Palestinians Join The Arab Spring And Reach For UN Membership

By James M. Wall

Five years before the 2011 Arab Spring, Hamas won a decisive victory in the January 25, 2006, Palestinian parliamentary elections.

The United States and Israel had both endorsed the participation of Hamas in the 2006 elections, putting aside their usual “terrorism” rejection of Hamas. They had assumed the first election in which Hamas had ever participated, would lead to a resounding victory for Fatah. They were wrong.

Under the watchful eye of international monitors and media, Hamas won 74 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council, soundly defeating Fatah, which won only 45 seats. The remaining 13 seats were divided among smaller parties. Voter turnout was high, at 77.7 percent.

Writing about this surprise Hamas victory, Akiva Eldar, pointed out that the Israelis and the Bush administration should have known this was coming:

Hamas, which has not yet tasted the delights of rule, presented hands clean of corruption and a Gaza Strip clean of Israelis. Only walls of obtuseness and fences of fear could have concealed this simple truth from the eyes of the neighbor across the way.

Five years later, the Arab Spring has dramatically changed the politics of the Middle East. Israel’s Arab neighbors are rebelling against tyrants. Today, Fatah and Hamas are on a path to a unified Palestinian government, a unity reached without the backing of either the US or Israel.

In an article for the  London Independent, published June 7, Robert Fisk writes that for background on his story, he interviewed one of the principals involved in the negotiations, 75-year old Munib al-Masri.

Al-Masri was a key Palestinian figure in organizing a group of independents who were involved in healing the Fatah-Hamas split.

In a profile on al-Masri, Fisk writes that the Masri family, a respected family of Palestinian merchants, has a long history of involvement in the Palestinian resistance. Al-Masri remembers that as a small boy he demonstrated against British rule in Palestine.

Fisk begins his story:

Secret meetings between Palestinian intermediaries, Egyptian intelligence officials, the Turkish foreign minister, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal – the latter requiring a covert journey to Damascus with a detour round the rebellious city of Deraa – brought about the Palestinian unity which has so disturbed both Israelis and the American government. Fatah and Hamas ended four years of conflict in May with an agreement that is crucial to the Palestinian demand for a state.

A series of detailed letters, accepted by all sides, of which The Independent has copies, show just how complex the negotiations were; Hamas also sought – and received – the support of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, the country’s vice president Farouk al-Sharaa, and its foreign minister, Walid Moallem. Among the results was an agreement by Meshaal to end Hamas rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza – since resistance would be the right only of the state and agreement that a future Palestinian state be based on Israel’s 1967 borders.

The final unity agreement was signed in Cairo, Egypt, May 4.  Seven representatives from each part of Palestine were involved in drawing up the final agreement. Fisk describes these participants as people who “will be in future Palestinian history books”.

In the two groups are:

From the West Bank, Dr Hanna Nasir (former president of Bir Zeit University and now the chair of the Palestinian central election committee); Dr Mamdouh Aker (the head of the human rights society); Mahdi Abdul-Hadi (chairman of a political society in Jerusalem); Hanni Masri (a political analyst); Iyad Masrouji (businessman in pharmacuticals); Hazem Quasmeh (runs an NGO) and Munib Masri himself.

From Gaza, Eyad Sarraj (who missed the May 4 meeting in Cairo because he was ill); Maamoun Abu Shahla (member of the board of Palestine Bank); Faysal Shawa (businessman and landowner); Mohsen Abu Ramadan (writer); Rajah Sourani (head of Arab human rights, who also did not go to Cairo); ‘Abu Hassan’ (Islamic Jihad member who was sent by Sarraj); and Sharhabil Al-Zaim (a Gaza lawyer).

Richard Silverstein expands on the agreement in his blog, “Make the World a Better Place”.

The unity agreement and the subsequent decision to to seek full recognition as a member of the United Nations in September, has generated an Israeli aggressive diplomatic campaign to block the Palestinian effort . The campaign will fail. The votes are there in the UN. Only a US veto could block recognition.

Apparently, the US is alone among nations willing to join Israel in its plot–ascribed, as usual, to “security concerns”–to keep the Palestinians from UN membership.

It is difficult not to conclude that under its current right-wing government, Israel appears to be trapped in a fear-driven mindset, the same mindset which has sustained the Zionist dream since the 19th century. Look no further for verification of this mindset than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last month before the US Congress.

