Palestine – UNESCO rebuffs PLO huffs and puffs

November 3, 2011 by David Singer
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The PLO application seeking admission of Palestine  to the UN  has been dealt a serious blow  – after 86 of its 193 members failed to support a mirror application for Palestine to join UNESCO…writes David Singer.

The poor UNESCO majority vote recorded in favor is even more remarkable when one excludes the 56 Islamic member States – whose vote to recognize Palestine’s admission to UNESCO was always assured.  Only 51 of UNESCO’s remaining 137 members were prepared to publicly out themselves in support of the PLO application.

Any of the five following reasons could be possible explanations for this rebuff to the PLO and could signal a similar disastrous outcome when the UN deals with the Palestine issue later this month:

Palestine does not possess the attributes for statehood  required in customary international law and codified in article 1 of the Montevideo Convention 1933.

Palestine could have chosen an easier and less controversial option by applying for associate membership of UNESCO as a territory which was not responsible for the conduct of its international affairs under Article II (3).

Such an application – however – would have been an admission that Palestine was not a state – dooming the UN application to almost certain defeat.

  • The UNESCO vote came just days after PLO Chairman – Mahmoud Abbas – sought to appease the UN by admitting that the Arab refusal to accept the 1947 UN Partition Plan was a “mistake“.  

Non-supporters of Palestine’s admission to UNESCO would have had serious reservations after hearing Abbas’s untruthful and misleading remarks to Israel’s Channel 2 on 28 October:

“At the time, 1947, there was [General Assembly] Resolution 181, the partition plan for Palestine and Israel. Israel existed. Palestine diminished.”

Arafat was clearly misrepresenting the situation in 1947 since:

(i) The partition plan was not for Palestine and Israel. It was for partition into a Jewish State and an Arab State

(ii) Israel did not exist in 1947.

Abbas however had every reason for stressing that Palestine had been diminished by 1947 – since 78% of Palestine had been granted independence by Britain in 1946 when it was permanently placed under Hashemite control and re-named  the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan.

Britain’s action was in flagrant violation of article 5 of the Mandate for Palestine– which required Britain to see that no Palestine territory should be ceded or leased to or in any way placed under the control of,  the Government of any foreign Power.

The PLO has never accepted Britain’s decision.  Article 2 of the PLO Charter still insists that Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan is one separate and indivisible territorial unit that must be liberated.

Not content with reminding those listening that the PLO still coveted all of this area – Abbas then attempted to ameliorate its intransigent stance in rejecting the 1947 partition plan by stating:

“It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole. But do they punish us for this mistake for 64 years?”

This statement must have sent shudders through the UNESCO waverers.

Abbas was being totally untruthful in failing to acknowledge that the Arabs had from 1948 to 1967  to correct their 1947 mistake – after six Arab armies had invaded a “diminished     Palestine” and Jordan had ended up occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem whilst Egypt had occupied Gaza and all the Jews then living in those areas had been driven out.

Blaming Israel for 19 years of Arab failure to do anything to create Palestinian statehood could explain why many states did not support the push to recognize a fictitious Palestine now.

  • Abbas had already blotted his copybook when he told Dream 2TV on 23 October:

“First of all, let me make something clear about the story of the ‘Jewish state.’ They started talking to me about the ‘Jewish state’ only two years ago, discussing it  with me at every opportunity, every forum I went to – Jewish or non-Jewish – asking: ‘What do you think about the “Jewish state”?’ I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I will never recognize the Jewishness of the state, or a ‘Jewish state.’

This clear repudiation of the 1947 UN Partition Plan calling for a Jewish state indicated a resolute refusal to ever live in peace with its Jewish neighbour –  making the possibility of the two state solution an impossible dream to accomplish.

Such a display of unadulterated racism and hatred could have also weighed heavily on the minds of many UN member states as they failed to support Palestine‘s admission to UNESCO.

” That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed;

That ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war; ”

Believing Palestine could ever respect and honor these lofty principles after Abbas’s remarkable statements during the few days prior to the UNESCO vote could have been the final nail in  the coffin for so many states voicing their displeasure and failing to support Palestine’s admission to UNESCO.

  • The fact that the PLO still was refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel to peacefully resolve the creation of a Palestinian State- preferring instead to take unilateral action at UNESCO and the UN – could be another explanation for the poor vote recorded in UNESCO.

