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Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures..

Jadaliyya Interview Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani on this new Book “Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures”

Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?

Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani (NE & MR): The book represents a compilation of articles and documents published by Jadaliyya during the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations in 2011-2012.

We felt this moment represents—for better or worse—a critical juncture in Palestinian history and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, deserving of proper analysis and contextualization.

It will either mark the moment at which Palestinians began to definitively disengage from the Oslo framework that has dominated their world for the past two decades and must, alongside the 1948 Nakba, be seen as the most catastrophic development in contemporary Palestinian history.

Alternatively, it forms another attempt by a leadership lacking in strategic vision, tactical acumen, and political dynamism, to revive Oslo yet again.

As such, it marks the last hurrah of the Palestinian national movement as we have known it since the 1950s. Thus far, the latter interpretation certainly seems the more sensible.

[Cover of

[Cover of “Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures”] Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker

Nevertheless, these things also have the potential to take on a life of their own, driving their sponsors in directions they have not anticipated or may not want, and even marginalizing or consuming them in the process.

Despite the resumption of bilateral negotiations, the potential to shift away from the Oslo framework remains viable precisely because the options created by the statehood bid remain available. But in view of the present Palestinian leadership’s regional and international alliances, vested interests, and economic constraints, this is highly unlikely.

Regardless of outcome, the broader point is that one way or another, this represents a critical moment that deserves analysis and reflection beyond mere reporting of actual events.

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does it address?

NE & MR: The book is divided into 4 sections that examine what we believe to be the main themes highlighted by the statehood bid.

1. “National Liberation Strategies examines the bid from the point of view of a viable Palestinian national strategy, and the lack thereof.

2. “International Law and Statehood analyzes the proper role of international law, if any, in achieving Palestinian self-determination in light of legal strategies used by other colonized peoples, together with the new realities that exist on the ground.

3.  “US Foreign Policy” concerns the elephant in every room and china shop, and addresses the crucial role of the United States as what objectively can only be characterized as a direct participant in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A final section entitled

4.  Representation focuses on the broader issue of the crisis of representation that Palestinians have been experiencing for at least the past two decades, and how the statehood bid ameliorates and intensifies it in various ways.

The contributions to this volume represent points of view that are both critically for and against the UN initiative.

Still, they are written from a common perspective seeking to promote Palestinian self-determination. The book does not provide equal space to those who support Palestinian rights and those who do not think they should have any.

Since the majority of essays were written around the time of the initial 2011 Palestinian application to the United Nations, a number of additional contributions look at this question one year later. We have also included key documents, among them the speeches of Mahmoud Abbas, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Barack Obama to the UN General Assembly in September 2011.

J: How does this work connect to and/or depart from your previous research and writing?

NE & MR: We have both been involved in research and advocacy for Palestinian self-determination throughout most of our lives, and in this respect this volume fits right in.

Both of us also believe that a more intensive exchange of views and perspectives on the key issues addressed in this collection are essential and indeed a pre-requisite for the reconstruction of the Palestinian national movement and the development of a coherent and effective national strategy.

The contents reflect and contribute to broader conversations on the Palestinian question as well as internal ones amongst Palestinians themselves. On this score as well, this volume contributes to our earlier and existing work.

J: Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have?

NE & MR: The book is intended both for a general audience that would like to enhance its understanding of how supporters of Palestinian self-determination view the UN initiative. Why was there not unanimous support amongst Palestinians?

Why did legal scholars disagree about its implications for the rights of refugees?

What was the Palestinian leadership thinking and did it have a Plan B?

The anthology aims to answer those questions, making it a good fit within both graduate and undergraduate university classes, as well as beyond, among a general readership.

This book is also intended for people who have been part of the debates addressed in this collection of essays and would like to explore these various perspectives in greater depth.

It therefore should also benefit long-time advocates, writers, and scholars who are similarly concerned about the political impasse that has faced Palestinians globally since at least the onset of the Oslo accords.

J: What other projects are you working on now?

NE: I am working on a couple of pieces of legal scholarship, as well as an essay on international law and the Palestinian question. My current legal scholarship explores the impact of the Obama administration’s policy of targeted killings upon the international law and self-defense.

