About the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS
Among this huge pile of resolutions and decisions adopted by the United Nations during the last three decades, General Assembly resolution 181 (ll) of 29 November 1947 - "the Partition Plan" - occupies a unique position. It is the resolution that has created the whole problem: all subsequent resolutions were either an elaboration of measures for its implementation or, as was mostly the case later on, an attempt to remedy its effects and the wrongs and injustices it has created. Obviously, Zionist crimes and aggressions since 1948 went much farther beyond what resolution 181 (ll) has caused in terms of suffering and hardships to the Palestinian people, to the extent that the mere implementation today of this otherwise "unjust" resolution would alleviate the agony of that heroic people and ensure the restoration of at least a part of its usurped rights;
The illegal and unjust nature of the "Partition Plan" detailed in General Assembly resolution 181 (II) is strikingly self-evident. The Jews in 1947 constituted less than one third of the inhabitants of Palestine. Ninety per cent of them were alien immigrants who had flooded the country during the mandate through licit and illicit immigration. They owned, at the time, less than 6 per cent of the land. Yet the Partition Plan allotted to this minority of one third of the population more than 56 per cent of the total area of Palestine, thus leaving to the overwhelming two thirds majority of Palestinian Moslem and Christian Arabs less than 43 per cent of the total area of the country, taking into account the some 177 square kilometres consecrated to the internationalized Holy City of Jerusalem.
In spite of this unjust and iniquitous nature of the Partition Plan, and, what is more, in spite of its illegal foundation as a trespass on the sovereignty of the original inhabitants and a flagrant violation of the principles of equal rights and self-determination recognized for all peoples under the Charter, the Zionists violated resolution 181 (II) even before the withdrawal of the British mandatory forces. Zionist underground forces - the Hagana, Irgun Zvei Leumi and Stern - came out into the open and began to attack Arab towns and villages, committing massacres and cruel atrocities in order to bring about the flight of the Palestinian Arabs. The carnage of the Arab village of Deir Yassin where 250 men, women and children were massacred on 9 April 1948, is only one example of the Zionist systematic and deliberate campaign of horror and intimidation designed to terrorize the indigenous Palestinian population and consequently to clear the country of its Arab inhabitants. David Ben Gurion admitted this Zionist goal in his Rebirth and Destiny of Israel, as follows: "As fighting spread, the [Arab] exodus was joined by bedouin and fellahin - and nothing a tottering administration" - meaning the British Mandatory - "could unkindly do, stopped us from reaching our goal on May l4, 1948, in a State made larger and Jewish by the Hagana". The admitted Zionist objective here to make the Israeli State "larger" and "Jewish" by the force of the Hagana deserves thorough reflection - for this is in fact what really happened all along in the history of the Palestinian tragedy. The Zionists kept constantly expanding their State larger and larger through aggression and forceful annexation of Arab territory. They also persevered in making that entity more and more Jewish through the expulsion and uprooting of Moslem and Christian Arabs and through Judaizing the cultural, economic, geographical and demographic nature of the occupied territories.
When the armistice agreements were concluded in 1949, Israel was in control, by the force of aggression, of about 78 per cent of the total area of Palestine, which means that the Zionist forces conquered 22 per cent more of Palestinian territory than was allotted to them by the partition resolution or, in other words, they usurped as a result of the first 1948 Israeli war of aggression, a territory equivalent, almost to the inch, to what remained under Arab control from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after that war. Thus, the Zionists have violated in fact and right from the start the very instrument on which they base the legitimacy of their State. The Zionist violations were not confined only to the flagrant trespass on the boundaries of e Arab State as delineated in part II, section A of the Partition Plan, but are also in contradiction of the provisions of sections A and B- of part I of the resolution, which stipulate, inter alia, that "the independent Arab and Jewish States ...shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the Mandatory Power has been completed ..." and that the administration of Palestine shall, as the Mandatory Power withdraws its armed forces, be progressively turned over to a Commission consisting of five Member States elected by the General Assembly. Realizing that world public opinion had come increasingly concerned about the dangers involved in the situation and that countries, even the United States, started to have second thoughts and to away from the concept of partition in favour of a United Nations temporary trusteeship over Palestine until a more acceptable solution could be found, the Zionists confronted the world with a fait accompli and proclaimed the State of Israel on the same day the Mandate ended, in complete disregard of the two-month period provided for the establishment of the two independent Arab and Jewish States after the withdrawal of the British mandatory forces, and during which the administration of Palestine should be turned over to the Commission of five Member States elected by the General Assembly.
