United Nations Special Committee on Palestine
The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was created on 15 May 1947 in response to a United Kingdom government request that the General Assembly "make recommendations under article 10 of the Charter, concerning the future government of Palestine". The British government had also recommended the establishment of a special committee to prepare a report for the General Assembly. The General Assembly adopted the recommendation to set up the UNSCOP to investigate the cause of the conflict in Palestine, and, if possible, devise a solution. UNSCOP was made up of representatives of 11 nations. UNSCOP visited Palestine and gathered testimony from Zionist organisations in Palestine and in the US. The Arab Higher Committee boycotted the Commission, explaining that the Palestinian Arabs' natural rights were self-evident and could not continue to be subject to investigation, but rather deserved to be recognized on the basis of the principles of the United Nations Charter.
The Report of the Committee dated 3 September 1947 supported the termination of the British mandate in Palestine. It contained a majority proposal for a Plan of Partition into two independent states with Economic Union (CHAPTER VI) and a minority proposal for a Plan for one Federal union with Jerusalem as its capital (CHAPTER VII). On 29 November 1947 the General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, based on the UNSCOP majority plan (with only slight modifications to the proposed recommendations).
Creation of the Committee
On 15 May 1947, the General Assembly established the "United Nations Special Committee on Palestine" (UNSCOP). The Special Committee was given wide powers to ascertain and record facts, to investigate all questions and issues relevant to the problem of Palestine, and to make recommendations. It was authorized to conduct investigations in Palestine and wherever it might deem useful.
It was decided that the committee should be composed of "neutral" countries, exuding the five permanent members of the Security Council, including the Mandatory power. The Committee final composition was: Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia.
List of Members
Work of the Committee
UNSCOP arrived in Palestine on June 15, 1947. While the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Council cooperated with UNSCOP in its deliberations, the Arab Higher Committee charged UNSCOP with being pro-Zionist, and decided to boycott it. It announced a one-day general strike to protest its arrival, and Arab opposition figures were threatened with death if they spoke to UNSCOP. It first heard evidence from two British representatives and the head of the Jewish Agency's Political Department, Moshe Shertok, who submitted documents and were questioned by the committee's members.
From June 18 to July 3, the committee embarked on a tour of Palestine, visiting Jerusalem, Haifa, the Dead Sea, Hebron, Beersheba, Gaza, Jaffa, the Galilee, Tel Aviv, Acre, Nablus, Beit Dajan, Tulkarm, Rehovot, Arab and Jewish settlements in the Negev, and several Jewish agricultural communities. When visiting Jewish areas, committee members were warmly welcomed. Jewish Agency officials also ensured that they met with Jews who spoke the native languages of committee members such as Swedish, Spanish, and Persian. By contrast, committee members were ignored and faced hostility in Arab areas. It then held 12 public hearings from July 4 to July 17, during which 31 representatives from 12 Jewish organizations gave testimony and submitted written depositions, totaling thirty-two tons of material. Jewish Agency representatives such as David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Shertok, and Abba Eban testified, along with Chaim Weizmann, a former senior Zionist official who held no office at the particular time and testified as a private citizen. Anti-Zionist Jewish representatives from the Palestine Communist Party and Ichud party were included.
Despite the Arab boycott, several Arab officials and intellectuals privately met committee members, among them AHC member and former Jerusalem mayor Husayn al-Khalidi.
The Committee actively followed the unraveling of the SS Exodus, carrying 4,554 Jewish Holocaust survivors seeking to illegally immigrate to Palestine. Some Committee members were present at the port of Haifa and witnessed the immigrants being forcibly removed from the ship and deported back to Europe. The committee completed its work in Palestine by hearing the eyewitness testimony of the Reverend John Stanley Grauel, who was on the Exodus, convinced UNSCOP to reverse an earlier decision. The Committee decided to hear the testimony of the Jewish refugees in British detention camps in Palestine and in European Displaced Persons camps trying to gain admittance to Palestine. Golda Meir, a later Prime Minister of Israel, observed that Reverend Grauel's testimony and advocacy for the creation of the Jewish state fundamentally and positively changed the United Nations to support the creation of Israel.