Another piece examines the impact of overlapping refugee legal regimes in the Middle East on Palestinian refugees during secondary forced displacement, as is now the case in Syria. The essay regarding the Palestinian question attempts to unpack whether international law has been part of the problem, or the solution, or neither, in response to Israel’s settler-colonial project.

MR: I am writing a book with Norman Finkelstein that examines how the internationalization of the “Question of Palestine” can contribute to achieving Palestinian self-determination and peace in the Middle East, in accordance with international law and the international consensus on the relevant questions.

Excerpt from Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures

From the Foreword, by Richard Falk

Ever since the collapse of European colonialism, the side in a conflict that controls this moral and legal high ground has generally, although not invariably, prevailed over an opponent with hard power superiority.

Palestinian reliance on non-violence has recently been dramatized by an extraordinary series of lengthy hunger strikes by Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons without charge or trial. These have in duration surpassed those of IRA prisoners in 1982, which eventually led London to change its approach to the IRA. This shift enabled negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement. While not perfect, the Agreement has led to a generally peaceful process of conflict resolution in Northern Ireland, replacing what had been previously regarded as a struggle without a foreseeable end.

It is in this regard most unfortunate that the world media has looked the other way during the Palestinian prisoner strikes, and done so despite years of lecturing the Palestinians that if they adopted non-violent tactics their cause would experience an immediate upsurge of sympathetic attention.

Today, most Palestinians are not only disillusioned with the United Nations and international law, but also with their own leadership. The Palestinian leadership works within established inter-governmental channels of traditional diplomacy augmented with awkward periodic shows of deference to American political priorities.

Each episode in the Peace Process constructed on the basis of the Oslo Declaration of Principles has ended in frustration for the Palestinians, and is coupled with mutual recriminations that assign blame for the failure, with the Palestinian side represented in the media as mainly responsible for the disappointment and Israel lauded for its supposed generosity.

What often follows is a perverse reaffirmation of the confidence of both sides that “the process” forms the only viable option for a peaceful settlement, which has led to a cycle of raised and shattered expectations associated with the resumption of direct negotiations.

It is here that bewilderment merges with disillusionment. Why give credibility to a structure of negotiation that is so deeply flawed? Can any sane person expect such a negotiation to lead to a just outcome when the intermediary is both the most powerful political actor on the global stage and an explicitly unconditional partisan of the stronger side?

The unintentionally candid Dennis Ross in his diplomatic memoir tells it all when he indicates that the central question that tormented him throughout the 2000 Camp David negotiations was “Will the Israelis swallow this?” He never asks, or even considers, the relevance of the complementary issue, “will the Palestinians swallow this?” Or rather, “can, should the Palestinians swallow this?”

This double standard is so revealing because it discloses the unconscious depths of the American approach: defer to Israeli sovereign consent while providing the Palestinians with a single alternative:  accept what is on offer.

In his long book, Ross never pauses to reflect on how odd it should seem for an “honest broker” to consider the responses of only on one side to the conflict. This last observation brings us back to the statehood bid.

In one respect, as has been ably argued by John Quigley in his The Statehood of Palestine, Palestine is already a state. It has garnered  over a hundred diplomatic recognitions by governments since the 1988 PLO Declaration of Independence, and subsequently established a governmental presence within relatively fixed boundaries.

Of course, this PLO proposed resolution of the conflict was the most gigantic territorial concession made by either side since the end of World War II, seemingly accepting a Palestinian state limited to the territories occupied in 1967. These territories constitute only 22% of historic Palestine and form less than half the territory allotted to an Arab state pursuant to the partition of Palestine proposed by the United Nations in General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947).

This partition was rejected at the time as unfair by the Palestinians and the Arab states. With hindsight, it should not be surprising that Israel has offered the Palestinians nothing in response to acknowledge the significance of their willingness to normalize relations with Israel on a basis that evinced a clear intention to resolve the conflict.

