Straining Every Nerve against UN Membership for Palestine

Will the PA go through with its UN initiative? (UN)

The Roman philosopher and politician Cicero urged orators to ‘Strain every nerve to gain your point.’ The Obama Administration appears to have taken his advice to heart in its attempts to make the case that the United States should oppose Palestinian efforts to gain membership in the United Nations this fall.

However, its rhetoric has been so convoluted, its logic so flawed, and its reasoning so shoddy that its efforts have been desultory and unconvincing. Take, for example, the following quotes:

“No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state.  And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum. (Applause.)  Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.” — President Barack Obama, Remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, May 22, 2011

There are so many historical inaccuracies, deliberate obfuscations of political realities, and hyperbolic assumptions that it is difficult to know where to begin to unpack these three crucial sentences.

To assert, boldly, that no action will ever achieve its goal, then at the very least the President should have the historical record on his side. Despite the President’s bluster, he is powerless to stop the UN from voting to create an independent Palestinian state because it already did so—in 1947. UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which ironically never would have passed were it not for the intensive diplomatic arm-twisting of the United States, recommended partitioning Palestine into two states: a Jewish State comprising 55 percent of historic Palestine, and an Arab State totaling 45 percent, with Jerusalem as a corpus separatum, an open, international city administered by the UN.  The UN voted to endorse this partition plan, which was never implemented, at a time when Palestinian Arabs owned approximately 93 percent of the land, and Jews owned 7 percent.

For these past 64 years, Israel’s actions to ethnically cleanse as much of historic Palestine of as many Palestinians as possible has been the primary obstacle to implementing the UN Partition Plan. Today, Israel relentlessly continues to colonize the 22 percent of historic Palestine (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip) that has been envisioned as a Palestinian state in proposed two-state resolutions to the conflict since 1967, rendering even this bread crumb a remote likelihood.

Also, if the President is going to stake out such an unequivocal position on an issue, then at the very least he should state clearly the actual issue at hand. As the President knows, the UN may be asked to admit the State of Palestine as a member, not to vote on creating a Palestinian state. Since the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) declared independence in 1988, more than 120 countries have recognized and established some form of diplomatic relations with the State of Palestine.  As the international lawyers of the State Department must surely know, the UN does not recognize states.  Only states can recognize other states.  The UN can only determine if that state is admitted as a member. By conflating these two issues, the President intentionally ups the ante of what is at stake as a pretext to justify his opposition to this Palestinian initiative.

Given the fact that the UN voted to partition Palestinians’ homeland and establish an independent Palestinian state within it, and that more than 120 countries have recognized this State of Palestine, one has to wonder why the President would present himself as Chicken Little and try to convince us that the sky is falling when, in actuality, the UN is only being asked belatedly to admit Palestine to its rightful place in the international community of nations. For Obama, the long-overdue act of admitting Palestine to the UN is part of a sinister plan “to single Israel out” in the UN and a devious ploy to undermine its “legitimacy.”

This is an intentional misreading of this Palestinian initiative to achieve even minimal steps towards freedom and self-determination by becoming a member of the UN.  By the President declaring it being tantamount to isolating and de-legitimizing Israel, he speaks volumes about the fragility of Israel’s self-image and the nervousness about its staying power among its supporters in the United States.  If any Palestinian effort to secure their long-denied human rights means that Israel’s legitimacy is called into question, then ipso facto Israel’s “legitimacy” can only be maintained by continuing to deny all Palestinian human rights, which ironically does de-legitimize Israel as an apartheid state.


“As I’ve said many times, we believe the status quo is unsustainable. We have said that to the Israelis, we have said it to the Palestinians, and therefore a return to negotiations is the only path forward. Unilateral action at the United Nations will not create a state.” — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Remarks with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe after Their Meeting, June 6, 2011.

For Obama Administration officials it is exceedingly difficult to break free from the tautology of Clinton’s circular rationale.  First, though, kudos goes to the Obama Administration for at least recognizing that “the status quo is unsustainable.” Admitting you have a problem is always the first step to recovery.  By this, the Secretary means that ongoing Israeli occupation and colonization of the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem is eroding the prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted as much in his rejectionist speech to a joint meeting of Congress in May 2011, during which he revealed that 650,000 Israelis now live in illegal settlements on expropriated Palestinian land beyond Israel’s armistice lines. That’s a full 30 percent more settlers than all previous estimates. Given that these colonies are strategically located atop vital water resources, occupy primary agricultural land, and sit astride crucial transportation nexuses, it is increasingly difficult for even the United States to understand how a contiguous Palestinian state can emerge from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in which an estimated 2.5 million Palestinians live.  In Clinton’s estimation, it’s either now or never for the cherished two-state solution because the unspoken alternative if Israel continues to colonize these Palestinian territories is that an independent Palestinian state will become unworkable and—gasp—Israel will create the conditions whereby eventually Palestinians and Israeli Jews will live as equals within the same state structure.

