On 17 December, Bolivia extended diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine within its full pre-1967 borders (all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem). Coming soon after the similar recognitions by Brazil and Argentina, Bolivia’s recognition brought to 106 the number of UN member states recognising the state of Palestine, whose independence was proclaimed on 15 November, 1988.
While still under foreign belligerent occupation, the state of Palestine possesses all the customary international law criteria for sovereign statehood. No portion of its territory is recognised by any other country (other than Israel) as any other country’s sovereign territory and, indeed, Israel has only asserted sovereignty over a small portion of its territory – expanded East Jerusalem – leaving sovereignty over the rest both literally and legally uncontested.
In this context, it may be enlightening to consider the quality as well as the quantity of the states extending diplomatic recognition.
Of the world’s nine most populous states, eight (all except the US) recognise the state of Palestine. Of the world’s 20 most populous states, 15 (all except the US, Japan, Mexico, Germany and Thailand) recognise the state of Palestine.
By contrast, the 72 UN member states that currently recognise the Republic of Kosovo as an independent state include only one of the nine most populous states (the US) and only four of the 20 most populous states (the US, Japan, Germany and Turkey).
When, in July, the international court of justice held that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence did not violate international law because international law is silent on the subject of the legality of declarations of independence (meaning that no declarations of independence violate international law and all are “legal”, albeit subject to the political decisions of sovereign states to recognise or not the independence declared), the US responded by calling on all countries that had not already recognised Kosovo to do so promptly. Five months later, only three more have seen fit to do so – Honduras, Kiribati and Tuvalu.
If the Arab League were now to call on the minority of UN member states that have not already recognised Palestine to do so promptly, it is certain that the response would be far superior (both in quantity and in quality) to the response to the recent American appeal on behalf of Kosovo – and the Arab League should do so.
Notwithstanding that states encompassing between 80% and 90% of the world’s population (by my rough calculations) recognise the state of Palestine, while states encompassing only between 10% and 20% of the world’s population recognise the Republic of Kosovo, the western media (and much of the non-western media as well) act as though Kosovo’s independence were an accomplished fact while Palestine’s independence is only an aspiration that can never be realised without Israeli-American consent; and much of international public opinion (including, apparently, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah) has – at least until recently – permitted itself to be brainwashed into thinking and acting accordingly.
As in most aspects of international relations, it is not the nature of the act (or crime) that matters but, rather, who is doing it to whom. Palestine was conquered, and is still occupied 43 years later, by the military forces of Israel. What most of the world (including the UN and even five EU member states) still regards as the Serbian province of Kosovo was conquered and is still occupied, 11 years later, by the military forces of Nato; the American flag is flown there at least as widely as the Kosovo flag and the capital, Pristina, boasts a Bill Clinton Boulevard and a larger-than-life-size statue of the former American president.
Might makes right, at least in the hearts and minds of the mighty, including most western decision makers and opinion formers.
Meanwhile, as a perpetual “peace process” appears suddenly threatened by peaceful recourse to international law and international organisations, the US House of Representatives has adopted, by a unanimous voice vote, a resolution drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) calling on President Obama not to recognise the state of Palestine and to veto any effort by Palestine to obtain UN membership.
Western politicians and the western media customarily apply the term “international community” to the United States and whatever countries are willing to publicly support it on a given issue, and apply the term “rogue state” to any country that actively resists Israeli-American global domination.
By its slavish subservience to Israel – as reflected yet again, both in the absence of a single brave voice raised against this new House resolution and in the Obama administration’s recently rejected offer of a huge military and diplomatic bribe to Israel in reward for a mere 90-day suspension of its illegal colonisation programme – the United States has effectively excluded itself from the true international community (redefined to refer to the great majority of mankind) and become a true rogue state, acting in consistent and flagrant contempt of both international law and fundamental human rights.
One might hope that the United States could still pull back from the abyss and recover its own independence, but all signs are pointing in the opposite direction. It is a sad ending for a once admirable country.
John Whitbeck, an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.