La question de Palestine – CEDIPP, Étude de DDP – Publication de DDP Français
Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter
THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE
Prepared for, and under the guidance of
the Committee on the Exercise of
the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
New York, 1979
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is the "Question of Palestine" and where do its roots lie? What are "Palestinian rights" and why do they pervade every attempt to find a Middle East settlement? What is the place of the Palestine question in the Arab-Israel dispute?
These questions evoke responses ranging from the uncertain to the hostile, underlining the controversy over the issues comprising the Palestine problem. This brief study attempts to sketch the evolution of the Palestine problem, the nature of Palestinian rights and the role of the United Nations in the Palestine question.
"According to the tradition preserved by the two peoples, the Jews and the Arabs, Abraham, their common ancestor, made his way, in the Cananaean era, from Ur in Chaldea to Canaan and the latter became the cradle of the people of Israel. This theory of a community of origin of the Jews and the Arabs, fortified as it has been through the ages by the attribution to it by tradition of numerous important happenings, has played no small part in the mutual relationship of the two peoples.
"After the captivity in Egypt was over and their return to Palestine had been accomplished, the tribes of Israel were united into one Kingdom by King David at about the date 1000 B.C. This Kingdom attained its most exalted position during the reign of David's son, the great Solomon. It was Solomon who built the first Temple of Jerusalem, the grandeur and beauty of which have become widely renowned, thanks to the holy books and the historians. The Temple was situated on Mount Moriah on the platform, now known as the Haram-esh-Sherif area.
"Subsequent to the death of Solomon, the history of the people of Israel, or rather that of the two Kingdoms of Israel and Judah— Jerusalem being the capital of the latter—resolves itself for the most part into a record of civil wars and struggles with alien tribes.
"About 720 B.C , the Assyrians destroyed the Kingdom of Israel and carried the inhabitants away as captives. About 600 B.C., Nebuchadnesar, King of Babylon, attacked the Kingdom of Judah. He destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon in the year 587 B.C. Most of the inhabitants were conveyed into captivity and were unable to return to their country until about 50 years later, after Cyrus, King of Persia, had conquered Babylon.
"After the Jews returned to Palestine, the Temple was built on its ancient site, about the years 520-515 B.C.
"In 332 B.C. the Jews came under the domination of the Macedonians. King Antiochus IV treated the Jews severely and, after the revolt they set afoot about 170 B C. had been quelled, the second Jewish Temple was destroyed. Then there followed a period of independence, to a certain extent, which lasted until the country was conquered by the Romans, Pompey entering Jerusalem in the year 63 B.C.
"In the year 40 B.C., with the support of the Romans, Herod, surnamed the Great, became King of Judea and during his reign the Judean Kingdom regained some of its ancient splendour.
"In the year 70 A.D., Titus, who afterwards became Roman Emperor, conquered Jerusalem and, like Nebuchadnesar six and a half centuries earlier, destroyed the whole city of Jerusalem and also the Temple, a part of the Western Wall being the only remnant left of the building.
"The Emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) made Jerusalem a Roman Colony, called Aelia Capitolina. He prohibited the Jews from entering Jerusalem and from that period dates the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world. It may be said that there has been no Jewish nation in possession in Palestine since then., though. some Jews have, nevertheless, always been living in the country, their number being larger or smaller in proportion to the degree of toleration extended to them by the successive rulers of the country.
"After the partition of the Roman Empire, Palestine came under the Emperors of Byzantium, who governed the country from about 400 A D.
