“4 words for you brother: No Justice, No Peace.” That was the polite part of the email. The rest chastised me for being a “degenerate Zionist hack” who “regurgitated other people’s lies” and so on, following an article I wrote wondering whatever happened to the principle of Land for Peace? For those too young to remember, this was the rather quaint concept whereby Israel would hand over disputed (or as my new email buddy would no doubt see it “brutally colonized”) land in exchange for recognition of Israel’s right to exist peacefully alongside her neighbours.
There was a time when Land for Peace was accepted by all sides as the basis for solid negotiating on what would then become the two state solution that would give the Palestinians their own country.
Clearly, the goal posts have now moved. If my anonymous email correspondent does indeed speak on behalf of many Palestinian sympathisers, as he or she clearly believes, it is illuminating. The deal is no longer Absence of Land equates to Absence of Peace. It’s now Absence of Justice equals Absence of Peace. Which is a problem for all sides.
Land and Peace are both definable, objective bargaining chips. A border is a border. Peace is peace. (For those in the Middle East unfamiliar with the term, it means not killing, hurting or abusing each other.) Justice, on the other hand, is entirely subjective. It exists purely in the eye of the beholder, or indeed, the person making the judgement. So the new deal, if I am to understand those four words correctly, is “until you give us what we deem to be our just deserts, we are prepared to attack you.”
This sentiment was echoed when Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas held aloft a copy of the UN membership demand he had handed to Ban Ki-moon. Palestinian crowds, watching on TV, did not appear to have a strong lust for peace. "With our souls, with our blood, we will defend Palestine!" they shouted.
Which I mention only by way of explaining why I believe Australia should vote ‘no’ to the Palestinian bid for recognition of statehood in the United Nations. The goal of the UN is to ensure that the nation states of the world live in peace side by side. The UN was established to ensure this could occur. The UN’s emblem of the olive branch is a symbol for peace, dating back to ancient Greece. The United Nations does not send in troops, it sends in Peace Keepers.
According to Article 4 of the Charter of the United Nations: "Membership in the United Nations is open to all … peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”
And therein lies the fundamental question. Can a new State of Palestine guarantee and accept the obligations of peaceful co-existence with its closest neighbour? Is it “able and willing” to do so?
There is no question that the Palestinians must have their own state. And also that both the Israelis and Palestinians should be able to sleep at night without wondering whether a bomb will come crashing through the roof. Abbas, with all the best will in the world, simply cannot guarantee peace, when his partners, the Hamas rulers of Gaza, have as their stated goal the obliteration of Israel and of every Jew.
The Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman has urged Abbas to return to peace talks and to halt what he sees as his efforts to delegitimize Israel, including using phrases in his UN address such as “racist, colonialist, annexationist, brutal, ethnic cleanser, and aggressive;" to describe Israel. Words hardly designed to achieve "the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security."
Hillary Clinton maintains UNESCO should "think again" about voting on Palestinian membership, saying it’s "inexplicable" they would consider pre-empting any vote by the Security Council, a vote that the US may well veto. Why? For the simple reason that such a vote, far from encouraging peace within the region, may well achieve precisely the opposite. A negotiated, comprehensive, genuine peace must come before, not after, recognition of statehood. Through direct talks between the two parties.
Julia Gillard has sensibly intimated that Australia will vote ‘no’ to Palestinian statehood at this stage, arguing it is “not the path to peace.” Kevin Rudd, ever keen to curry favour with his UN chums for his own self-interested goal of landing a major gig there, wants Australia to abstain. I believe that is in nobody’s interest other than possibly his own.
Using the threat of “No justice, no peace” may well be a powerful rallying cry for those who – like my email mate – clearly feel aggrieved or disenfranchised. But it is not the basis for statehood. The United Nations already has to deal with too many states beholden to violence as a means of settling old scores. It doesn’t need another one.