A different understanding

Let’s call these kids Johnny and Bobby.

Bobby, Johnny and David used to be friends. Not the best of friends, but friends nonetheless. They used to share a huge box of action figures. But then they got into a fight. And the teacher decided that Johnny and Bobby could have all the action figures, except the perfect one. It was the smallest, but everyone loved it. After a tantrum-driven struggle, Johnny and Bobby agreed to the division temporarily, walking away with the box of action figures, but still whimpering in a corner.

A couple of hours went by. Johnny and Bobby kept sulking with their box full of action figures since without the perfect one, it just wasn’t complete. They peered around. Their eyes lit up as they spotted the bright blue cape of the only action figure in David’s hands. Their hearts pounded with jealousy. They wanted that one too. They must get that one.

They looked to their teacher. She seemed to be preoccupied with other issues. So Johnny told Bobby, “Let’s start throwing the pieces at David. When David gets distracted enough, we’ll grab the last action figure.”

Johnny started tossing at David the extra pieces belonging to each of the action figures he had. David keeps ducking out the way, almost oblivious to the plastic chaos being thrown at him. Because plastic couldn’t really hurt anyway, right?

Bobby sat quietly. He didn’t like this idea much. He had learned from past experience that violence wasn’t always effective when it came to David. A couple of minutes later, as Johnny was about to run out of plastic, Bobby walked over to the teacher and whispered in her ear his complaint. All he wanted was the blue cape of David’s action figure, and he’d be content. The teacher looked around, pondering the request. It was just a blue cape right? David would still have the action figure. Johnny would stop throwing plastic. And everyone would be happy. Right?

Sadly, these petty kindergarten debates have now reached the point of the United Nations in the form of unilateral acceptance and resolutions. On Thursday, when the UN approved Mahmoud Abbas’s bid to up Palestine’s recognition to a non-member observer state, like that of the Vatican, it was almost as if they gave Abbas the blue cape, without asking David if that was okay.

Comparing this scenario to that of the UN Partition Plan of 1947 is faulty.  The plan stated that the British Mandate of Palestine would be divided into a Palestinian and Jewish state. Back then, the land was controlled by Britain, and hosted Jews and Arabs alike. They all were called Palestinians. The land encompassed modern-day Jordan and modern-day Israel. Sure, Zionists had reached the shores of the mandate, but only to reside there and turn the land from a barren wasteland into a fruitful and prosperous country. They had no intention of removing the Arabs who resided there, until the Arab League declared war upon them, and numerous attacks were carried out against the Zionists.

By 1947, the British were already at a loss at how to mediate the conflict between the Jews and Arabs of their mandate. Therefore, they declared Jordan to be the Palestinian State, and Palestine to be the Jewish State. The borders were smaller than the current borders of Israel, but that was just because the Arab League rejected the idea of the Jewish state and declared war against it.

Once Israel won those defensive wars (in 1948, 1956 and 1967), like any other country, they became entitled to take the land they conquered from their enemies. In Israel’s case, this was also to ensure they’d stop being bombarded with attacks from the surrounding Arab nations who wanted Israel wiped off the face of the earth. Israel tried time and time again to give land swaps for peace, a novel concept, and when they gave the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, it worked. However, in 2005, when they gave away Gaza, it failed miserably, putting much of Israel’s Southern population in danger and leading to two wars. Therefore, when Abbas approached the UN asking for them to approve the state of Palestine along the 1967 borders, encompassing East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and Gaza, the UN should’ve asked Abbas to go back to the negotiating table with Israel and see what they could do there.

However, besides for the lack of logic within the UN body at approving such a notion of a unilaterally declared Palestinian State, I do not think it will have any lasting affects for the Palestinian entity in general. If anything, I believe it did more harm than good for the Palestinian people.

Hamas, the elected governing body that controls Gaza and Abbas, the man who is in charge of the Palestinian Authority that controls the Arab settlements in Judea and Samaria, do not get along. Hamas is known for their military offensive against Israel (Johnny in the aforementioned story) and Abbas is known for his attempts at political negotiations (Bobby).

However, Hamas and Abbas have tried to unite before, to form one government. This was in 2007. Within two months, Hamas kicked Abbas out of Gaza and there has yet to be a peaceful unity since. Instead, Hamas just attempts to get to Israel through military means, also known as the constant barrage of rockets being launched from Gaza into Israel.

To show his people that he is as reliable as Hamas, Abbas had to take a stand. He had to do something the Palestinians could respect him for. And a unilateral acceptance and declaration of statehood, even if only symbolic and in the UN General Assembly, was an action his people would respect. It would show them that although his government might be corrupt and mafia-like, as has been described in the past, he still has the Palestinians best interests in mind.

When it comes down to it, I like to believe that no human being, not even the Palestinians who reside under Hamas controlled Gaza, enjoy violence. They do not long for the rockets being launched into Israel, nor do they wait for the day when Israel reaches its limit and strikes back. They long for diplomacy. Where two states for two peoples living in peace can be a reality. With Hamas and the Palestinian Authority vying for the upper hand with their people, it may at first seem beneficial for them. Two causes fighting for one people. That can only be good, right?

Or it might divide them. And push them further away from the West than ever before. It was expected that the Palestinians would win statehood in the UN, because of the overwhelming third-world majority of the council they requested to be recognized under. But will it help their cause in the long run now that Israel has a free pass to do unilateral actions as well? Or that the US now has contempt for Abbas not heading their warnings to not declare statehood? Not in the slightest.

So, yes the Palestinians acquired a symbolic recognition last Thursday. But they also acquired increased political tensions between their two governing parties who will not govern their alleged state unitedly. They also lost a lot of Western support and that may translate into the form of monetary aid. So have won much? No. They barely even got their hand’s on little David’s action figure’s cape.

About the Author
Melanie Goldberg is a current student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She also serves as the research assistant for Versa: The Israeli Supreme Court English Language Repository, and founded a chapter of The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights on her campus. Most recently, she was one of the recipients of The Jewish Week's "36 under 36" award.