Will Palestine join “phantom republics”?

The UN Security Council’s Standing Committee on Admission of New Members is currently considering Palestine’s application for full United Nations membership. Eight of the Security Council’s 15 members have already declared their support for the Palestinian application: China, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Lebanon, Niger and Gabon. But the Palestinians’ bid faces a practically inevitable veto by the United States, one of the five permanent Security Council members—which, unlike the 10 rotating members, wield veto power within the Council. (KashmirWatch, Oct. 1)

Economic warfare versus “diplomatic warfare”
Palestinians are meanwhile concerned that their economy may collapse if Israel retaliates against their bid for statehood by withholding revenue collected on their behalf. And the US could also take punitive financial measures against the Palestinians. US Congress members have called on President Obama to reduce the Palestinians’ annual $500 million in foreign aid if they proceed at the UN. Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have already frozen about $200 million in Palestinian aid in response to the statehood bid.

“There must be consequences for Palestinian and UN actions that undermine any hope for true and lasting peace,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA) and the number-two House Democrat, Steny Hoyer (MD), accused Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas of “diplomatic warfare” against Israel. Cantor and Hoyer wrote in a joint Sept. 22 opinion in the New York Daily News: “Congress will not sit idly by. The US will likely reconsider its assistance program for the PA and other aspects of US-Palestinian relations should the Palestinians choose to move forward in requesting a vote on statehood.”

The Palestinian Authority’s economic adviser Mohammad Mustafa warned: “If the financial situation gets worse, the level of frustration will go up and the dangers will be unbearable, so I hope that we will not get to that level of frustration and that people will get paid…” (Bloomberg, Sept. 21)

But, significantly, the aid freeze only applies to butter—not to guns. In the unambiguous wording of AFP, Oct. 1:

The economic package is separate from security aid, which the US lawmakers say would be counterproductive to block. They fear that withholding those funds would weaken the ability of Palestinian security forces to quell anti-Israel violence.

Palestine and the “phantom republics”
Palestine is not the only country to face such dilemmas. Similar cases were noted by the United Arab Emirates’ The National Oct. 1, in a very thought-provoking (if not always strictly accurate) piece entitled “Palestine is but one of many aspiring to the United Nations”:

There are currently 193 states in the UN but the Palestinians hold only permanent mission status, conveying the right to speak at General Assembly meetings but little else…

The Palestinians are not the only people caught in this diplomatic limbo. Around the world, there are at least 11 other nations seeking UN membership, many with just as little chance as the Palestinians, which at least has membership of the Arab League and a long list of supporters.

Some are almost unknown outside their immediate borders.

Their names often sound as if they have come from a comic opera but the aspirations of their people are deeply felt and their national stories often tragic. Many are the result of the fracturing of the old Soviet Union in 1991.

The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, better—although hardly—known as Transnistria, is a narrow, ragged strip of land along Romania’s border with Ukraine. After declaring independence 20 years ago, it is recognised only by two other fragments of the former Soviet empire, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, also outside the UN community of nations.

Most friendless of all is Somaliland, which split from Somalia in May 1991. The country of 3.5 million people has a flag, a national anthem and an army but it is unrecognised by any other state, inside or outside the UN.

The Republic of Kosovo is recognised by 84 UN member states and has joined the International Monetary Fund, but its existence is challenged by neighbouring Serbia and its close ally, Russia, also with a Security Council veto. As a result, its membership of the General Assembly remains stalled.

The island of Taiwan, better known as the Republic of China, is claimed as sovereign territory by the People’s Republic of China, another permanent member of the Security Council. It is recognised by nearly two dozen other states with UN membership.

Several states have, however, gained full membership of the UN from permanent observer status. The majority were the defeated powers after the Second World War, which led to the founding of the UN, and include Italy, Japan, Austria and the divided Germany. Kuwait had observer status from 1962 to 1963 after gaining independence from Britain, while the UAE went to full UN membership within days of the foundation of the federation in December 1971.

On the flip side, the Holy See, which includes the Vatican City, which has permanent member status of the UN, maintains diplomatic relations with nearly 180 nations and is permitted to ratify international treaties.

Strangest of all is the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, a Roman Catholic order founded nearly 1,000 years ago that has no territory since it was evicted from Malta by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Now with a headquarters in Rome, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as it is usually known, claims sovereign status, maintains diplomatic missions and enjoys the same status at the UN as the Palestinians.