Speaking to lawmakers who were enthusiastically cheering him, Netanyahu reached back to the 19th century for a quote from Zionist English novelist George Eliot, who described a future Jewish state as one that would “shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.”

Israel as a haven for homeless Jews was the initial Zionist goal. But an Israel where Jews would be living “amid the despotism of the East”, is not a recipe designed to promote neighborliness.

In his article, Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims (reprinted in The Edward Said Reader), Edward Said identified the role of Zionism as an ideology that built a wall of separation between the “enlightened West” and the “despotic” East.

Zionism in the postindustrial West has acquired for itself an almost unchallenged hegemony in liberal “establishment” discourse.  .  .   .   [I]n keeping with one of its central ideological characteristics, Zionism has hidden, or caused to disappear, the literal historical ground of its growth, its political cost to the native inhabitants of Palestine, and its militantly oppressive discriminations between Jews and non-Jews.

The US Congress cheered repeatedly as Prime Minister Netanyahu endorsed what Edward Said described as “militantly oppressive discriminations between Jews and non-Jews”.

They should know better. Their churches and synagogues should have taught them better. But what are we to expect from a brainwashed body of elected representatives who live in a western culture that is blissfully ignorant of the Palestinian narrative.

Their brainwashing is courtesy of a Zionism which has successfully prevented Palestinians from “narrating” their history.

Nigel Parry, a co-founder, along with Ali Abunimah, of the Electronic Intifada, wrote on that website, September, 26, 2003:

When I think of Palestinian American academic and writer Edward Said, one phrase he penned comes to the fore. It was the title of a piece he wrote for The London Review of Books in February 1984, “Permission to Narrate”.

These three words described what Said felt was most denied to the Palestinians by the international media, the power to communicate their own history to a world hypnotised by a mythological Zionist narrative of an empty Palestine that would serve as a convenient homeland for Jews around the world who had endured centuries of racism, miraculously transformed by their labor from desert to a bountiful Eden.

In his article, Zionism from the Standpoint of its Victims, Said wrote of an honorary degree granted in 1978 to Menachem Begin by Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

Said was distressed over:

.  . .  .  the symbolism of Menachem Begin, a former head of the Irgun terror organization, in whose part are numerous (and frequently admitted) acts of cold blooded murder, being honored as Israeli premier at Northwestern University in May 1978 with a doctorate of laws honoris causa; a leader whose army a scant month before had created 300,000 new refugees in South Lebanon, who spoke constantly of “Judea and Samaria” as “rightful” parts of the Jewish state (claims made on the basis of the Old Testament and without so much as a reference to the land’s actual inhabitants); and all this without-on the part of the press or the intellectual community-one sign of comprehension that Menachem Begin’s honored position came about literally at the expense of Palestinian Arab silence in the Western “marketplace of ideas,” that the entire historical duration of a Jewish state in Palestine prior to 1948 was a sixty-year period two millennia ago, that the dispersion of the Palestinians was not a fact of nature but a result of specific force and strategies.

Update: See Comments below for a discussion of Israel’s successful struggle to become a member of the UN over a 10 month period in 1948 and 1949. The process began one day after Israel declared itself to be an independent state.  

The picture at top, a street scene in Bethlehem, was taken during the 2006 Palestinian elections by James M. Wall, who was in Palestine to cover the election.

 The picture further down shows  Hamas leader Ismail Hanniyeh, right, shaking hands with senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath. It was taken during their meeting in Gaza in May. It is a Reuters picture.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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11 Responses to Palestinians Join The Arab Spring And Reach For UN Membership

  1. Bill Gepford says:

    You have highlighted THE core of the peace impasse in the MIddle East: A disallowance of truth in the American media, regarding the “Palestinian narrative.” This has been possible by the control of the media by AIPAC, and Zionism, both Christian and Jewish. As I have mentioned on many occasions in my speaking around the area, over the past fifty years, there will be no peace until the Gordian Knott is cut between the religious fanaticism of Zionism and the politics of Justice, Freedom and Democracy for the Palestinian people. The most unfortunate implication of this whole mess is that the United States Government, regardless of which party is in power, has always backed the Zioinist narrative (for example, the consisitent vetoes of UN resolutions by our government in the U. N. Security Council) This has put our government in the most unfortunate position of backing the lies promoted by that narrative. And sadly, it is the huge amounts of money that have been channeled to the campaigns of those Congresspersons who have been pro-Israel (Zionist). The facts are allueded to in your commentary.
    The time has come to get the other narrative on the pages of our media.

