History was made at a UNESCO meeting on 31st October where members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) voted to admit Palestine as a full member of the organisation.
Palestine received 107 “yes” votes, 14 “no” votes and 52 members abstained from voting. Out of the 194 member states, 173 cast their votes.
Palestine needed a majority of 81 votes to be granted full membership. With an overwhelming majority of 107 votes, it was clear that Palestine had made the historic leap.
Riad Malki, foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority hailed it as “a really historic moment” while United States representative, Victoria Nuland called the decision “regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace [between Israel and Palestine].”
What is interesting to observe is the US’s reaction to the vote. They proceeded to act on a 1990s law requiring it to end payment to any UN body that admits Palestine. They cut £50m annual funding from the organisation in what can only be described as punishment for the way the member states voted.
Palestine’s admission into UNESCO is a step forward into their bid for full membership at the UN, which has been stalled for weeks by the Security Council. The bid will more than likely face veto from the US.
For a country that is supposed to be spearheading the move to peace between Israel and Palestine, the funding cuts imposed by the US exposes an agenda that is known to followers of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
As can be seen from the graph above, Palestine gained admission into UNESCO after a majority vote. Shouldn’t the most democratic country in the world respect the democratic process through which Palestine was accepted?
What reasons does the US have to vote no against the bid? Surely any step that would lead to the acceptance of Palestine as an independent state is a step in the right direction for peace?
Essentially, America is hindering the peace process and looking more and more politically bias towards Israel. It is clear from their actions after the decision was made that their alliance lay with the country that would politically and economically benefit them.
In her frantic efforts to explain why the US was cutting funding, Victoria Nuland failed to give a legitimate reason as to how Palestine’s membership would hinder the “establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.”
According to Nuland, the only way to achieve this Palestinian state is through “direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” If talks between the two parties had been never resulted in any productive solution in the past and have been stalled for over a year then the symbolic win of the bid should technically encourage both parties to continue negotiations.
The US advocates democracy in the very countries where they are trying to implement regime change. Yet when faced with the realities of democracy and the possibility that Palestine may lose the shackles of the illegal occupation, America turns its back on the first signs of successfully implementing a peaceful solution to the historical conflict.
UNESCO is losing 22% of its funding from America and Israel has stopped its 3% contribution to the organisation. They have vowed to continue developing the illegal settlement structures in the illegally occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and are simultaneously freezing $100m of revenue for Palestinian Authority.
Without the funding how is the PA supposed to implement order in the already impoverished West Bank? The Gaza Strip is already under siege with millions of people living in sub-standard conditions with little medical care, high rates of unemployment and constant fear of attack.
This collective punishment of the Palestinians raises the question about the integrity of the parties involved in the so called “peace process.” Aid is stopped from reaching Gaza under the pretence that aid ships are carrying weapons to arm “terrorists” though this has never been proven by Israel. Israel participates in illegal acts of piracy in international waters against aid ships. Illegal settlements are built on stolen land and Israel is never punished for their actions. Yet when Palestine seeks to claim its legitimate right to exist they are punished and denied basic rights. All because of the vindictive actions of the worlds super power and its questionably controversial relationship with its oldest ally.
What is clear is that the UNESCO vote is merely a façade, a deception that is being used to maintain the illusion of hope within people for a peaceful resolution. UNESCO could have the potential to slow down the resistance against Israel’s occupation, which will ultimately be in favour of Israel as the threat is removed. Who will resist Israel if essentially a Palestinian state is recognised? It will be argued that the need for a resistance movement is removed because Palestinians finally have a Palestine.
But what Palestine do we want to see? Are the people who have been fighting against the occupation ready to be bought with the 1967 borders? Anything less than pre-1948 borders would legitimise the theft of land that does not belong to Israel.