Here, however, logic runs into a brick wall. If you recognize that the status quo is unsustainable, then you cannot continue to call for…well…the status quo.  The status quo is the U.S.-dominated “peace process,” which, for more than twenty years of direct and indirect Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, has failed for the simple reason that the United States has functioned as “Israel’s lawyer,” in the words of former “peace process” negotiator Aaron David Miller.

Under the fig leaf of these U.S.-dominated talks, Israel has nearly doubled the length of time that it has illegally occupied Palestinian territories and more than doubled the number of settlers living in illegal colonies there.  Not once has Israel made a good faith offer to uproot these illegal settlements as required by international law to pave the way for a genuine two-state solution.  Instead, Israel has, with the full weight of the United States, pressured Palestinians to accept the annexation of most of these illegal colonies, leaving Palestinians with disconnected Bantustan “states” devoid of any actual sovereignty.  For good reason, Palestinians have refused and will continue to refuse to sign on the dotted line of any agreement that relegates them to reservations.  Thus, to state that the way to challenge the unsustainable status quo is to “return to negotiations” designed to reinforce the status quo is patently absurd and demonstrates more than anything else the paucity of the Obama Administration’s Israel/Palestine policy and the reason for its failure to achieve peace.

In life as in politics, there is rarely an “only way forward.”  It is especially ridiculous to assert this when the “only way forward” has been demonstrated to reinforce the status quo that one believes to be “unsustainable.”  As things stand, with Israel preferring to maintain and expand its settlement blocs rather than evacuate them, more negotiations are the “only way” to run to stand still. In fact, with small amounts of creativity, one can imagine dozens of alternatives to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace that stand a much greater chance of success than the rigged game of the “peace process.”  Such alternative ways forward could include Palestine gaining full UN membership, the United States ending weapons transfers to Israel until it decides it wants to comply with international law, the UN slapping sanctions on Israel until it abides by UN resolutions, international civil society advancing campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions to end Israeli apartheid, bringing Israeli political and military leaders to the dockets of the International Criminal Court for war crimes, and so much more.  Once free of the “peace process” straightjacket, paths toward peace and justice become apparent.

Finally, there’s this:

“My government has been clear all along. The only place where permanent status issues can be resolved, including borders and territory, is in negotiations between the parties—not in international fora such as the United Nations…The United States will not support unilateral campaigns at the United Nations in September or any other time.” — Ambassador Rosemary A. DiCarlo, Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Remarks at an Open Security Council Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, July 26, 2011.

Ah, pity the mid-level bureaucrat who is required to regurgitate the pabulum of the powers that be when she probably knows in her own conscience that it makes no sense.  All of Clinton’s non-sequiturs about negotiations being the “only way forward” also apply to DiCarlo’s assertion that they are the “only place where permanent status issues can be resolved.”  In fact, just the opposite is true.  With the United States backing Israel’s claims that it should illegally annex Palestinian territory and that it should prohibit Palestinian refugees from being able to exercise their internationally-guaranteed right of return, U.S.-dominated “peace process” negotiations are an inconceivable venue for resolving permanent status issues on anything resembling a just and equitable basis.  Instead, with its emphasis on human rights standards and international law, the UN would be a much more appropriate venue to resolve these issues.

Finally, eyebrows must be raised by the claim that the Palestinian initiative to attain UN membership is a “unilateral campaign” that the United States will not support “in September or any other time.”  True, an application for membership in the UN can only be submitted “unilaterally” in the sense that only the applicant can submit it.  An application for membership cannot by definition be submitted “multilaterally.”  NATO, the EU, or any other multilateral organization cannot multilaterally submit an application for UN membership.  Therefore, an application for membership in the UN must be a “unilateral campaign” in this narrow sense.  However, the process to attain membership cannot be defined in this fashion, requiring the positive recommendation of the Security Council and a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly, making admission to the UN a quintessentially multilateral campaign.  By arguing that the United States will not support a “unilateral campaign” for Palestinian UN membership now or in the future, the United States is committing itself never to support Palestinian membership in the UN.