Despite this background to the statehood bid of 2011 and 2012, it is correct to appreciate that United Nations certification of Palestinian statehood gives the claim considerable additional political weight. The American effort to defer indefinitely the Palestinian Authority’s 2011 bid for United Nations membership bears on whether an acknowledgement of statehood without membership is a step forward for the Palestinian people. It becomes questionable whether General Assembly recognition of Palestine as a state entitled the enhanced observer status is of sufficient practical benefit to offset the earlier, more fundamental UN rebuff by the Security Council.

[Excerpted from Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures, by Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani, by permission of the authors. Copyright © 2013 Tadween Publishing. For more information, or to order a copy of the book, click here.]

Noura Erakat and Mouin Rabbani, editors, Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures. Washington, DC: Tadween Publishing, 2013.

New Texts Out Now: Nelida Fuccaro, Histories of Oil and Urban Modernity in the Middle East [Cover of Elizabeth F. Thompson, New Texts Out Now: Elizabeth Thompson, Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East

Frequently, you have this revolting impression that the United Nations is not consistent and loyal to its Charters and conventions; you feel there is this dealing of two measures two weights against States that refuse to go along with unjust deals and not equitable consensus. You feel that the UN is but a symbol and a repository of resolutions that have been quickly shelved under pressures from the veto power “rights” of the five superpowers agreed on in 1946, when the UN included only 58 independent States.

The Charters for human rights were voted on in 1946.  Most States had no intentions of conforming to most of the articles in the Charters, but they signed on just to be among the victor States in the historical joint pictures.  Currently, the UN comprises 192 States and the conventions have accumulated and the Commission  was replaced in 2006 by the Council for human rights and headed by judge Mohammad Bedjaoul.  For example, the Goldstone’s report on crimes against humanity committed by Israel in Gaza in 2008, and the investigation of crimes in Guinea (Africa) in 2009 were commissioned by the UN Council.  There is also a Committee where individuals and groups can depose complaints and then, the Committee formulate recommendations, but the states are not obligated to conform or comply.

The International Penal Court was instituted in 2002 with competence of judging international crimes against humanity.  Its Attorney General Luis Moreno-Ocampo is studying the Goldstone report (that the US sided with Israel to denouncing the report!), the report on the State of Guinea, and the investigations into Darfur (Sudan).  The International Penal Court has already handled the criminals of ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

There have been many conventions related to armed conflicts, genocide, torture, cluster bombs, land mines… Ironically, the US steadily refused to sign on to these conventions.  Thus, since members who did not sign on to a treaty cannot be prosecuted or investigated or controlled then, only the good member States are punished when the superpower States decide to dust off shelved resolutions.  The UN has established measuring sticks to accounting for the effectiveness of its various programs such as in human development (HDIndex), eradicating famine in 2015, assuring primary education, promoting equality between genders, reducing infantile mortality, improving health for mothers, combating common tropical diseases, preserving biodiversity, and investing in renewable energy resources, monitoring environmental degradation, and deforestation…

The UN had to be reminded of its responsibilities and obligations by civil mass protests in England concerning the case of the Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet and the mandated arrests of Israel Tzipi Livni and other Israeli leaders relevant to their roles in crimes against humanity in Gaza.  For the time being, international relations prime over violations on human rights.  For example, England and Belgium have rescinded and retracted their laws on apprehending State criminals.

The UN had been hijacked by the superpowers in selecting what States should be categorized as “rogue States and rogue organizations”.   During the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, the US protected rogue States such as Tito of Yugoslavia, apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia (current Zimbabwe), Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Shah of Iran, Saddam of Iraq, Sudan, Morocco…  The Soviet Union protected Albania, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Egypt, Algeria…

The current rogue States are mostly the same with different political dictators, oligarchies, and theocracies.  For example, why Islamic Iran, Venezuela of Chavez, North Korea, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza (Palestine) are targeted as rogue States while Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Putin of Russia, George W. Bush, Blair of England, and Burlosconi in Italy are to be safe from concerted maligning?

Why western States that bring up fresh political attacks at immigrants and minorities at every election campaign should not be reprimanded by the UN and allowing millions to cowing and suffering psychologically and physically?

