No Victory for Palestine: Abbas’ Farewell Speech at the UN
With contrived drama and a fake sense of anticipation, Mahmoud Abbas rode on the wave of Palestinian popular nationalist fervor in the wake of the Israeli assault on Gaza, and came to the UN as he had long promised to submit – and obtain – a non-member status for the State of Palestine.
The Palestinian people will now have a status comparable to the Vatican. As Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, once said: the struggle of the Palestinian people over a century entitles them to much more than a state.
Abbas was supposed to submit the request to the UN Security Council but the US pressured him not to proceed with that plan.
The US did not want to be exposed to the world, yet again, as the stalwart enemy of the Palestinian people. The US did not want, yet again, to use the veto power to shield its client state of Israel. Abbas has always been the obedient servant of the US and Israel. The very job that Abbas occupied at the PA, first as a prime minister and then as PA president with an expired mandate, was designed for him by Israel. Abbas did not want much, he wanted a little tiny statelet that would serve to bolster his status among his people.
Abbas is a person without a popular base. He has no power and he has to beg Israel, EU, GCC and US for his salary and for the salaries of his inflated bureaucracy and the military and intelligence services that he heads on Israel’s behalf. His job was and is to repress and kill Palestinians in order to make the occupation less costly on the occupiers.
Abbas is also a notoriously corrupt person, who has enriched his sons and himself on the job and who also enriched his corrupt cronies. Arafat presided over a corrupt authority within Fatah, the PLO, and later the PA. But at least Arafat was not personally corrupt and lived mostly an ascetic life.
Abbas has become desperate. He is despised by his people and has been rendered insignificant by Hamas and by the enemies of the Palestinians, who feel that he has outlived his usefulness although they don’t feel that they have a replacement for him yet. They keep him on the job and hope that he won’t do anything unacceptable and that he would not raise his voice at his masters and handlers.
But Abbas has had enough.
He saw from the war on Gaza that the Palestinian people still get a thrill from armed resistance to Israeli aggression. He saw that the notion of peaceful struggle is not only unpopular, but has proven its failure and bankruptcy in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. All those countries tried to pursue peaceful negotiations with Israel to obtain their lands back and all of them failed.
The Egyptian people now belatedly realize that Anwar Sadat and Husni Mubarak had fooled them; that Sinai has not been recovered and that Israel still exercises sovereignty over Egyptian territory.
Abbas has become very belatedly fed up with the humiliation that is regularly visited on him by Israel and the US – notwithstanding Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to him in the hope of elevating his stature, as if Arabs who are praised by the US obtain elevated status among their people.
Abbas is going down and he is at the end of his career. Not much is left by way of tricks and pleadings with Israel. Israel has made it clear to him that he won’t get that little state in parts of West Bank and Gaza, which the Fatah movement now wants. Abbas wanted to leave the stage with a PR stunt. He hoped to emulate Arafat’s show at the UN back in 1974. Here, history repeated itself as a farce.
Abbas does not have the stature of Arafat among his people, and Arafat (at the time) was fighting for a secular state in all of Palestine. Abbas hoped that he could win the support of his people, who have been outraged at his recent humiliating interview with Israeli TV in which he renounced any claim to Safad and to 1948 Palestine.
Abbas was begging for his people’s approval this time.
He denounced Israeli crimes in a language that the US has not allowed him to use for years. And he chronicled some of the Zionist crimes in Palestine. He did not use his characteristic language of peace that has been inculcated in him by his US masters. Instead, Abbas resorted to the Arabic rhetoric of Fatah on Palestine from yesteryear.
But the speech can’t be measured by its emotional rhetoric – as much as it displeased Israel. It can only be measured by its political content. And in that regard, Abbas did not waver on his demand for a mini-state in 22% of Palestine. He also spoke of Israeli right to exist side-by-side with a mini-state that it aims to dominate, control and occupy. He also seems to pledge that he won’t use his new status to embarrass Israel. Audaciously, the US and Israel have pressured him to refrain from joining the ICC for fear of presenting cases of war crimes by Israel. The US and Israel blatantly want to defend Israeli right to perpetrate war crimes and massacres. US Congress was indignant.
But the vote at the UN General Assembly – despite the typical US pressures and tactics of intimidation, which the US employed back in 1947 to produce the ill-cited Partition Plan giving the Jewish minority (one-third of the population) 55% of the land (the Arab majority were “awarded” only 42% of their homeland at the time) – was an embarrassment to Israel and the US.
Despite US influence over EU’s foreign policy, the international public opinion in favor of Palestine was revealed to the world. The US has always wanted to cover up the reality of international popular public support for Palestine. The US was isolated with eight other countries in voting “no”. It was only Israel, the US, Canada, Panama, Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau that voted against the Palestinian membership.
The Arab world will get to see yet again that the US is what stands in the way of Palestinian liberation.Arab countries and the PA will work hard to portray what happened as a great victory. It is not. This is largely a symbolic measure that only helps to illustrate the global sympathy for the Palestinian struggle for liberation.
The real struggle for liberation will continue and it won’t be taking places on the territory of New York City.