The Daily Star (Editorial)
November 1, 2011 - 12:00am

The state of Palestine finally exists – in the eyes of UNESCO, the United Nations body responsible for science, education and culture.

Anyone with knowledge of how the U.N. works could remark that in procedural terms, the move is not particularly significant Representatives of Palestine regularly attend such bodies’ meetings. The website of the U.N. organization ESCWA, for example, lists Palestine as one of the “country” members.

The UNESCO vote was a peaceful, democratic move by the international community and, not surprisingly, condemned as unhelpful by Washington. It “undermines” the world’s goal of seeing a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, according to the White House.

The vote was termed a “distraction” from this goal, although in point of fact, it is exactly the opposite. It’s a step that clearly focuses attention on this objective, namely the two-state solution.

The two-state solution has come in for criticism in recent years, as the hope in the feasibility of such a development fades. One of the problems with this solution was mentioned, inadvertently, in the White House spokesman’s comment on the UNESCO vote.

Officials from the United States and other sponsors of the moribund peace process are fond of repeating the mantra, “peace through direct negotiations,” which has become a slogan and a policy that are, practically speaking, an obstacle to peace.

In their current form, direct negotiations are a forum in which Israel calls all of the shots. There is no impartial mediator, since the U.S. and its allies can be expected to indulge Israel’s every whim.

If the Palestinians fail to carry out a given Israeli demand, they are deemed “unhelpful.” If Israel’s occupation policies provoke a reaction on the part of the Palestinians, the Israelis say that they have “no partner for peace.” If the Israelis want to claim that illegal settlements are “facts on the ground,” and the Palestinians fail to accept this in approaching direct negotiations, then the talks, and the progress, are shelved.

As punishment for the latest challenge to the U.S.-Israeli stranglehold over how the peace process should function, Washington has announced that it is halting its funding of UNESCO.

One of UNESCO’s objectives, in the eyes of American policymakers, is to spread certain values, which include democracy and accepting the views of others. These policymakers should review the UNESCO vote, which saw 107 countries give a majority to Palestine’s admission as a state. Not every vote can take place in the Security Council, where five countries have the right, even if they act alone, to block the world community’s wishes. If America and other supporters of Israel would scrutinize where the world’s majority lies on the Palestine issue, they would realize that they have, yet again, placed themselves in a distinct minority.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017