Abbas’s political rigmarole at the UN General Assembly

Mahmoud Abbas speaks in a prerecorded video during the UN General Assembly via live stream in New York (Michael Nagle - Bloomberg)

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  September 28, 2021

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s long rigmarole at the UN General Assembly provided only a partial historical reckoning. The link between colonialism and the UN, notably within the context of UN Resolution 194 and the Palestinian right of return, was bypassed by regurgitating the outdated concept of an international peace conference. “If there will be no international peace conference and no direct negotiations,” Abbas asked, “then how can peace be made?”

By issuing meaningless ultimatums to Israel, perhaps? That seems to be Abbas’s distorted view. The PA leader threatened to withdraw recognition of Israel if the military occupation does not end within a year. But who believes such rhetoric when Abbas failed to deliver Palestinian elections as promised, and continues to collaborate with the Israeli occupation security forces, despite many threats to end it?

Abbas’s approach to politics is dissociative. “Peace” is the international community’s euphemism for bowing down to Israel’s colonial expansion and accepting the crumbs thrown from the apartheid table. In which case Abbas is right; he has never missed an opportunity for peace given that the PA is aligned with Israel’s security interests to the point of setting its own security services against the Palestinian people.

Of course, Abbas’s aim is not to draw attention to the PA’s political failures in Palestine. Since it exists only as part of the international community’s commitment to two-state diplomacy, Abbas can avail himself of this narrative and claim to be working towards peace in Palestine even if peace means subjugation to settlement expansion and more de-facto annexation of Palestinian land.

The series of rhetorical questions Abbas asked in his UN speech also testify to his political weakness and subservience to higher political power. “Does Israel believe that it can endlessly promote a false narrative that ignores the historic and present right of the Palestinian people to their homeland?” Well, yes. Not because Israel believes its false narrative, but due to the fact that the UN has normalized the colonial narrative and the PA has done nothing to challenge it at an international level, committed as it is to the two-state compromise which denies the full political rights of the Palestinian people to their land.

Speaking of narratives, the PA only exposes its “peace” narrative in terms of how it relates to the international community’s impositions on Palestine. But Palestinians are acquainted with another PA narrative; one that silences, imprisons and, at times, murders dissenting voices. A narrative that has its foundations in security coordination to control the Palestinian people, for the benefit of Israel primarily, but also the PA and its corrupt officials.

Calling out international complicity while being a participant in the colonization process is not the mark of good leadership. Abbas has given a speech in which the less palatable parts for Israel and the international community were balanced by adherence to the two-state compromise which obliterates Palestinian independence.

So rather than asking what Israel believes it can do, let’s ask what the PA believes it can achieve. How much more is it willing to tolerate? This year’s events stand as testimony to what the PA is dedicated to, and no persistent haranguing for international peace conferences will alter the fact that the PA’s objective, like Israel’s, is to keep Palestinians away from their political rights. Abbas is correct to say that the Palestinians will stand against colonization, but he knows full well that the PA will not be standing alongside them as long as he is at its helm.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America