Palestine’s step forward

These short strides forward will, inevitably, meet one day with success.

Editorial November 01, 2011

Palestine has moved a small step closer towards gaining recognition as a full-fledged state and full membership of the UN General Assembly. Despite efforts led by the US and France to block entry, it was accepted as a full member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), backed by most Arab and many other states — 107 nations voted for membership, 14 against, while 52 abstained.

The response has come quickly and harshly. Reacting with fury, Israel has condemned the move, saying it will hamper peace efforts. In logical terms, this makes very little sense. But even tougher on Unesco will be the US decision to suspend funding, immediately removing from the organisation some 22 per cent of its budget. This will make the running of some programmes much harder and have a negative impact on people around the world who benefit from them. Unesco had suffered a similar blockade of US funding from 1984 to 2003, as a consequence of what the US termed ‘disparities’ between its policies and that of the UN body.

Palestine has also applied for full membership of the UN General Assembly, with the matter due to come up for vote later this month. The US will certainly use its veto — unavailable to it in Unesco — to prevent this. But regardless of this, the Palestinians have demonstrated that they are gathering support in the international community, building up support for their stance as a nation that has remained stateless for far too long. These short strides forward will, inevitably, meet one day with success. Many hurdles stand in the way of the Palestinian people, who have lived for so long in a state of limbo, suffering more than six decades of acute hardship. The success in Unesco represents a small triumph, even if the reaction from the US and Israel reminds us we still live in times when deep differences prevent any solution to the long-standing crisis of the Middle East, where tensions still result in new deaths with each passing year and a lasting settlement still seems a long way away.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2011.


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