About the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
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Although this matter is closely related to the Middle East problem, yet it essentially forms a separate subject in itself, and it is this separate subject which falls within our competence. But, of course, in dealing with it we have also bear in mind its contribution to the over-all problem of the Middle East. The mandate, as I said, is one of implementation, the implementation essentially of fundamental and inalienable human rights and particularly, since we are dealing with this as a first stage, the implementation of the right to return of the refugees and those displaced in the war of 1967.
I wish, if I may, at the present stage to centre our attention and our efforts in respect of the right of the Palestinian people to return to its homes and property from which it has been displaced and uprooted in the war of 1967, irrespective of the other aspects of the problem. The matter is of vital importance because it goes to the very root and core of the Middle East problem and, at the same time, to the very basis of all human rights, that is, the right of a people to live in its homeland and not to be expelled from its homes and lands, particularly by the use of force and violence.
The love of home is the most profound and the most original of human feelings. It goes back to the beginning of history. The love of home has been sung by great poets throughout the millennia. Homer was one of the first to speak about the love of home when he described it in terms that have come down in present-day parlance and that signify that the day of returning home is a day of joy. To be forced, therefore, to live away, from home is one of the greatest of human sufferings.
As we all know, the situation arising from the loss to the Palestinians of their homeland forms the core of the Middle East problem and, what is important, this has so charged that problem with deep-rooted emotions and feelings that, through having been allowed fester without progress towards a just solution, that problem has become the most explosive and dangerous international problem of our times. It is a problem that threatens even the very survival of mankind — and I do not exaggerate in saying that. Because of it and because of the unsatisfactory course it has so far followed, developments in other parts of the region and of the world have been adversely affected in terms of respect for international security and human rights and respect for a modicum of legal order under the Charter.
This problem thus becomes a major issue in world developments, and our Committee's task is therefore important not only in respect of the Palestinian problem in itself but also in respect of its direct effect upon the Middle East problem and, more widely, on the general issue of world security through the Charter in what we expect to be a civilized world. Acting by virtue of the mandate of the General Assembly, we have a great responsibility to act positively and effectively in a spirit of unquestioned objectivity of approach coupled with dedication to universal moral values and principles as enunciated in the Charter. In dealing with this problem we have to bear in mind certain principles and doctrines of universal acceptance.
One is that de facto situations created by the threat or use of force at a time in history when the perpetration of such acts runs counter to the universally accepted norms of the civilized international community as specifically stressed in its established organs can never be considered as an acceptable reality and be treated as such. This a fortiori and more emphatically applies to cases where the perpetration of such acts is of relatively recent occurrence.
The Stimson Declaration of 7 January 1932 firmly established this principle for the United States:
The United States under no circumstances will accept either the occupation or the changes which result or are introduced by force."
The assembly of the League of Nations on 11 March 1932 adopted this principle of non-recognition of situations created by force.
Starting from the Stimson. Declaration the assembly developed it to an international principle. The assembly text follows:
"It is incumbent upon Members of the League of Nations not to recognize" any situation, treaty or agreement which may be brought about by force or by any means contrary to the Covenant of the League of Nations or the Pact of Paris or international law and the right of the people concerned." The mandate of this Committee is specific, namely, to deal with the aforesaid fundamental and inalienable human right of return, and the subject-matter before us is basically and predominantly humanitarian in nature. Primarily, the aspect we must consider is that of effective means restoring the right of the Palestinian people within the framework of the Charter, the right to return to their homes. The restoration of this right, although related to the Middle East problem, is one that need not await the solution of the Middle East problem.
The people of Palestine whose ancestral homes are in the area occupied by Israeli forces in 1967 and who were forcibly removed have a right to return to their homes, and there can be no conceivable objection to this. I say this in counter-distinction to the question of the withdrawal of the Israeli forces. Israel accepts the liability to withdraw its forces, but it raises certain points — I do not say that these points have any validity — about the boundaries and certain details. But it can raise no point at all about the return of the refugees because when Israel invaded this territory it was not its objective, it never said that it was its objective and it could not be its objective to invade the territory in order to expel the indigenous population living in it or any part of it and to introduce other populations in a racial colonization of the territory in order to change racially the demographic character of the territory. Certainly, Israel never thought of doing that and would certainly deny any suggestion that it had had such an idea, since that is an international, crime of the first magnitude combining expulsion, forcible settling and, moreover, racial discrimination.
So there is no doubt and we have no doubt — that Israel has no such intentions nor, judging from the surrounding circumstances, can one say that Israel has such intentions. It does not at all appear to be the case. There were a few settlements, but those few settlements are far from changing the demographic character of the territory.
Therefore, taking it as assumed and. as a premise accepted by Israel as a civilized nation that it does not intend to change the demographic character of the territory, we can proceed to the fact that for strategic purposes it occupied the territory militarily in a time of war. It has never been understood at any time in history that any occupation of a territory by the army of another country means the expulsion of the indigenous population and the importation of, other population. On the contrary, it has been the converse. None of the were waged has ever led to that. For instance, Alsace-Lorraine was taken by the Germans from the French and nothing was done to alter the demographic character of Alsace-Lorraine. No Germans were imported.- no French were expelled. Then it changed hands; it went back to France again. No effort was made in this respect. Civilized people respect these principles and, therefore, we say that we cannot for a moment suggest that Israel will refuse to allow the Arab refugees to return to their homes because it wants to change the demographic character of the territory.
That being so, there cannot be a shadow of objection on the part of Israel to the return of the Arab refugees to their homes, because if there is objection then we most know what the objection is and I have not heard of any objection so far. The refugees would return when the whole problem was solved but now we have a specified mandate — and this is a very wise-mandate — to obtain the return of the refugees to their homes irrespective of the solution of the problem. They can live there while Israel pursues whatever its policy is in respect of the Middle East problem.
That, I think, is an aspect that must be seen by our Committee in its content and effect. Of course, there is no doubt that the other inalienable right of the Palestinian people is its self-determination. But that has to follow and that is not so easy to achieve as directly as the problem of the return of the refugees. I suggest that we should first deal with this problem which, at least by the obvious ease of its solution, will facilitate further the solution of the whole problem of the 1967 area and then become factor in solving the over-all Middle East problem.
Therefore, I believe that what we are doing here now, what this Committee doing, is of vital importance to this great and dangerous problem of the Middle East and to the situation of the world at large. But I must that we have to deal with this problem — and I am sure we shall do so — with the full objectivity incumbent upon us as we discharge this great responsibility. We shall deal with it with respect to human rights, with respect to the fact that human rights are a two-way proposition, but also with the over-all conception that while it is a question of two way human rights those rights are-soundly based upon the principles of the Charter, which shall not be violated.
Essentially, that is what I wanted to say about the matter at this stage. Of course, I have in mind to develop the problem further as we go along, and think we must have the opportunity to speak again on the matter as it develops vend after studying the report made by the Working Group on the draft it has already prepared. The important thing is the way this Committee is working, that we express ideas, see how they develop and then express our views on the aspects that have been developed in the Working Group's paper.