On 31 October, the Palestinians won the first victory in their bid for recognition of an independent state at the United Nations, when the UN Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) voted to recognise Palestine as a member state.
The vote was 107-14, with Britain abstaining and Israel and the United States voting against. In UNESCO UN Security Council powers cannot exercise a veto, as the US says it will when a vote on full UN membership for the Palestinians come before the body.
As we commented when the bid was launched: “Democrats and socialists should support the Palestinian[s]… Firstly, because the Palestinians have a right to a state of their own. Secondly, because the situation in which the Palestinians are now locked is one in which they cannot win. The declaration of a Palestinian state focuses the fundamental question — two states as the only possible solution… The declaration of a sovereign Palestinian state will not of itself change [anything]… But it is a symbol, and symbols are powerful things.”
The Socialist Workers Party has responded differently.
At the start of October, Socialist Worker printed a short piece by Sian Ruddick entitled “Abbas plan won’t bring justice for Palestinians”. The title was typical of the rest of the article, using language to evade rather than clarify the issues. For sure the bid will not “bring justice” by itself; but is it a legitimate tactic to win a legitimate demand as part of a broader struggle?
SW does admit that some supporters of the bid “have no illusions in the UN” (it would be interesting to know who Ruddick has in mind, as most broadly pro-Palestinian people do, indeed, have some illusions in the UN). So what’s wrong with supporting the Palestinians’ demand for recognition?
“Abbas has not demanded the return of all the territory of historic Palestine… Abbas is only demanding a return to the borders before the 1967 war with Israel… This still hands huge swathes of land to Israel”. So in other words, the bid is wrong because it is does not seek to destroy Israel — the basic disagreement between the SWP and the majority of the Palestinian national movement, but which the SWP does not want to admit openly (unlike our disagreement over boycotting Israel, which is perfectly open).
And the plan “drops the demand for the ‘right to return’ for Palestinian refugees. People who had been driven from land now within Israel’s borders would be left without justice.”
In fact the vast majority of Palestinians driven from Israel or Palestine in the 1940s are now dead. SW is not bothered about the Arab states denying many of the descendants of these refugees citizenship. But in any case, the best — the only real — hope for justice for the Palestinian diaspora is an independent state to which they can “return” freely and a peace deal with Israel which at least opens the possibility of fighting for freedom of movement.
“And the presence of Tony Blair as special envoy offers little hope to those who want a just peace.” Really? And that settles this question how, exactly?
“It is the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East that can offer the Palestinians real hope.” What Ruddick means here is that SW wants the surrounding Arab states to go to war with, and crush, Israel.
Heaven forbid that the Palestinians should exploit the new situation in the region by stepping up their campaign for the basic democratic demand of an independent state.