The U.N. Partition Plan and Arab ‘Catastrophe’by Jeremy R. Hammond
April 13, 2010
The following is excerpted from The Rejection of Arab Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Arab-Israeli Crisis.
In 1947, Great Britain, unable to reconcile its conflicting obligations to both Jews and Arabs, requested that the United Nations take up the question of Palestine. In May, the U.N. Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was created by a General Assembly resolution. UNSCOP’s purpose was to investigate the situation in Palestine and “submit such proposals as it may consider appropriate for the solution of the problem of Palestine”.
At the time, the U.N. consisted of 55 members, including Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Palestine by then remained the only one of the formerly Mandated Territories not to become an independent state. No representatives from any Arab nations, however, were included in UNSCOP. Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia requested that “The termination of the Mandate over Palestine and the declaration of its independence” be placed on the agenda, but this motion was rejected. The Arab Higher Committee thus announced it would not collaborate, although individual Arab states did agree to meet with representatives from UNSCOP.
UNSCOP’s investigation included a 15-day tour of Palestine, splitting time between visits to Arab and Jewish communities. Seven days—nearly half that same amount of time spent touring Palestine itself—were spent touring Displaced Persons (D.P.) camps in Germany and Austria and witnessing the plight of the Jews there. The proposal to visit the D.P. camps passed by a vote of six to four with one abstention, despite the objection from two members that it would be “improper to connect the displaced persons, and the Jewish problem as a whole, with the problem of Palestine”. More time was spent visiting D.P. camps than the total number of days spent visiting the Arab nations neighboring Palestine and meeting with representatives there.
Public hearings were held in which 37 representatives were heard, 31 of whom were Jews representing 17 Jewish organizations, but with only one representative from each of the six Arab states. Two proposals emerged: a federal State plan and a partition plan. The latter passed by a vote of seven to three with one abstention, the dissenting votes being cast by India, Iran, and Yugoslavia, who all favored the federal state plan.
On September 3, UNSCOP submitted its report to the U.N. General Assembly. The report noted that the population of Palestine at the end of 1946 was estimated to be almost 1,846,000, with 1,203,000 Arabs (65 percent) and 608,000 Jews (33 percent). Again, the growth of the Jewish population was mainly the result of immigration, whereas the Arab growth was “almost entirely” natural increase.
Complicating any notion of partition, UNSCOP observed that there was “no clear territorial separation of Jews and Arabs by large contiguous areas.” In the Jaffa district, for example, which included Tel Aviv, “Jews are more than 40 per cent of the total population”, with an Arab majority.
Land ownership statistics from 1945 showed that Arabs owned more land than Jews in every single district in Palestine. In Jaffa, with the highest percentage of Jewish ownership of any district, 47 percent of the land was owned by Arabs versus 39 percent owned by Jews. At the opposite end of the spectrum, in Ramallah district, Arabs owned 99 percent of the land and Jews less than 1 percent. In the whole of Palestine, Arabs were in possession of 85 percent of the land, while Jews owned less than 7 percent. ...READ MORE