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        General Assembly
5 May 1947


Held in the General Assembly Hall at Flushing

Meadow, New York, on Monday, 5 May 1947,

at 11 a.m.

President: Mr. O. Aranha (Brazil).

16. Continuation of the discussion on the report of the General Committee (document A/299)

The President : To begin with, I shall recognize the five delegations with which I have consulted and which desire to present new proposals to the General Assembly. I have those proposals before me. I shall first call on these delegations. They will speak on the matter before us and read their proposals/ to the Assembly. All the proposals will be circulated by the Secretariat.

Mr. Kosanovic (Yugoslavia): In my opinion, it is extremely desirable to have a unanimous decision in the General Assembly, especially on so important an issue, and one on which we all basically agree. This would help us in our defence against those who would like to undermine this great Organization.

Yugoslav delegation believes that the General Committee missed an opportunity in dealing with a problem which was not necessarily complicated, and which had no political implications.

That was the question of hearing before the General Assembly those who, in every sense of the word, are directly concerned with the solution of the Palestinian problem, and without whose participation the terms of reference for an investigating commission could not be made explicit.

Listening very carefully to all the speeches in the General Committee, I was under the impression that there was no difference in the expression of understanding among us for those who were the first victims of nazi crime; but the rejection of the proposal of the Polish delegation, amended by the Czechoslovak delegation, to give an opportunity to the representatives of the Jewish Agency for Palestine to expose their views before the General Assembly, was a great disappointment. Not only was that proposal rejected, but we have before us a resolution proposed by the majority of the General Committee which tries to solve a problem of principle with meaningless technical expedience.

The Yugoslav delegation feels that the safety of this world parliament would not be threatened if we decided to hear a representative of the Jewish organization in the General Assembly. Such a hearing would have a symbolic meaning. It would be symbolic in the sense that we, the free, peace-loving peoples of the world, after the victory over nazi ideologies, would be identifying ourselves in understanding, in support, and in appreciation, with those who were the first victims of the brutal nazi-fascist ideology of race supremacy and discrimination, with the first victims of gas chambers and concentration camps.

We have before us a principle much more important than the problem of procedure. That is why the Yugoslav delegation is wholeheartedly in accord with the Polish resolution, as amended by the Czechoslovak representative. However, should the Polish resolution be rejected for some technical reason, the Yugoslav delegation, in an effort to arrive at some solution which could be unanimously agreed upon, takes this opportunity of submitting an amendment to the resolution presented by the General Committee. The Yugoslav delegation wishes to change the present resolution submitted by the General Committee by substituting for its second paragraph the following:

"Recommends to the General Assembly that it decide to give a hearing to the Jewish Agency and other representatives of the population of Palestine, before the First Committee."

It is my earnest hope that this amendment will be unanimously adopted, so that the General Assembly may clearly indicate, without the possibility of any misunderstanding, that the representatives of the Palestinian population should have the right to appear before the Political and Security Committee.

Mr. Santa Cruz (Chile) (translated from Spanish.): In speaking for the first time in this debate, the Chilean delegation wishes to affirm its position of absolute independence with regard to the matter now under discussion. It need hardly be said that my country has no political interests in Palestine, and in the sphere of international politics we have no other aim than to ensure, by all the means at our disposal, that the necessary harmony should be maintained between the great Powers, for they are above all responsible for the maintenance of world peace.

There is in Chile a large and progressive Arab colony. For many years past, thousands of Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese, through their intelligence and industry, have been contributing appreciably to the country's economic Bid cultural development. Moreover, we have for the Arab nations a special esteem, based on an unchanging friendship and on the fact that we have always shared with them similar points of view on most of the problems studied by the United Nations, especially those of an economic and social nature.

The people of Chile, on the other hand, in spite of their geographical remoteness, have always had a surprisingly sensitive interest in international affairs, and have never been indifferent to the age-long drama of the Jewish people. We are without any racial prejudice, as a real democracy should be, and that is why in 1939, when the nazi and fascist persecution against the Jews in the Old World was increasing-we generously opened our doors to thousands of these people.

