Catalan protesters 521.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The common explanation for the US and Israel’s objection to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN is that an end to the conflict can be reached only through negotiations. It is so easy to get caught up in this oft-repeated rhetoric, but there is a larger picture here that needs to be taken into consideration.
The bid could set a dangerous precedent for countries around the globe as their own individual separatist movements gain confidence and glean lessons from the Palestinian experience.
It is illogical that so much focus centers around Israel and the Palestinians. Why is it that disputes such as the one between Russia and Chechnya, throughout which thousands have been killed on both sides, create little to no interest, and yet the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians receives world attention? There are hundreds of border disputes across the globe and dozens of national and separatist movements that seek to gain independence and recognition, yet it is the Israeli-Palestinian issue that garners the most international attention and is widely considered a major obstacle to regional stability.
A glance at European countries reveals no shortage of separatist movements.
Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway all have separatist movements. The
same goes for Belgium (Flemish and Walloon separatists), Switzerland
(Jura) and the Netherlands (Frisian).
Of course there are the well-known cases such as Chechnya and South
Ossetia, which seek independence from Russia, Tibet from China and
Kashmir from India.
The lesser-known Uighur separatists also want independence from China.
Spain wants Gibraltar back from the British but Gibraltarians reject any
such deal. The Catalonians and the Basque separatist group ETA also
want independence from Spain.
The Scottish Nationalist movement and the Plaid Cymru of Wales each desire secession from the United Kingdom.
Turkish, Iranian and Syrian Kurds seek recognition and independence.
The Islamic movement in Nigeria seeks to establish a separate Islamic
government. The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of
Biafra wants independence from Nigeria.
Other disputes exist between France and Corsica and between the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lanka.
South America also has its share of separatist movements.
The Santa Cruz in Bolivia, the Mapuche in Argentina and Chile and the Zulia of Venezuela are just some examples.
IN ADDITION to separatist movements, there is a patchwork of border disputes around the globe, especially in the Middle East.
In Separatist Movements: Should Nations Have a Right to
Self-Determination? Brian Beary writes, “Most of the new nations [in the
20th century] were created in the Post- WWII era, as the European
powers shed their colonies in Africa and Asia.”
Much of the Middle East was drawn up by the colonial powers in an almost
haphazard manner and this is one of the main causes behind many of
today’s border disputes in the region.
Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Northern Cyprus are two examples.
Iran has two ongoing border disputes with Bahrain and United Arab Emirates.
Iraq claims Kuwait’s Mubarak al-Kabeer port encroaches on its territorial waters.
In a paper titled “Separatist Wars, Partition, and World Order,” James
D. Fearon of the Department of Political Science at Stanford University
wrote, “prior to the Dayton agreement, there had been an ongoing debate
among Kosovan Albanians about whether a violent insurgency or peaceful
civil disobedience in the form of a ‘shadow government’ was the best
course for attracting international support and redressing wrongs in
Kosovo. After Dayton, which the Kosovars reasonably interpreted as
rewarding the violent Bosnian Serb leadership with virtual independence,
the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) broke ranks and initiated a guerrilla
EVEN IF any of these aforementioned groups are not violent, does this
mean their cause is any less legitimate? And what message does the
United Nations Security Council send when it rewards those movements
that are indeed violent? In discussing the right of Palestinian
independence, it becomes important to review the member countries
sitting on the Security Council. It is almost humorous to witness the
level of hypocrisy that exists as many of the members have separatist
movements seeking independence from their own countries.
Besides India, France, China, Russia, the UK and Nigeria, Portugal has
its Cabinda separatists and Bosnia- Herzgovenia’s Republika Srpska
considers itself a separate entity.
Most if not all of the members of the Security Council have either separatist movements or border disputes with other countries.
Central and South America’s geographical distance from Israel does not
remove them from the internal consequence that could result in their
supporting a unilaterally declared Palestinian state.
Allowing the Palestinians to declare a state of their own through the
Security Council will set a dangerous precedent that could result in
more warfare and terrorism as separatist groups grow to believe their
cause could only be furthered by violent means.
For this reason, Palestine needs to come into existence not unilaterally, but through negotiations with Israel.