Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

If Kosovo, Why Not Palestine?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

If Kosovo, Why Not Palestine?

Article excerpt

AS EXPECTED, Kosovo has now issued its unilateral declaration of independence, and the United States and most European Union countries, with which this declaration was coordinated, are rushing to extend diplomatic recognition to this "new country"-a course of action which should strike anyone with an attachment to either international law or common sense as breathtakingly reckless.

The potentially destabilizing consequences of this precedent (which the U.S. and the EU insist, bizarrely, should not be viewed as a precedent) have been much discussed with reference to other unhappy portions of other internationally recognized sovereign states with strong separatist movements practicing precarious but effective self-rule, such as Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transniestria, Ngorno-Karabakh, Bosnia's Republika Srpska, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as to discontented minorities elsewhere. One potentially constructive consequence, however, has not yet been discussed.

The American and EU impatience to amputate a portion of a U.N. member state (universally recognized, even by them, to constitute a portion of that state's sovereign territory), ostensibly because 90 percent of those living in that portion of the state's territory support separation, contrasts starkly with the unlimited patience of the U.S. and the EU when it comes to ending the 40-year-long belligerent occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (no portion of which any country recognizes as Israel's sovereign territory and as to which Israel has only even asserted sovereignty over a tiny portion, occupied East Jerusalem). Virtually every legal resident of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip seeks freedom-and has for over 40 years. For doing so, they are punished, sanctioned, besieged, humiliated and, day after endless day, killed by those who claim to stand on the moral high ground.

In American and EU eyes, a Kosovar declaration of independence from Serbian sovereignty should be recognized even if Serbia does not agree. However, their attitude was radically different when Palestine declared independence from Israeli occupation on Nov. 15, 1988. Then the U.S. and the EU countries (which, in their own eyes, constitute the "international community," to the exclusion of most of mankind) were conspicuously absent when over 100 countries recognized the new State of Palestine, and their non-recognition made this declaration of independence purely "symbolic" in their own eyes and, unfortunately, in most Palestinian and other eyes as well.

For the U.S. and the EU, any Palestinian independence, to be recognized and legally effective, must still be directly negotiated, on a wildly unequal bilateral basis, between the occupying power and the occupied people-and must be agreed to by the occupying power. For the U.S. and the EU, the rights and desires of a long-suffering and brutalized occupied people, as well as international law, are irrelevant.

For the U.S. and the EU, Kosovar Albanians, having enjoyed almost nine years of U.N. administration and NATO protection, cannot be expected to wait any longer for their freedom, while the Palestinians, having endured over 40 years of Israeli occupation, can wait forever.

With the "Annapolis process" going nowhere, as was clearly the Israeli and American intention from the start, the Kosovo precedent offers the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership-accepted as such by the "international community" because it is perceived as serving Israeli and American interests-a golden opportunity to seize the initiative, to reset the agenda and to restore its tarnished reputation in the eyes of its own people. …

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