Taken as a whole, Obama Administration statements justifying its position opposing Palestinian membership in the UN are so illogical that they can only be seen as pretexts for clinging to the crumbling façade of Israeli occupation and apartheid.

In 1949, former Senator John Sherman Cooper, serving as U.S. Representative to the UN General Assembly “recalled that his government had declared that it had no intention of preventing, by its vote, the admission to the United Nations of any applicant which received at least seven affirmative votes in the Security Council, which meant that the United States would not use its right of veto in the Security Council on any membership application.”

It remains to be seen whether Palestinians will force a showdown with the United States in the Security Council for full UN membership, opt to bypass it by turning to the General Assembly to have their status at the UN upgraded to a non-member state, or be co-opted or muscled into yet another round of “peace process” negotiations predestined to fail.

What is certain is that the Obama Administration, by staking out such an unprincipled and incoherent stance against Palestinian UN membership, has exposed the absurd lengths to which it will go in defense of Israeli occupation and apartheid and demonstrated how much claim to moral leadership it has ceded since Senator Cooper’s days at the UN.

( / 09.08.2011)

“De zoektocht naar mijn Imaan” | Alkhattab : “Zijn Genade is Groot”

zaterdag 13 augustus · 17:30 – 20:30

Moskee Dar Al Hijra te Rotterdam

Putselaan 223/A
Rotterdam, Netherlands

Gemaakt door:

Allereerst willen wij u allen een gezegende maand ramadan toewensen. Moge Allah onze vasten, gebeden en goede daden accepteren en moge Allah onze smeekbeden verhoren, ameen!

In de maand ramadan presenteert de JongerenCommissie Vereniging Ettaouhid JCVE de ramadan lezingenreeks ‘De zoektocht naar mijn Imaan’.

Zondag 13 augustus zal er een lezing plaatsvinden in moskee Dar Al Hijra te Rotterdam. Deze lezing zal worden gegeven door onze broeder Al-Khattab met de titel ‘Zijn genade is groot’.

De lezing gaat na salaat al-asr van start.

Wij zien jullie graag de 13e voor insha’Allah een leerzame en inspirerende lezing.

Samen groeien, altijd doorgaan!

Palestinians study UN status options

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Permanent Palestinian observer to the United Nations Riyad Mansour said Tuesday that the option of changing Palestine’s status from “observer entity” to a “non-member state” is still being studied.

Mansour told the Italian news agency AKI that becoming a non-member state “does not invalidate the right to become a member state as recommended by several UN resolutions such as resolution 181 in 1947.”

The ultimate goal would be to obtain full UN membership like South Sudan, he said, however if that objective is not met then Palestine would seek a status similar to that of the Vatican.

UN membership would benefit the Palestinians by putting pressure on Israel to end its occupation and finally implementing Palestinian ownership of its territories, Mansour said.

It will also represent the historical achievement of creating the first Palestinian state.

The predictable US veto of the Palestinian bid will not end the process, Mansour added, as the Palestinians can go back to the UN Security Council at an appropriate time.

Israel and the US openly oppose the Palestinian bid for UN membership.

( / 09.08.2011)

Medics: Elderly woman injured by Israeli fire in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A 75-year-old Palestinian woman was injured by Israeli fire on Tuesday in the central Gaza Strip, medics said.

Medical officials said the woman sustained moderate injuries after she was fired on by Israeli soldiers east of Juhor Ad-Dik.

Witnesses said Israeli army tanks crossed the border into Gaza and clashed with Palestinian fighters before retreating.

An Israeli army spokeswoman was not aware of any military activity in the area.

( / 09.08.2011)

Libya’s War for “The Abaya”: Women’s Rights and NATO’s Support of Pro-Islamist Rebels

(Susan Lindauer / 09.08.2011)

For European bankers, it’s a war for Libya’s Gold. For oil corporations, it’s a war for Cheap Crude (now threatening to destroy Libya’s oil infrastructure, just like Iraq). But for Libya’s women, it’s a fierce, knock down battle over the Abaya— an Islamic style of dress that critics say deprives women of self-expression and identity.

Hillary Clinton and President Sarkozy might loath to admit it, but the desire to turn back the clock on women rights in Libya constitutes one of the chief goals for NATO Rebels on the Transitional Council.

For NATO Rebels—who are overwhelmingly pro-Islamist, regardless of NATO propaganda (see — it’s a matter of restoring social obedience to Islamic doctrine. However the abaya is more than a symbol of virtue and womanly modesty. It would usher in a full conservative doctrine, impacting women’s rights in marriage and divorce, the rights to delay childbirth to pursue education and employment—all the factors that determine a woman’s status of independence.