But, although we have been anxious to show our completely independent attitude in the matter now before us for settlement, we nevertheless wish to point out that we have not lost sight of another supremely important point: the need, above all, to safeguard the prestige of the United Nations.

We should be deceiving ourselves if we ignored the fact that the United Nations has not yet succeeded in giving full satisfaction to he the hopes that the troubled peoples of the post-war world have placed in this international organization. There are many serious problems still unsolved after long months of tiring discussion. The President of Mexico reminded us last Saturday in an eloquent and inspiring speech of the need to liquidate the problems of the last war as rapidly as possible and to build the world of the future without delay.

Nevertheless, the United Nations continues to beour ultimate guarantee that peace will be maintained and that those ideals will become facts.

We have before us now the resolution on the so-called Palestine case. We have to recognize that the multiplicity and diversity of the factors involved make it one of the most serious and complex problems ever submitted to an international organization.

We have now the opportunity to put the strength and authority of the United Nations to the test, and I am fully aware that a failure to solve the problem would inevitably lead to a heavy loss of the Organization's prestige in the eyes of the world.

It was not we of the small Member States of the United Nations who asked that this case should be brought before the Organization, but the United Kingdom. In expressing the request for an opportunity to render an account of the mandate over Palestine conferred upon it by the League of Nations, the United Kingdom asked for the convocation of this special session of the Assembly for the purpose of setting up a special committee to collect information for consideration at the next session of the Assembly in September.

But, although it is true that we took no initiative in urging the examination of this problem, it is also true that once embarked upon it, we firmly intend to play our part, not only in the highest spirit of equity but also with all the force at our command.

In order to do this, it is necessary to collect as much and as accurate information as possible. As part of that information—as almost all the speakers before me have pointed out—we require the expression of the views of the Jewish people, one of the chief parties in the issue we have to solve. I do not wish to tire my fellow representatives by repeating the legal and humanitarian arguments already expounded at length; I think that we are all deeply convinced that this delicate matter cannot be solved without granting a full hearing to the Jewish people.

The right of the Jewish Agency for Palestine to be regarded as the main representative to express these views likewise seems to me quite clear. The representative of the United States was particularly eloquent when he pointed to the difference which exists in law and in justice between the status of that organization and any other. His quotation from the relevant part of the mandate of the League of Nations should in itself have convinced the representatives that this body has special and indisputable rights. Indeed, article 4 of the mandate expressly speaks of official recognition for the Jewish Agency ". . . for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country." I rather think that in the field of international law there is no comparable example of rights granted to an entity which is not a State.

In addition, we have to decide how the points of view of the Jewish population are to be given expression.

The United Kingdom representative's remarks in the General Committee seem to imply that the proper time for hearing the Jewish representatives should be during the work of the special committee which is to be set up to collect information for the next regular session of the General Assembly. I wish to state frankly that, as members of the organ which is to give a ruling on the United Kingdom request on account of which this special session was called—namely, the organ which is to determine whether such a committee is to be appointed or not, how it is to be constituted, and what are to be its terms of reference—we should first hear the views of all the interested parties, including, as I have said, the Jewish Agency for Palestine.

Some representatives have held that the Jewish Agency should be invited to make its observations before the General Assembly, and .others consider that its views should be given before the First Committee.

It is my opinion that either of these methods is satisfactory, and that, from the practical point of view of obtaining full information, there is in fact no difference between them, since the First Committee will be composed of representatives of all the countries represented in the Assembly.

The United States delegation, supported by various others, has voiced the constitutional scruples speaking against accepting the Polish delegation's proposal to grant a hearing to the Jewish Agency in the General Assembly. The objection is that the Agency is a private body, and that any such procedure might set a serious precedent. Although the arguments on which this view is based have not convinced me—and I consider that, because of the special legal status of the Jewish Agency for Palestine in this case, such a method could never constitute a precedent—I nevertheless have the fullest respect for the constitutional scruples of the United States delegation, as I recognize that strict obedience to the principles and rules of our Organization is the best guarantee for all, particularly the small nations.

For these reasons, whichever method the Assembly adopts, the delegation of Chile will be tally satisfied.

