Here comes September. The long-awaited month has finally arrived and brought with it controversy over the ramifications of the Palestinian Authority’s proposal for statehood at the United Nations.
The following is just a simple attempt from an average Palestinian to reason the justifications behind the PA’s unreasonable step.
To claim that an average Palestinian would take the time to think through the political and legal implications of such a move would be misleading.
An average Palestinian might in fact be the least interested in whether a state would be declared in September. Yet he or she will be the one will be the one whose life will be most profoundly impacted by any hasty act of folly by the PA.
This has been demonstrated by a long history of disappointing actions by the PA. This is not to dismiss Palestinian public political awareness. Palestinians are the ones who live with the consequences of any step or measure suggested or implemented by the PA. Therefore, they would definitely have more pressing priorities than to think of the consequences. They would instead be preoccupied with the struggle to survive the consequences of yet another foolish action by their wise government.
I will not claim to be objective. I oppose the PA’s statehood initiative. But despite the debate over the UN bid and despite the PA’s embarrassing record, it dawned on me that maybe this time I was being unjust to the PA, and maybe there’s a shadow of a chance that the PA would do something in the interest of the Palestinians. After all, how unjust and foolish could they be?
I am a refugee. Who will represent me? Among the debates among the public about whether this bid would endanger the Palestinians was the discussion over representation. Who would represent the Palestinians? And who exactly would this state represent? Less than half the Palestinian population live in the occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the territories to be declared as the Palestinian state.
What will happen to the other millions who live outside this terrotiory? If the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians both in historic Palestine and in the diaspora, would be replaced with the Palestinian state contained within the borders of 1967, then what is the destiny of millions of Palestinian refugees living outside those borders? Would they be also part of the State of Palestine? Would this declaration affect their inalienable right of return?
The PLO has been representing the Palestinian people, internationally and within the United Nations since 1965, acting in the name of all Palestinians, whether in Palestine or displaced. The PLO is already recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the UN. Why is there a need to replace the PLO with another authority which is not representative of more than half the Palestinian population? Half of Palestinians "disenfranchised"
According to a recent analysis by Guy Goodwin-Gill, professor of law at Oxford University, the Palestinian refugees "constitute more than half of the people of Palestine and if they are ‘disenfranchised’ and lose their representation in the UN, it will not only prejudice their entitlement to equal representation, contrary to the will of the General Assembly, but also their ability to vocalize their views, to participate in matters of national governance, including the formation and political identity of the state, and to exercise the right of return."
Let’s assume that the statehood bid would not lead to such a deadlock as Francis Boyle, a former legal advisor to the PLO, predicted in his response to Goodwin’s memorandum.
What would be the destiny of the refugees of 1948 living within the borders of the coming Palestinian state, particularly in the more than twenty refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? Going back home would not be a legitimate option considering that what lies beyond the 1967 boundary line would be recognized as a sovereign Jewish state upon which they have no claims of land or ownership. A return to their homes within the Jewish state would be impossible. Their right of return would consequently be dropped.
For those refugees, would the September state offer any compensation? Would it grant them full citizenship? The result of the quest for a new state could be that their "temporary" camps turn into neighborhoods of a new state. They would also have to endure worsening poverty after the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) reduces or even cuts off the aid upon which thousands of refugee families survive. Who will represent me? I did not vote for the PA.
For almost two decades, the PA has been assuming that it represents the Palestinian people based on the Oslo accords. The PA, however, falls short on the questions of genuine democratic representation. The last democratic elections for the PA took place more than five years ago.
The refusal by the US and Europe to respect the results of that election has led to the severe fragmentation of both Gaza and the West Bank, leaving Palestinians with two governments, neither of which is representative of the total interests and will of the Palestinian people.
It is no wonder that young Palestinians, unable to practice their fundamental democratic right to vote, and all too aware of the follies of the PA, are shouting very fiercely against the PA or even calling for its dissolution. This of course delegitimizes any further step the PA takes on behalf of the Palestinian people, for it is not the real representative of the Palestinian people living in Gaza and the West Bank, let alone the already disenfranchised population of Palestinians outside those territories.
The prospective consequences of the statehood bid are not promising but instead rather risky. Palestinians, of course, are not to blame for distrusting their fragmented leadership after a series of shocking revelations about how the Palestinian cause is being dealt with in negotiation rooms and how much this leadership is ready to offer or concede. The fact that the new state is offering no reform of the Palestinian leadership tells how unpromising such a move is.
One cannot but imagine the forthcoming state as offering nothing more to the Palestinians than further fragmentation. A state that offers no relief from the current situation on the ground, that is led by the same leadership, that fails to uphold the rights of the Palestinians, sounds like the very definition of insanity.
September 8, 2011
Sameeha Elwan is a 23-year-old Palestinian blogger and an English literature graduate from the Islamic University of Gaza.