global Resistance Movement, Tariq Ramadan 

Palestinian Nonviolence: Would It Work?, by Marty Jezer

The Palestinian Reconciliation Agreement Should Be Supported, James Zogby

Palestine’s Hidden History of Nonviolence, Yousuf Munayyer

Timeline: Palestine since 1915: A review of important events in Palestine since World War I 
Timeline: Israeli Palestinian conflict since 1948

Palestinians need an honest broker, Rashid Khalidi

The perilous encounter between modern nationalism and ancient history, Hussein Ibish

Rogue State: Israeli Violations of U.N. Security Council Resolutions

Romney’s Vision: A Greater Israel, Ali Gharib

Romney on Jerusalem: A World of Hurt for America, Juan Cole

Shoah or Holocaust, It’s Still a Catastrophe, Sheila Musaji

Should the Palestinians Recognize Israel As a Jewish State?, Hussein Ibish

Survey reveals anti-Arab attitudes in Israel,  Gabe Fisher

Survey of Israeli Racism: 58% of Jews Label Their State ‘Apartheid’, Richard Silverstein

U.N. PDF on Status of Jerusalem

The Triumph and Tragedy of Greater Israel, Henry Siegman

Desmond Tutu to Haaretz: Arabs paying the price of the Holocaust

VIDEO:  Israel and Palestine, an animated introduction - 6 minute overview of the entire conflict

VIDEO:  Valentino’s Ghost 5 minute over of media coverage that hides the fact that U.S. uncritical support for Israel is a major issue affecting the U.S. relationship with the Muslim world

Waiting for Obama, S Abdallah Schleifer

Who will save Israel from itself, Mark LeVine

Why Israel can’t be a ‘Jewish State’, Sari Nusseibeh

Why Palestinians can’t recognize a ‘Jewish state’, Hassan Jabareen

Why the Palestinians can’t recognize the Jewish State, Ahmad Samih Khalidi

World Council of Churches documents on status of Jerusalem

Type PALESTINE into the TAM search engine and 590 articles will come up about the background of this crisis.  Type in JERUSALEM or GAZA and many more articles will come up.

The Image source for the Gaza peace logo is SFP