"About the year 637 the victorious Arabs entered Palestine and conquered Jerusalem. The Caliph Omar (639-644) made Jerusalem the capital of the Arab realm of Palestine, The Arabs began to construct Moslem Holy Buildings on the deserted Mount Moriah, which still commanded the city. In the course of the seventh century there was built in the south-western part of the area the Mosque of Aqsa, a place of special sanctity of the Moslems, being reckoned next to the Mosques of Mecca and of Medina as an object of veneration and, therefore, also a renowned place of pilgrimage. In the centre of Mount Moriah there was erected the Dome of the Rock The Temple area or the Haram-esh-Sherif, as it was called by the Arabs, thus became a place of great sanctity for Moslems all over the world and it is to be specially noticed that this tradition, save for a short interruption during the Crusader period, now goes back about 13 centuries.
"The Arab domination was interrupted by the arrival of the Crusaders who conquered Jerusalem in 1099. The Crusaders at first treated the Jews badly, but afterwards became more tolerant Benjamin of Tudela says (1167) that during the later Crusader Period the Wailing Wail was a place of constant prayer. The Arabs reconquered the country at the end of the 12th century and Saladin, their great ruler, invited, in 1190, the Jews to return to Palestine.
"In 1517 the country was conquered by the Turks and from that date, save for a short interruption of nine years from the year 1831 when the country was invaded by the Egyptians, the Turkish domination lasted on until the period of the Great War.... the Wailing Wall and its environs continued to be places of devotion for the Jews.
"In October, 1914, Turkey joined the Central Powers in the Great War and, in the course of the autumn of 1917 an Allied army with General Allenby as its Commander-in-Chief entered Palestine and captured Jerusalem at the beginning of December..."*
The future of Ottoman Arab territories was discussed with the Allies, Palestine being a particularly sensitive subject because of its spiritual and strategic significance. A secret Anglo-French agreement of 1916 provided for the recognition of an "independent Arab state" or a "confederation of Arab states", but with an "international administration" for Palestine to be decided upon in consultation with the other Allies and the Sherif of Mecca.
The spiritual status of Sherif Husain of Mecca as Keeper of Islam's most holy cities allowed him to act as representative of the Arabs even though all were not under his political authority. He led the Arab revolt against the Ottomans, and the British Government assured the Sherif'* that "Great Britain is prepared to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca". Prima facie, these limits appeared to include Palestine which the British claimed, against the Sherif' s protests, was excluded by virtue of an ambiguous reference in the course of an exchange of letters. The difference in views over what was agreed on the status Palestine was to contribute to the "Palestine problem", and it was not until 1939 that the British Government conceded that in 1917 "they were not free to dispose of Palestine..."
The question of the status of Palestine in the post First World War international order becomes important because while the Anglo-French agreement intended its internationalization and the Arabs expected its independence, the World Zionist Organization was receiving encouragement for its aim, declared in its first Congress under Theodor Herzl in Bask in 1897, "to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law"**.
Zionist writings make plain that the aim of political Zionism clearly was the creation of a Jewish State. Zionist leaders pressed the British Government for a public declaration in their support, stressing the strategic advantages Great Britain would gain by securing an ally in the Middle East that would guard the Suez Canal.. On its side, the British Government sought support in the war from all quarters, and the outcome of this convergence of interests was a statement of policy on 2nd November 1917***. Called the "Balfour Declaration", after the British Foreign Secretary who signed it, it was directed to the Zionist Organization, stating that:
Later history was to show, however, that the wishes of the indigenous peoples was to count for little.
*Principally through the "Husain McMahon" letters, Sir Henry McMahon being the British High Commissioner in Egypt.
**Anti-semitism in East Europe was one of the primary causes for the search for a "national home". The Zionist Organization also considered alternative sites in Argentina, East Africa, the Congo, and Cyprus for the national home'' but decided to insist on Palestine.
***'Britain felt some urgency in issuing a statement since Germany, also seeking Zionist support in the war, was considering a similar step.
The former Arab territories of the Ottoman empire brought under this system were made "A" mandates and attained independence after varying periods. The territories of Syria and Lebanon were placed under a French Mandate, Lebanon becoming independent in November 1943 and Syria in January 1944. The Palestine Mandate, which included Transjordan, was awarded to Great Britain. Under the terms of this Mandate, and with the approval of the League of Nations, Transjordan was administered separately from September 1922, when the Palestine Mandate formally came into force, and attained independence as the Kingdom of Jordan in March 1946.
