How many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?

As you are most likely aware, Palestine has begun the lengthy process of asking the UN to recognise it as an independent sovereign state, separate from Israel.  The reaction to this has ranged from favourable and encouraging to direct opposition.  Given the state of global politics and international relations at the present time, one would expect Palestine to garner support from other Islamic and Middle Eastern nations, perhaps some mild recognition from Western nations, and for Israel to be the primary opposition.  This seems to be mostly true, though Palestine is gathering a lot more support than I would have anticipated (good for them, I am pleasantly surprised); the most disturbing difference is the reaction of nations like Canada.

When I was in Scotland, I came across several pro-Palestine, anti-Israeli domination* protests.  In Canada, however, I never encountered one pro-Palestine demonstration of any sort, anywhere.  Before, I thought this was done out of respect for the parties involved and possibly for the best not to directly choose a side; now, I know better.  Yes, Canada has always been very pro-Israel throughout this long conflict but I was willing to live with the naive (or just plain silly) idea that it was a matter of supporting the “official” state as recognised by the UN so matters could be resolved peacefully.

For a moment I will quickly diverge onto a tangent to add some background clarification; I will be quick, please bear with me.  Throughout my academic studies the concept of “nationalism” has been rather prevalent, not just in regards to Canada or medieval Scotland but many other groups and times as well.  So in today’s world, the modern and contemporary life I live, I abide by a simple definition as to whether or not a nation (defined as a group of people sharing similar characteristics, background, etc.) is a country or sovereign state – does the United Nations recognise and regard them as an independent, sovereign state?  To me, this is what makes a country a real country.  Until the UN recognises them as such, I do not regard them as an independent state, and I expect all others – governments especially – to do the same.

Now, back to Palestine.  Like I said, Palestine has quite a bit of support from other countries, whether it be a limited “go for an upgraded status” like the EU offers, or full support from countries like Egypt where the Israeli embassy was stormed and attacked (there were other factors involved as well, it was an attack on the state of Israel by Egyptians and not entirely related to Palestine).  Personally, I am quite glad to see this happening; it is definitely time for someone to step up and bring this conflict to an end.  Obviously, Palestine gaining UN recognition will not end the Israeli-Palestinian fighting, but it certainly will help by placing them on equal footing, at the very least.  And if Palestine was to take a bold step towards establishing freedom, going to the UN like this certainly is the way to do it.  I applaud them for this, and for understanding that violence is not always the answer to asserting oneself on the world stage.

What I cannot applaud is Canada’s reaction.  Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, has clearly stated this is not the right course of action.  “I think there’s no likelihood of this initiative by the Palestinian Authority doing anything to further the peace process.  I think it’s possible that it could be counter-productive.” (Harper to reporters at the UN headquarters, quoted in and taken from the Globe and Mail’s article “Palestinian UN Statehood Gambit ‘Counter-productive’ Harper says”)  He believes Israel and Palestine should go back to their negotiations if Palestine wants to be recognised as a separate country.

Right, because that has done brilliantly well over the past, oh I’m sorry, how many years now?  Sorry, Harper, but no.  Negotiations, peace talks, treaties, and whathaveyou between Israel and Palestine have been going on for decade – and thus far have only resulted in more violence, more human rights violations, more innocent lives lost.  There is a song by Bob Dylan, “Blowing in the Wind”, that I think aptly describes this situation - “How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they’re forever banned?  How many years can some people exist, before they’re allowed to be free?  How many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see?  How many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry?  How many deaths will it take ‘til he knows, that too many people have died?”  How long must we sit by and pretend negotiations and talks are going to bring about a resolution to this problem?  How many generations must live with no hope, no future?

In general, I specifically remain neutral on the Israel-Palestine debate because I do not feel it is possible for me to fully and completely understand both sides of the argument.  That being said, I fully oppose any and all human rights violations by either side, and do think they both should be able to appeal to a neutral, higher power if necessary.  Right now, this is what Palestine is doing, and I support that action.  I support them going to the UN instead of waiting for the rest of the world to get their act together and do something.  Given the events that have happened during my lifetime, I do question the level of power Israel has in that part of the world and I do not have any faith in other countries keeping it in check.  It is a very delicate subject and incredibly influential on international relations, so I do understand why other governments may not be willing to intervene.  But if they will not do it, then who will?  The burden of solving this tremendous issue has been left to Israel and Palestine; now that one of them is stepping up to progress it further, with international and unbiased assistance, I think we should be applauding the effort and certainly not instructing them to go back to methods that clearly are not working and only make matters worse.

 *the purpose of these protests was to promote an independent Palestine, free from Israeli occupation, rule, attacks, etc.  This is a very touchy subject so I am trying to be very tactful in my wording; please understand the goal of these protests was to remove Israeli control from Palestine and was not meant to be a direct attack against the nation or people of Israel itself.

St. Andrew's Square, Edinburgh, July 2011

A picture I took at St. Andrew’s Square (Princes Street) in Edinburgh, July 2011.  I did not want to photograph the people.

“Blowin’ in the Wind” was originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan, but I grew up listening to the Peter, Paul, and Mary version.  I strongly suggest listening to the lyrics, or at least looking them up.

Here are some relevant links:

I follow the UN and related organisations on Twitter, so I do apologise for the lack of articles to list here.  With the number of tweets I get each day it would be near impossible for me to properly reference and cite them all here.

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