These are among what Rene Wadlow has called “phantom republics”—with varying degrees of legitimate claims to full statehood, or prospects of achieving it, and whose aspirations are used by the world powers as bargaining chips on the geopolitical chessboard. As we asked our readers upon Kosova’s declaration of independence in 2008:

“Do you support independence for Kosova? If your answer is ‘no,’ please tell us how you feel about Palestine, East Timor, Western Sahara, Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Puerto Rico. If your answer is ‘yes,’ please tell us how you feel about Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria.”

Of course (in case you failed to grasp it), the prior cases (Palestine, now-independent East Timor, etc.) are all causes célèbres of the left, broadly defined—which has generally rejected Kosovar statehood, viewing it as an imperialist creation to diminish Serbia. Similarly, the US State Department supports Kosova, while viewing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as mere Russian creations to diminish Georgia. Russia, in turn, supports statehood for Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria (officially part of Moldova, not either Romania or Ukraine as implied above) while opposing that of Kosova.

We have noted that Somaliland is recognized by no government, as its claim to sovereignty is in the interests of no world power—only its own people. Taiwan is in the most ironic situation of all—the absurd fiction of its non-existence as an independent nation being official dogma even to its own government! Both the regimes in Taipei and Beijing consider Taiwan to be a province of China—that being about the only thing they agree on concerning its status. As Asia Sentinel points out, those states which recognize the Taipei government do so instead of the People’s Republic. An independence movement in Taiwan is demanding its own government drop its hubristic claim to being the “legitimate government” of over 1 billion Chinese.

Tellingly, the above piece—published in a conservative and semi-official Arab newspaper—mentions the irrelevant (despite the obsessions of the conspiranoids) Sovereign Military Order of Malta, but not one of the most obvious cases: Morocco-occupied Western Sahara. Morocco’s Maghreb Arabe Presse (via AllAfrica.com) informs us Sept. 26 that Rabat has voiced its support for Palestinian statehood at the UN:

Morocco reiterates its “support for the Palestinian Authority’s application, through his Excellency president Mahmoud Abbas, for Palestinian membership in the United Nations, as a sovereign state, on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Al Quds al-Sharif as its capital,” Moroccan Foreign Minister Taïb Fassi Fihri told the United Nations member states during the general debate of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly.

Get the irony? The Organization for Statehood and Freedom tells us that more than 80 countries have recognized Western Sahara’s independence, “although some suspended that recognition in the late 1990s and early 21st century.” NationMaster lists those 80 countries without mentioning that some have dropped out, while the Disputed Territories website indicates the number now stands at 47. However, no country on earth officially recognizes Morocco’s claim to the territory. It is a shame that Arab states like the UAE will not call out the Moroccan monarchy on its hypocritical stance of supporting an independent Palestine while illegally occupying Western Sahara.

After all, Western Sahara—languishing interminably under occupation, without a vote at the UN—is a stark example of what could await Palestine if its statehood bid fails.

See our last post on the struggle for Palestine.

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    1. Ironic or naive on Palestinian statehood?
      When will you jokers learn how to write? Not only do you seem to eschew punctuation, but you presumably meant to say “why doesn’t the USA want a Palestinian state,” not “why does.” Which leaves us wondering if your question is ironic or naive…

    2. Palestine request for statehood
      Palestine has never been a nation and the land that they occupy is within the borders of Israel. Historically that land was part of the Tribes of Jacob and during Tue Roman empire was recognise as a province of the empire, so much as other European contries were also part of the Roman Empire. There are no historical records that can give legimitacy that the land in question is de facto Palestine territory. I do believe that Palestine should be more like a province within the state of Israel and have a sort of quasi autonomy. Human right and land should be respected, and thereby people could leave with peace and dignity.

      1. Transparent denialism on Palestine
        Won’t you jokers ever quit? Palestine certainly is a nation by any standard definition: “a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own.” The land that they occupy is not within the borders of Israel, unless you are including the Israeli Arabs. Israel’s legal border is the Green Line. (However, the refugees from 1948, and their offspring, who were cleansed from contemporary Israel by the Zionists, are entitled to some justice.) Going back to Roman times is ridiculous. If you want to turn the clock back two millennia, then most nations on Earth today should not exist. No England, no France, no Turkey, certainly no USA. Maybe white people in the United States should have a “sort of quasi autonomy” in an confederacy of Iroquois, Lakota, Comanche, Apache and Navajo states? Wake up and deal with demographic and historical reality already, will ya?