We also have before us the proposal of the United States delegation, approved by the General Committee, that the matter should be referred to the First Committee.

I consider that this proposal was perfectly logical when it was presented. It was merely a question of handing over to the Members of the Assembly as a whole the duty of settling a matter which was being discussed by only fourteen members of the Committee.

But the circumstances are different now. For two days we have been discussing, in plenary meeting, the substance of the question raised as a result of the request from the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and I think we are now in a position to decide the matter forthwith. It would be an unjustifiable waste of time to renew discussion upon it in the First Committee, particularly as there has already been a very full expression of opinions.

What we might well hand over to the First Committee is the duty of hearing other bodies which claim to be interested parties but whose rights are not as clear and exceptional as those of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the special status of which Mr. Austin made clear a few days ago.

For those reasons, I wish to submit the following text for the consideration of the Assembly, in the form of an amendment to the General Committee's proposal:

"The General Assembly,

"Considering the need of having wide and complete information concerning the question for which the special session of the General Assembly was convoked, and

"Recognizing the special legal position of the Jewish Agency for Palestine in the mandate of the League of Nations,


"1. That the First Committee invite the Agency to state to the Committee its point of view;

"2. To send to that same Committee, for its decision, any other communications already received or which may be submitted to this special session."

The amendment I have just read embodies many of the opinions expressed here. It does not close the door to any parties which may justify their right to be heard, provided that the First Committee has considered whether their applications are justified or not; at the same time, it grants the Jewish Agency for Palestine, in view of its evident justification, the right to be heard before the First Committee immediately.

Mr. Rodriguez Fabregat (Uruguay) (translated from Spanish): A few days ago—and it seems much longer—when the plenary meeting of the Assembly began to study the first report of the General Committee, I asked, at this rostrum, a question concerning the fate of the requests submitted to that Committee; if I am not mistaken, they constituted item 4 of the Committee's agenda.

The President was good enough to state then that all those documents were still in the hands of the Committee and that, even though the Assembly came to a decision upon the first part of the report referred to it, the Committee would continue to consider those requests.

The Assembly made its decision; the Committee met again; their report has been sent to us, but it contains no solution of the point at issue. The Committee proposes that the matter should be referred to another committee for consideration. Meanwhile, if we come to the substance of the question, it would appear—and this is my personal impression of the trend of our discussions—that the Committee had reached agreement that all the parties directly concerned in this question of Palestine, that all the qualified parties should be heard now.

If that is so, or at least if it was so at the time, we would have taken a real step forward; we would have covered ground which still remains to be covered; we would have progressed in the sense of reality; we would have decided to hear the party which has so far remained silent, namely, that representing the Jewish people of Palestine.

In fact, we are now faced with a dual situation. We had to decide whether to have a full debate on the substance of the question, and yet the first point we had to acknowledge was g- that a full discussion has in fact taken place; we r had still to decide whether to consider the political aspects, whereas in fact a political discussion has taken place not only in the Committee but in the Assembly itself, and in both cases the party which is perhaps the most interested in the Palestine problem—the representatives of the Jewish people—did not have a hearing.

A legal, technical or procedural question has been raised. I have studied the Charter, trying to do so in a casuistic spirit, and I have not found a single provision preventing us from hearing the Jewish party in a meeting of the Assembly. Furthermore, whether it is in the Assembly or in the First Committee—and for my part I do not mind, because in fact the Committee can do nothing which the Assembly with its higher jurisdiction cannot do—I consider that the important thing for us here in plenary meeting is not the principle of equity, but the general impression that we are acting equitably in so acute and Painful a problem as that of Palestine, which is now before the General Assembly of the United Nations for the first time.

If for technical reasons we refer the matter to the First Committee, all this discussion is logically bound to be repeated. Our aim is to save time; we are urged not to waste time in the Assembly so that the special committee to be appointed may get down to its work. I agree. But when this Assembly deliberates for the purpose of referring the matter to the General Committee, it causes delay. When the General Committee deliberates and refers the matter back to us with the proposal to send it to another committee, discussion is still further prolonged. When the Assembly discusses whether the resolution is within its own competence or that of the Committee, it prolongs the discussion., again. When I come to this rostrum to make my point, I too am prolonging the discussion. So we cannot blame the party, which so far has been silent in this discussion, for losing the time which we ourselves are spending in considering, not the substance of the problem, but the preliminary question of deciding which party or parties are to be granted a hearing.