That Israeli action constituted a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace and an act of aggression, in accordance with Article 39 of the United Nations Charter. This is how paragraph (c) of section A of resolution 181 (II), which created Israel, judges "... any attempt to alter by force the settlement envisaged toy this resolution", meaning the Partition Plan.
Of course, Israel has violated not only these provisions of the Partition Plan, but rather every single undertaking under resolution 181 (II), including all the provisions of section C of the resolution relating to the Declaration to be addressed to the United Nations before independence on the protection of holy places, religious buildings and sites, and religious and minority rights. Some of Israel's present basic laws, such as the Law of Return, the Absentees' Property Law and the Law of Nationality are in flagrant violation of the general provision under the aforementioned section C of the Partition Plan, which reads as follows:
More than seven months after the tragic events of May 1948, which led to the first and largest wave of Arab Palestinian exodus, the General Assembly of the United Nations realizing at last the enormity of the tragedy which was created by its own doing when it adopted, a year before, a resolution ripping apart the territory of Palestine, thus transforming about one million of its original Arab inhabitants into desperate refugees, adopted on 11 December 19^8 its resolution 194 (III). In that resolution, the General Assembly set up a Conciliation Commission for Palestine in order to assume the functions of the United Nations Mediator and any other functions given to it by the General Assembly or the Security Council. The most important paragraph in resolution 194 (III) was paragraph 11, which reads as follows:
But the Conciliation Commission for Palestine was never able to implement the instructions of the General Assembly, which kept reaffirming nevertheless, year after year since then, the right of Palestinian refugees to return or to receive compensation, in accordance with operative paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III)- and reiterating on the same occasion its regret at the inability of the United Nations Conciliation Commission to find a means of achieving progress in the implementation of operative paragraph 11 of General Assembly resolution 194 (III).
The situation after the Israeli war of aggression of June 1967 became even worse. More than 200,000 Palestinians were forced to flee the West Bank, more than 110,000 Syrians and Palestinians were forced to leave the Golan Heights.
After the perfidious Israeli aggression of 5 June 1967, the Security Council was quick to act in order to alleviate the sufferings of the new refugees and displaced Arab civilians. A few days after arranging the cease-fire, the Council requested, in its resolution 237 (1967) of 14 June 1967, the Government of Israel
Thus, the right of return of the new refugees and displaced persons after the exodus of 1967 was repeatedly reaffirmed with the same insistence and determination with which the right of return of the refugees of 19^8 has, year after year, been reiterated.
The rights recognized for the Palestinian people in the resolutions of the General Assembly and of the Security Council prior to 1969 were mostly of a humanitarian nature-, with the exception of whatever remains, by implication, of Arab Palestinian national rights in consequence of resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, which miniaturized the independent State of the overwhelming majority of the indigenous population to a mere 43 per cent of the total Palestinian territory.
It was not until 10 December 1969 that the General Assembly, recognizing
"that the problem of the Palestine Arab refugees has arisen from the denial of their inalienable rights under the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights",
reaffirmed in its resolution 2535 B (XXIV) "the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine".