  1. Fatah defiant on sanctions
    During a press conference at a Ramallah meeting of Fatah’s foreign relations commission, party official Nabil Shaath stated that the focus in coming days is to increase the number of countries recognizing Palestine to secure membership as the world’s 194th state. He voiced defiance in the face of economic sanctions: “We do not fear sanctions, and those who impose sanctions to prevent us from heading to the UN will impose them later for other reasons, but we do not pay attention to such threats because they are illegal and lack legitimacy. These threats mark violations to international law, because on what basis are we being threatened just because we face the world?”

    At present, 125 countries recognize Palestine. (Ma’an News Agency, Oct. 1)

  2. Thank you for this good read
    Thank you for this good read on a important matter. One remark on Western Sahara: it is a disputed territory and also a divided area. Morocco has built a military defense line of about 2500 kilometers through the desert area. So we should not only speak about Morocco-occupied Western Sahara, for the Western Sahara also has a significant liberated area. The name of the proclaimed independent state is Saharan Arabic Democratic Republic, shortened to SADR or more often to RASD, the Spanish abbreviation. The headquarters of the RASD are in the refugee camps in Algeria, safe from Moroccan bombardments.

    1. Arabs origin is in the Middle East not in West Africa!
      The idea of a Saharawi ARAB and Democratic (what a joke!) Republic is just a non sense.
      Firstly because Saharawis are arabs that came from the middle east and fought the berbers of Southern Morocco (=Western Sahara) in the Char Bubba war. They won the war and expelled/discriminated the berebers since the 16th century, and now they want 70% Berber Morocco to give them back a land they conquered by killing Berbers!!!

      Secondly, it’s funny to see how dictatures like to introduce the words “democratic” and “people” in the name of their country. i.e: “People’s Republic of China”, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Algeria”, “The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic”, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”…It doesn’t make them democratic nor popular.

      And Finally, Why do they want to create another failed states in the region, is the existence of Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Tchad (countries where AlQaeda can kill, buy weapons and prepare terrorist attacks not enough.

      I prefer to see the Western Sahara region as part as the Kingdom of Morocco its better for both safety and developement

      1. Do you prefer to see Palestine as part of Israel…
        …for its “safety and development”? The questions of Polisario’s commitment to democracy and to rights for the territory’s Berber residents are legitimate ones. But I do not see how they can be used as arguments in favor of Morocco’s illegal annexation of the territory, which is just a recipe for further oppression and unrest. Are the Berbers doing so great in Morocco? The recent constitutional changes there are a step in the right direction, but the protest movement has rejected them as too little too late…

        And if you are going to delegitimize a “Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic” on grounds that the Arabs did not originate in northwest Africa, then this equally delegitimizes the Moroccan monarchy, doesn’t it?

  3. Indecency: Sanctioning Palestine for seeking statehood
    Members of US Congress move to impose severe economic penalties on Palestine if it continues to seek statehood. This is an offense against the “democratic” values that both the US and Israel purport to uphold. See full story by Judith Mahoney Pasternak at New Jewish Resistance.

    1. US aid freeze puts Palestinian Sesame Street on hold
      From AP, Jan. 8:

      It’s quiet time on Palestinian “Sesame Street”.

      The iconic children’s program, known as “Sharaa Simsim” in Arabic, has been put on hold for the 2012 season because of a funding freeze by the US Congress.

      “Sharaa Simsim” is one of many US-funded Palestinian programs suffering after Congress froze the transfer of nearly $200 million to the US Agency for International Development in October. The suspension aimed to punish the Palestinians for appealing to the United Nations for statehood.

      The funding suspension – affecting hospitals, education, and government ministries that all rely on American aid – is breeding resentment and frustration in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, even among the most progressive organizations.

      In the Ramallah offices of “Sharaa Simsim” on Thursday, the writing workshop room was empty and the set was closed.

      “If we had funding, we would be writing scripts, we would be reviewing scripts, we would be hiring filmmakers to produce the videos,” said executive producer Daoud Kuttab.

      Even as the freeze put Palestinian Sesame Street on hold, the State Department is investing $750,000 in the Israeli version of the show, which is now filming its newest season with an emphasis on teaching children the value of fairness.

      Next these myopic Congress-critters will be complaining that Palestinian children’s television is breeding terrorists. Count on it.