During the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Sherif Husain's son, Feisal, asked for independence for all Arab territories including Palestine, although he was persuaded to give vague assurances of permitting Jewish immigration into Palestine.* The Zionist Organization presented a memorandum calling for "the establishment there of a Jewish National Home and ultimately render possible the creation of an autonomous Commonwealth".
President Wilson, however, continued to stress the fundamental importance of "the consent of the governed" and proposed that an inter-allied Commission ascertain the opinion of the indigenous population, but Britain and France later declined to participate. The "King-Crane Commission", consisting of two Americans, proposed, into alia, that Palestine could be included in the mandate for Syria, and recommended serious modification of the extreme Zionist programme for Palestine of unlimited immigration of Jews, looking finally to making Palestine distinctly a Jewish State. . ." The Commission pointed out that since "the non-Jewish population of Palestine—nearly nine-tenths of the whole—are emphatically against the entire Zionist programme", its implementation "would be a violation of the principle [of self-determination] and of the peoples' rights though it be kept within the forms of law". The Commission warned of major violence should the Zionist plans be implemented, which would be "a serious injustice. For the initial claim, often submitted by Zionist representatives, that they have a 'right' to Palestine, based on an occupation of two thousand years ago, can hardly be seriously considered".
Nevertheless, the framing of the Palestine Mandate advanced to include the Balfour Declaration, although Lord Curzon, then British Foreign Secretary, warned that "the national home' was an euphemism for "a Jewish state" and said "I think the entire concept wrong'''. Balfour himself at this time noted that there was no intention of consulting the people of Palestine, observing that "so far as Palestine is concerned, the [Allied] Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not intended to violate".
The first step taken was to nullify the earlier agreement for the internationalization of Palestine, Britain insisted, and the French reluctantly agreed, to Palestine coming under British control. This was formalized at the San Remo Conference on 25 April 1920 and Palestine passed formally under British tutelage, in return for French freedom of action in Syria.
Under continued pressure from the Zionist Organization, a stronger version of the Balfour Declaration was included in the preamble of the Mandate, which contained the following provisions:
(a) Full legislative powers to the Mandatory authorities;
(b) Responsibility for the "establishment of the Jewish National Home . . . the development of self-governing institutions, and safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion";
(c) Recognition to the Zionist Organization as the "Jewish Agency" to assist in the establishment of the Jewish National Home;
(d) Approval to Jewish immigration and "close settlement" of Jews on the land**.
Not once did the word "Arab" appear in a document prescribing the future of a country ninety percent Arab. Instead, the Mandate referred to them in the terms used in the Balfour Declaration: "non-Jewish communities of Palestine" .
These conflicting elements of the Mandate led to what was soon termed Britain's "dual obligation" to the Zionist Organization and to the Palestinian Arabs. The first major policy statement of the Mandatory Power, made on 1 July 1922 and called the "Churchill Memorandum", appeared to attempt to balance the two, but Churchill stated, several years later, that the policy statement was meant "to make it clear that the establishment of self-governing institutions in Palestine was to be subordinated to the paramount pledge of establishing a Jewish National Home in Palestine".
*Mainly through the 'Feisal-Weizmann correspondence"' which a United Nations committee investigating the Palestine issue declared invalid since it was conditional on Arab independence, which had not been granted
**Several authorities question the legality of the Palestine Mandate, since the inclusion of the Balfour Declaration infringed the fundamental purpose. i.e. ultimate self-determination, of the Mandates system in the terms of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Apart from the King-Crane Commission whose report received little attention, there was no consultation with the people of Palestine.