On July 21, the committee traveled to Lebanon, where they met with Lebanese Prime Minister Riad al-Solh, and with Foreign Minister Hamid Frangieh. On July 23, the representatives of Arab League states testified before the committee in Sofar. Privately, the committee met with pro-Zionist Maronite Christian leaders. Half of the committee's members then flew to Amman to meet with King Abdullah of Transjordan, who claimed that the Arabs would have "difficulty" accepting partition but refused to completely rule it out, hinting that in such an event, the Arab parts of Palestine should go to Transjordan.
UNSCOP then flew to Geneva, and on August 8, a subcommittee began a weeklong tour of displaced persons camps in American and British occupation zones in Germany and Austria, and interviewed Jewish refugees and local military officials, finding that there was a strong desire to immigrate to Palestine among the Jewish DPs.
In Geneva, while writing the report, the committee was subject to Jewish, Arab, and British pressure. Zionist representatives vigorously lobbied the committee. They repeatedly submitting memorandums and recruited a Palestinian Arab representative whose father had been murdered by the Husseini clan that dominated the Palestinian Arab community to argue in favor of a Jewish-Transjordanian partition of the country before the committee. The Arab League liaison submitted a memorandum demanding a solution satisfactory to the Palestinian Arabs, threatening catastrophe would result otherwise. The British submitted a memorandum arguing partition was a feasible option.
Report of the Special Committee
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The Introduction to the Report of the Committee dated 3 September 1947 to the UN General Assembly best summarises its contents.
Introduction to the Report
This volume contains the report and recommendations submitted by the Special Committee on Palestine to the second session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. It comprises a preface, eight chapters, an appendix and a series of annexes. The factual information presented in the first four chapters is intended to illustrate the various phases of the Committee’s work and to serve as a background to the problem with which it dealt:
- Chapter I describes the origin and constitution of the Special Committee and summarizes its activities as Lake Success, Jerusalem, Beirut and Geneva.
- Chapter II analyses the basic geographic, demographic and economic factors, and reviews the history of Palestine under the Mandate. The Jewish and Arab claims are also set forth and appraised.
- Chapter III deals with the particular aspect of Palestine as the Holy Land sacred to three world religions.
- Chapter IV Consists of an analysis and recapitulation of the most important solutions put forward prior to the creation of the Committee or presented to it in oral or written evidence.
Chapters V, VI, VII contain the recommendations and proposals which are the main result of the work of the Committee during its three months of activity.
- Chapter V - eleven unanimous recommendations on general principles are put forward. A further recommendation of a similar nature, which was adopted with two dissenting votes, is also recorded.
- Chapter VI and VII contain respectively a majority plan and a minority plan for the future government of Palestine, including provisions for boundaries.
- Chapter VIII provides a list of the reservations and observations by certain representatives on a number of specific points. The text of these reservations and observations will be found in the appendix to the report.
Chapter V: proposed recommendations (i)
Section A. Recommendations approved unanimously
- RECOMMENDATION I. TERMINATION OF THE MANDATE
- It is recommended that The Mandate for Palestine shall be terminated at the earliest practicable date.
- RECOMMENDATION II. INDEPENDENCE
- Independence shall be granted in Palestine at the earliest practicable date.
- RECOMMENDATIONS III. TRANSITIONAL PERIOD
- There shall be a transitional period preceding the grant of independence in Palestine which shall be as short as possible, consistent with the achievement of the preparations and conditions essential to independence.
- RECOMMENDATION IV. UNITED NATIONS RESPONSIBILITY DURING THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD)
- During the transitional period the authority entrusted with the task of administering Palestine and preparing it for independence shall be responsible to the United Nations.
- RECOMMENDATION V. HOLY PLACES AND RELIGIOUS INTERESTS
- A. The sacred character of the Holy Places shall be preserved and access to the Holy Places for purposes of worship and pilgrimage shall be ensured in accordance with existing rights, in recognition of the proper interest of millions of Christians, Jews and Moslems abroad as well as the residents of Palestine in the care of sites and buildings associated with the origin and history of their faiths.
- B. Existing rights in Palestine of the several religious communities shall be neither impaired nor denied, in view of the fact that their maintenance is essential for religious peace in Palestine under conditions of independence.