    Leonard Pitts, Jr. columnist for the Miami Herald, wrote in the Free Press (June 10, 2011) on the “Historical illiteracy that Stalks the Land.” In this neglect, Americans are ignorant of just what has been going on between Israel and the Palestinian people. It should be read by every America. Part of that narrative..”of truths held self-evident and of government of the people, by the people and for the people” has been forgotten, if ever remembered.

    Until the truth be told, there will never peace in the MIddle East, and our government will have to share the primary blame.

  2. Harris W. Fawell says:

    Jim: Thanks for your excellent article. Let us fervently hope that the United States will not veto the United Nations resolution for recognition of Palestine. I gather that the attitude of Hamas is the stumpliing block. LLet us hope for the best. Harris.

  3. Patricia Pynchon says:

    No real comment., just reflection:
    Surely it is the congress willing to be bribed which accounts for the total lack of debate and discussion about Israel? How else do you explain why congress rewards criminal behaviour, ( the throwing of people off their land ,) by giving to the criminals three billion a year and fearful weapons which terrify the whole region. ? Why is it that the U.S. policy makers refuse to face the truth of Israeli crimes? Why are they willing to pay those who perpetuate a living holocaust on another ethnic group?
    There seems to be a total absence of ethics and morality on the part of our government, not to mention a disregard for democratic values, which characterizes their policy in regard to Israel. The Palestinians have been displaced from their homes without compensation, and without alternatives; some still live in refugee camps after more than 60 years
    Instead of condemning Israeli crimes, the congress is ready to participate with it, in return for having its palms greased. The situation seems to forbode a total collapse of principle, not to mention sense of justice, a total disregard for human rights. which nudges our country towards fascism.

  4. Dorsey R. Gardner says:

    Excellent statements and comments.
    Only hope is BDS which is gaining momentum. If one watches Al Jazeera, iGaza, or PressTV which are apps on the iPad and iPhone, the word is spreading. The Internet Is a game changer.
    Also, support the Hope Fund which brings Palestinian students to the US for college.
    Little by little the tide is turning.

  5. Awad Paul Sifri says:

    Thanks for an excellent article that points to the root of US illeteracy, as it pertains to AL NAKBA, and its implications on disastrous US foreign policy. Ignorance is no longer an option. The “Palestinian narrative” should be unchained by AIPAC censors and obedient, terrified self-censors. As was the case with Apartheid South Africa, BDS is a critical method of non-violent resistance to break the tyrannical Zionist regime.

    Israel’s refusal to recognize a Palestinian State and its rejection of talks with a Palestinian “Unity government” of technocrats is an obvious excuse, in order to continue building more atrocious facts on the ground.

    In fact, the extremist militant Israeli junta that harbors a Foreign Minister (Avigdar Lieberman) who calls for further ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, should be answerable at the World Court in The Hague. Successive Israeli government actions, since 1948 have decimated the Geneva Convention and UN resolutions, by refusing the return, or compensation, of Palestinian refugees, destroying 535 Palestinian villages and towns, annexing East Jerusalem, building illegal settlements, destroying thousands of homes, robbing Palestinian water resources, building an Apartheid Wall, and executing the “Final Solution”, by usurping the entirety of what remains of Palestine.

    This is the kind of a dangerous nuclear expansionist state that has not been seen since World War II in Europe. And the US has been its obedient accomplice through it all.
    For now, Palestinians need to focus on gaining recogntion as a “state” at the UN,, regardless of what fake promises are strewn to distract them.

    If the US Administration chooses to placate AIPAC and veto a Palestinian State, it will only delay a just cause, but, it will irreprably harm the most vital and sensitive interests of the US in the entire Arab World and beyond, for many generations to come.

  6. Interesting says:

    I still dont get how (or why) the Palestinians get a state without negotiating. All they had to do was accept Israel as a Jewish state, like the 47 UN resolution stipulated, and it is there for them. The current problems are not about getting a Palestinian state, but about destroying the Jewish one. This is not a moral movement, it is a monument to hatred, bigotry and Islamic suppremicism.

