Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas followed through on his pledge to come to the United Nations to gain international recognition for a Palestinian state and recently handed over a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asking to have Palestine admitted as a full member state. The UN Security Council is considering this proposal – a proposal doomed to failure given the powerful and predictable opposition of the United States, which has threatened to veto it – because that’s what “change we can believe in” looks like, right?
With that said, I hope the U.S. does veto it and Abbas’ dream of his own kingdom fails, because we have to ask ourselves: what kind of state would Palestine be?
Below are a few reasons why such a state is doomed to fail:
1. Geography. The state of Palestine envisioned by Abbas and other two-staters – which excludes the territory conquered and cleansed of indigenous Palestinians to make way for the Jewish state – is essentially the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These territories don’t border each other, but are separated by Israel, which happens to be the Palestinians traditional nemesis and historically hostile to Palestinian sovereignty.
Since Israel has relinquished territory for either strategic reasons – like the Sinai in 1981 – or by force – like Lebanon in 2000 or Gaza in 2005 – it’s unlikely they’re going to accept an independent Palestine as an economic and political equal. And even if it did, you can’t successfully manage and sustain a nation-state when the territories are separated in this way. It violates common sense.
2. Foreign Relations. In addition to Israel’s hostility and American bankrolling Zionist oppression, there’s also the issue of the other Arab states and how they will relate to the nation of Palestine. Their relationship will be similarly hegemonic and manipulative of their sovereignty. Anyone familiar with Middle East politics will know that the Arab countries have routinely raised the flag of a liberated Palestine and denounced Israeli atrocities … only to do the same thing to the Palestinians themselves; Jordan 1970, Syria’s war on the PLO during the Lebanese civil war, Egyptian collaboration with Israel against Gaza during the Mubarak era, etc.
Then there’s the Islamic Republic, Ba’athist Syria and Saudi Arabia championing the Palestinian cause in the name of freedom they denied their own citizens at home, all the while arming and supporting the various Palestinian organizations and their anti-democratic ideologies. Palestine was just a war cry to bolster that particular regime’s prestige and power, while doing nothing for the Palestinians. In short, the state of “Palestine” will be a Bantustan state subject to the whims of the regions dominant powers.
3. Politics. Last – but not least – is the ideological and structural makeup of the regime itself. What kind of state would govern Palestine? One indication of how Abbas would govern occurred earlier this year when Mohammed Dahlan was expelled from Fatah for his “excesses” and was accused of being corrupt and murdering Fatah founder Yasser Arafat.
Now, one senior official of the Palestinian Authority accusing another senior official of corruption and nefarious acts would be like , oh I don’t know … one senior official in the Third Reich accusing another of being too racist and genocidal. Corruption is endemic in the PA, so much so that the marginalization of Dahlan has less to do with any wrongdoing and more to do with eliminating a political opponent – the characteristic typical of the Arab regimes currently that were overthrown in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – and the failed attempts thus far in Syria and Bahrain.
Dahlan is no angel, mind you; Wikileaks shed light on the extent of his gangsterism. But his gangbanging wasn’t an anomaly – it was part of the PA’s status quo and it was used as an excuse by other gangsters like Abbas for political maneuvering; it hints at what kind of state of affairs Palestine would have if it were up and running.
The problem isn’t limited to Abbas, but Fatah’s ideology, which is Nasserist, hence anti-democratic. And what would be the alternative to Fatah? So far, Hamas and other Islamist factions are the only game in town, which means Palestinians would have to choose – if they were even given a choice at all – between a nationalist dictatorship or a Saudi-style theocracy; the evil of two lessers, in other words.
A Palestinian state exists for the same reason all states exist – the perpetuation of power and privilege of a ruling elite, of which Abbas is a prominent member. Whether Israel and the United States allows it exist or not won’t change the fact that it failed the very Palestinian people it purports to represent before even getting off the ground. A new vision defining liberation in new terms is badly needed.