That makes this one War Libya’s women cannot afford to lose. For those of us who support Islamic modernity, there are good arguments that Gadhaffi would be grossly irresponsible to hand over power to a vacuum dominated by NATO Rebels. Given the savagery of their abuses against the Libyan people ( —and the Rebel’s agenda to reinstate Shariah and retract women’s rights, Gadhaffi has an obligation to stand strong and block them for the protection of the people.

Indeed, it’s somewhat baffling that France or Italy would want to hand power to Rebels, outside of an election scenario. Elections would be a safeguard that would empower Libyan women to launch a leadership alternative that rejects the Abaya. That’s exactly what the Rebels fear, and it accounts for their deep, abiding rejection of the election process. Democracy poses a real threat to NATO’s vision of the “New Libya.”

The abaya carries so much weight in the battle for Islamic modernity that Gadhaffi pretty much banned Islamic dress from the first days of his government. Getting rid of the abaya was part of Gadhaffi’s larger reform package supporting women’s rights—one of the best and most advanced in the entire Arab world. The transformation of women’s status has been so great that the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran imposed a fatwa against Gadhaffi years ago, declaring his government blasphemous to Islamic traditions.

To gain insider perspective on Gadhaffi’s reforms for women, members of a fact-finding delegation in Libya spoke with Najat ElMadani, chairwoman of the Libyan Society for Culture and Sciences, an NGO started in 1994. They also interviewed Sheikh Khaled Tentoush, one the most prominent Imams in Libya. Imam Tentoush has survived two NATO assassination attempts, one that was particularly revealing.

Tentoush said that he and 12 other progressive Imams were traveling to Benghazi to discuss a peaceful end to the conflict. They stopped for tea at a guest house in Brega— and NATO dropped a bomb right on top of them, killing 11 of the 13 Imams, who had embraced Islamic reforms that empower women’s rights and modernity.

There were no military installations or Gadhaffi soldiers anywhere nearby that would have justified NATO bombing. This was a deliberate assassination of Islamic leaders who give religious legitimacy to Gadhaffi’s modernist policies, and therefore pose a great threat to the conservative ambitions of Islamic Rebels. NATO killed them off.

What’s got radical Islamists so upset in Libya? Here’s a primer on women’s rights under Gadhaffi:

No Male Chaperones in Libya

  • In Libya, women are allowed to move about the city, go shopping or visit friends without a male escort. Unbelievable as it sounds, throughout most of the Arab world, such freedoms are strictly forbidden. In much of Pakistan, for example, a 5 year old male child would be considered a suitable chaperone for an adult woman in the marketplace. Otherwise she’d better stay home.  In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, women are frequently locked in their apartments while their husbands, brothers or fathers go off to work. Yes, there are exceptions. Some families individually reject these practices. However, before readers protest this characterization, you must be honest and acknowledge that the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Saudis/Kuwaitis aren’t the only groups that constrain women’s freedoms in the Arab world. This is common social behavior throughout large swaths of Arab society.

Marriage Rights

  •  Tragically, in Kabul, Afghanistan, a young woman can be locked in Prison for rejecting her father’s choice of husband. Until she changes her mind, her prospective mother in law visits the prison every day, demanding to know why her son is not “good enough” for this girl. Why does she disobey those who know what’s best for her?  That poor woman stays locked up in Kabul prison until she changes her mind. And it happens right under the noses of American and NATO soldiers. A NATO Occupation won’t protect Libyan women, either.
  •  All over the Arab world—from Yemen to Jordan to Saudi Arabia to Iran— fathers and brothers decide what age a young woman will be given away in marriage, usually as soon as she hits puberty— She has no choice in the most important decision of her life. Frequently a young girl gets married off to one of her father’s adult friends or a cousin. Throughout the Arab world, it’s socially acceptable for a shopkeeper to ask a young Muslim girl if she has started to menstruate. A good Islamic girl is expected to answer truthfully.
  •  Not in Libya. To his greatest credit, bucking all Islamic traditions—from the first days of government, Gadhaffi said No Way to forced marriages. Libyan woman have the right to choose their own husbands. They are encouraged to seek love marriages. Under strict Libyan law, without exception no person can force a Libyan woman to marry any man for any reason.
  • Forced marriages have been such a problem throughout the Arab world, that in Libya, an Imam always calls on the woman if there is an impending marriage. The Imam meets with her privately, and asks if any person is forcing her to marry, or if there’s any reason she’s marrying this person other than her desire to be with this man.  Both Najat and Imam Tentoush were very adamant on these points.
  • In Libya, the Imams are expected to protect the woman from abuse by relatives.