The repercussions of these policies on the Palestinian Arabs were not very important in the Zionist scheme. In fact, their existence was virtually ignored, and the slogan spread abroad to spur immigration was:
Under the aegis of the Jewish Agency, several organizations financed by the Jewish National Fund embarked on systematic programmes of buying land for the settlers. Much of this land was bought from absentee landlords, and more from small owners—in both cases it resulted in the displacement of Palestinian Arab peasants. Between 1920 and 1929 Jewish land holdings doubled, the ratio rising from about 2½% to 5% of the total land area of Palestine.
The Jewish immigrants were provided capital by the Jewish Agency. They brought with them skills and zeal which they applied in developing the land they acquired. This land was subjected to racial restrictions, Jews being forbidden to employ Arab labour, or to sell to Arab buyers, although this violated the clauses of Mandate requiring that immigration should not prejudice the rights and position of the indigenous Palestinians.
The decade of the 1930s brought a new type of immigrant—not one attracted by the Zionist programme, but seeking refuge from the Nazi terror in Europe. While large numbers of European Jews fled west to England and America, substantial numbers also chose Palestine, and from 1930 to 1939 over 230,000 Jewish immigrants entered Palestine. (The arrival of refugees not being linked with land acquisition, land holdings increased by a relatively small margin). By 1939 the Jewish population numbered over 445,000 out of 1.5 million, almost 30% of the whole.
The first disturbances were in 1920, and the inquiry commission ascribed them to "the Arabs' disappointment at the non-fulfillment of the promises of independence which they believed to have been given them . . . [and] . . . The Arabs' belief that the Balfour Declaration implied a denial of the right of self-determination". More violence followed in 1921, the "Haycraft Commission" finding that:
Violence again erupted in 1933, the "Peel Commission" observing:
The situation was influenced further by actions by the Mandatory authorities which the Palestinian Arabs regarded as provocation. The Jewish Agency was authorised to bring in several thousand new immigrants. Then the Mandatory government enrolled 20,000 Jews into the auxiliary police being used against the rebels. The Jews themselves, who in the past had exercised Havlaga or self-restraint, responded with violence, the Haganah and more extreme groups such as the Irgun and the Stern gang coming into action. British officers trained "special night squads" who launched operations against the Arabs. Zionist groups continued to establish new settlements, adding to the provocation.
Eventually, the Mandatory government exiled the Palestinian Arab leadership, and brought strong military forces into Palestine to bring the rebellion to an end.
"The desire of the Arabs for national independence;
"Their hatred and fear of the establishment of the Jewish National Home;
". . .
"They were the same underlying causes which brought about the disturbances of 1920, 1921, 1929 and 1933;
"They were, and always have been, inextricably linked together . . .
"They were the only underlying causes . . ."
There was little or no friction until the strife in Palestine engendered it". The Commission noted that Judaism and its ritual were rooted in historical memories of Palestine, and that almost always some Jews had been living in Palestine. It also noted the contributions recent immigrants had made to the development of the country, but figuratively expressed the Palestinian Arab response to this argument:
Events now moved rapidly. A British White Paper of July 1937 accepted the partition recommendation. The Zionist Organization, accepting the principle of the establishment of a Jewish State, rejected the partition of Palestine, alleging that it infringed the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate.
The Palestinian Arabs, on their side, refused to reconcile themselves to the prospect of a Jewish State on Palestinian soil. They, too, rejected partition and the rebellion which had subsided during the Commission's investigations, flared again.
Negotiations in London failed to bridge the rift, and in May 1939 the "MacDonald White Paper" announced the British Government's decision to rescind the partition decision. Stating that the Balfour Declaration "could not have intended that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population of the country", the White Paper declared that Palestine would become independent in 1949 as a unified State in which both Jews and Palestinian Arabs would share in government. During the transition, the Mandatory Government would strictly control both immigration and land transfers.
