Community reacts to Palestinian bid for statehood
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 05:09
After months of international debate, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted a bid to the United Nations Friday, requesting globally-recognized statehood for his country and membership to the U.N.
The bid, which will be voted on by the U.N. Security Council, was the product of more than six decades of conflict and unsuccessful peace talks between Palestine and Israel. The Middle Eastern countries have long battled over their respective borders and for control of Jerusalem, which both regions claim as their capital.
For some students, the conflict is a personal issue. Student group UD Advocates for Israel held a "Talk Israel" event on The Green Wednesday afternoon, inviting students and community members to ask questions about the country and its conflict with Palestine.
Junior Allison Becker, co-president of UD Advocates for Israel, stated in an email message that the event's purpose was not to take sides in the political discussion. Instead, the group hoped to highlight aspects of Israel as a country, including its environment, culture and diversity, she said.
"We wanted to create a conversation with students on campus about Israel, and that is exactly what happened," Becker said. "The ‘Talk Israel' tent was not a political event. However, if students wanted to have a conversation about the Palestinian bid for statehood, we were able to engage them."
Abbas, following the submission of his bid for statehood, said in a speech to the U.N. that the core of the conflict is the confiscation of Palestinian lands for Israeli settlements in areas of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. He said these settlements have caused the demolition of homes and displaced Palestinian landowners.
"The reports of United Nations missions as well as by several Israeli institutions and civil societies convey a horrific picture about the size of the settlement campaign, which the Israeli government does not hesitate to boast about," Abbas said.
Palestine's bid claimed all the land in the West Bank, including the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, which would be their capital.
Less than an hour after Abbas' speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before the U.N., arguing that the Palestinians had thus far refused to negotiate, ignoring several proposals set forth by Israel.
He said in 2005, the Israeli government agreed to revert back to its 1967 borders under international pressure, vacating settlements in Gaza and giving Palestine control over the area. After approximately four months, the Palestine National Authority was uprooted by Hamas, a terrorist organization with ties to Iran, turning Gaza into a military operations base for Iran and deploying missiles into Israeli territory, he said.
Netanyahu said he is willing to pursue suggestions made by American officials to renew peace talks, despite his reservations about aspects of the proposal.
"We have to stop negotiating about the negotiations," Netanyahu said.
Rabbi Eliezer Sneiderman, the director of Chabad Center for Jewish Life on campus, stated in an email message that Hamas' influence in Palestine is a violation of the U.N. pledge to pursue peace. He said the U.N. often overlooks terrorist activity and human rights violations in member countries or, in Palestine's case, countries that are applying for membership.
"Out of all the nations of the world, Israel is selected as the brunt of world displeasure," Sneiderman said. "The number of U.N. resolutions against Israel is overwhelming. Dictators, on the other hand, don't merit a mention in this body."
Sneiderman said President Abbas' speech to the U.N. emphasized Palestine as "the Holy Land" while downplaying the history of the Jewish people.
"A 3,000-year connection to the land is not even hinted at," he said. "The inability to understand the narrative of someone else is essentially the source of the conflict."
Sneiderman said the term "Palestinian" once referred to the Jews in the region. Palestine as a nation did not exist until 1967, when Israel took control of the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan in the Six-Day War.
"I think the Palestinians have been very effective in selling their narrative," he said. "One thinks of them as indigenous natives pushed aside by colonial powers. This injustice needs a resolution."
Graduate student William Aquilino, who studies Middle Eastern politics, said Israel and Palestine will only achieve peace through direct negotiations with American oversight. He said Palestine should first accept Israel as a state, and then work with Israel to craft security arrangements in Palestine.