Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the president of the Palestinian National Authority, gave a speech to the U.N. this week, and this is a revised and reimagined version of the speech. It’s the speech I think Palestinians needed to hear, a kind of best-case scenario for what a Palestinian leader should have said if she truly represented Palestinians’ best interest.
President of the General Assembly; Excellency Mr. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations; Excellencies, heads of delegations; Ladies and gentlemen.
I come before you today from Palestine to sound the alarm about what is happening in Jerusalem, about what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza and about what is happening in Israel. I come before you to sound the alarm about what has been happening to Palestinians for 67 years, in our own homeland.
We are often accused of refusing. Of refusing to negotiate, of refusing to settle, of refusing to compromise. In 1948, we were a naïve, agrarian, developing people. 100 years after the 1848 spring of nations—that glorified winter of failed revolutions that gave rise to nationalism in Europe—we still knew nothing of nationalism and self-determination. In 1948, when the Jewish people declared the establishment of the state of Israel in Mandatory Palestine, partition was out of the question for us. In the eyes of our forefathers, there was not a single doubt that this land belonged to us, for we had been living in it and nourishing it for longer than we could remember. We had no other land.
But we no longer refuse. For over 20 years, we have done nothing but reach out our hands for peace. Ladies and gentlemen, I remind you that history was not kind to us. Jewish militants, determined to create a state for themselves, ethnically cleansed us from our land in 1948. Those Palestinians who remained in Israel suffer from Israel’s systematic discrimination every day. The Gaza strip and the West Bank have been under one occupation or another for 67 years. Our brothers and sisters in Lebanon and Syria, third-generation refugees, are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. Ladies and gentlemen, we have had enough.
We Palestinians understand the Jewish people’s unparalleled trauma. We realize the Jewish need for a safe homeland. But must their safety come at our expense?
Contrary to Netanyahu’s false accusations, we have continuously recognized Israel’s right to exist peacefully within its internationally recognized borders for over 20 years—despite the fact that those borders include some of our home towns and our own people. We wanted nothing more than a state within the 1967 borders, and indeed, the Oslo Accords brought with them a true hope for permanent peace in the region. But in recent years, Netanyahu time and time again derailed any attempt to negotiate, despite the fact that we Palestinians expressed our willingness to make enormous compromises. The absurdity of negotiating with your own occupier became unbearably obvious for us Palestinians, as Israel continues its comfortable refusal to commit to a two-state solution.
Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you today for the last time. As you know, in recent years our struggle has been focused on you, the international community. We thought you could help us, and I hope you still can. But what is clear to me and to the Palestinian people is that the Palestinian National Authority can no longer exist as Israel’s contractor in the West Bank. We refuse to continue playing the role of a riot police. Half a state is not a state at all.
Mr. President, I thank you and the international community for giving us the status of permanent observer state. But we are not a state. I thank you for raising the Palestinian flag in New York. But what we urgently need is multilateral, international political action, not symbolic gestures of goodwill. Yet the Palestinian people are still in grave need of your assistance. I thank all of you who supported our bid for statehood, and I call upon you to accelerate your efforts in changing the status quo in Israel and Palestine.
My hands as President of the Palestinian National Authority have proven to be tied time and time again. Ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies, Mr. Netanyahu: I can no longer bear the enormous responsibility of speaking for a voiceless people, for I am mute. I hereby announce the dismantlement of the Palestinian National Authority, in order to reflect the reality on the ground: 6 million Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean are systematically discriminated against, and they are voiceless. We are not a state. We are not an authority. We are an occupied people with occupied territories. In dismantling the Palestinian Authority, the onus of this total occupation reverts to the Israeli government, the occupying power. We did our best to accommodate the Israeli need for a state alongside us, but the geopolitical reality that Israel created renders this solution impossible. On behalf of all Palestinians, I declare that our hands are still open to designing a peaceful solution for the region, but this time, as equal partners in our shared homeland.