In those circumstances and at this point in the discussion, invoking our Charter, I speak now as a mediator, not so much in defence of the right of the parties concerned to be heard but rather to protect my own right.

We have come here for a specific purpose stated today on the agenda; we have not come, therefore, as judges in this case. We maintain and shall continue to maintain the position of investigators, so to speak, in the problem before us; we are seeking to appoint a special committee to study the problem of Palestine and present a final report to aid the Assembly in coming to a definite decision in September; we consider ourselves protected by the Charter in this matter. It is no longer a question of the Jewish Agency's right to be heard, but of a right and obligation on our part to hear the parties concerned in order to be able to settle this problem with the calm impartiality which is required of us, which is perhaps one of the vital tests for the United Nations.

It is from this angle that I have been examining all the motives of this debate, the different points of view, the more or less contradictory attitudes, and that I have been counting on the fact or the hope that all of us are agreed that the Jewish case should be stated by its authorized representatives in this Assembly. Desiring to prevent this Assembly from wasting any more time without even settling the preliminary point, I took the liberty, early this morning, of submitting to the Chair a proposal which, in common parliamentary usage, might be called a compromise proposal.

This is in fact its intention. But I am aware, and so are you, Mr. President, that these so-called compromise proposals nevertheless very often leave the supposed conciliator by himself to face a continued dispute between the parties.

If that is the case, I should like to submit my proposal as an alternative one. It is very short, with the appropriate brevity which is not always observed in these matters, so short that in fact it says only this:

"The General Assembly,

"Determined to give careful consideration to the points of view of all parties qualified to speak on the question of Palestine,

"Resolves to invite the representatives of the It Jewish Agency for Palestine to set forth its views on this question before the First Committee of the General Assembly."

Why might this proposal be called conciliatory? That is evident from the text; its condensed wording is significant. The phrase "determned to give careful consideration to the points of view of all parties qualified to speak on the question of Palestine" means that all the parties qualified to speak on this matter and requesting to do so should be heard by the First Committee.

The General Assembly "resolves to invite the representatives of the Jewish Agency for Palestine". Why, in this case? Because of the inherent juridical, legal, and international status of the Agency. And here I refer again very briefly to the fact that the Charter not only does not deny the right of the Jewish Agency for Palestine to be heard by us, but authorizes it to be heard. The Charter first of all sets forth the position of the United Nations itself. An ably—the General Assembly—three Councils, an International Court of Justice, and a Secretariat. But, in addition, it prescribes that the United Nations is also constituted by as many other necessary organs as may be set up by the United Nations itself. And the Charter goes even further. It recognizes another type of Organization which the Charter brings into relationship with the United Nations, and in particular, with this Assembly: namely, the so-called specialized agencies. Read Article 57 and you will see all its scope and significance in the present case.

The specialized agencies are divided into two classes in the Charter: governmental and non-governmental agencies. Why? So that they may play their part in the peace-making work of the Organization and in the task of establishing the new world conditions for peace the responsibility for which the Charter entrusts to the Organization. But when there are no such agencies, the Charter, we should note, states that this Assembly, of which we are a part and which is now convened is entitled to create or to encourage the creation of such specialized agencies as may consider necessary to carry out the work of the United Nations. That means that this Assembly, more than any other organ, is also by the terms of the Charter given a very valuable power: to create—not merely according to strict legal rules which appear in manuals —to give life. to encourage and put into operation organs, commissions, specialized agencies to assist in this work of peace and justice, which, in the eager, hopeful eyes of the world, is the purpose and mission of the United Nations.

If this Assembly, therefore, is entitled to create a specialized agency and add it to the organs of the world Organization, how can this very Assembly then be denied the right to hear the views of the very agency which it has itself set up? It will be said that the Jewish Agency for Palestine, of which I am speaking at the moment, was not a creation of the Assembly. That is true. The Jewish Agency for Palestine existed prior to this Assembly and to the whole Organization. Nevertheless, even if the terms of the Charter do not specifically apply in this case, we should consider the characteristics of this Agency. How did it arise? Are its existence, status, composition, and mandate provided for by the terms of the United Nations Charter to which I have referred?

