Back in December 2010 CiF Watch exposed the fact that a Guardian columnist named John Whitbeck not only has a penchant for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, but also does a nice line in 9/11 trutherism and aspires to see a world without Zionism.
Readers may be interested to know that Mr. Whitbeck has apparently moved on to pastures new and in March 2011 was to be found, wearing his ‘international lawyer’ hat, advising a United Nations meeting of Latin American and Caribbean countries in Montevideo on the subject of the peace process and the potential recognition by the UN of a Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood in September.
His contribution to the session was – to those of us familiar with his views – somewhat predictable.
Mr. WHITBECK, a Paris-based international lawyer, said it was important to recognize the distinction between the existence of a State and the diplomatic recognition of a State by other States. Diplomatic recognition was fundamentally a political issue, since no State could be compelled to recognize another or be prevented from doing so. Palestine, currently recognized by 112 other States, clearly qualified as a State under the criteria set forth in the 1933 Montevideo Convention. So did Kosovo and the Western Sahara. Israel, however, did not qualify as a State under the Convention’s criteria since it had consciously chosen never to define its territory and borders, knowing that doing so would necessarily place limits on them.
While Israel had formally annexed East Jerusalem and an arc of surrounding territory — which was not recognized by any other State — it had for 44 years refrained from asserting sovereignty over any other part of the West Bank or Gaza, an act which would raise awkward questions about the rights, or lack thereof, of those that lived there, he said. Since November 1988, when Palestinian Statehood was proclaimed, the only State asserting sovereignty over those parts of Palestine conquered by Israel in 1967 had been Palestine itself. Therefore, its sovereignty claim was literally and legally uncontested, even if it was not yet universally recognized.
Some 100 States had promptly recognized the State of Palestine when it had declared independence in 1988, he said. But then, and for several years afterward, it had been legally challenging to make the argument that Palestine met the customary international law criterion for “effective control over the State’s territory and population”. By agreeing to “autonomy” or “self-Government”, the Palestinians had consigned the State of Palestine to a “dark closet”. On the bright side, the Oslo peace process had given rise to the Palestinian Authority, which began building institutions for a future Palestinian State. It would be highly desirable to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, the two main Palestinian parties, before September 2011, the target date for creating a State of Palestine.
“Under both the criteria of the Montevideo Convention and the more restrictive criteria of recent customary international law, the State of Palestine exists — now. Its existence does not require Israeli consent or American recognition. It is a reality which must no longer be ignored,” he said.
Many long-time Palestinian friends had concluded in recent years that a two-State solution was no longer conceivable and that the Palestinians should opt instead for non-violent resistance, he said But the recent strategic decision of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to break free from the so-called “peace process”, which had been manipulated to perpetuate the “process” and prevent peace, relying instead on the United Nations, international law and support from people worldwide, had changed that calculation.
Seven of the nine South American nations that had formally recognized the State of Palestine since December, had explicitly done so along the 1967 borders, he said. If Palestine were to become a United Nations Member State, the end of the occupation and peace with some measure of justice would become a question of “when”, and not “whether”.
The Holy Land was rumoured to have been the site of miraculous resurrections, he said. “The current Palestinian strategy offers the last, best hope of making the two-State solution a reality,” he said, adding that “decent people everywhere should do everything in their power over the next six months to make this last-chance strategy succeed.” A huge debt of gratitude would be owed to South America, which had given the strategy credibility, momentum and hope.
Later in the discussion:
……a participant asked Mr. Whitbeck to comment on Israel’s violation of United Nations resolutions and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion. Another asked about the feasibility of creating one State for both Israelis and Palestinians.
In response, Mr. WHITBECK regretted that Israel had not implemented United Nations resolutions. The reality was that all United States’ politicians were wary of criticizing Israel. The Palestinian leadership should publicly ask the Israeli Government why it was not implementing United Nations resolutions on the question of Palestine and why it did not want to accept the existence of the State of Palestine. In doing so, the Palestinians could pressure Israel to ask the United States not to veto Palestine’s request for admission to the United Nations as a full Member State.
That members of the United Nations should be found listening to and relying upon the opinions of a man with a track-record of anti-Semitic statements will surprise few of those familiar with that institution. It does, however, remain reprehensible and perhaps casts some light onto the motivations of those attempting to advance the cause of the PA’s proposed unilateral declaration in September.