However, this recognition has been reaffirmed more explicitly since then, year after year. Resolution 2672 C (XXV) of 8 December 1970 reaffirmed resolution 2535 B (XXIV) of the previous year, and elaborated by stating that the people of Palestine were entitled to equal rights and self-determination in accordance with the Charter, and that the full respect of these rights is an indispensable element in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
The same affirmation was strongly reiterated in General Assembly resolutions 2792 D (XXVI) of 1971, 2963 E (XXVII) of 1972, and 3089 D (XXVIII) of 1973. Reference was made in these successive resolutions to Articles 1 and 55 of the United Nations Charter in which the principle of equal rights and self-determination is enshrined, as well as to the provisions of the Declaration of Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States. But what is extremely important is that in resolution 3089 D (XXVIII) of 7 December 1973 the link was established for the first time between the enjoyment by the Palestine Arab refugees of their right to return to their homes and property as recognized in General Assembly resolution 194 (III), on the one hand, and the exercise by the people of Palestine of its right to self-determination, on the other hand. Operative paragraph 3 of resolution 3089 D (XXVIII) reads as follows:
The twenty-ninth session of the General Assembly marked the culmination of international recognition of the inalienable national rights of the people of Palestine. After inviting, by its resolution 3210 (XXIX) of 14 October 1974, the Palestine Liberation Organization to participate in the deliberations of the General Assembly on the question of Palestine, and after hearing, four weeks later, the historic statement of Yasser Arafat, the leader of that heroic organization, the Assembly adopted, on 22 November 1974, resolution 3237 (XXIX) granting a permanent observer status to the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United Nations, and resolution 3236 (XXIX) recognizing in the most energetic manner the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
Resolution 3236 (XXIX) reiterated, of course, all the principles relating to the previously recognized rights of the people of Palestine but, unlike previous resolutions, reaffirmed those rights and spelled them out in full detail in its operative paragraphs 1 and 2 as follows:
(a) The right to self-determination without external interference;
(b) The right to national independence and sovereignty;
It is significant here that the right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property was considered by the General Assembly as inalienable as the other rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty.
The General Assembly reaffirmed also that
Resolution 3236 (XXIX) of 22 November 1974 has become, in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of the nations of the world, the bible of the Palestinian rights, not because it has anything peculiar or astonishing - far from it, for rights it contains are the minimum and the most elementary that any people claim - but because it proclaims for the first time in the history of the Palestinian tragedy that the people of Palestine is entitled, just like any other people, to self-determination, national independence, sovereignty and to return its homeland.
Resolution 3236 (XXIX) is, moreover the "constitution" of your honourable Committee, its basic document and the "charter" containing its guiding principles. The General Assembly has entrusted you, in its resolution 3376 (XXX) of 10 November 1975 with the task of considering and recommending to the General Assembly a programme of implementation designed to enable the Palestinian people to exercise the rights recognized in operative paragraphs 1 and 2 of General Assembly resolution 3236 (XXIX).
Thus your task is, at the same time, easy and difficult, simple and complicated. It is easy and simple because the rights of the Palestinian people are already defined and recognized. You do not need to debate them, to debate their Justification or their legitimacy. This is in fact what the United Nations itself has indeed been doing during the last 28 years.
Yet, your task is also difficult and complicated because the United Nations has been unable all these long years to implement its own resolutions or to make the usurper of the Palestinian national and human rights cease its aggression and heed the repeated wishes and directives of the international family.
However, we are deeply convinced that your honourable Committee can meet the challenge. As a matter of fact, its mandate is unique in its nature, for you are requested to elaborate "a programme of implementation" which enables the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights - in other words, you are requested, in reality, to look into whatever obstructs or hinders the exercise by the Palestinian people of their rights and to design a schedule which overcomes or avoids such obstacles or hindrances.
Since the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people have already been defined and enumerated by the United Nations, the best approach would then be to consider the said rights one after the other, determine the nature of the impediment blocking its realization and then try to find ways and means to overcome such impediments.
The right to self-determination is the free expression of the will of the people and its right to determine its own political, economic, social and cultural status as well as the system of its government.
The people of Palestine has been prevented from exercising its right to self-determination by, among other things, the forceful occupation of its territory the uprooting and expulsion from its land and the denial of the refugees' right to return to their homes and property.
