Last night, Palestinians cheered their new United Nations status. In Ramallah, the headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, thousands gathered in a central square to hear Abbas speak and wait for the results of the General Assembly vote. Many were excited for the new recognition, and some were confused about the meaning of what Palestinians were being granted – “non-member observer state” status.
Reporter Rebecca Collard is in Ramallah and spoke with several people in the crowd just after the U.N. vote.
Laila Jammal, 70, retired writer
I feel great. After a long journey of misery and struggling it’s about time to achieve our right. This is our right because when Israel was accepted to the United Nations it was accepted on one condition, two states. One state for Israel, the other state for Palestine, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. And it has been dragging under the umbrella of peace negotiations and nothing has been achieved. And they’ve been stealing the land and building walls. It is a struggle that will end nowhere. This is a courageous step taken by the president of Palestine, President Abu Mazen (aka Mahmoud Abbas). He decided this is the day to stop the nonsense, and fortunately the majority of the world stood with us and supported us and voted for the membership of Palestine as an observer.
Mazen Rammeh, 42, businessman
I’m so happy we’ll get kind of our independence today, like other countries. This is the first step to getting our country. We can’t really do anything after that. We know the rules of the world. But what we get now is good. It will depend on how our government acts with other governments of the world. To be honest, what this gives us is more just of a good feeling.
Mohammed Tariweh, 25, director
The situation is very good today and we will get membership in the United Nations. We will have the name, state of Palestine, not the Palestinian Authority. We will be the state of Palestine. It will change many things including the negotiations. They will deal with us as a state not just as an authority. When we talk with Israel it will be will be state-to-state. This changes everything.
Nasser Al-Eidy, 64, retired general
We’ve been waiting for 64 years. We’ve been waiting for this day. Not just Palestinians here, but all the Palestinians in the world. Now we are seeing our President Abu Mazen doing what Arafat wanted, what we all want.
Believe me, we Palestinians like the American people. But sometimes we are angry. From what? Because they are always protecting Israel and against us. We want the American people to know our problem, but they don’t know because the Israeli media says many things against us.
Nariman Shaqoura, 28, academic coordinator
I am very happy and proud of our President Mahmoud Abbas and I came to show my support for him. Me and every Palestinian must support Mahmoud Abbas because he has represented us at the United Nations.
This is a very important step. I think every Palestinian inside Palestine and outside are supporting Abu Mazen. In this day, all Palestinians in different political parties are supporting Abu Mazen. In Gaza, in the West Bank, in occupied Palestine of 1948.
Maybe it will not make very big changes at this time. But for the future it is a very important step. Now when Israel makes aggressive actions we can show all the world and say, “Look what Israel is doing to us.” This is the most important step at this time, especially after the war in Gaza.
Amal Al-Akhras, 33, public relations director
I’m here to declare my support for my Palestinian leadership as a Palestinian citizen. I hope this will change our struggle and I hope this is the start of a new historical chapter. At least we will get our right name. That we are a people that should have their own state, like people all over the world have their countries and states. So we are not just a group of people, we have this political existence.
I think as a Palestinian citizen and a global citizen, those people who voted against, history will show them as people who turned their backs on rights and justice, in a very important case, the Palestinian case.
Ahmed Al-Hindi, 41, works at the Palestinian Water Authority
It’s an important step to upgrade Palestine in the United Nations. We hope that the international community can help us recognize the Palestinian state. And as our president mentioned, this is the first step and the next step is to start negotiations for the final status agreement with Israel. Don’t forget, the peace process started 17 years ago and we still have nothing. There is an extreme right government in Israel against our rights.
We know this is just a political movement and we must join the organizations of the United Nations, so we can pursue Israel in the international court. But we do believe there should be a peace process between us and Israel. That we should cooperate so that we can live in this land, this is the holy land. We accepted to divide historic Palestine into two states. Why do the Israelis refuse this until today?
Intisar Hamdan, 38, education worker
Today is a historical day for the Palestinians to have the non-member state in the United Nations. This is our minimum right. On the same day 65 years ago, they divided our land into two states, and all the countries said “yes” for an Israeli state, and today we asked for them to say “yes” to our state on our land.
All Palestinians hope to have this state, even if it’s non-member, just an observer. All of us are happy for this because if we take this right in the United Nations, we can become members in all the U.N. organizations. And with this we can fight for all our rights.
Rebecca Collard is a journalist covering Israel, the Palestinian Territories and the region. She's worked in the Middle East since 2007 covering political, cultural and social stories for print, television and online media.