Whatever happens from here on in at the UN – the UNESCO vote shows that the UN vote will not be the cakewalk predicted by the PLO.

The PLO can huff and puff – but a large number of the UN members have made it clear they are not prepared to be blown down in the process.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network


8 Responses to “Palestine – UNESCO rebuffs PLO huffs and puffs”
  1. david singer says:

    To ben


    What facts did I turn on their head?

    Your second sentence is unintelligible. Please rephrase and give me the source of any quoted remarks you care to put into the mouths of others.

    Israel placed a 10 month moratorium on building in the West Bank in 2009-2010.

    Will the day ever come when you can publish a factually correct post?

  2. ben says:

    Great hasbara standing facts on their head. Israeli prime minister from Sharon had repeatedly refused to talk with Abbas, declared that there were “no partners in peace”. And incidentally, no Israeli government has halted the expansion of settlements.

  3. ben says:

    Isn’t the Montevideo Convention an agreement of Amefican States, or is it universal in jurisdiction ?

  4. david singer says:

    To Terence David Carroll

    You are entitled to point out that a majority of 129 was required to admit Palestine to UNESCO and that the application failed because only 107 voted in favour.

    The Constitution in my view is ambiguous and is open to either 129 or 107 being the magic number.

    I intend contacting the UNESCO Secretariat to find out why they opted for 107.

    The Secretariat was apparently also unconcerned that Palestine did not possess the elements of statehood necessary for it to even qualify to be admitted to UNESCO under customary international and as codified in the Montevideo Convention 1933.

    Given UNESCO”S past record – I was not surprised.

    So explaining contradictory clauses in UNESCO”s constitution will probably be small bikkies for them. Who is going to take them on anyway and in what Court?

    Taking the law into your own hands can come back to bite you one day.

    Ask President Assad..

    • ben says:

      Given that you are a lawyer, I am surprised that you publish without doing the necessary research. There is no “magic number”, and the constitution is crystal clear. The article II.2, and Rule 85 clearly state that a “two-thirds majority of members present and voting” is necessary to admit a state not-member of the United Nations. Given that abstentions are not counted as votes, the fact that 14 members voted against means that palestinians needed only 28 votes in favour to become a member. They got 107 votes, so that is an overwhelming majority.

  5. david singer says:

    To Dena

    Don”t you agree that Abbas’s statement was a display of unadulterated racism and hatred? If not – how do you interpret it?

    It certainly wasn’t a statement designed to win support for the admission of Palestine to UNESCO and the UN – spitting in the face of what the UN said 64 years ago and what its predecessor – the League of Nations – articulated nearly 90 years ago.

    86 out of 137 non-Islamic countries were not prepared to vote to admit Palestine to UNESCO.

    If they believed the rubbish you are spouting had any substance – then they would have all fallen over themselves to welcome Palestine into UNESCO.

    That they reacted as they did was measured and principled.

    I believe many of the 51 non-Islamic states who voted in favour at UNESCO will join the 86 who did not – after they have reflected on what Abbas said and understand why the two-state solution cannot possibly happen whilst the PLO continues this bigoted stance..

    There is still some basic decency and honesty in the world which abhors 56 Islamic states forever resisting the idea of one Jewish state in contradiction of every principle enumerated in the UN Charter and UNESCO’s constitution.

    I repeat here for you the Preamble in UNESCO’s constitution:

    ” That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed;

    That ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war; ”

    That is the message you and PLO Chairman Abbas both fail to understand .

  6. Dear reader,

    The UNESCO charter/constitution apparently requires a two-thirds vote in favour of membership; no matter how you interpret the reported votes and
    reported articles of formation the result of the vote is quite clearly and unambiguously that Palestine is not a member of UNESCO – any spokesman of UNESCO that says otherwise probably needs to go back to gradeschool and
    receive some UNESCO sponsored education in the three R’s.


    Terence D C (icelandic style), Cambridgeshire, CB1 9YT
    alternative email: [email protected]
    Thursday 3rd November 2011, 9:33 GMT

    • ben says:

      please see my comment above, or read the constitution of UNESCO, instead of basing your judgment on what the constitution “apparently” requires…

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