- C. An adequate system shall be devised to settle impartially disputes involving religious rights as an essential factor in maintaining religious peace, taking into account the fact that during the Mandate such disputes have been settled by the Government itself, which acted as an arbiter and enjoyed the necessary authority and power to enforce its decisions.
- D. Specific stipulations concerning Holy Places, religious buildings or sites and the rights of religious communities shall be inserted in the constitution or constitutions of any independent Palestinian State or States which may be created.
- RECOMMENDATION VI. JEWISH DISPLACED PERSONS
- The General Assembly undertake immediately the initiation and execution of an international arrangement whereby the problem of the distressed European Jews, of whom approximately 250,000 are in assembly centers, will be dealt with as a matter of extreme urgency for the alleviation of their plight and of the Palestine problem.
- RECOMMENDATIONS VII. DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES AND PROTECTION OF MINORITIES
- In view of the fact that independence is to be granted in Palestine on the recommendation and under the auspices of the United Nations, it is a proper and an important concern of the United Nations that the constitution or other fundamental law as well as the political structure of the new State or States shall be basically democratic, i.e., representative, in character, and that this shall be a prior condition to the grant of independence. In this regard, the constitution or other fundamental law of the new State or States shall include specific guarantees respecting -
- A. Human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of worship and conscience, speech, press and assemblage, the rights of organized labor, freedom of movement,' freedom from arbitrary searches and seizures, and rights of personal property; and
- B. Full protection for the rights and interests of minorities, including the protection of the linguistic, religious and ethnic rights of the peoples and respect for their cultures, and full equality of all citizens with regard to political, civil and religious matters.
- RECOMMENDATIONS VIII. PEACEFUL RELATIONS
- It shall be required, as a prior condition to independence, to incorporate in the future constitutional provisions applying to Palestine those basic principles of the Charter of the United Nations whereby a State shall -
- A. Undertake to settle all international disputes in which it may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered; and
- B. Accept the obligation to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
- RECOMMENDATION IX. ECONOMIC UNITY
- In appraising the various proposals for the solution of the Palestine question, it shall be accepted as a cardinal principle that the preservation of the economic unity of Palestine as a whole is indispensable to the life and development of the country and its peoples.
- Regarding the reason for the economic unity, the report said: "it is the viability of the Arab State that is in doubt……By this means the members of the Committee supporting the partition plan believe that the viability of the Arab State could be reasonably assured. The Committee is satisfied that, in the sense defined, the proposed Jewish State and the City of Jerusalem would be viable."
- RECOMMENDATION X. CAPITULATIONS
- States whose nationals have in the past enjoyed in Palestine the privileges and immunities of foreigners, including the benefits of consular jurisdiction and protection as formerly enjoyed by capitulation or usage in the Ottoman Empire, be invited by the United Nations to renounce any right pertaining to them to the reestablishment of such privileges and immunities in an independent Palestine.
- RECOMMENDATION XI. APPEAL AGAINST ACTS OF VIOLENCE
- The General Assembly shall call on the peoples of Palestine to extend their fullest cooperation to the United Nations in its effort to devise and put into effect an equitable and workable means of settling the difficult situation prevailing there, and to this end, in the interest of peace, good order, and lawfulness, to exert every effort to bring to an early end the acts of violence which have for too long beset that country.
Section B. Recommendation approved by substantial majority
- RECOMMENDATION XII. THE JEWISH PROBLEM IN GENERAL
(Two members of the Committee dissented from this recommendation and one recorded no opinion.)
- In the appraisal of the Palestine question, it be accepted as incontrovertible that any solution for Palestine cannot be considered as a solution of the Jewish problem in general.
Chapter VI: proposed recommendations (ii)
1. The Committee, sitting informally as a means of facilitating its deliberations on specific proposals, informally set up two small working groups to explore specific proposals with regard to a plan of partition involving economic union. One of these groups was known as the Working Group on Constitutional Matters; the other was the Working Group on Boundaries.
2. The Working Group on Constitutional Matters (Mr. Sandstorm, Mr. Blom, Mr. Granados, and Mr. Rand), in a series of informal meetings formulated a plan of partition with provisions for economic unity and constitutional guarantees. This plan was subsequently discussed and completed in joint discussions of these two working groups.