By the start of the Second World War the rebellion and the Palestinian Arab nationalist movement had been firmly suppressed, but the Zionists sensed the shift in British policy in Palestine away from the goal of a Jewish State in Palestine, and tried to build political support in the US With worldwide revulsion at the Nazi persecution of European Jewry at its height during the war, the Zionist Organization, in May 1942, in New York demanded, in what became known as the "Biltmore Programme", unlimited Jewish immigration into Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish State. At the same time, the Zionists began to prepare for armed confrontation against the declared British policy of a unified Palestine in which both Palestinian Arabs and Jews would govern.
The new restrictions on immigration created obstacles for the inflow of Jewish refugees from Europe, and the resort to illegal immigration increased, further adding to the tensions and hostility between all three parties. The situation was dramatized by the attempted deportation by the authorities of a large number of illegal immigrants in the vessel S.S.Patria which, according to an official report "'was scuttled at her mooring . . . as a result of sabotage by Jewish sympathisers ashore, with the loss of 252 lives."
As the war drew to a close terrorism mounted. Excerpts from an official document* give an idea of the new rise of violence:
The Arab Government also were assuming an active role in the Palestine issue, and obtained assurances from the US that they would be consulted on any formula being considered for Palestine. Yet another London Conference was convened in early 1947, where the British Government proposals were found unacceptable by both sides.
A total impasse had been reached, and on 18 February 1947 Great Britain, after 30 years of rule in Palestine, made the following announcement:
"It is in these circumstances that we have decided that we are unable to accept the scheme put forward either by the Arabs or by the Jews, or to impose ourselves a solution of our own. We have, therefore, reached the conclusion that the only course now open to us is to submit the problem to the judgement of the United Nations. . ."
The Palestinian Arabs, although politically and militarily exhausted by their unsuccessful rebellion, were also still fighting for their elusive independence. Thus Palestine was a land of violent strife when the question was taken up by the United Nations, itself hardly two years old, in February 1947.
Faced with this crisis, Great Britain called for a special session of the UN General Assembly to consider questions relating to the future government of Palestine." When the Assembly convened for what was its first Special Session, the Arab delegations unsuccessfully requested that it consider "the termination of the Mandate over Palestine and the declaration of its independence." The Assembly took up the British request, agreeing, after some political jostling, to hear representatives of both the Jewish Agency and the Arab Higher Committee of Palestine.
The Special Session was charged with the appointment of a United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Whether its terms of reference would allow it, like the Anglo-American Committee, to connect the European Jewish question to the Palestine question was a subject of controversial debate, the outcome implicitly leaving it open to UNSCOP to link the two, despite urging from many delegations that the plight of European Jewry should be a subject of world concern, and not a facet of the Palestine issue. This point has important implications for the Palestine question when it is recalled that, even after the war, no country was eager to accept large numbers of European Jews despite the persecution they had suffered. Another effort by Arab delegations, supported by others, to include reference to the independence of Palestine in UNSCOP's mandate again was defeated..
UNSCOP visited Palestine where it saw first-hand the violent confrontation in the land. It heard the Jewish and Arab cases, although the Arab Higher Committee itself, incensed by the linking of the Palestine issue with the question of European Jewry, refused to appear before UNSCOP. It then moved to Europe to investigate conditions in refugee camps in Germany and Austria, where it found an "overwhelming" desire for refuge in Palestine, resulting in part from "a certain element of propaganda [and] an element of self-persuasion."
On the fundamental question of self-determination, UNSCOP observed:
Beyond this, opinion in UNSCOP divided. A minority recommended a unified independent Palestine consisting of a federation of an Arab State and a Jewish State, with Jerusalem the federal capital. Jewish immigration would be subject to international supervision.