Question: “If the superpowers with established institutions and financial means are flaunting basic human rights (such as torturing, using cluster bombs, land mines, chemical products, waging preemptive wars…) then, how can we expect weaker and unstable political States to complying with the UN Charter?  Shouldn’t the UN target first the big offender to give an example and be a catalyst for the smaller nations to outdo the larger States in compliance?”

Note: The UN is composed of 192 States and its overall personnel for all its many institutions is 85,000 employees (double the police force of the city of New York).  The General Secretary employs 40,000 and divided as follows:  Peace operations (excluding the Blue Helmets task force) are taken in charge by 22,000; those posted in key cities such as New York, Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi about 12,000; working in regional commissions about 2,600, and those recruited by the International Penal Court about 2,000 salaried.  The budget for 2009 was 2,5 billion (lower than any medium-size city in the US).  Most of the superpower States are frequently late for years in paying their dues (the US has yet to pay up its dues of 250 million).  The Blue Helmets task force keeping the peace in 15 operations (in Cyprus, Lebanon, Western Sahara, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Chad, Haiti, East Timor, Liberia, Sudan, Afghanistan…) numbers 100,000; half the task force is recruited from only six countries (Bangladesh,Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Egypt, and Nepal (mostly English speaking countries and poor).

Rhythm of your conscious; (Dec. 28, 2009)

I have a few questions that might aid in describing changes in the state of your conscious:

1)      Do you have any fundamental principles on which your conscious is based on?

2)      Do you still believe that mankind is the only species capable of reflecting on the sense of life and that he knows he is doomed to die?

3)      Do you think that earth will never disappear with time?

4)      Do you think that the sun is eternal?

5)      Do you believe that animals have no souls?

6)      Do you think man has the power to predict cataclisms?

7)      Do you think technology can resolve earth natural problems?

8)      Are you yearning to belong to a cult that would promise you to be among the only survivers when humanity vanishes?

9)      Do you believe in an apocalypse with a specific date?

10)   Suppose the date of an apocalypse has come and gone and nothing happened, then, would you

continue to stick with the cult by inventing “reasonable” explanations; would you desist joining any cult, or would you desist joining any “formal” religion?

11)  Do you believe past customs and traditions are gone to never return?

12)  Give a probability that human kind will live in 2100; is it less or greater than 50%?

13)  Do you think that if 25% of all animals and plants disappear in 2030 that human kind will be able to survive without them?

14)  Do you think the quality of your conscious changed in the last decade?

15)  Do you think the United Nations was established based on an undercurrent ideological foundations (political, economical, religious, mythical…)?

16)  Do you think the UN might acquire any executive power to regulate and control global resolutions?

17)  Is our awareness of climatic changes serious?

18)   Are the results of the conference of Copenhagen encouraging?

19)  Are the damages to earth and the environment reversible?

20)  Is there a universal humankind conscious?

21)  Is historical process linear or sort of cyclical?

22)  Do you care for your cat or dog more than members of your close family?

23)  Are you acquainted with your next door neighbor?

24)  Do you think animals have intelligence if we could learn their languages?

25)  Do you have a conscious irrespective of your belief in what happens after death?

Would you feel it is unjust if a few animal species will survive but man not?

Qualitative shift from statehood to a nation: Lebanon; (September 21, 2009)

The political mentality of the majority of Lebanese before May 24, 2000 (Israel was forced to withdraw from most of south Lebanon) was defined and limited to the concept of a recognized statehood by the United Nations.

Lebanon has gained a semi-formal independence from colonial France in 1943; the French troops vacated Lebanon in 1946. Fundamentally, the weak political structure of Lebanon since 1946 was based on the guarantee of the UN as one of the recognized states, since Lebanon was one of the early founders of the UN. Lebanon, as most states in the Middle East, has artificial borders, geographically and historically, delimited by the colonial powers of France and Britain.

Almost all political parties are sectarian parties; the leaders of these parties have “niche” districts or regions as their main base for legitimacy. The primarily objective of these sectarian parties is to acquire membership in the Parliament and then a few ministers in governments to cater for their district and harass their political or social opponents.

