The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict

Center Book
Review  No. 10 (31 October 2010)

Each month, we conduct a review of a recent book that deals with issues relating to Palestine and/or the Israel/Palestine conflict. Books that are chosen for review can be academic or non-academic, historical or fictional. Next month we will be reviewing Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America
by Jamal K. Kanj. If you would like to suggest a book for review, please contact the Palestine Center.

The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict

written by John Quigley

Paperback: 329 pages, Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (6 September 2010)

By Yousef Munayyer

Quigley Cover

Will the Palestinians ask the United Nations to recognize their state? This has been an oft-asked question, particularly in recent weeks, as the American-mediated peace process has stalemated once Israel continued to build illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But what if Palestine is already a state?
This is the argument made by John Quigley, professor of international and comparative law at the Ohio State University Law School and author of the newly published book The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict.

Quigley pores over years of international legal history as it relates to the question of Palestine from the pre-WWI period through the modern era. For Weberians, the idea that Palestine may in fact be a state will be difficult to understand or accept, but Quigley is not interested in satisfying political criteria in his definition of statehood. Rather, he looks at the legal definition of statehood as it exists in international law and as it is applied throughout the international community, and asks whether or not Palestine today, or at any point in its history, satisfied the legal definition of a state. The answer is yes. The essence of Quigley’s argument:

The view that Palestine is not a state suffers from four errors. It disregards historical facts that show Palestine statehood dating from the mandate period. It applies criteria for Palestine statehood that are more stringent than those actually followed in the international community. It fails to account for the fact that Palestine’s territory is under belligerent occupation. It fails to account for the facts showing the implied recognition of Palestine… Palestine should be brought into the community of nations as a full-fledged citizen.

Now this may seem like an über-theoretical exercise with little implication for the real world or for the Palestinian struggle as it exists today, but Quigley argues that the reality of Palestine statehood has serious implications. These implications include a shift in the way Israel can leverage power over the Palestinians, the position Palestine can have in the United Nations to more effectively argue its case and the ability to participate in treaties and specialized UN agencies that can be of benefit.

Putting the nuanced statehood question aside, this book is an important resource for anyone interested in understanding international law as it relates to Palestine throughout history. The author meticulously reviews important moments and debates at critical junctures of the development of the conflict. Teachers would be wise to assign this in higher level or graduate classes on the conflict or broader Middle East classes, as well as courses on international law and international politics. It would also serve Palestinian negotiators well to read Quigley’s book at this particular moment in time.

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of the Palestine Center. This book review may be used without permission but with proper attribution to the Center.

The views in this review are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.