The majority fell back on the Royal Commission's concept of partition. Palestine's territory would be divided into eight parts, three linked areas forming an independent Jewish State, three others an independent Arab State, plus an Arab enclave (Jaffa) in the Jewish State and lastly, Jerusalem and its environs a corpus separatum under an international regime (Map at Annex II). Both independent States and Jerusalem would be joined in an "economic union". The Jewish State, covering 56% of Palestinian territory (even more than the Royal Commission's proposal, although the Jewish population was about a third of the total) would number almost a million inhabitants, roughly half Jewish and half Arab. The Arab State's population would be 735,000, of which 10,000 would be Jews. Jerusalem would have about 200,000 people, about evenly divided between the two communities.
Debate on the UNSCOP report was intense and lengthy—the General Assembly first convening as an Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine, and then in plenary session.. The question of the legal competence of the General Assembly to partition Palestine became a point of particular controversy. A move to refer to the International Court of Justice the question of the compatibility of the partition plan with the UN Charter failed by one vote. The Ad Hoc Committee rejected the minority report, and approved the UNSCOP majority report by a vote of 25 to 13 with 17 abstentions.
Since the Partition Resolution required a two-thirds majority for approval by the General Assembly in plenary, every vote became critical. Intensive negotiations and bargaining took place, amid allegations of weaker countries being subjected to strong pressure by the more powerful. At least three countries who in the Committee had opposed the partition proposal now changed to support it, as did some others who had declared an intention to abstain. By a vote of 33 to 13 with 10 abstentions (including the United Kingdom), the UN General Assembly, by its resolution 181 (II) on 29 November 1947, approved the partition of Palestine. The resolution requested the Security Council to implement the partition plan, and also called upon the inhabitants of Palestine to take steps to put the plan into effect.
The Partition Resolution included elaborate safeguards for the rights of minorities—freedom of conscience and of religion, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of race or religion, no expropriation of lands of minorities, freedom of movement and so on. The resolution also safeguarded the "existing rights" of the various religions, and guaranteed free access to the Holy Places. Further, the resolution required that these safeguards, among others, be given constitutional status by being "recognized as fundamental laws of the State".
As in the case of the Royal Commission's partition proposal, the Palestinian Arabs rejected the UN partition plan: The Zionist Organization, sensing fulfilment of its aim, accepted. The Arab countries who had pressed the Palestinian Arab case in the UN and had voted against the proposal, declared that they would not consider themselves bound by it. Any hope that the partition plan, fortified by safeguards, at last would bring peace to Palestine was to prove illusory.
Zionist operations were now on the offensive designed not only to establish control in the areas allotted to "the Jewish State", but to extend it into the areas designated for "the Arab State". A strategic plan called "Plan Dalet" apparently had been prepared well in advance, and was put into action as soon as British control had weakened enough to ensure success. Writers such as Ben Gurion and Begin refer to such operations, the former describing the goal as "a State made larger and Jewish by the Hagana".
On the other side, the governments of bordering Arab countries made known their intentions of supporting their fellow-Arabs in Palestine against the Zionist drive. Palestinian Arab irregulars were in active resistance by this time, but it was principally Palestinian civilians who suffered from the Zionist effort to expand control. Arab protagonists cite Zionist writers in charging that the expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from their homes and lands was a policy of long standing, against counter-charges that they were incited by their own leaders and other Arab governments to flee temporarily. A UN report (by Count Folke Bernadotte) states that their flight was either forced or due to terror:
By April 1948 the Mandatory authorities had practically disengaged from the maintenance of law and order, evacuation having already started, and violence sharply escalated. As the day for British withdrawal neared, and the strife in Palestine mounted, intense efforts were under way in the UN to find a way to stem the drift toward war. Security Council resolutions calling for an end to the hostilities were ignored by both sides. A US proposal to bring Palestine under temporary UN trusteeship met determined opposition from Zionist leaders, apprehensive that it might obstruct their advance toward statehood. The trusteeship proposal failed, and on 15 May 1948 the last British forces ceremonially departed signalling abdication of the Mandate after thirty years of rule in Palestine.
