Sunday, September 4, 2011

Palestinian Statehood?

When the UN General Assembly convenes in mid-September, it's likely to vote on a resolution that would recognize Palestine as the State of Palestine, making it a member-nation of the UN.

This push for statehood is using what has been termed the "Arab Spring," the series of uprisings against autocratic regimes in the Arab world that began in late 2010 and continue to this day, as a means of garnering sympathy and support, both in the UN proper and in the world at large. Given this background and the general antipathy of the UN towards Israel, it seems likely that the resolution will pass.

Rather than talk about what this means for Israel and Palestine, let's consider instead the philosophical underpinnings of this potential move by the UN. The UN, of course, is a body composed of representatives of its member-nations. Nations petition the UN to join, then the UN votes on that membership (allowing that the Security Council has recommended acceptance). Here are the specifics:

Rule 134

Any State which desires to become a Member of the United Nations shall submit an application to the Secretary-General. Such application shall contain a declaration, made in a formal instrument, that the State in question accepts the obligations contained in the Charter.
Notification of applications
Rule 135 
The Secretary-General shall, for information, send a copy of the application to the General Assembly, or to the Members of the United Nations if the Assembly is not in session.
Consideration of applications and decision thereon
Rule 136 
If the Security Council recommends the applicant State for membership, the General Assembly shall consider whether the applicant is a peace-loving State and is able and willing to carry out the obligations contained in the Charter and shall decide, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, upon its application for membership. 
Rule 137

If the Security Council does not recommend the applicant State for membership or postpones the consideration of the application, the General Assembly may, after full consideration of the special report of the Security Council, send the application back to the Council, together with a full record of the discussion in the Assembly, for further consideration and recommendation or report.
Notification of decision and effective date of membership 
Rule 138

The Secretary-General shall inform the applicant State of the decision of the General Assembly. If the application is approved, membership shall become effective on the date on which the General Assembly takes its decision on the application.
Interestingly enough, the GA is charged with considering whether or not the applicant state is "a peace-loving state." One can't help but wonder how North Korea became a member...

But I digress. The important thing here is that the UN considers an existing state for membership. Looking through the UN bylaws, I can't seem to find any that govern the creation of a new state by UN fiat. One can rightly ask what it means to be a state, and I think Max Weber answered that question a long time ago: a monopoly on violence over a given territory. Right or wrong, this is not the case for the Palestinian territories. It just isn't, and there's no way around it.

So, the UN--it would seem--is prepared to bypass this need and engage in outright nation-creating. From whence came its authority to do this? Might the UN decide--arbitrarily--that the Basque Region in Spain is a state, as well? Or perhaps it might decide that Quebec is independent.

And if Spain and/or Canada disagree with such decisions, what--exactly--can the UN do about it? Does it possess the actual power to enforce its decree here? To actually establish a new nation, by force? Because if it doesn't, maybe it's no more real than a fantasy nation it tries to create...

Cheers, all.

No comments:

Post a Comment