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Palestinians Celebrate UN Vote

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Palestinians celebrate as they take part in a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah 29 Nov. The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution 29 Nov. to grant Palestine observer status, implicitly recognizing a Palestinian state. (Photo: CNS/Marko Djurica, Reuters) 

05 Dec 2012 – By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) — In the West Bank, church bells rang at the midnight announcement that the U.N. General Assembly had voted to grant Palestinians observer status.

Young and old Catholic Palestinians joined others in Ramallah, where the announcement was celebrated into the wee hours of the morning.

“We were very happy when this announcement was made,” said Father Firas Aridah, whose Jifna village parish is 5 miles from Ramallah. “We saw that our dignity may be hurt, but it will be healed. We are not abandoned. People are with us. We have rights just like everyone else, and we can live in calm and peace.”

At last, he told Catholic News Service Nov. 30, Palestinians were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Father Aridah said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ U.N. victory, just weeks after clashes between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, was very important for the Palestinian leader, demonstrating that he could unite his people without resorting to violence.

“Gaza was celebrating with us. Everyone can now look to President Abbas as the one who will unify Gaza and the West Bank, and they know that he did not use guns (to achieve the vote), he used diplomacy and peaceful demonstrations,” said Father Aridah.

In a Nov. 30 statement, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which includes churches in Israel and the Palestinian territories, described the U.N. vote as “an incentive for peace” that marked a “significant shift to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians.” The patriarchate congratulated Abbas, calling him a “moderate man and a man of peace.”

Bernard Sabella, a Catholic member of the Palestinian Parliament and retired professor of sociology at Bethlehem University, said the U.N. vote could herald “some more serious thinking on the part of Israel” regarding Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

“It is not enough for us Palestinians to celebrate and be happy about it, there are also the Israelis (to consider),” he said.

Though the vote left him feeling “a little optimistic,” he said it remained to be seen what would happen following the Israeli elections in January. Observers predict the election of a right-wing government.

Sabella said although the strong vote served to boost Abbas’ standing among Palestinians — who had lost some respect for him because of the stagnation in the negotiations with Israel — its overall ramifications remained uncertain.

“We have to wait and see if President Abbas will go to Gaza when he returns from New York and really put the reunification effort into effect. That is the real hope and expectation,” he said.

Abbas leads Fatah, which controls the West Bank. Rival Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 following its Palestinian legislative election victory in 2006. Hamas initially formed a national unity government with Fatah.

Following a week of internal fighting in which it is estimated that at least 118 people were killed and more than 550 were wounded, Hamas took control of Gaza, expelling Fatah officials. The rift has plagued the Palestinians ever since.





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Tags: Middle East Palestine Vatican United Nations