One day before, on 14 May 1948, Israel proclaimed itself an independent state. Its Declaration recalled that:
"Recalling its resolutions of 29 November 1947 and 11 December 1948 and taking note of the declarations and explanations made by the representative of the Government of Israel before the ad hoc Political Committee in respect of the implementation of the said resolutions,
"The General Assembly, . . .
"Decides to admit Israel to membership in the United Nations".
The first moves by the UN were to secure a cease-fire and restore an uneasy peace. Then by its resolution 237 (1967), the Security Council called on Israel to facilitate the return of the refugees of the war of June 1967, and for the application of the Geneva Convention of 1949 in the occupied territories. Israel did not comply.,
Next the Security Council passed resolution 242 (1967) containing the following principles:
(b) "Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict",
(c) "Termination of all claims on states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force".
(d) ". . . a just settlement of the refugee problem".
The 1967 war seems to have been a catalyst and a turning point in the struggle by the Palestinian Arabs for their rights. The Palestine Liberation Organization, first formed in 1964, adopted a new Covenant in 1968, inter alia committing all Palestinians to fight for their rights since the international community had been unable, for half a century, to secure their natural as well as promised right to an independent State.
The Covenant termed Israel an illegal State, and rejected "all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine". This has led to Israel's refusing to have any dealings with the PLO. Palestinian groups under the PLO umbrella increasingly resorted to violence** to focus world attention on the plight of the Palestinians and on their determination to regain their rights.
International recognition of the justice of the Palestinian cause and its centrality in the Middle East issue soon followed. In 1969 a General Assembly resolution recognized "that the problem of the Palestine Arab refugees has arisen from the denial of their inalienable rights" and reaffirmed these rights. The resolution drew the Security Council's attention to the situation resulting from Israel's refusal to implement General Assembly resolutions, calling for action by the Security Council which continued to follow the approach of its resolution 242 (1967). In 1970 the Assembly declared that full respect for the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine is an indispensable element in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East". Similar resolutions were passed in 1971 and 1972.
The October 1973 Middle East war had no immediate direct repercussions on the Palestine issue, but a year later a conference of Arab states in Rabat recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Jordanian support of this resolution implied relinquishment of any Jordanian claims on Palestinian territory.
In September 1974, the item "The Question of Palestine" was again included in the General Assembly agenda for the first time since 1952, and the PLO was invited to participate as an observer in the Assembly's work, a status later extended to all other UN organs.
That same year the Assembly gave full and formal recognition to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people which it described as:
"The right to national independence and sovereignty;
". . . the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes . . ."
". . .the right of the Palestinian people to regain its rights by all means in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. . ."
Other UN bodies have also addressed the Palestine issue. Human rights violations by Israel have been investigated since 1969 by a Special Committee. Its reports have led to numerous General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel for:
(b) the establishment of Israeli settlements,
(c) the expulsion and deportation of Palestinians,
(d) the denial of their right of return,
(e) expropriations of property and destruction of houses,
(f) mass arrests and ill-treatment of civilians,
(g) interference with religious freedoms and practices, and family rights and freedoms,
(h) ill-treatment and torture of persons under detention.
The Human Rights Commission has also declared "null and void" Israeli actions taken to change the character or status of the occupied territories, and has called for the rescinding of these measures. Israel has rejected these resolutions also.
Thus by 1974, the UN had recognized:
(b) the centrality of the Palestine issue in the Middle East dispute;
(c) the representative nature of the PLO.
In the meanwhile, Israel has continued to consolidate its hold on the occupied territories, principally by strengthening its military presence and expanding the establishment of settlements in the West Bank, ignoring UN resolutions and international opinion as well as the fundamental issue of Palestinian rights.
*Israel's occupation of Egyptian and Syrian territory in this war is beyond the direct concern of this study
**Claiming justification from the General Assembly's affirmation of the legitimacy of the people's struggle for liberation from. . . foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means including armed struggle." (Resolution 3070 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973)
***Known informally as the "Palestinian Rights Committee".