The high felt by Palestinians everywhere as President Mahmoud Abbas held up his application for full membership at the UN last week is long overdue. The elation was well deserved for more than one reason. For one, Palestinians saw before them a man –” usually deemed as weak –” defy the world’s strongest nation and paint a portrait of Israel’s occupation that was by any standards, the closest picture to reality than we’ve heard for a long time.
Another reason was that Palestinians were basking in the fact that for the first time in years, their leadership was taking proactive measures instead of waiting for someone else to call the shots. The UN bid, whether it reaps any tangible results or not –” was our bid, our decision and our move. That is something we can be proud of.
Alas, as sobriety sets in the “morning after”, there is much more to consider besides the satisfying performance of the president before the UN General Assembly. The prospect of membership in the United Nations is an appealing one, no doubt –” first and foremost because it puts Palestine on the same level as the world’s nations –” but also because it will give us the opportunity to hold Israel accountable for at least some of the ills it has caused us for so many years. Palestine –” our state among states –” will also be recognized as an occupied country, which believe it or not is a feat in itself. If a vote goes through, there will (hopefully) be no talk of “disputed lands” but of an occupied Palestine on which illegal settlements are built.
That is still a far off destination, but if the leadership does what it says, it is a one-way street from here. The first step has been taken, so to say, which is standing up to the United States, Israel and a considerable number of other countries that have been trying to talk Abbas out of the bid for months.
Nonetheless, we should not get ahead of ourselves, something we Palestinians tend to do in times like these. While Abbas did tell the adoring crowds that “The journey is long and there are many obstacles,” this did not put a damper on the thousands who would hail him as a hero.
All Palestinians, regardless of where they live, dream and hope for freedom and an independent state in their rightful homeland. We are all in consensus that peace and Israel’s occupation cannot coexist and peace will never come without justice for the Palestinians. President Abbas’ words rung poignantly true for many of us when he said during his General Assembly address that “in the absence of absolute justice, we decided to adopt the path of relative justice – justice that is possible and could correct part of the grave historical injustice committed against our people.” He was, of course, referencing the Palestinian decision to accept a two-state solution on 22 percent of historical Palestine after the majority of the homeland was lost during the Nakba of 1948.
We did make a major concession by accepting a two-state solution and this is something Abbas has made clear in no uncertain terms. But the Palestinians know that even this is a distant reality at this point, what with Israel’s settlement projects, the separation wall and the hundreds of checkpoints that dissect the State of Palestine in every direction possible. But the leadership still adheres to it, whether or not it believes it can be achieved on the ground.
All in all, the PLO’s move was a good one. It put Palestine –” not the PLO, not the PA, not the “Palestinian Territories” –” back in the game of international diplomacy with the Palestinians themselves making the first moves. It has been a long time since this has happened and it is a relief for the people that their faith in the leadership’s strength has been restored at least for now.
President Abbas is no hero. But on Friday, September 23, he assumed the title we Palestinians have often been wary of bestowing upon him. He became a leader.