The purpose of working toward a strong central government and considering all citizens equal before State laws was anathema to the sectarian (mostly feudal) leaders’ interests.  The State of Lebanon preferred thus to relinquish civil status responsibilities to the religious sects or (castes to be more precise). Currently, 18 sects are “officially” recognized to govern their coreligionists from birth to death.

Consequently, with the exception of the oldest secular parties such as the communist and the Syria National Social Party, Lebanon’s political parties were staunchly determined to stay within the statehood premises: they knew that they will quickly disintegrate if foreign supports and finances are denied them.

Lebanon weak central government was guaranteed by the western powers and the regional states: weak governments are ideal solutions for easy and ready access to intelligence gathering on the regional scale with Lebanon as the free wheeling base. Thus, the regimes of every regional state had their own daily and magazine and TV stations and going strong even recently.

In May 24, 2000, Israel occupation of Lebanon for 18 years was at an end; Israeli troops were forced to withdraw from most of Lebanon because of the increased efficiency of the Lebanese resistance. Hezbollah had acquired a solid popular base in south Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valey; its military and social organizations were rooted within a popular environment “a fish in the sea”.

The savage 33 days war of July 2006 sealed the nationhood of Lebanon.

The USA Administration of Bush Junior declined a cease fire even though Israel recognized that its war was lost and there were no further benefits for extending the war beyond the initial three days.  I can say confidently that Lebanon is on its way to nationhood and the re-structuring of the political system to correspond to the new mentality and de-facto status. It will take more time, but the process cannot be reversed.

For years, the sectarian parties were hammering out the scare tactics of the Palestinian refugees constituting a future demographic problem because the western nations were intent on bypassing UN Resolution 194 for the Palestinians’ right to return to Palestine.

We are no longer afraid of such a reality taking place, simply because Lebanon is strong enough in its new nationhood to prevent foreign decisions on that matter.  Israel is no longer a serious factor in disrupting our nationhood; it might try one more time to wage another preemptive war, but it would be very limited in duration and scope. Israel will constantly activate plans to incite civil wars, but so far it failed in the last 9 years.

We are yet to form a strong central government; the next step is enacting an election law based on proportionality and away from sectarian quotas; the sects will be represented in a separate Senate.

The rampant oligarchic of embezzling, frauds… of State budget tailored to sectarian leaders will be checked once the citizens secure this feeling of belonging to a nation under the law.

The strange fact that 40 public institutions are directly attached to the prime minister instead of their respective ministries is an aberration that has been practiced since 1992 and against the law.  Thus, the prime minister could single handedly govern the country without requiring any decisions from the combined group of ministers.

A qualitative shift from statehood to a nation is palpable and the constitution of a strong central government is inevitable within the next 5 years no matter how regional States refuse this new perspective.

Targeted Therapies:  for cancers (January 28, 2009)

            It is projected that in the developed nations of Europe, Japan and the USA one out of 3 people will be over 65 years by 2050; currently, the ratio is one out of five.  By the year 2020, one out of 3 people will be treated of at least one kind of cancer and the total number of sick people treated will double. It is also known that people over 65 are the heaviest consumers of all kinds of medicines and that health cost in the last year of an individual over 65 of age amounts to over all the combined health cost during his life.

            Furthermore, the various sorts of targeted chemo treatments of cancers are exploding exponentially; currently, there are over 600 new generation chemo treatments under development.  Anti-cancer pharmaceutical products are the most lucrative in the business; one injection cost over $1000 or about 100,000 per year per cancer patient.

            In the long run, it is not as costly to cure cancer patients as statically exposed.  Treatment costs will decline sharply with the combined efforts of politics and economical mass production.  Most of the patients will be completely cured and will return to the market place to generate wealth and consume as normal people do.  There have been many similar cases where estimated costs didn’t match reality. For example, replacing hips with prosthetics when the upper femoral bone is broken; it turned out that the patients returned to normal life as productive and consuming individuals.  What is needed is that States recognize that the growing number of older people are very much functional and are ready to work and thus, a change in the culture of accepting older people in the work force with special skills needs to be nurtured and encouraged with incentives.

