Stuart Reigeluth

The General Assembly vote in favour of Palestine becoming an observer ‘state’, instead of an observer ‘entity’ within the United Nations is a diplomatic exercise showing vocabulary skills. It is very simply a change of words and that is all it is. This place called ‘Palestine’ remains a non-member of the UN and remains in the starkest reality of things without sovereignty or statehood.

The reality of the situation is disastrous for the Palestinians: Illegal Jewish colonies have encroached so far into the West Bank that the two-state solution along the 1967 border is entirely out of question; the military Israeli occupation is so completely in effect that it has become a banal way of life; occupied Greater Jerusalem has been annexed to Israel and has separated occupied East Jerusalem from the West Bank; Gaza has never been so far geographically, economically, socially, politically and existentially from the rest of whatever remains of Palestine.

The West Bank Palestinian diplomats smile and congratulate themselves for a diplomatic victory on the international stage, but they no longer represent the Palestinian people. The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) lost democratically in 2006 to Hamas in a “free and fair” election according to the European Union (EU). The EU now provides the majority of funds to maintain the Ramallah-based PNA led by Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, even though they lost.

After winning the elections, Hamas agreed to have Abbas and company continue their negotiation efforts with Israel, knowing full well that such attempts are futile. Israel has systematically thwarted all Palestinian endeavours to reach a two-state solution and in fact has made not one single concession towards possible peace with the Palestinians. Israel’s persistent denial of Palestinian statehood is matched and mirrored now by increasing elements of Palestinian groups rejecting the Israeli antics of pretending to want peace. Why pretend anymore?

Such Israeli tactics are evident when Netanyahu and company argue that becoming an observer ‘state’ is contrary to the two-state solution and that pursuing multilateral recognition at the UN is not conducive to peace negotiations with Israel, etc, that the US repeats constantly too in order to show its support for negotiations even though their support for Israel has rendered the possibility of the two-state solution entirely unrealistic at this point in history.

Hamas is painfully aware of this fact. The recent Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, the death of more than 150 Palestinians, many women and children, is a stark reminder both of Israel’s attempts to divert international attention from the pacifist Palestinian branch in Ramallah that is making a fuss at the United Nations - a fuss that really does not change anything for the Palestinians - and a reminder of how each time Israel attacks Gaza, with every new death of another woman or child or militant or civilian, Hamas becomes stronger and stronger.

Hamas’ strength was depicted clearly in the Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank that were manifesting their solidarity and support for the fate of Gaza. Similar previous demonstrations by Palestinians were quelled brutally by the Ramallah-based PNA that claims to represent their people but the people voted them out of power over six years ago now but the Europeans support that PNA because they talk about peace even though the United States and Israel make peace impossible.

And thus the cycle of violence continues and the timeline of contemporary history is marked by yet another Israeli military operation in response or not to the sending of Palestinian missiles, but always to protect the sacred security of Israel against those constant barbarians at the gates. Each time more missiles are fired in response to vicious Israeli bombardments; each time the missiles have longer range and are more precise - and Israel can continue to test its latest military technology.

Beyond the political absurdity amongst Palestinians and the ominous military fine-tuning in Israel, there resides the most elementary tragedy of rejecting the “Other” and thereby encouraging a conflict based on intoxicated visions of power. It is no surprise that Hamas claims the latest round to be a victory against the giant Israel. What is sad is that Israel prefers to only notice the negative side of the socio-political shifts rumbling across the region. Peace with the Palestinians is obviously no longer on the agenda for Israel, but coexistence with the Arab world at large should be a long-term priority. The paradox for the Palestinians - apart from the observer ‘state’ status as a non-member at the UN without actually having a proper state - is that they could become part of a regional confederation without really having a state. But for now, we are still stuck in the throngs of nationalism and the claims to a territorial state.

Stuart Reigeluth is founding editor of Revolve magazine and works at the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) in Brussels.

–Gulf News