Members of the British House of Commons voted last night to recognise Palestine as a state. This non-binding resolution, tabled by Labour MP Grahame Morris, will not change this current government’s stance on the issue but has laid the groundwork for a change when this government is voted out of office. Unfortunately an amendment was tabled alongside the original motion due to internal (and external) Labour Party friction and fear which urged the recognition of Palestine within a “negotiated two-state solution“. This returned to the model of giving Israel an overwhelming position on whether Palestine is a state or not. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, opposed the amendment stating;
I oppose an amendment that seeks to make British recognition of Palestine dependent on the conclusion of successful peace negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
Neither Israel nor Palestine’s right to exist should be subject to veto or any kind of conditions and we must actively challenge any refusal by either side to deny the other’s right to exist.
Members of all sides of the house stood up and gave their views. Many remarked on the thousands of e-mails and letters they had received from their constituents urging them to vote to recognise Palestine. Some of what the members said was either inaccurate or misleading but was at least based on a clear and passionate support of the Palestinian people. For example there was much support for the strategy of Mahmoud Abbas and his presidency. Despite the fact that many Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip see his role as a collaborator with the occupation, members of the house rose to argue that this vote would support the moderates in Palestine such as Abbas and his government. They failed to acknowledge that this way of moderation had achieved nothing in the West Bank apart from a huge expansion of illegal settlements, thousands of arrests and hundreds of deaths. Not that Hamas has achieved much for the people it represents, yet each time Palestinians violently resist at least the international community wakes up during these periods and calls for a just solution. When negotiations take place between the unequals, everyone seems to look the other way and pray that the Israeli leadership will show some magnanimity. Keep praying.
There was even the occasional Israel-firster, who stood and spoke to make the debate livelier. Robert Halfon, a Conservative MP, made the extraordinary decades-old and much widely ridiculed claim that there is already a Palestinian state, Jordan. Halfon went on to say that if a Palestinian state was recognised;
There would be three Palestinian states, one that already exists in Jordan and two statelets, run by Hamas and by Fatah.”
A member of his own party intervened with;
Surely the member is not suggesting that because hundreds of thousands of Palestinans fled and were forced across the border into Jordan that they should accept this as their state?
Halfton failed to respond to this remark. Indeed according to him Palestinians who stayed in the West Bank were happy under the rule of King Abdullah of Jordan up until the 1967 war;
Abdullah even called himself the King of Jordan and Palestine as his country controlled the West Bank.
Well that’s fine then, as long as the dictator was happy to accept his own legitimacy?! This is the same old rubbish that has been spouted for decades by both those in Israel and their supporters in an attempt to delegitimise the Palestinians as a people, as a people who belong to and have existed on the land of Palestine as a people for centuries.
For some this vote was all about being anti-Israel because literally none of the members who voted for the motion had anything better to do than stand with, for this briefest of moments and with conditions, the Palestinian people who have suffered for over half a century at the whim of successive Israeli governments. Whether this motion does anything to advance the cause of the Palestinian people in their search for justice or actually enforces the status quo is moot. The vote passed and the recognition within the British body politic that the British people will no longer put up with British support and silence in the face of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians also passed.
Israelis should not despair but be optimistic about the continuing plummet of international citizenry and government support for their government’s policies against the Palestinians. One day this growing pressure from outside may force those within Israel to re-evaluate what they are told by their government and military and lead to a demand for a real and just peace with the Palestinians. When this day comes, the sky is the limit for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Jonathan Woodrow Martin
Originally published on Counterpunch on October 14th, 2014.