No people could exercise its inalienable right to self-determination when, as a result of aggression, its territory is under the yoke of alien occupation. Nor could any person enjoy his basic human rights or participate in deciding the destiny and future of his own people as long as that person is denied the right to return to his land and property and condemned to the status of a homeless refugee.
Alien occupation, however temporary, is a continued act of aggression. On the other hand, the denial of the right of the refugees and the displaced persons to return to their homes is a flagrant violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter and international and humanitarian law. Article 13 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reaffirms that
"Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, to return to his country."
The obvious conclusion concerning the application of the right to self-determination to the Palestinian people is that this right cannot be implemented unless Israel (a) evacuates the Palestinian territory it has occupied by force contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and its resolutions; and (b) permits the refugees and the displaced Palestinians who were uprooted or expelled, or have fled during and after the hostilities of 1948 and 1967, to return to their homes and property.
I turn now to the right to national independence and sovereignty, Palestine came officially under British mandate in 1923, although it had been occupied by British forces since 1918. The Palestine Arabs were not consulted in the selection of the Mandatory Power, as stipulated in Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, despite the fact that they constituted at the time 90 per cent of the total population.
The said Article 22 of the Covenant stated clearly, in relation to the communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire - namely, the peoples of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq - the following:
Ironically enough, the British Government expressed its desire, only a few years before conspiratorially relinquishing its mandate over Palestine, in what became known as "the White Paper of 1939":
"... to see established ultimately an independent Palestine State. It should be a State in which the two peoples in Palestine, Arabs and Jews, share authority in government in such a way that the essential interests of each are secured."
The Palestinian people was deprived of its right to national independence and sovereignty in its own homeland, Palestine. To enable the people of Palestine to regain its national independence and sovereignty it is indispensable to liberate its territory from alien occupation and to end the exodus of the Palestinian refugees. It is up to the people of Palestine, in the exercise of its right to self-determination, to decide when and how its national independence should be expressed within an independent entity of its own and in its territory, Palestine. No other party has the right to dictate to the Palestinian people the form, status or system of its entity, nor can such a third party claim the authority to permit or to prevent the establishment of the Palestinian independent entity in accordance with the Charter and resolutions of the United Nations.
The Palestine Liberation Organization has been recognized by the people of Palestine, the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity and the overwhelming majority of world nations as the sole representative of the people of Palestine. That fact must be taken fully into account in the recommended "programme of implementation" to be established by the Committee.
In addition to all the aforesaid justifications, Israel is under the binding obligation to permit the return of all the Palestinian refugees who fled or were uprooted as a result of the hostilities of 1948 and 1967. The admission of Israel to membership of the United Nations was subject to two essential conditions: its unreserved agreement to honour its obligations under the Charter, and its undertaking to implement resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, the Partition Plan, and resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948, concerning the right of Palestinian refugees to return and to compensation. Those commitments are clearly expressed in the preamble to General Assembly resolution 273 (III) of 11 May 1949; by which Israel was admitted to the United Nations. The two preambular paragraphs in that connexion read as follows:
"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".
As was stated by the representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in his important statement before this Committee on 9 March 1976, the Palestinians must be enabled to exercise their right to return immediately; that must not await any political arrangements.
The valuable ideas and suggestions put forward by the representative of the PLO concerning the implementation of the right of return are extremely important and deserve full consideration from the Committee. They should certainly be clearly reflected - together with other proposals relating to other Palestinian rights - in the report of the Committee.
Whatever modalities or procedure shall be envisaged for the implementation of right of return of the Palestinians, whether by phases or by quotas implemented according to a definite time-table, the right of return should be absolute for every Palestinian and must have priority over any other form of substitute arrangements, such as compensation. The Palestinians must have the widest tactical possibilities to exercise their right of return both in regard to the time element and in regard to procedural conditions. Only those Palestinians who willingly to profit from those possibilities after a sufficient, determined of time should be considered as opting for compensation in lieu of actual repatriation.
