Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the United Nations General Assembly was as much about trying to reclaim his dwindling support among Palestinians as it was designed to outline Palestine’s intention to move for a new status at the UN. The consequence of ‘non-member state’ status, while not granting full UN membership, would provide a UN imprimatur to the identity of Palestine as a state, meaning it would have the right to sign treaties. Of particular significance would be Palestine joining the Rome Treaty as a signatory to the International Criminal Court. That would, at least potentially, enable an ICC investigation of potential Israeli war crimes on Palestinian territory.
Beyond his anticipated call for the new UN recognition as a ‘state,’ much of Abbas’ speech focused on Israeli violations of international law, particularly the Geneva Conventions. While he issued his usual call for resuming peace talks with Israel, he called for the United Nations, specifically the Security Council, to pass a binding resolution setting out the terms of reference for any renewed diplomatic process, something that seems to contradict his longstanding willingness to allow unchallenged U.S. control of the negotiating process.
In other parts of his speech, the PLO Chairman reasserted the PLO’s role as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, while rejecting the occupation’s efforts to divide Gaza from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and reaffirmed the need for a ‘just solution’ for Palestinian refugees under the terms of UN resolution 194. In language clearly designed to win support from Palestinians both in the OPT and in the diaspora, many of whom remain dissatisfied with the current Palestinian leadership and whom he identified as ‘an angry people,’ he spoke of Israeli ‘apartheid,’ asserted Palestinian rights and the need to continue ‘peaceful popular resistance’ against occupation. In a clear effort to win support from Palestinian civil society, whose call for a global campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions has fundamentally challenged longstanding PLO/PA strategy, he spoke in a language of rights, rejecting the notion of statehood being bestowed on Palestinians, and identified Israel’s ‘settler colonialism’ as something that must be ‘condemned, punished, and boycotted.’
As anticipated, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, reflecting the huge political gain that he has won from his year of escalating threats against Iran, barely touched the Palestinian question. He has taken advantage of the fact that as long as the claim (however specious) that Israel faces an ‘existential danger’ from Iran is on the table, no one, certainly not the United States, has been willing to exert any real pressure on Israel regarding the occupation. His reference to Israel’s occupation was limited to a brief paragraph in which he claimed that ‘we seek peace with the Palestinians.’ He then went on to lecture the Palestinians, saying ‘we won’t solve the conflict with libelous speeches at the UN, that’s not the way to solve them.’ He said the conflict wouldn’t be solved with ‘unilateral declarations of statehood,’ that the only goal can be a ‘mutual compromise in which a demilitarised Palestinian state [heavily emphasised in his delivery] recognises the one and only Jewish state.’
Netanyahu’s speech focused almost solely on Iran, comparing it to Nazi Germany and calling for the world to join his crusade against it. He spoke derisively of those who claim that a nuclear-armed Iran might stabilise the Middle East, looking up from his prepared notes with a sarcastic ‘yeah, right.’ Interestingly, he reminded the world — seemingly as a point of pride — that he had been speaking about ‘the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons for over 15 years.’ It apparently didn’t appear to his speechwriting team that this admission, when all of those earlier warnings were shaped by the same ‘it’s almost too late’ rhetoric that we heard today, might somehow discredit his unchanging claim.
Ignoring the fact that the United States, unfortunately, already has an ‘all options on the table’ red line of its own (preventing Iran from obtaining a bomb), Netanyahu called on the United States to endorse his own specific red line for using force against Iran. He set his red line as Iran’s ability to enrich uranium to bomb grade, and demanded that the U.S. join. While Iran has not enriched anywhere close to that level, Netanyahu’s language reflected his red line on Iran’s ‘capability,’ a line that he argued is almost here. He spoke on the need to attack Iranian facilities while they are ‘still visible and still vulnerable.’ Perhaps taking a lesson from then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s use of fake ‘anthrax’ props when trying to persuade the Security Council of the need to go to war against Iraq in 2002, Netanyahu held up a primitive grade-school level poster prop and used insulting ‘this is a bomb, this is a fuse’ language.
Netanyahu’s overall language, however, was significantly more conciliatory towards President Obama than much of his recent rhetoric. Perhaps it was the cohort of Jewish Democratic Party heavyweights who scolded the Israeli prime minister for interfering in U.S. politics, or perhaps it was his U.S. advisers, or perhaps his own political team at home — but whatever the reason, Netanyahu’s overt embrace of all things Romney, and his disdain for all things Obama, was kept well under wraps in New York.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns