El Bireh, West Bank — The case of Palestine’s bid for U.N. membership is teaching us more about the United States than it is about the stubborn Middle East. Sadly, the United States, my country, heads the list of member nations making a mockery of the international venue founded to intervene in exactly the type of crisis now facing Palestinians and Israelis.
The Palestinian case for full U.N. membership is rather simple. After 20 years of fruitless negotiating, championed by the United States, the talks have come to a screeching halt. From his first day in office, President Barack Obama sought to restart the talks between Palestinians and Israelis and failed. The Palestinians, meantime, are paying the price of that failure with every single additional day spent in the cross hairs of Israeli military rule. At long last, the Palestinian leadership has chosen to do what any other people would have done years, even decades, ago: to seek redress back where it all began, at the United Nations. Addressing the most multilateral venue in the world, Palestinian leaders have a simple request: Take a stand.
The Palestinian action is not really news. Far more newsworthy is how the United States and Israel have reacted — with total hysteria.
I don’t expect much from Israel, as perpetrator of the dispossession of, discrimination against and four-decade-long outright military occupation of Palestinians — especially after witnessing how they operate, from up close, for nearly 20 years. Israeli policies have proven, year after year, that Israel prefers to wage war and colonize our territory more than pursue a just peace.
Given that the anticipated substantive U.S. policy change regarding Palestine and Israel under Obama has not materialized, it would seem that strategic U.S. interests have again been hijacked by the Israel lobby.
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The U.S. executive and legislative branches have overwhelmingly and publicly chosen to stand by Israel in its attempt to thwart Palestinian freedom and statehood. Has the entire U.S. political leadership read no Middle East history? Have U.S. public figures not the slightest understanding of the transformations currently shaking the Arab world? They evidently cannot see that U.S. strategic interests in one of the world’s oil-rich regions have yet again been seriously jeopardized by the misguided U.S. bias favoring blind support of Israel–. The urgent need to resolve the most pressing issue in the region, if not the world, does not move them, apparently.
September will pass, Palestinian state or not. What may persist, however, is the self-inflicted and possibly irreversible damage to U.S. interests generated by its refusal to join the rest of the world in backing Palestinian self-determination.
For many of us, this is not an academic exercise. I have a family, two beautiful daughters regarded as inferior under Israeli law, a business threatened by military occupation and many friends, both Palestinian and Israeli. I fear that the United States is recklessly putting all of us in serious danger.
Americans should be leading the effort to support this nonviolent Palestinian move toward independence, not leading the effort to thwart it. “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Americans should read the Declaration of Independence. It offers the redress of grievances when a people — having lived too long under “absolute despotism” — decides that enough is enough.
* Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant from Youngstown living in the Palestinian city of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He is co-author of “Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians” (1994).