Palestinians react to status upgrade

West Bank and Gaza celebrate UN vote, but not everyone is convinced the new status will help Palestine’s cause.

Ramallah reacts to UN statehood bid

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have celebrated the UN General Assembly vote accepting Palestine as a non-member observer state at the United Nations in New York.

Nine countries voted against the Palestine upgrade, which was approved by the General Assembly with 138 votes on Thursday. Fourty-one countries abstained.

Voting “no” were Israel, the United States and Canada, joined by the Czech Republic, Panama and several Pacific island nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.

The mood overnight on the streets of Ramallah was jubilant, but not all Palestinians believe that UN recognition will change anything on the ground.

Sahar Safi, 30, visiting family from Jordan


The importance of this is that it means we will have a state and will have a stance and we will have better leverage to negotiate with Israel.

Now when Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] sits at the negotiating table, he will be stronger than before.

Technically Palestine exists on the ground and in our hearts but we are being ignored, especially by Israel. Israel can no longer ignore us.

The UN bid will show that we exist. We have a flag and a people and hopefully this means Palestinians in the Diaspora will come home.

This UN step will unify us all. 

Mazen Ibrahim, 53, teacher


The Palestinians are people with rights to a state that includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a state with a capital and borders, living side by side with a state of Israel.

We don’t have a problem abiding by international agreements. But Israel thinks it’s above the law because unfortunately it is being backed by the US, which in turn is being affected by AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] and other pro-Israel lobbies.

Israel ignores all international treaties by the UN. This is considered a first step towards creating our own independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

So tomorrow we can take Israel to the ICC [International Criminal Court] in our capacity as an occupied state.

The UN will no longer be able to accept having an independent state live under occupation. So this UN bid can in effect make some change. 

Maher Qashou’, 31, barber


We are extremely happy that we have a state. We are the only people in the world that don’t have a country or stability or security or freedom.

We hope that our new state will provide us with all these things that other people around the world take for granted.

Our people are denied the most basic of rights. We cannot even move from one city to another without dozens of checkpoints stopping us or turning us back or without [Israeli] settlers attacking us.

God-willing all of these things [will] change. We hope this UN step will bring safety to our children and allow us to take our grievances to international courts.

And hopefully this will pave the way for peace between us and [the Israelis]. 

Sameh Abu Jamous, 24, baker


This step is not in Israel’s favour and that’s what counts. This will help us take them to international courts to hold them accountable for what just happened in Gaza.

Why did these children, women and elderly have to die in Gaza?

What did they do to deserve such a dreadful fate? It will change things for the better, I think.

We will be a state with an economy and we will see an increase in investments.

Our economy has been suffering of late, wages have been intermittent and our standard of living has shot through the roof.

Hopefully this step will bring positive changes to our economy. 

Maher Abu Kwaik, 30, vegetable vendor


I’m not really sure how this will translate on the ground. As vendors, we always have problems with exporting and importing our goods.

Israel controls the crossing points and has a stringent hold on the cities in the West Bank.This makes transporting our fruits and vegetables more expensive, because of the back-to-back system they have created.

Will this step mean that Israel cannot control us like this any more?

I’m not sure. I want to believe that things will change. We have been fighting our whole lives just for a moment like this, so we have our own independent state.

I just hope that this will pave the way for tangible changes on the ground, and that it’s not just one more disappointment. 

Mahmoud Issa, 23, student


I think this step will make things worse for the Palestinian people.

By asking for a state based on the 1967 armistice line, [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas is effectively giving away the Palestinian right of return and only accepting 22 per cent of historic Palestine.

So the way I see it, Abbas is doing more harm to us than good and I also think this step will not bring any changes on the ground.

We have more than one hundred settlements in the West Bank and I have my doubts that this UN move will have any impact on these settlements, which are obviously an obstacle to peace.

Reham Al-Ghoul, 29, housewife


I think this UN step will change things for us as Palestinians.

It will be easier for us to move more easily between cities and in and out to other countries around the world.

We hope that it will pave the way for easier living conditions, especially the removal of Israeli checkpoints.

This time is different from [the Palestinian Declaration of Independence] in 1988.

Unlike back then, this time all the Arab and European countries are supporting us, including first-timers like Spain, France and Denmark.

Hazem Abu Hilal, 29, youth activist


There will be no changes on the ground in the aftermath because the Israeli occupation is the one in control of the political and economic facets of our life here.

Another problem is there is no political will, meaning there is no strategy for the aftermath, such as a roadmap to take Israel to the ICC for example.

This UN step is a knee-jerk reaction to the political stalemate and an attempt to break out of a political deadlock that is facing the Palestinian Authority specifically and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in general.

This is the real problem. If this UN vote came in the context of a united national strategy related to the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) for example, it would have been a positive step.

But now the fear is that this will be used to go back to negotiations, which have proved fruitless for many years.

Text by Dalia Hatuqa. Photographs by Lazar Simeonov.

Source: Al Jazeera