x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

World opinion is clear on Palestine

The significance of the United Nations vote on Palestine is clear: the majority of the world now recognises the great wrong done to the Palestinians

The symbolism of the vote was matched only by the symbolism of the date. Sixty-five years to the day after the United Nations voted to partition historic Palestine, the world body voted to recognise a geographically much-reduced Palestine as a non-member state.

Much has changed in 65 years. In 1947, Palestine was still controlled by the British. As increasing Jewish immigration led to conflicts with indigenous Arabs, the UN voted to split the country, giving a majority of the land - 56 per cent - to a Jewish population that owned just 7 per cent of it. That decision has fed the cycle of violence that persists to this day.

To understand how important Thursday's UN recognition is, listen to the words of Bassem Tannou, a businessman from the Ramallah: "Now the world recognises our humanity." For decades, Palestinians have felt that they had been forgotten. The dispossession of the Palestinian people, the illegal occupation of the land of their future state, and the continuing theft of that land by Israel-sponsored settlers remained, until the 1970s, mainly an issue only for Arabs and Muslims.

But the Palestinian cause has been recognised increasingly for what it is: one of the worst humanitarian tragedies of the past century. The UN vote signals clearly that world opinion no longer believes this is a tenable situation.

The vote also exposes the one-dimensional US support for Israel. When the only countries that could be persuaded to vote against Palestine's bid were Israel, Canada, the US and a handful of small states, the idea that the US can be an honest broker in the conflict is starkly revealed to be ridiculous.

Washington's blindness on the issue was illustrated by the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, who said the vote "places further obstacles in the path of peace". That narrative, spun by the Israeli propaganda machine, is that the Palestinians are shunning the path to peace by using the pulpit of world opinion. Given that the Israelis announced a further 3,000 settlement units on Palestinian land, this is not only a demonstrable lie, but a cruel one: the dead of Gaza are a tragic reminder of the price of this conflict. It is Israel that has blocked negotiations at every turn.

For Israel, the so-called peace process has been a perfect cover for continued land grabs. It is a process that ensures there will never be peace. Not only have Palestinians repeatedly signalled their willingness to talk, and to forge a lasting peace, the entire region has as well. A comprehensive peace agreement between the Arab world and Israel - known as the Arab Peace Initiative - has been on the table for over a decade. The Israelis have refused to consider it.

The world has spoken with a clear voice on Palestine. Only the Israelis and their handful of supporters cannot seem to hear what is being said.