Published on 29 Nov 2012

Sitting on our hands over Palestinian UN bid?

Some might argue that this has been a humiliating period for the UK in the Israel/Palestine conflict. Others might argue that it has seen the UK illustrate admirable flexibility and elasticity on the matter.

Today sees the United Nations moves to a vote on the diplomatic status of Palestine. In effect the Palestinian leadership is asking the UN general assembly to upgrade them from observer entity to observer state, with many of the trappings of diplomacy and immunity that that would bring.

It would essentially have the same status as the Vatican. Unsurprisingly the most vociferous opponent of such a move is Israel itself. Israel won statehood in 1948 amid the dwindling embers of the League of Nations and the brave green shoots of the evolving entity we now accept as the United Nations.

By my reckoning, the UK has changed its position twice on this – at first it said it would not vote against the Palestinian position then that changed to Britain may abstain from the vote.

We might be ill-advised to hold our breath today as we await the raised hand of the British ambassador at the UN – the latest British position will be to abstain. As of now the hand will simply stay down. Britain, one of the bruised midwives of the Israeli state will say, in effect, that it has no view on what should happen to the Palestinian state that is envisaged for those displaced by the establishment of the State of Israel. And yet many millions of UK and other European nations’ tax revenues have gone into the funding and provision of the instruments of the very statehood that the Palestinians seek today. These ‘instruments’ include, police stations; training and uniforms for police; town halls; voting registers; polling booths; ballot boxes; and much more.

At the end of the last century I was in the West Bank as Israeli missiles and bombs destroyed many of these police stations and civic buildings. Still more EU funds have gone on rebuilding them.

So today represents a strange moment for the UK. Great Britain has contributed more, as one country, than almost any nation on earth toward bringing about the structures of a viable Palestinian state. Yet when the residents of that land go to the United Nations to seek international recognition of that state, the UK will be found sitting on its hands. Some might argue that financially we have walked to walk for Palestine, but can’t find our way to talking the talk.

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10 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    The gutless Brit establishment, of course, will do exactly as instructed by the USA.

    They have done so ever since the Suez crisis in 1956 when the Eisenhower administration threatened attacks on sterling; none of it had to do with the immorality of the invasion plot with France and Israel – the Yanks were only concerned because their permission wasn’t sought in the first instance. The only exception was the Vietnam War, and that meant concerted attacks on the government(s) led by Harold Wilson.

    The US and European policies on Palestine are indefensible. Israeli fascist expansionist policies are even worse.

    Most of the time the truth is hidden in plain sight. It is the bought-and-paid-for media who ignore it, honourable exceptions aside.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Dear Jon,
    Can you please explain the statement you make below:
    “At the end of the last century I was in the West Bank as Israeli missiles and bombs destroyed many of these police stations and civic buildings. Still more EU funds have gone on rebuilding them.”

    As I understand it, you are saying that in the 1990’s Israel used its air force (Missiles and bombs) to destroy Palestinian government infrastructure. This was period of time between the 1st and 2nd Intifada. This was in the period when people were hopeful for the success of the Oslo Peace Accords. Yes there were suicide bombings and responses to those, but I am not aware of a significant level of missile and bomb attacks on Palestinian government infrastructure in that period.

    So something in the facts of your article do not add up. Either the timing is wrong, or the statement about how much destruction happened is wrong or the fact that destructions happened by missiles and bombs is wrong or the fact that government infrastructure was destroyed was wrong.

    More likely the loose use of words and distortion of the facts, is a method you have used to get your point of view across. Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

  3. Y.S. says:

    Mahmoud Abbas has all the wrong tactics, while he is not talking to Israel they are grabbing more land. He must take whatever he is given as a starting point for a Palestinian state.
    Israel will offcourse provoke him to pull out of talks as they have done in the past, as they use time to steal more land.

  4. IAS2012 says:

    I always thought it was Israel who are in breach of UN resolutions that says they should not be occupying the West bank in Gaza. I always thought that this situation was like a neighbour planting trees in your garden, enough to inflame arguments and even violent behaviour – if the neighbour insists they are right to plant that tree on the part of land that occupies your garden.

    Isn’t is so simple why there is fuel always ready to be in flames when we address these aspects of Gaza?

    Why, therefore, have Politicians and the news media, even the UN, failed to reiterate these valid and fundamental principles to the rest of us. Can it be because nobody wants to say anything to damage Israeli and US relationships?

  5. Anthony Montan says:

    Dear All

    The UN view of the Palestinian Territories can be seen at the following URL:

    The West Bank and East Jerusalem is occupied Palestine (recognised by 132 nations in the world including India, China, Russia, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Iceland). Palestine is still illegally held and sadly Israel has ignored the ruling of the International Court of Justice (subsequently supported by the UN and EU) with respect to the “separation barrier”. This “wall” is 3 times the length of the Berlin Wall.

    UNESCO’s recognition of Palestine last year was supported by France, Spain, Ireland, Belgium. Norway, Greece and other European nations.

    International law and UN Resolutions (over which there are over 150) are ignored by Israel.