            The United Nations should have started a mechanism for health care on a global scale.  A quota of cancer treatments for each of the 190 recognized States should be negotiated and the fund should include pharmaceutical products as taxes in kinds generated by the pharmaceutical industries, simply because the are mainly funded by States people’s taxes to support research and development.

The State of Palesrael: a future plausible resolution (November 12, 2008)

There are reams and reams of plans and counter plans and resolution suggested to containing this everlasting unjust and uncalled for reality of the 20th century monstrosity that permitted the establishment of the State of Israel by displacing its original inhabitants (the Palestinians), as so many monstrosities in this century.

There are two viable solutions for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, short of exterminating one party or the other or most probably both, that has been spreading death, disabilities, miseries, indignities and humiliation since 1920.

The Israeli Olmert PM has lately declared that the time to facing truth has come.

Since the Madrid convention in 1990 among the Arab and Israeli delegations and mediated by the US Administration, during the tenure of Bush Sr. for a resolution of this conflict, it was becoming evident that the “Biblical” strategy of Israel, for further expansion and preemptive wars, is no longer tenable.

A resolution was contemplated but the US had an old battle plan to invade Iraq before resolving this conflict.

The Bush Jr. “Son” administration dusted off this war plan and invaded Iraq. This invasion has failed miserably but Israel is no longer necessary for the strategic interest of the US in the Middle East:  The US has military bases in the Arab Gulf, it has many heavy weight allies among the Arabic States, and the price of oil on the market is far cheaper than physically securing its exploitation and distribution in Iraq or elsewhere or even resuming plans to intimidating China and blackmailing her by outdated military presence in Iraq.

The return of the heavy investments of the US in Israel has been reflecting sharp negative rates for decades, politically, economically, and socially within the US society and foreign policies.

My plan is of two phases:

1. The first phase is recognizing the State of Palestine by the United Nation, a State self-autonomous, independent and all.  It is of primordial interest by the world community and the Jewish State that the Palestinian people recover their dignity and rights as a full fledge State and be permitted to exercise the complex task of administering and governing a State.

At least from a psychological necessity, the Palestinian people should feel that persistent resistance and countless “martyrs” for re-establishing their rights as legitimate and independent people have brought fruits, as any genuine national resistance ultimately should.

2. The second phase is the merging of the two States of Palestine and Israel into a confederate State with a central government and several self-autonomous “cantons”.

I can envisage the following cantons: West Bank, Gaza (including Escalon), Galilee (including Haifa and Akka), Judea (around Jerusalem and Bethlehem), the “East Shore” (Tel Aviv, Yafa), and the Negev (including Akaba).

I have this impression that the tight religious extremists on both sides would opt to move to Gaza and Judea, and the very secular citizens would move to the East Shore or Galilee and the economically minded people might reside in the Negev backed by strong financial incentives.

The second phase will witness the return of the Palestinian refugees as ordered by the UN resolution of 193 in 1948 and the refugees would have the right to select the canton of their preferences.

I can foresee that the key offices in the central government would be equitably distributed, including genders, shared by the Palestinians and Israelis and a rotation of key positions imposed.

The representation in the cantons would be proportional to the general census of the period (at 5 years intervals).  The representation among sects, factions, or other types of social divisions within each “people” would also follow the proportions in the census.

I suggest to the interest of the future “Palesrael” State that Israel let Lebanon experience without foreign interventions the full extent of its caste structure so that the State of Palesrael might study the pitfalls and strength of such a system of co-existence and avoid the unnecessary miseries of minor civil wars and countless frustrations in its future unfolding.

It would be inevitable that the State of “Palesreal” be guaranteed a neutrality status (no preemptive wars within and outside its borders) by the world community and the regional powers.

Then, it is hoped and strongly desired that the State of Lebanon would secure the same neutrality status.  Amen.

Note: John Kerry, State Department chief, has been shuffling between Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas since 2013, trying to find a resolution to the Palestinian problem.

So far, Kerry failed. Israel has been building more settlements than ever before, annexing Jerusalem to become totally Jewish, and demanding that the Palestinians and the Arab leaders agree that Israel is a pure Jewish State.