The Agency arose as a result of an agreement between the great Allied Powers after the first world war, and was confirmed by the League of Nations. My country, Uruguay, was a member of the League. As a result of this agreement by the League of Nations and of the San Remo Conference, the mandate was established, comprising two fundamental points: the political mandate—the mandate over Palestine—and the recognition of an agency as a public body entitled to co-operate with and advise the mandatory Power in the fulfilment of its mandate. This agency is referred to in the text of the mandate: it is the Jewish Agency for Palestine whose request we have been discussing now for some days.

This is recognized by article 4 of the mandate. I will not read now the whole text of the article, for I do not wish to enter troubled waters, but to preserve an attitude which is essential if we are to solve this problem in a calm spirit of equity and succeed in appointing the committee of investigation.

The mandate also confers other powers upon the Jewish Agency, as you will see from article 11, and the agency is to a certain extent authorized to fulfil typically governmental functions. The Mandatory is entitled to enlist its assistance in carrying out public works, operating various public services, and even exploiting the country's natural wealth. These are government functions, delegated, agreed, authorized and entrusted to a public body recognized in the text of the mandate. For if they are not government functions, what then is government? If responsibility for public works, culture, and health is not a government function, wherein, in what more essential tasks, lie the functions of government? This is such an evident fact—and I propose to extend the argument somewhat—that it might well have happened that we had here in this room, present by right, a representative of the Jewish Agency, recognized as a public body in accordance with article 4 of the Palestine mandate. If the Mandatory had happened to arrange it in that way, no one would have been able to prevent the presence here of a representative of the Agency as a public body, in accordance with the terms of the mandate.

The Uruguayan delegation is convinced that there should be a full debate, with freedom for all to speak, and that a special committee should be set up to consider the Palestine problem. I shall, at the appropriate time, state the facts which we consider should guide that committee's work. Meanwhile, I should like to recall that the Uruguayan delegation had already brought up at San Francisco the question of Palestine and the Jewish Agency.

In an effort to reconcile the various views in this discussion before the Assembly, and with deep feeling, I present for the consideration of my fellow representatives the proposal which I have formulated on behalf of the Uruguayan delegation.

The President: I now call on Mr. Cordier to read two communications received by the President.

Mr. Cordier (Executive Assistant to the Secretary-General) : The Secretary-General has received the following communication from the Arab Higher Committee, cabled from Cairo:

[Original text: English]

Cairo, 4 May 1947


United Nations,

Lake Success, New York.

The Arab Higher Committee, which represents the Arabs of Palestine, has chosen the following persons, Emil Ghouri, Rajai Husseini, Henry Cattan, Wasef Kamal, Isa Nakhleh, Rasem Khalidi, to compose its delegation which represents it before the United Nations Organization in its special session for Palestine, and has authorized them to speak in its name. We request that due recognition be given to this delegation in the capacity mentioned above.

(Signed) Hussein Khalidi


Arab Higher Committee

This is a letter addressed to the Secretary-General :

[Original text: English] New York, 5 May 1947 His Excellency, Mr. Trygve Lie Secretary-General United Nations Lake Success, New York. Your Excellency:

In view of the fact that the Palestine problem is now being discussed by the United Nations, we hereby apply to your Excellency that the Arab Higher Committee, which is the body representing the Arabs of Palestine, may be permitted to attend, through its representatives, the deliberations, and be heard on this problem.

Yours faithfully,

(Signed) Emil GHOURI


Palestine Arab Delegation

The President: As far as I can see, the two amendments and the three proposals submitted to the General Assembly this morning are similar in character and substance. In order to facilitate the business of this Assembly, I ask the five delegations which have submitted these proposals to consult with each other during the lunch period to produce a single text upon which we can vote when the appropriate time comes. I hope that this will take place this afternoon.

We shall now adjourn until 2.30 p.m.

The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.

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