138 countries say Palestine is a country; Canada isn’t one of them.

There was far, far too little attention given to an important vote at the UN today, in which it was decided to recognize Palestine (two geographic areas, the West Bank & Gaza, also sometimes called as the ‘occupied Palestinian territories’) as a country (at the UN, anyways). Canada was one of 9 countries (Israel, the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands) that voted against this motion. John Baird, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister who declared it an “utterly regrettable decision”Hilary Clinton called the vote “counterproductive”. For full coverage of the vote, check out Gulf News.

However, the vote makes it much more clear where Palestine stands legally.  Previously, it existed in a legal vacuum: Israel did not recognize the two areas (one of which has been called an ‘open-air prison’ by the UN Humanitarian Affairs & Emergency Relief Coordinator, amongst others) as a state, and that shaped the ability of these people to negotiate with Israel to improve their living conditions and daily lives, despite the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 2003.  However, what is now Palestine was unable to be party to the United Nations agreements that are the legal foundation for many claims to human rights (Stoparic, 2005, par. 14).  Further, Israel, which is party to these UN agreements and actively patrols and polices the Palestinian territories, did not accept responsibility for implementing these agreements in the West Bank and Gaza.  This is in spite of rulings by the International Court of Justice and the United Nations Human Rights Committee holding Israel responsible.

Perhaps this step of nationhood will help advance ongoing Palestinian struggles for justice, for a more secure future, for ability to travel, feed their families, work, study and to live in a place without violence.

More writing on this topic from amazing women:

The Crunk Feminist Collective published on the connections between the resistance of Palestinians to the efforts of Black Power in the US, because oppression extends far beyond (constructed) state borders.

Writing from Rachel Corrie, an activist who moved to Gaza partway through college because it was urgent and important to go there and do something real to address something atrocious. She was killed in the violence that there  is part of daily life.  Rachel’s story (which I first saw in the monologue, My Name is Rachel Corrie) was my first real introduction to what was actually happening in the conflict in the Middle East.  While there, she reflected on how comparatively easy her experience as an American:

You just can’t imagine it unless you see it – and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown.

And called all of us to action while big explosions happened outside her window:

 I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I looked at Capital Lake and said: “This is the wide world and I’m coming to it.” I did not mean that I was coming into a world where I could live a comfortable life and possibly, with no effort at all, exist in complete unawareness of my participation in genocide. More big explosions somewhere in the distance outside.

Needless to say, its worth reading her writing.

Most importantly, this is a conflict worth caring about, talking about, and asking our leaders to do something about.  Because I too am disappointed that this is our world, and so desperately want to be part of making it better.