Human Rights: from contentions to standardization (December 17, 2008)

 

                        Sixty years ago the concept of human rights was self-evident to the UN; then we discovered that the notion of human rights is highly political in nature and in magnitude.  The UN had to deal with successive and recurring contentions over the definition and characterization of human rights.  I will adopt the genesis of the struggle according to the exposition of Professor Ghassan Salameh.  The explanations and interjections are mine.

 

 First set of contentions; during the cold war between the US and Soviet Empires the dichotomy settled on whether human rights are fundamentally political and civil or economic and social.  After the demise of the Soviet Union the first option was retained.  In the meanwhile, the US had destroyed the nascent democracies in Latin America and installed dictators by military coups. The Soviet Union and China humiliated their citizens by famine and mass genocides.

 

The second set of contentions; the realist exigencies for law and order of the States should take precedence to liberal notions of human rights.  The US would not renege on its appointed dictators and oligarchies because global open market is the name of the game.

 

The third set of contentions; pre-emptive actions by the superpowers take priority over the notion of self-determination of States.  The first option dominated even against the UN resolutions of non interference in recognized independent States. In fact, pre-emptive actions were not taken during the Rwanda genocide (not a rich State or not having any significant multinational investment) or in Sudan (because very rich in oil and can satisfy the exploration of all multinational oil companies)

 

The fourth set of contentions; rogue States that supposedly are flaunting the western policies are considered failing to the resolutions of the UN concerning human rights even if these States were successful in preserving law and order (such as Iraq of Saddam Hussein who also instituted economic development, or Afghanistan of the Taliban).  People who were denied “official” recognition to a national Statehood by the UN are no longer eligible to struggle for their self-determination and liberty (this was the case of the Palestinians).

 

The fifth set of contentions; nationalist aspirations versus maintaining liberal human rights such as in the genocides perpetrated during the subdivision of Yugoslavia into central European States of Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia.

 

The sixth set of contentions; religious political order and culture versus individual liberty such as in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia, and Iran.

 

The seventh set of contentions; secular versus religious based laws applied to human rights.  The general concept at the UN has decided for secular laws to govern human rights.  This means that there are no needs for States or organizations to find excuses or pretexts for denying the secular individual human rights.  This standard of understanding the fundamentals of human rights is flexible and sustainable because it recognizes that laws are enacted by man and not parachuted by any divine power.

 

                        By the way, what do you consider the indivisible human rights?  Is it freedom of speech and not be punished afterward?  Is it freedom of religious beliefs?  Is it freedom of associating and communicating?  It is the right to drive a car regardless of gender? (Women in Saudi Arabia are denied that right).  Is it the right not to die of hunger?  Is it the right to have a decent shelter? Is it the right to work?  Is it the right for a job?  Is it the right to apply for asylum and be accepted without humiliation?  Is it the right to have open borders for seeking a better standard of living?  Is it the right for free education?  Is it the right for opportunities?  Is it the right to marry under civil codes?  Is it the right to divorce under civil codes?  Is it the right to inherit under civil codes? Is it the right of women to enjoying equal standards as men?  Is it equality under the law? Is it equity in dignity and wealth? Is it the right not to be monitored by Big Brothers?  Is it the right not to be controlled by Big Brothers? Is it the right to have options between State and private institution? Is it the right of voting for special amendments?  Is it the right of self defense?  Is it the right of self autonomy? Is it the right of taking arms against dictators and oligarchies?  Is it the right for clear potable water?  It is the right for clean breathable air?  Is it the right for the handicapped, physically and mentally, for special facilities, education and jobs?

 

                        If you had to select only five rights, (that you would shed blood for), what would you pick up?  Do you think under-developed citizens would invariably select the same set as the citizens of the developed States?  Do you think people would select the same priority regardless of religion or gender?  Do you believe that the kinds of human rights effectively granted in States represent the civilization, culture, and social structure of a region?

                        Do you believe that when the spiritual human rights are granted (the UN monitor and enforce them in all States) then the material rights would follow?  Should the UN allocate funds to non-government organizations to monitor and publish their findings?  If these are of any concern to you, please express your right for freedom of opinion.


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