  7. Fred says:

    Of course the US will veto Palestinian statehood. Our nation will continue to be responsible for the subjugation of the non Jewish population (Moslem, Christian and all other non Jews in Israel/Palestine). This is a shameful situation, but with the politics in our nation, that’s how it is and will remain until we can get money out of our elections, where in essense, votes are bought by the biggest Lobbies and financial backers.

    I heard that a state can be declared by the UN General Assembly, where there is no veto power, but I don’t know if this is true.


  8. wallwritings says:

    Several of you have written to ask for an answer to the question Fred asks above.

    My understanding of this issue is summed up in the April 3, 2011 NY Times, correcting an earlier version of a story.

    “A Diplomatic Memo article last Sunday, about the growing possibility that, even without an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the United Nations General Assembly might approve a resolution in September granting statehood to Palestinians on Israeli-controlled land referred incompletely to the options available to the United States for blocking such a resolution. It has no veto power in the General Assembly, as the article stated, but such a resolution would first require a recommendation from the Security Council, where the United States could exercise a veto.”

    This means that the General Assembly could pass a resolution. The US has no veto in the GA.

    However, and this will be the crucial stumbling block, the General Assembly must get its resolution from the Security Council, where the US does have a veto.

    Jim Wall

  9. Rev. Barbara Grace Ripple says:

    An excellent, informative article, well-documented and easily understood. I have passed it on to my lists. Thank you for taking the time to write the truth about the Palestinian experience. I very much remember being in Bethlehem on January 25, 2006, talking with members of Hamas and other parties, observing this election. And I remember how former President Carter’s people declared the election to be honest and fair. And then our government declaring Hamas to be a terrorist organization and stopping support to the Palestinians.

    Again, thank you for speaking the truth to power, and helping to educate those who will listen and learn about the realities in the Middle East.

    Rev. Barbara Grace Ripple
    United Methodist Church

  10. Bob Hannum says:

    Oh boy! Didn’t realize the General Assembly needed a resolution from the Security Council to vote on. We will stick it to the Palestinians again, to be sure!

    The joining of Hamas with Fatah is good for Israel, too. Too bad they can’t – or won’t – see that fact. It could eliminate the enemy for Israel and pose all sorts of possibilities for peace. However, I’m not sure Israel wants “the enemy” eliminated. After all, having “an enemy” continues to make them the victim.

  11. wallwritings says:

    Bob and others following the September UN meeting:

    In the July, 2011 issue of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (page 24) Journalist Donald Neff describes Israel’s campaign to gain UN membership over a ten month period in 1948-49.

    Neff reports that Israel’s first application for admittance to the UN came on May 15, 1948. On grounds that Israel lacked “the requisite information” to prove that it was a viable state (Israel had declared its independence as a state on May 14, 1948), the Security Council ignored the application and declined to forward the request to the General Assembly.

    On December 17, 1948, Israel applied again. The Security Council denied the request by a vote of 5-1, with 5 abstentions. Syria cast the lone vote against Israel’s admittance. The US, Argentina, Columbia, the Soviet Union and Ukraine voted in favor of admission.

    Belgium, Britain, Canada, China and France abstained “on grounds that the fighting continued in Palestine and that Israel had failed to establish a demilitarized zone in the Negev”.(Neff).

    Finally, on March 4, 1949, the Security Council voted 9-1, with one abstention, to forward Israel’s third application to the UN General Assembly.

    Under General Assembly rules, two-thirds of the members must approve the application in order for a new member to be admitted.

    On May 11, 1949, by a vote of 37 to 12, with 9 abstentions, the General Assembly approved the admission of Israel to the United Nations.

    The minutes of the plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly, on May 11, 1949, the minutes, which may be accessed here:, state:

    “A vote was taken by roll-call, as follows:

    The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, hoping been drawn by lot by the President, voted first.

    In favour: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Union of South Africa.

    Against: Yemen, Afghanistan, Burma, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria.

    Abstaining: United Kingdom, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, El Salvador, Greece, Siam, Sweden, Turkey.

    The result of the vole was 37 in favour, 12 against, and 9 abstentions. The resolution was adopted, having obtained the required two-thirds majority.

    The PRESIDENT stated that since every Member of the United Nations was present and voting, the requirement of the Charter, for a two-thirds majority was satisfied. He therefore formally declared Israel admitted to membership in the United Nations.

    At the invitation of the President, Mr. Sharett, representative of Israel, took his seat on the platform.”

    Jim Wall

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