Right to End a Marriage

  • Divorce is brutally difficult for a woman throughout the Arab world. A husband can beat or rape his wife, or commit adultery or lock her in a room like a prison. No matter what a woman suffers, as a wife she has no legal rights to leave that marriage, even for her own protection.  When her father negotiates that marriage contract, she’s stuck for life. A man can divorce a woman in front of two witnesses by repeating three times: “I divorce you. I divorce you. I divorce you.” He can text that message on a cell phone, and it’s over. The woman has no reciprocal freedom. She’s stuck in that marriage until her husband lets her go.
  • Not so in Libya.  A Libyan woman can leave a marriage anytime she chooses. A woman simply files for divorce and goes on with her life.  It is very similar to U.S. laws, in that a man has no power to stop her. It’s completely within her control to initiate a divorce.
  • In Libya, if a woman enters a marriage with her own assets and the marriage ends, her husband cannot touch her assets. The same is true of the man’s assets.  Joint assets usually go to the woman.

These “abnormal” marriage rights stir deep anger among conservative Libyan men. Rebels particularly hate Gadhaffi’s government for granting marriage rights to women.

But consider how delaying marriage impacts women’s opportunities in society.

Delayed marriage means delayed childbirth, which empowers young women to continue education and gain employment. Not surprisingly then, Libyan women enjoy some of the best opportunities in the Arab world. That might also cause simmering resentments among conservative Libyan men.

Education of Libyan Women

  • In Libya more women take advantage of higher education than men, according to Najat.  There are professional women in every walk of life.  Many Libyan women are scientists, university professors, lawyers, doctors, government employees, journalists and business women.  Najat attributes that freedom and the range of choices to Gadhaffi, and his government’s insistence that women must be free to choose their lives and be fully supported in those choices.  Najat and Tentoush said that some Imams in Libya would like it to be otherwise—especially those Imams favoring the Rebels— but Gadhaffi has always over ruled them. For example there are many women soldiers, and they are very strong and fully capable of contributing to the military defense of the country.
  • Women receive education scholarships equal to the men’s. All Libyans can go abroad and study if they so desire— paid for by Gadhaffi’s government. Single women usually take a brother or male relative with them, and Najat said all expenses are covered for both the woman and her companion.
  • In Libya, women are not required to seek a husband’s permission to hold a job, and any type of job is available to her. In contrast, many employment opportunities are proscribed in many other Arab countries, because work puts women in daily proximity to men who are not their husbands. That eliminates many types of job opportunities.

Bashing Women’s Rights

These are some of the reasons why Rebels consider Gadhaffi an “infidel.” They frequently express a desire to reinstate the Shariah. It’s an open secret in Arab circles. In ignoring this point, NATO resembles the three monkeys. See no truth. Hear no truth. Speak no truth. But the Arab community understands this dynamic. Rebels are going to pat Hillary Clinton and Sarkozy on the head right up until they capture power. Then they’re going to do exactly what they started out to do. Reinstate Islamic law—under the protection of the United States and NATO governments. Conservative social codes will be enforced just like Afghanistan.

Libyans understand this point, even if Americans and Europeans are lost in denial. It should surprise no one, therefore, that some of Gadhaffi’s greatest support comes from Libyan women. Nor should it surprise Libya watchers that Gadhaffi’s not exactly “clinging to power” as the corporate media likes to suggest. Quite the contrary, Gadhaffi’s support has skyrocketed to 80 or 85 percent during this crisis. President Obama, Sarkozy and Bersculoni would be thrilled to enjoy such intense popular support.

NATO bombing has backfired and alienated the Libyan people from the Rebel cause, destroying community infrastructure that Libyans are truly proud of. Rebels are chasing pro-Gaddhaffi families out of Benghazi, a sort of political cleansing. But they have no street credibility that would give them power in negotiations with other Libyans, because losers don’t get to dictate the terms. NATO can propagandize until Sarkozy falls over in a fit, but the people have resoundingly rejected these Rebels.

NATO is pushing a political resolution, because Europe wants off the merry-go-round. In truth, the music is getting uglier every day. NATO never should have jumped on this bandwagon in the first place. There’s no sense to it. They’re fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and embracing Al Qaeda and conservative Islam in Benghazi.

Those of us who support Islamic modernity should be relieved that Libya’s people are smarter and savvier than NATO bureaucrats. And we should all say a prayer that Gadhaffi holds on.