Today, Palestine was granted the half-a-loaf of non-member status (along with the Vatican City), granting it a sort of intermediate legitimacy as a nation, able to join the International Court of Justice, as well as the right to enter into UN treaties, which gives it the right (if it so chooses) to pursue human rights violations against Israel. This news comes over a year after the direct bid to gain full membership status was rejected by the United States (which I commented on at the time ). The final vote to grant Palestinian status as a non-member observer passed by a vote of 138-9, with 41 abstentions , which is a landslide, indicating the sad state of the world and the immense amount of pandering by nations to unjust causes supported by the Muslim world.
But that is neither here nor there. The Palestinians, thanks to the support of developing nations, have sought freedom from what they see as Israeli oppression and a nebulous status by seeking internationally recognized freedom, even though it depends on aid from Israel (!) and the European Union to even remotely try to engage in the normal tasks of statehood for which it is so manifestly ill-equipped. Palestine is a classic example of a fragmented state, with a Fatah national government which rules over those portions of the West Bank that are not settled by Israelis, and a Hamas-dominated government over the Gaza strip. It appears to have no settled economy, no interest in achieving success through peace with Israel, and really little hope for a better future as long as it denies the legitimacy of Israel. Until the Palestinians love their children more than they hate Israel, and until they are no longer enabled to hate by the enemies of Israel that do not often wish to declare themselves openly, their people will suffer and they may have all the popularity they want in the UN General Assembly without the reality of responsible nationhood.
It is worthy of brief comment, at least, that the ethnicity of the Palestinian Arabs as a separate people seems only to have come as a result of the division between Palestine and Transjordan after World War I, and the difference between those sections of the local Arab population that were under French rule or the rule of the Hashemite dynasty or under more direct British rule under the influence of rising Jewish emigration into the land. Ironically enough, it is the Israelis that are responsible for the creation of a Palestinian ethnicity where none existed before when the western Levant was merely an Arab backwater of the Ottoman Empire. It was the refusal of the Egyptians and Jordanians after 1948, when the local Arabs felt the loss of their homeland after an unsuccessful attempt to destroy Israel at its founding, to assimilate the local Arab population into their own native peoples, that has led the Palestinians to see themselves as a distinct population as opposed to the other largely Sunni Arab populations of the area. Needless to say, this has made matters increasingly complicated with regards to Israel, and has meant that Palestine’s road to freedom appears to depend on their ability to work out their enmity with Israel.
But Palestine does not represent the only option of independence within the modern world, even though many peoples with equal or better claim to independence (Somaliland, Kosovo, Western Sahara, Northern Cyprus, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, the Transdnistr Republic, and Nagorno-Karabakh spring readily to mind) linger unrecognized and largely unknown by the world. While some would-be nations, like Palestine, seek their freedom through international institutions, other nations seek their freedom from international domination, preferring a freedom according to their own laws to avoid exploitation and domination from international institutions. Such a case is the curious case of Iceland.
Though this is not a new story, it is not a well known one, so it is worthy of mention. While most of the Western world has sought bailouts either from its own government or other governments to force austerity on a largely hostile population, the nation of Iceland has replied in a striking and worthwhile way, telling banks (both domestic and international) that no bank was too big to fail and that the people of Iceland were not going to accept bailing out either their own banks or bankers in other nations who had taken foolish gambles (some of them apparently motivated by insider trading) in betting on Iceland and driving up debts that were ten times the yearly Gross Domestic Product of Iceland (which is only $12 billion) . Even though Iceland’s assembly, the Althingi, was willing to repay the “loans” demanded in order to enter the EU, their willingness to bow cravenly before international institutions was not matched by the fierce spirit of the people of Iceland themselves.
What accounts for the difference between Palestine and Iceland? Iceland has control over its own nation, has a thriving (if small) national economy, as well as the opportunity to enter larger institutions (like the EU) if it really wanted to. But Iceland has chosen rather to be free from entanglements and exploitation from larger economies, free and sovereign rather than to become a colony of larger and more powerful European nations who would burden them with debt and then seek to leverage those debts into greater power and control (at the cost of suffering to the people), as has been the case in Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy, among other countries. By choosing to endure the costs immediately and not seek bailouts and then to (even more daringly) prosecute the responsible bankers for insider trading, Iceland has shown that its free and fiercely independent spirit still lives on.
What we see in comparing the example of Palestine and Iceland is that nations and peoples seek different means to be free. Those nations that have the power and the will to do so seem to prefer to be free rather than accept domination by larger supranational organizations, even though the political class of the world appears less interested in maintaining freedom than the populace at large, presenting a seemingly permanent crisis of legitimacy among the governments of the world. On the other hand, those nations which have popularity among other nations seek handouts and empty symbolic gestures and involvement in international institutions without having proved the ability to handle their business in a responsible manner. The way that nations and peoples seek their freedom depends in large part on their character and virtue, and there are few nations as far apart on that scale that can be found as Iceland and Palestine, it would appear.