Palestinians as UN citizens?

During a recent moderated discussion on campus, I had the chance to pose a few questions to Canadian international law expert (and recent federal NDP candidate) Prof. Michael Byers.

Interested in what light his expertise may shed on ways forward for Israel-Palestine, i asked if there was any historical precedent for the UN asserting a mandate over contested territory.

Byers answered that, although there were small-scale precedents, the UN has (understandably) been loathe to put itself in such a situation given post-colonial realities. However, he then paused briefly and recollected with some interest that after the first Gulf War, there was confusion over how to disburse reparations from Iraq to Palestinian residents of Kuwait (of which there are, or at least were at a time, hundreds of thousands).

Byers explained that since people can only receive international reparations (reparations may be the wrong term, here, but it captures the idea) through the apparatus of their home state–and most Palestinian residents of Arab countries do not have citizenship in their country of residence–the UN, in effect, stepped in and acted temporarily as the Palestinians’ state so as to ensure those who were due payment under international law received it.

After another brief pause, something occurred to Byers, and he went on with a mixture of surprise and stifled enthusiasm: “Actually, if you wanted to get really provocative, you could even call for Palestinians to be granted UN citizenship.”

Hm. I wonder what effect that would have on Israeli military policy.

Food for thought.

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