By Stuart Littlewood
Britain and NATO were keen as mustard to establish a no-fly zone over Libya to "protect civilians" but too cowardly to do the same for the Palestinians, who are constantly on the receiving end of Israel’s vicious air strikes and armed incursions. Muslims and Christians alike have been slaughtered or maimed in their thousands and had their homes, farms and water resources stolen while waiting 63 years for the international community to deliver them from Israel’s brutal occupation.
And Israel now plans to steal Palestine’s offshore gas.
Not surprisingly, after decades of fruitless peace talks with a gun to their heads the Palestinians are about to apply to the United Nations for recognition of their own state based on the 1949 armistice lines that are universally regarded as the border with Israel.
But I was taken by surprise yesterday by an email from Avaaz, those energetic organizers of global petitions, saying that "in 48 hours, the UN Security Council will meet again to discuss Palestine’s bid to become the 194th country". They want 1 million signatures to a petition to ramp up public pressure and get governments off the fence and supporting this long-overdue bid for freedom.
I thought the Palestinian application was going to be made on 20 September or soon afterwards, under Lebanon’s UN presidency. Meanwhile, the US and Israel have been conducting a huge diplomatic campaign to sabotage the Palestinian move. Perhaps somebody behind the scenes has calculated that their ridiculous propaganda will have worn thin by the time 20 September arrives.
Most of the world already supports the Palestinian cause. The trouble is, the will of the people in the US, Britain and most of Europe is downright ignored by political leaders who have allowed themselves to be suckered into the Zionist cause. That’s Western-style democracy for you. Freedom fighters, beware.
It remains to be seen whether Britain, whose prime minister is a self-proclaimed Zionist and has pledged "indestructible” support for the Israeli regime and whose foreign secretary has been an adoring Friend of Israel since he was in short trousers, will join in blocking the bid for freedom.
The other day David Cameron said of the successful Libyan uprising: "Our task now is to do all we can to support the will of the Libyan people which is for an effective transition to a free, democratic and inclusive Libya. This will be and must be and should be Libyan-led and a Libyan-owned process with broad international support co-ordinated by the United Nations." He’s keen as mustard – again – to do all this for the Libyans, but will he do the same for the Palestinians? When they held free and fair elections in 2006 democracy-preaching Britain didn’t like the result and joined the US and Israel in trashing the Palestinians’ fledgling democracy and strangling their economy.
It’s not difficult to imagine Cameron and Hague snapping to attention when Tel Aviv speaks, the mantra-like instructions amplified as usual by Washington… “Let there be no doubt… blah, blah…symbolic action to isolate Israel will not create an independent Palestinian state… blah, blah…no shortcut to statehood… blah, blah…must return to the negotiating table…”.
The famous trade-mark white dog ‘Nipper’, listening intently to his master’s voice from the gramophone trumpet, comes instantly to mind.
The question is, can ‘Nipper’ Cameron extract his head from that trumpet long enough to put his money where his mouth is with regard to democracy and freedom in the Middle East, and do the decent thing in tune with the British people’s wishes?
Of course, getting international support is only half the battle. I read with alarm that Saeb Erekat, Abbass’s sidekick, heads the team responsible for preparing the Palestinian submission to the UN. I thought Erekat resigned as chief negotiator following Wikileaks revelations that his team, during peace talks with the Israelis, was willing to make suicidal concessions and couldn’t negotiate its way out of a paper bag. A few months ago he was reported to be in Washington talking with US officials about reviving that same pointless peace process. How counter-productive can he get?
And such is the legal and constitutional tangle surrounding the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation), the PNC (Palestinian National Council) and the PA (Palestinian Authority), and their relationship to each other, that legal advisers now warn that a move towards statehood might adversely affect the rights of the refugees, who account for more than half of all Palestinians. If the PLO, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, is replaced by a state the change in legal status could mean that core rights, such as the right of return, are lost forever unless the whole deal is very cleverly handled.
Are these really the right people to be in charge of Palestine’s fate?
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.