    God bless

    *** UN Security Council Resolution 478 (1980) of 20 August 1980 – BINDING

    The Security Council, recalling its resolution 476 (1980); reaffirming again that the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible; deeply concerned over the enactment of a “basic law” in the Israeli Knesset proclaiming a change in the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, with its implications for peace and security; noting that Israel has not complied with resolution 476 (1980); reaffirming its determination to examine practical ways and means, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, to secure the full implementation of its resolution 476 (1980), in the event of non-compliance by Israel ; Censures in the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the “basic law” on Jerusalem and the refusal to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions;

    *** Resolution 694 (1991) – BINDING
    Adopted by the Security Council at its 2989th meeting on
    24 May 1991

    The Security Council,
    Reaffirming its resolution 681 (1990),
    Having learned with deep concern and consternation that Israel has, in violation of its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and acting in opposition to relevant Security Council resolutions, and to the detriment of efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, deported four Palestinian civilians on 18 May 1991,
    1. Declares that the action of the Israeli authorities of deporting four Palestinians on 18 May is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which is applicable to all the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem;
    2. Deplores this action and reiterates that Israel, the occupying Power, refrain from deporting any Palestinian civilian from the occupied territories and ensure the save and immediate return of all those deported;
    3. Decides to keep the situation under review.

    *** Resolution 672 (1990) – BINDING
    Adopted by the Security Council at its 2948th meeting on
    12 October 1990
    The Security Council,
    Recalling its resolutions 476 (1980) and 478 (1980),
    Reaffirming that a just and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict must be based on its resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) through an active negotiating process which takes into account the right to security for all States in the region, including Israel, as well as the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people,
    Taking into consideration the statement of the Secretary-General relative to the purpose of the mission he is sending to the region and conveyed to the Council by the President on 12 October 1990,
    1. Expresses alarm at the violence which took place on 8 October at the Al Haram al Shareef and other Holy Places of Jerusalem resulting in over twenty Palestinian deaths and to the injury of more than one hundred and fifty people, including Palestinian civilians and innocent worshippers;
    2. Condemns especially the acts of violence committed by the Israeli security forces resulting in injuries and loss of human life;
    3. Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967;
    4. Requests, in connection with the decision of the Secretary-General to send a mission to the region, which the Council welcomes, that he submit a report to it before the end of October 1990 containing his findings and conclusions and that he use as appropriate all the resources of the United Nations in the region in carrying out the mission.

    24th April 2012 – UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said:
    “I strongly condemn the Israeli government’s decision yesterday to turn three illegal outposts in the West Bank into settlements. I urged the Israeli government in my statement on 5 April to remove – not legalise – outposts across the West Bank.”

    Furthermore, I would like to refer you to specific serious concerns raised by the International Court of Justice (2004) – with relevance to the ‘security barrier’ – which was viewed with alarm by the international community. Incidentally the reference to the illegality of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was also reinforced when the International Court of Justice also found the following (indeed the EU supported the UN vote pertaining to the ‘security barrier’):

    * That the separation barrier is intended to assist the settlements, the establishment of which violates Article 49 of the Convention. Also, the court pointed out that the restrictions placed on the local population located between the barrier and the Green Line are liable to lead to abandonment of the land, which also constitutes a violation of Article 49. In addition, the opinion stated that taking control of private land to build the barrier injured private property owners, and thus violated Articles 46 and 52 of the Hague Regulations of 1907 and of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

    * The illegality of the barrier under international human rights law. In this context, the court stated unequivocally, and contrary to the position held by Israel, that international human rights law applies in its entirety in occupied territory, along with humanitarian law. The court ruled that the separation barrier violates rights set forth in conventions to which Israel is party. The court mentioned the rights to freedom of movement and the right against invasion of privacy of home and family, which are enshrined in Articles 12 and 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the right to work, to an adequate standard of living, health, and education, which are enshrined in Articles 6, 11, 12, and 13 of the International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights.

  6. Robert Taggart says:

    Delusions of Imperial Grandeur either way from the Blighty Establishment…
    It matters not a jot what we think – we cannot employ gun-boat diplomacy at our own free will – we need Uncle Sams permission !
    Better for Blighty to simply take its bow of the world stage – we are tired of playing Police to the World and still more weary of playing PCSO to Uncle Sam !!

  7. Neill Dewar says:


    I am constantly dismayed by the self-destructive actions of what, in many reagards, is a rogue state. Its continuing blockade and oppression of Gaza and its, frankly, imperialist actions of continuing to build more and more settlements on the West Bank and in Jerusalem, are totally and utterly illegal.

    From the Balfour Declaration in 1917 onwards, successive British governments have had a responsibility for what happens in this benighted and increasingly volatile part of the world, and by abstaining in the UN vote the UK shirks that responsibility. Long may petty politics overrule genuine long-term and uncomfortable solutions that upset cosy status quos.

    1. Robert Taggart says:

      1917 – Britannia ‘Ruled the Waves’ !
      2012 – Blighty rules nothing – not even itself ! (EU et al).

  8. Meg Howarth says:

    Spineless neo-colonialist behaviour by Britain in abstaining on the UN vote of recognition of Palestine. Within hours of vote, Israel had announced its intention to build new settlement homes in the occupied territories, thereby exploding Vince Cable’s shameless Any Questions’ justification for abstaining on the grounds that ‘neutrality’ kept open the door for UK to bring pressure on Israel

    In my view a ‘two-state solution’ is also a neo-colonialist stance, a cementing of ethnic apartheid. Why not one state, a position increasingly garnering support, I understand.

  9. Claudia says:

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