I have confined my statement and observations to the rights of the Palestinian as envisaged and reaffirmed in paragraphs 1 and 2 of resolution 3236 (XXIX). It is clear that the attainment of all these rights depends mainly on the realization of the two following preconditions: first, Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian territory occupied in contravention of the Charter and resolutions the United Nations, and second, the return of the refugees and the displaced Palestinians to their homes and property.
Israel, of course, is almost certain to refuse to carry out either of those steps. For Israel does not want peace. What it wants, in fact, is to retain all or most of the occupied Arab territories. Israel's strategy was very clearly described in what a senior Israeli official told Time magazine, as related by Edward Sheehan in his article in Foreign Policy which created a storm a few days ago:
The General Assembly and the Security Council have both in the past, and in relation to this very Palestinian question, sought to enforce the implementation of certain resolutions on both sides. I have already referred to paragraph (c) of section A of General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, which stipulates that:
The Security Council itself threatened, more than once, to resort to sanctions and forcible measures under Chapter VII of the Charter if its resolutions were rejected or violated. In its resolution 50 (1948) of 29 May 1948, operative paragraph 11, the Security Council decided:
In the not so remote case that the obstruction should come from the Security Council itself through the abuse of the right of veto by some of its permanent members - as happened recently - the Committee should recommend to the General Assembly in its subsequent report that it carry out, itself, its responsibilities in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and with previous precedents. The Committee is requested in resolution 3376 (XXX) to take into account, in the formulation of its recommendations:
"... all the powers conferred by the Charter upon the principal organs of the United Nations."
The task of this Committee might prove to "be so delicate and so important that an extension of its Mandate would be needed even beyond the coming thirty-first session of the General Assembly. The deadlock in the Middle East arises from the intransigence of Israel and its constant refusal to abide by the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council. This situation has much in common with the situation arising from the racist white minority South African regime's illegal occupation of Namibia. Here, as there, a racist alien regime is defying the United Nations and its resolutions and refusing to put an end to its illegal occupation of the territory. The United Nations should consider imposing against Israel the same sanctions it is imposing against the South African racist regime. If needed, a United Nations appropriate machinery should be envisaged in order to carry out the proposed "programme of implementation" of the rights of the Palestinian people.
This Committee is entrusted with the task of recommending a "programme of ' implementation" designed to enable the Palestinian people to exercise its national inalienable rights. I have confined my intervention, therefore, to the Palestinian question. But it is an undisputed fact that the question of Palestine is the core of the Middle East problem, and that the conflict in the Middle East is the direct result of Israel's aggression against Palestine and the Palestinian people, state of war had existed between Israel and the Arab countries for 20 years before any inch of Syrian or Egyptian territory was occupied. The only reason for that war was the usurpation of Palestinian territory and the infringement on the rights of the Palestinian people. Obviously, the conflict between the Arab Countries and Israel will disappear as soon as its original reason ceases to exist through the fulfilment of the national rights of the Palestinian people.
This reality was confirmed during the very important debate in the Security Council last January on the Middle East problem including the Palestinian question, in implementation of Security Council resolution 38l (1975) of 30 November 1975. A draft resolution (3/11940) proposed by six members of the Security Council obtained the support of the majority of the Council's members but was not adopted because of the abuse of the right of veto by the United States. Operative paragraph 1 of this draft affirms the basic elements for the establishment of a Just and lasting peace in the Middle East, in particular the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, statehood and return, as well as the withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied Arab territories. This resolution remains, in spite of its unjustified obstruction, the most supported basis for a peaceful and just settlement in the Middle East. This Committee should take the principles of this resolution, as well as the ideas emerging from the Security Council debate last January, into full account.
The Syrian Arab Republic is committed to a just settlement which takes into consideration, first and above all, the attainment of the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people and the total liberation of the occupied Arab territories. President Assad reaffirmed last October that Syria will not accept any movement on the Syrian front unless it is coupled with an identical movement on the Palestinian front. The Syrian Arab Republic stands by this commitment.
* Distributed in accordance with a decision of the Committee. The text is based on the interpretation from the French.