Palestine as a State in UNESCO - Fantasy and Folly

No member State has objected to the flag of 'Palestine' now flying above UNESCO headquarters in Paris alongside their State's respective flags.

David Singer

OpEds David Singer
David Singer

Recognition of the existence of  'Palestine' as a State was ostensibly given the international imprimatur  on 31 October 2011 - when 107 countries voted to admit 'Palestine' as the 195th member state of UNESCO.

Palestine’s admission to UNESCO rested  upon Article II (2) of UNESCO’s Constitution which states:

“Subject to the conditions of the Agreement between this Organization and the United Nations Organization, approved pursuant to Article X of this Constitution, states not members of the United Nations Organization may be admitted to membership of the Organization, upon recommendation of the Executive Board, by a two-thirds majority vote of the General Conference.”

Palestine’s application  would presumably have been vetted  by UNESCO’s 58 member Executive Board - to make sure Palestine qualified as a state to entitle it to become a member of UNESCO - otherwise the application would have had to be ruled out of order.

Article II (2) above indeed makes clear that there had to be a recommendation by the Executive Board.

To try and find out how the Executive Board came to its conclusion - I asked UNESCO two questions - to which  I received the following answers on 1 December 2011:

QUESTION: Did the Secretariat or any other division within UNESCO prepare a report on the status of “Palestine” to qualify as a “state” to be admitted to membership of UNESCO? If so could I please be sent a copy.

ANSWER: There was no document submitted to the General Conference by the Secretariat relating to the status of  Palestine.

QUESTION: On what basis can Palestine qualify to be admitted as a member State of UNESCO when it  does not  possess the necessary qualifications to be recognized as a State in customary international law as codified in article 1 of the Montevideo Convention 1933? 

ANSWER: This question would need to be addressed to the UNESCO Member States that voted in favor  of admission.

Not satisfied with these answers - I wrote a further letter on 2 December 2011 drawing UNESCO’s attention to the following:

Article II.2 of the Constitution requires "a recommendation of the Executive Board" as a necessary pre-condition for the admission of any states to UNESCO that are not members of the United Nations.

Can you supply a copy of the recommendation of the Executive Board to the General Conference to admit Palestine to membership of UNESCO and any reports that formed part of that recommendation or were considered by the Executive Board prior to making that recommendation.

There was no reply - only an impenetrable wall of silence erected by UNESCO ever since.

Now those of you who have read my many articles over the past 5 months know that I consider Palestine’s admission to UNESCO to be unconstitutional - being in breach of Article II (2) above.

I have unsuccessfully urged UNESCO to seek an advisory ruling from the International Court on the meaning of Article II (2) and on other clauses in the Constitution that appear to be inconsistent with it.

UNESCO can approach the Court to resolve these issues under Article XIV (2)  of the Constitution which states:

“Any question or dispute concerning the interpretation of this Constitution shall be referred for  determination to the International Court of Justice or to an arbitral tribunal, as the General Conference may determine under its Rules of Procedure”

Not one of the 194 UNESCO member states seems remotely interested in pursuing this option. All have apparently accepted the fact that Palestine is a State.

No member State has objected to the flag of Palestine flying above UNESCO headquarters in Paris alongside their State's respective flags.

Under Article II (7) - each Member State is entitled to appoint a Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.

On 23 January 2012 - Mr. Elias Wadih Sanbar was appointed Permanent Delegate of the member state of Palestine - without demur or objection from any of the other member states.

Given the apparent acceptance of Palestine as a state on an equal par with all the other 194 member states of UNESCO - my questions to all of them are:

Why  is the world not now celebrating the realisation of the two-state solution on 31 October 2011?

When will UNWRA be disbanded - now that the State of Palestine exists?

Why is the UN still carrying the following outdated material on its website:

“In late April the Security Council is due to hold its quarterly open debate on the Middle East. The focus of discussion will likely be whether the Quartet has been able to achieve sufficient impetus to break the stalemate in the Israel/Palestine peace process.                                       

The Quartet—comprising the EU, Russia, the UN and the US—will next meet on 11 April in Washington, DC.”

Why waste the Security Council’s time with another debate on efforts to break the stalemate in the Middle East - when the stalemate was broken on 31  October 2011?

Isn’t it time the Quartet disbanded and announced the cancellation of its next meeting set for 11 April 2012?  Has it any function now - following international recognition by the 194 member states of UNESCO that Palestine is a State?

Not one of the 195 member states of UNESCO ( including Palestine itself) can pinpoint the State of Palestine on a map or the boundaries which it encompasses.

This surely  is testimony to the mess that the world has landed itself in because it has chosen to ignore international law and UNESCO‘s Constitution.

The world will have to live with its flight into fantasy and folly and bear the consequences of its unlawful decision.

You can't be half pregnant - nor can you be half a state. If you call yourself a State - represent yourself as a State when seeking entry to world organizations - and get accepted on the basis of being a State - then you are a State and should stop efforts in that regard.

Time to focus now on  the claims of other groups with long standing demands for self determination - such as the Tibetans, the Kurds, the Basques and the Corsicans.

They should now all apply to join UNESCO -  using Palestine as the precedent - confident in the knowledge that if UNESCO can miraculously turn fiction into fact by recognizing "Palestine" as a "State" - it can make the aspirations of these other long suffering people become a similar reality.

What is good for the goose must surely be good enough for the gander.