News Release

UN Speech on Palestine: “Yes, Mr. Obama, Peace is Hard…”


The New York Times reports: “President Obama declared his opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood through the Security Council on Wednesday, throwing the weight of the United States directly in the path of the Arab democracy movement even as he hailed what he called the democratic aspirations that have taken hold throughout the Middle East and North Africa. ‘Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN,’ Mr. Obama said, in an address before world leaders at the General Assembly. ‘If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.'”

MAYSA ZOROB, maysa_zorob at
Zorob is legal researcher and advocacy officer for Al-Haq, the oldest Palestinian NGO dedicated to protection of the rights of Palestinian. She said today: “Yes, Mr. Obama, peace is hard. Certainly, the speeches and pronouncements from the Oslo deal signed at the White House and the other high profile talks U.S. administrations have organized have failed to produce peace. Palestinians made a series of compromises that led to empty promises.

“But Palestinian membership in the United Nations is not a declaration, it’s asking the international community’s support to be able to access international legal mechanisms without having to rely on others. Israeli violations of Palestinian rights are being committed on a daily basis. Certainly, negotiations are the way to end the conflict, but with the parties being on a more equal footing. What’s needed is negotiations based on international law, which Israel is violating. Just in the last two days, we’ve seen settler extremists trying to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“Some Palestinians are worried that this legal move would undermine some of their rights, especially of the refugees. That is not our legal analysis. We understand these concerns come from a lack of trust in the current Palestinian political leadership; however becoming a member of the United Nations does not mean abandoning the rights of refugees, if the PLO’s funcitions are maintained within the State.” Zorob is based in Ramallah in the West Bank and is in New York and D.C. until Oct. 1. See “Palestine’s UN Initiatives: Questions and Answers on the Representation of the Rights of the Palestinian People.

JOHN QUIGLEY, Quigley.2 at
Professor of international law at Ohio State University, Quigley’s books include “The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict.” He said today: “Many are claiming that [Palestinian leader Mahmoud] Abbas will be taking the Palestinian UN bid to the Security Council. That’s not really correct. The process would have Abbas submit a letter to the Secretary General who would forward the issue to both the Security Council and the General Assembly. Each can then proceed. Memberships to the UN have always been voted on by the Security Council first and then the General Assembly, but if the U.S. were to veto the bid at the Security Council, the General Assembly could still vote for admission, requiring two-thirds to bring in a new member. Or the Palestinian UN observer mission could be upgraded to that of a state in the General Assembly. That would only require a simple majority. And these voting requirements are of members voting on the issue, so if there were abstentions, fewer affirmative votes would be needed. The reality is that Palestine is already a state — it’s recognized by over 100 countries. The problem is that it’s a state under belligerent occupation. The Palestinians have asked the International Criminal Court to take jurisdiction over any war crimes committed in its territory. This could include Israeli actions during the 2008-09 Gaza war, or it could include illegal settlement building. Acceptance by the ICC of such jurisdiction could be hastened by either UN membership or non-member state status.

“Some are arguing that what is needed is direct negotiations with the Israeli government. But the reality is that during years of negotiations, the Israelis were taking more and more of the land they were supposed to be negotiating about.” Quigley and other legal scholars have also taken issue with arguments put forward by Guy Goodwin-Gill that the statehood bid would undermine Palestinian rights.

JOSH RUEBNER, congress at
National advocacy director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Ruebner said today: “The Obama administration’s promise to veto UN membership for Palestine in the Security Council demonstrates both the hollowness of its professed commitment to support Arab freedom and self-determination and the bankruptcy of its strategy to hold Palestinian freedom hostage to the never-ending, biased U.S.-led ‘peace process’ that privileges Israeli apartheid over Palestinian rights. Instead of threatening Palestinians with sanctions for taking their case to the UN, the Obama administration should be sanctioning Israel for denying Palestinian freedom and self-determination and for misusing U.S. weapons in violation of U.S. laws to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians.” Ruebner recently wrote “Straining Every Nerve against UN Membership for Palestine.

He also wrote: “The UN Already Voted for a Palestinian State — In 1947.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at
Today, Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi raised the possibility of using the “Uniting for Peace” mechanism to get membership at the United Nations in a discussion webcast by the Institute for Middle East Understanding.

Professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champaign and author of “Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law,” Boyle said today: “By means of the Uniting for Peace Resolution, the Palestinians could have full-fledged state membership for Palestine in the United Nations by the end of next week if that is what they want to do.” See: “Palestinian UN Bid and Uniting for Peace.