The UK vote to recognize the “State of Palestine”. Positive step? Or dangerous trap? What do you think?


On October 13th, the UK Parliament voted overwhelmingly (274 – 12) to recognize the “State of Palestine”, only a few days after Sweden had made a similar statement.

The UK vote to recognize the “State of Palestine” and a similar declaration by the Swedish Government were gleefully received by the Palestinian Authority and many Palestinian supporters around the world. Finally, it seemed, some significant European countries were recognizing the injustices inflicted on the Palestinian people for over 65 years.

However, reaction among informed supporters of human rights for Palestinians was divided. Some felt the actions were a significant symbolic victory. Others argued they were empty statements that had no importance on the ground. And still others drew attention to the fact that the UK resolution supports the recognition of the State of Palestine in the context of a “2 state solution”. As they see it, the resolution represents a last ditch attempt to save the “2 State solution’ in order to guarantee the existence of Israel as a Jewish State.

“A significant step” for Philip Weiss and Uri Avnery

Some observers felt the vote was significant because it reflected how far public opinion in Europe has turned against Israel.

Philip Weiss (editor of Mondoweiss) devoted a whole article “British Parliament sends a message to Obama: the people see Israel as a ‘bully’” to a detailed examination of what exactly was said in the British House of Commons during the debate. He pointed to the harshness of the criticisms of Israel – including from Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democratic MP’s. For a Canadian reading the article, it was striking to see, and hear, how many UK MP’s have visited the region, including Gaza, and their comments were poignant. According to Weiss, Britain and Sweden have sent a powerful message to Obama.

The venerable Uri Avnery, a long time Israeli peace activist, also agreed that while the UK vote is purely symbolic, it was an important warning flag for the Government of Israel. In his blogpost entitled “Decent Respect”, Avnery asks and then answers:

WAS IT a negligible event? In a strictly procedural sense it was. In a broader sense, far from it. For the Israeli leadership, it is the harbinger of very bad news. – Uri Avnery

Noam Chomsky’s comments at a United Nations event went in the same direction. “Growing Number of Nations Distancing Themselves From Israel’s ‘Explicitly Criminal Actions’. Chomsky takes some grim joy from the fact that Israel continues to isolate itself from the world community.

A resolution which changes nothing on the ground for Miko Peled (The General’s son)

At first glance, Miko Peled’s article “Sweden and Britain have spoken”, seemed to argue the action was positive.

“I was thrilled to hear that the Swedish, and then the British, parliaments voted to recognize Palestine, or rather the State of Palestine. I think that this is a joyous day for all peace and freedom loving people,” writes Peled.

However, as Peled continues, his article quickly becomes bitterly ironic, as he demonstrates how these bold declarations are actually going to change nothing on the ground.

“Now that Sweden and Britain have spoken the Gaza strip will be open in no time and the forces that had destroyed it will now rebuild it. Surely there will be money set aside from the US foreign aid (…) to rebuild Gaza and compensate the families who lost their bread winners”.

Peled argues that the statements by both Sweden and the UK Parliament are without any significance to the struggle of Palestinians for their human rights.

A potentially dangerous trap – for Abunimeh and Barghouti

In an article entitled “By recognizing the state of Palestine, Sweden and the UK could harm Palestinians” Ali Abunimah (editor of the Electronic Intifada) was much more critical. “While recognizing the “State of Palestine” excites and pleases many who support the Palestinian cause, people should not to get carried away with the aesthetics of “statehood” in what would amount to a Bantustan”, he said.

the main purpose of the so-called two-state solution is not to restore Palestinian rights, but rather to preserve and recognize Israel’s so-called “right to exist as a Jewish state.” – Abunimah

Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the BDS movement, weighed in with a similar point of view in the New York Times. In an op ed, “Recognition of a Palestinian State Without Full Rights Is Meaningless”, Barghouti argues that while the vote may be a sign of a significant erosion of public support for Israel’s regime of occupation and denial of Palestinian rights, it should be examined carefully.

If it is the first step toward recognizing the irrefutable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, then it would be a positive contribution (…) .

But, if it is, as implied, solely meant to resuscitate the comatose version of the “two state solution” which, as dictated by Israel, omits basic Palestinian rights, then it would be yet another act of British complicity in bestowing legitimacy on Israel’s unjust order.

Conclusion – What do you think?

Is this overall positive – a further huge step in Israel’s ‘fall from grace”, or is it irrelevant and hypocritical, or finally, is it actually dangerous because it keeps alive the Liberal Zionist dream of the 2 state solution whose effect is to protect Israel as a “Jewish State”?

Your comments are welcome.


  1. If it’s a trap, who set it? Your analysis ignores the fact that Sweden and the UK bestowed recognition at the specific request of Mahmoud Abbas, acting as president of the PLO, and that the PLO in turn is recognized by the United Nations as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. To question the decision, therefore, is to question the PLO’s wisdom in demanding recognition, or to question the PLO’s legitimacy in representing the Palestinian people. Both are certainly legitimate topics for debate within the Palestinian community. But what is the appropriate role for an organization like NECIP, seeking to “promote balance in Canadian public policy towards the region,” in this internal Palestinian debate? You ask: What do you think? I ask: Is what we think relevant?

    1. What does it matter? In my mind, the important question is what is a principled position? What position should Canada take. Does this vote by UK or France help or not?

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