Go for U.N. Vote, Palestine

By B. Z. Khasru

If history is any guide, Palestinians stand to lose virtually nothing if they seek U.N. recognition for an independent state, despite warnings of doom and gloom by Western powers. They have much to gain, and they should march forward full-steam with their plan for a vote on Palestine’s statehood on Sept. 20, as planned.

All the threats and warnings will be just thunder and noise, but no tsunami, to use in reverse a cautionary statement by Susan Rice, America’s U.N. ambassador. What the vote will do is it will expose once again inconsistencies all too often exhibited in the corridors of mighty Western nations, especially when it comes to freedom and justice for the weak. 

If a positive vote by three-fourths of the 193 U.N. member nations, which is expected to be the outcome in the General Assembly, is trampled by the heavy feet of two or three veto-wielding nations, the credibility of Western nations will plunge yet another notch. Their display of insensitivity will remind one of Pakistan’s once-omnipotent President Ayub  Khan’s dictum that his aim was to restore democracy, but the type that suited  the Pakistanis (read it him.)

Palestine Will Survive Sanctions

America’s stand against national independence movement is nothing new, not to mention Britain and France. Exactly forty years ago, when Bangladesh fought for its freedom, President Richard Nixon allied himself with Pakistan’s military ruler Yahya Khan against India, and tens of thousands of  lives perished, if not millions.

Nixon wielded the weapon of economic aid against India to deter it from supporting the Bangalee guerrillas, but Indira Gandhi refused to be intimidated. She marched her soldiers straight forward to bring the conflict to a conclusion satisfactory to her. India did not crumble after the loss of U.S. aid.

After the 1971 South Asian war ended, it was not the Indian prime minister who extended an olive branch to make amends, but the mighty president sent emissaries to bury the dark past and usher in a new morning in the Indo-U.S. relations.

America imposed sanctions on Pakistan and North Korea after the two juggernauts engaged in mischief of the nuclear proportion, but both countries are still on their feet, albeit feeble, but not necessarily a result of the U.S. punishment.

In the event the United Nations votes for the Palestinians, they should be ready to hear all the sound and fury from America, signifying nothing. America will never dump a suitor only because it got stood up once by its date. It will always pick its partner based on pressing interest of the moment. In the world of diplomacy, no one is a permanent friend or enemy, at least as far as the United States is concerned.

The loss of American aid by the Palestinians could be easily made up Qatar and Saudi Arabia. If Qatar is good enough to give its soldiers a pay hike of meager 120 percent in the midst of Great Recession, it can certainly find some change in its piggy bank to be generous to their Palestinian brothers, who have been squeezed by the steamroller of crushing occupation for more than forty years. And, the Palestinians can logically expect King Fahd to step up to the plate, given that he was ready to write a $3 billion check for dictator  Hosni Mubarak to cushion the effect on Egypt of a threatened aid cutback by  America.

Saudis Can Aid Palestine

In fact, if one can take a Saudi prince’s words at face value, the House of Saud might be willing to walk into the world of reality now being shaped by the Arab street. Urging the United States to support the Palestinian vote, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud warned on Monday that “Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has,” if Washington opposed the Arabs at the United Nations. “With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the ‘special relationship’ between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for  the Palestinian people,” the prince wrote in the New York Times.

“Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Like our recent military support for Bahrain’s monarchy, which America opposed, Saudi Arabia would pursue other policies at odds with those of the United States, including opposing the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq and  refusing to open an embassy there despite American pressure to do so. The Saudi government might part ways with Washington in Afghanistan and Yemen as well.”

Many media outlets and pundits, toeing the line espoused by their governments, have been dousing the Palestinians with advice to go back to the negotiating table, as if two decades of talks starting with the Oslo process were not enough time. What exactly are the Palestinians supposed to gain by waiting for statehood? Some future promise of possible talks?

With the U.S. presidential election just a year away, President Obama will be unable to summon courage at least until 2013 to nudge the contending parties into a compromise. A positive U.N. vote would serve as a catalyst to hasten the peace between the Palestinians the Israelis. As President Ronald Reagan once enunciated, if you negotiate from the point of weakness, you lose.

Remember, Britain did not leave India because Clement Attlee had become a devotee of “naked fakir” M.K. Gandhi’s nonviolence, nor because the British took pity on the miserable souls of the Harijans. His Majesty’s government pulled out because London saw a real threat of a communist takeover of India, if the English further prolonged their divine mission to make the Indians civilized.

Exactly for the same expediency – to avoid a takeover of Palestine by Islamic radicals – neither Israel nor America nor Europe would impose severe punitive measures on the Palestinians, even if the United Nations recognized their state.

– B.Z. Khasru, based in New York, is the author of a bestselling book, “Myths and Facts: Bangladesh Liberation War – How India, U.S., China, and the USSR Shaped the Outcome.” (Rupa & Co., 2010). Khasru contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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