Palestine – UNESCO Rebuffs PLO Huffs and Puffs


By: David Singer

The PLO application seeking admission of Palestine to the UN has been dealt a serious blow – after 86 of its 193 members failed to support a mirror application for Palestine to join UNESCO.

The poor UNESCO majority vote recorded in favor is even more remarkable when one excludes the 56 Islamic member States – whose vote to recognize Palestine’s admission to UNESCO was always assured. Only 51 of UNESCO’s remaining 137 members were prepared to publicly out themselves in support of the PLO application.

Any of the five following reasons could be possible explanations for this rebuff to the PLO and could signal a similar disastrous outcome when the UN deals with the Palestine issue later this month:

Member States were concerned that any favorable UNESCO decision would be in breach of Article II (2) of UNESCO’s constitution- which only provides for States to be admitted to full membership.

Palestine does not possess the attributes for statehood required in customary international law and codified in article 1 of the Montevideo Convention 1933.

Palestine could have chosen an easier and less controversial option by applying for associate membership of UNESCO as a territory which was not responsible for the conduct of its international affairs under Article II (3).

Such an application – however – would have been an admission that Palestine was not a state – dooming the UN application to almost certain defeat.

The UNESCO vote came just days after PLO Chairman – Mahmoud Abbas – sought to appease the UN by admitting that the Arab refusal to accept the 1947 UN Partition Plan was a “mistake“.

Non-supporters of Palestine’s admission to UNESCO would have had serious reservations after hearing Abbas’s untruthful and misleading remarks to Israel’s Channel 2 on 28 October:

“At the time, 1947, there was [General Assembly] Resolution 181, the partition plan for Palestine and Israel. Israel existed. Palestine diminished.”

Arafat was clearly misrepresenting the situation in 1947 since:

(i) The partition plan was not for Palestine and Israel. It was for partition into a Jewish State and an Arab State

(ii) Israel did not exist in 1947.

Abbas however had every reason for stressing that Palestine had been diminished by 1947 – since 78% of Palestine had been granted independence by Britain in 1946 when it was permanently placed under Hashemite control and re-named the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan.

Britain’s action was in flagrant violation of article 5 of the Mandate for Palestine- which required Britain to see that no Palestine territory should be ceded or leased to or in any way placed under the control of, the Government of any foreign Power.

The PLO has never accepted Britain’s decision. Article 2 of the PLO Charter still insists that Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan is one separate and indivisible territorial unit that must be liberated.

Not content with reminding those listening that the PLO still coveted all of this area – Abbas then attempted to ameliorate its intransigent stance in rejecting the 1947 partition plan by stating:

“It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole. But do they punish us for this mistake for 64 years?”

This statement must have sent shudders through the UNESCO waverers.

Abbas was being totally untruthful in failing to acknowledge that the Arabs had from 1948 to 1967 to correct their 1947 mistake – after six Arab armies had invaded a “diminished Palestine” and Jordan had ended up occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem whilst Egypt had occupied Gaza and all the Jews then living in those areas had been driven out.

Blaming Israel for 19 years of Arab failure to do anything to create Palestinian statehood could explain why many states did not support the push to recognize a fictitious Palestine now.

Abbas had already blotted his copybook when he told Dream 2TV on 23 October:

“First of all, let me make something clear about the story of the ‘Jewish state.’ They started talking to me about the ‘Jewish state’ only two years ago, discussing it with me at every opportunity, every forum I went to – Jewish or non-Jewish – asking: ‘What do you think about the “Jewish state”?’ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I will never recognize the Jewishness of the state, or a ‘Jewish state.’

This clear repudiation of the 1947 UN Partition Plan calling for a Jewish state indicated a resolute refusal to ever live in peace with its Jewish neighbour – making the possibility of the two state solution an impossible dream to accomplish.

Such a display of unadulterated racism and hatred could have also weighed heavily on the minds of many UN member states as they failed to support Palestine‘s admission to UNESCO.

The preamble to the UNESCO Constitution requires the Governments of the State Parties to declare on behalf of their people:

” That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed;

That ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war; ”

Believing Palestine could ever respect and honor these lofty principles after Abbas’s remarkable statements during the few days prior to the UNESCO vote could have been the final nail in the coffin for so many states voicing their displeasure and failing to support Palestine’s admission to UNESCO.

The fact that the PLO still was refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel to peacefully resolve the creation of a Palestinian State- preferring instead to take unilateral action at UNESCO and the UN – could be another explanation for the poor vote recorded in UNESCO.

Whatever happens from here on in at the UN – the UNESCO vote shows that the UN vote will not be the cakewalk predicted by the PLO.

The PLO can huff and puff – but a large number of the UN members have made it clear they are not prepared to be blown down in the process.

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