Some Palestinians oppose the UN bid for statehood but the new name of the country could help its cause.
Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the PLO, on Friday confirmed what everybody already knew: That he would seek a United Nations recognition for the “State of Palestine”.
It is controversial. Palestinians are divided on the issue, Israelis’ are playing a waiting game to see what happens next, but, they are confident the bid will not go through.
While other countries, the US in particular, are opposed to the move.
UN recognition is therefore far from a done deal.
The argument seems to be that by going for recognition the Palestinians are in violation of the Oslo Accords and that that should be the framework for all negotiations.
But let us, for argument’s sake, say the bid for recognition turns out successful. Bingo! You will have the State of Palestine. A name that hasn’t been used officially since 1948.
That is the power of this move. We as news organisations can start to call the country Palestine.
Ditto all other international organisations and the rest of the world. Everybody has to start to refer to the “State of Palestine”. We all will have to, to use marketing speak, use brand recognition.
That’s important. The country begins to exist in the eyes of the world. No more use of niceties such as “The Gaza Strip”, “The West Bank” or the “Palestinian Territories”.
The Palestinian flag becomes a more powerful symbol because it finally denotes something, an idea of a state rather than the idea of a struggle.
The Palestinians have long had a marketing problem. They do not have a slick western style campaign to get the key points of their plight across, instead relying on news organisations and charities, each with their own agenda.
The Israelis’ on the other hand, from Washington to London and beyond have lobbyists, activists and use technology to great effect to get their point across.
UN recognition provides an opportunity. It puts the issue back on the table and gives it a brand that means something: A free state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
And, in the world we live in, branding is important.
I hate to say this, but giving people a simple idea is the most effective way of getting a message across. Apple understands that, so does Coca-cola. You may hate the idea of a peoples’ struggle being reduced to a marketing term. I know I do. But we have to be realistic.
UN status and the recognition of “Palestine” will help the cause. What will hinder it is the politics of how it happened and, what happens next.
I write this fully understanding what the bid means and why so many Palestinians are opposed to it: That many fear that too much is being given up and that not enough consultation with Palestinian groups outside of the West Bank has taken place.
The debate between the Palestinians is important and needs to happen.
But, being able to use the name Palestine again surely has a worth? That has to be something that Palestinians can take some pride in, that whatever their politicians are up to, finally the world will recognise that they are a country and a people.
Sadly, the way this has come about means that millions of Palestinians the world over worry that Abbas’s move is simply too high a price to pay for what effectively is a piece of paper with no real and substantive change.