Increasing support for Palestinian statehood

Aziza Sami , Tuesday 28 May 2024

As Israel continues its attacks on Gaza despite the cost of the war in Palestinian lives, international momentum is building for the recognition of a Palestinian state, writes Aziza Sami

Division in Israel


On 22 May, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris announced to resounding applause in the Irish Parliament that “today, Ireland, Norway, and Spain are announcing that we recognise the state of Palestine.”

He added that formal recognition would come on 28 May.

Harris described the step as “a historic day for Ireland and for Palestine,” adding that it evoked his own country’s long battle for independence from Britain.

As a result of the decision, the number of countries that now recognise the right of the Palestinian people to have a sovereign and independent state stands at 143 member states of the UN, or two thirds of the total of 193 countries that are members of the international organisation.

The Vatican and the Western Sahara, observers at the UN, have also both recognised the Palestinian state.

Ireland, Norway, and Spain are now working to pressure other EU states to uphold the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s recent injunction that Israel must halt its current attacks on Rafah.

Momentum for the recognition of Palestinian statehood started in 1988, with the declaration by Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), of the establishment of the State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.

The weight of support for Palestinian statehood has been reflected in consecutive UN General Assembly resolutions, always voted against by the US, and therefore from the very countries for which the judicial bodies of international law were created.

International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan has been reported as saying that “elected leaders” told him that the ICC was “built for Africa and thugs like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin” and not for Israeli politicians.

The announcement by Ireland, Norway, and Spain has led to a diplomatic backlash from Israel, which said it was “undermining its right to self-defence” in the words of Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

The significance of the recognitions of Palestinian statehood is that they not only signal a shift in the global conscience when it comes to what is happening in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but also mark the beginnings of what could be a potential split within the Western countries when it comes to giving unequivocal support to Israel.

While the positions of Ireland and Spain may reflect these countries’ traditional support for the Palestinian cause, in the case of Norway its stance could also in part reflect domestic pressures after the protests that took place in the country in April demanding that the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the largest in the world, disinvest from Israel because of the carnage it is inflicting on Gaza.

Such pressures are not unique to Norway alone, since in other countries, not least the UK, pressure has also been mounting from constituencies such as labour organisations and trade unions in support of the Palestinians.

Pressure for the recognition of a Palestinian state is expected to continue, with other countries following suit.

It is paradoxical that while the move by Ireland, Norway, and Spain gives hope of a shift in international political positions on the Palestinian issue, it also brings home all the more the non-enforceability of international law if rulings are not supported by, in this specific case, the US.

The latter continues, because of the dynamics of its internal politics, to supply Israel with weapons to carry out its destruction.

It also brings home the reality that the seemingly intractable 80-year-old Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflict was caused, and continues to be ignited by, the continual displacement of Palestinians from their land since 1948.

Israel’s justification for the current Gaza campaign, and its pushing the boundaries to the brink in Rafah, is that it is protecting its very existence. It is propagating the story that since Gaza is the abode of “terrorists” who use the Palestinian population as “human shields,” the latter are fair game and a marginal collateral of war that can be displaced, expelled, or worse.

This is a misperception and a distortion that has been deliberately crafted in order to hide the true source of the conflict with the Palestinians. The reason is to be found in the history of the displacement and appropriation of the land of the Palestinians, not only in 1948, but also after 1967 and ongoing today in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and now also in Gaza.

The 7 October attacks happened on a day of festivity for young Israelis out to enjoy a music concert. Perhaps the majority were oblivious of the real character of the terrain upon which they were partying and of the fact that it encircled them with its history of pain and suffering.

Unless genuine steps are taken to give the Palestinians the right to a sovereign state and to their land, this is a cycle of pain and suffering that will continue.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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