Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on UN Speeches
Today, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, presented a bid for the state of Palestine, based on the 1967 borders, to be considered by the Security Council for full membership in the United Nations.
Shortly afterward, he addressed the General Assembly, where he reviewed, from the 1948 Nakba until today, the multitude of ways in which Israel has suppressed Palestinians’ rights. While the question remains if the UN statehood bid adequately addresses the larger issue of Palestinian rights, Abbas’ address importantly gave voice to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. While there is no uniform support for this UN bid, today was undoubtedly a historic and moving day. After over 63 years struggling for global recognition, it was moving to see the countries of the world represented in the UN general assembly give President Abbas a rousing standing ovation.
Not so for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who spoke shortly after Abbas. Netanyahu responded to the Palestinian leader with diversion and doublespeak instead of honest engagement, and peace slogans couched in hostility, aggression, and denial of Palestinian claims—a continuation of the standard Israeli tactic. We know from history that this empty rhetoric has been used by Israeli government for decades and will only mean further pain and oppression for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and all over the world.
As a Jewish-American organization, we believe it is important to remain focused on our primary responsibility: having an impact on U.S. policy. As such, we will continue to speak out strongly against the U.S. using its veto power in the Security Council to reject this bid for statehood.
We know now that President Obama will not do the right thing. Speaking at the UN on Wednesday, Obama lauded the Arab Spring—but rejected the Palestinian Autumn. The president retreated from his earlier positions that demanded Israeli accountability for its military occupation, nor did he acknowledge the ongoing role of the U.S. in maintaining that imbalance through its extraordinary economic, military, and diplomatic support for Israel, even when its actions violate international law, human rights, and U.S. policy. And he didn’t acknowledge that twenty years of the “peace process” has brought only a more entrenched occupation. Instead, Obama merely said that both sides should “sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and fears.” (1)
While this week has not been an easy one, we at JVP actually feel a redoubled assurance in the promise of our strategy to change the dynamics on display this week at the United Nations. We know now, more than ever, that the President or Congress will not change on their own. The array of power and money is simply too strong—for now. We know, as with the examples of the civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement, to name just two, that it is movements like ours that force our governments to change their policies. It was the steadfastness, the creativity, the demonstrations, the local organizing, and the BDS tactics that helped these movements and so many others for social justice eventually succeed. So we’ll let the politicians play their games, and meanwhile, our work will continue.
1) National Journal: Obama's Speech to the UN General Assembly, As Prepared