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Palestine’s bid for U.N. membership

Ryan WIlliams | Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Throughout most of its history, the United States has sought to be seen by the rest of the international community as the world’s foremost promoter of freedom, democracy and human rights. While instances of America failing to uphold these virtues are both numerous and often quite embarrassing, seldom are they as brazen or ill-conceived as what is likely to occur at the United Nations this Friday, Sept. 23.

It is on this day that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, plans to seek recognition of Palestine as a full U.N. member state. President Obama has vowed that the United States, on behalf of its close “ally” Israel, will exercise its Security Council veto to prevent that from happening. This would be a tremendous mistake and would ensure that hatred of America continues festering in the Middle East for years to come.

The United States’ support for the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 is one of the single greatest foreign policy blunders in our history and has resulted in nothing but unmitigated disaster for this country. Vetoing Palestinian membership in the United Nations would only be doubling down on a thoroughly failed and discredited strategy.

The history of the Palestinian people since the birth of Israel is a tale of endless tragedy, grief and despair. Driven from their homes in the face of Israeli tanks and bulldozers, most Palestinians have spent the last 60 years either suffering under the cruel oppression of Israeli occupation or attempting to eke out a squalid existence in the miserable refugee camps that dot the landscapes of the surrounding Arab states. Along the way, the United States has supported practically every single action undertaken by the Israeli government, enabling and abetting their creation of an apartheid state in Palestine and generating overwhelming enmity towards America among the people of the Arab world.

For nearly 20 years, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have tried to broker an agreement that would bring an end to their destructive conflict, and 20 years later they have made extraordinarily little progress in resolving their most divisive issues.

Part of the reason for this deadlock is the incredible disparity between the bargaining power of Israel and that of the Palestinian Authority. In attempting to gain recognition as a full United Nations member state, the Palestinians are merely trying to gain international status as a sovereign government, on equal footing with the State of Israel. This would allow them to vote and propose resolutions in the U.N. General Assembly, to bring claims against other nations in the International Court of Justice and to pursue charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Israeli military personnel and government officials at the International Criminal Court.

President Obama has thus far parroted the Israeli argument that any resolution to the conflict must come not through unilateral action such as a direct appeal for statehood, but rather through the same direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that have thus far resulted in little more than 20 years of stalemate.

Meanwhile, with each passing day Israeli settlers seize more Palestinian land, forcing Palestinians from their homes and leaving them with no other option than to turn to more desperate forms of resistance.

These are the people that the United States should be supporting, the oppressed and downtrodden, those too weak to stand up and defend themselves in the face of tyranny. This was once seen to be at the heart of America’s duty and responsibility to the rest of the world, and we as a nation have strayed much too far from this path.

Defenders of the apartheid regime in Palestine like to argue that Israel is the only true liberal democracy in the Middle East, and thus the United States has an imperative to support her. And yet only recently, the parliament of our great friend and compatriot in freedom passed a law making it illegal for Israeli citizens to boycott Israeli goods, a measure that desecrates the core American value of freedom of speech.

Clearly, it is time to reconsider this relationship. President Obama has the opportunity this Friday to take that first step, to begin the process of rebuilding America’s shattered credibility and respect and to show the world that we will stand with those who seek freedom and justice once again. It is an opportunity that he would be foolish to miss.

Ryan Williams is a junior. He can be reached at twilli15@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily that of The Observer.