3. In the course of the forty-seventh meeting of the Committee on 27 August 1947, seven members of the Committee (Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden and Uruguay), expressed themselves, by recorded vote, in favour of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union, presented by the Working Group on Constitutional Matters.
4. The Plan of Partition with Economic Union is herewith reproduced.
Part I. Partition with economic union
- A. Partition and independence
- B. Transitional period and constitution
- C. Declaration
- CHAPTER 1: Holy Places, religious building and sites
- CHAPTER 2: Religion and minority rights
- CHAPTER 3: 1. Citizenship. 2. International Conventions. 3. Financial Obligations.
- CHAPTER 4: 1. guarantee of the United Nations. 2. referral to the International Court of Justice.
- D. Economic union
- 1. The Economic Union of Palestine
- (a) A customs union.
- (b) A common currency.
- (c) Operation in the common interest of railways, interstate highways, postal, telephone and telegraphic services; and the ports of Haifa and Jaffa.
- (d) Joint economic development,..
- 2. Freedom of transit and visit
- 3. Termination, modification and interpretation of the Treaty
- 1. The Economic Union of Palestine
- E. Assets
- F. Admission to membership in the United Nations
A COMMENTARY ON PARTITION
Part II. Boundaries
- The Arab State
- The Jewish State
- The City of Jerusalem
Part III. City of Jerusalem
Chapter VII: proposed recommendations (iii)
1. In the course of the informal meetings of the Committee to explore solutions, a working group was set up to deal with the federal-State proposal.
2. The Working Group in the Federal State Solution (Sir Abdur Rahman, Mr. Emezam, Mr. Simic, and Mr. Atyeo) formulated a comprehensive proposal along these lines and it was voted upon and supported by three members (India, Iran, and Yugoslavia) at the forty-seventh meeting of the Committee on 27 August 1947.
3. The federal-State plan was therewith reproduced.
PLAN FOR A FEDERAL-STATE
The undersigned representatives of India, Iran and Yugoslavia, not being in agreement with the recommendation for partition formulated by the other members of the Committee, and for the reasons, among others, stated above, present to the General Assembly the following recommendations which, in their view, constitute the most suitable solution to the problem of Palestine.
I. The Independent State of Palestine
- 1. The peoples of Palestine are entitled to recognition of their right to independence, and an independent federal State of Palestine shall be created following a transitional period not exceeding three years.
- 2. With regard to the transitional period, responsibility for administering Palestine and preparing it for independence under the conditions herein prescribed shall be entrusted to such authority as may be decided upon by the General Assembly.
- 3. The independent Federal State of Palestine shall comprise an Arab state and a Jewish state.
- 4. In delimiting the boundaries of the Arab and Jewish states, respectively, consideration shall be given to anticipated population growth.
- 5. During the transitional period, a constituent assembly shall be elected by the population of Palestine and shall formulate the constitution of the independent Federal State of Palestine. The authority entrusted by the General Assembly with responsibility for administering Palestine during the transitional period shall convene the constituent assembly on the basis of electoral provisions which shall ensure the fullest possible representation of the population, providing that all adult persons who have acquired Palestinian citizenship as well as all Arabs and Jews who, though noncitizens, may be resident in Palestine and who shall have applied for citizenship in Palestine not less than three months before the date of the election, shall be entitled to vote therein.
- 6. The attainment of independence by the independent federal State of Palestine shall be declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations as soon as the authority administering the territory shall have certified to the General Assembly that the constituent assembly referred to in the preceding paragraph has adopted a constitution incorporating the provisions set forth in II immediately following.
II. Outline of the structure and required provisions in the constitution of Palestine
III. Boundaries of the Arab and Jewish states in the independent Federal State of Palestine
V. The Holy Places, religious interests and Jerusalem
VI. International responsibility for Jewish displaced persons
VII. Jewish immigration into Palestine
Chapter VIII: reservations and observations
1. Some representatives reserved their position on a number of specific points or wished to express particular points of view. These reservations and observations will be found in the appendix to the Report.
2. The representatives making such reservations and observations, and the subjects on which they are recorded, are as follows:
- (i) Statement on attitude towards proposals in Chapters VI and VII. (Australia did not support the proposals in either Chapter VI or Chapter VII.)
- (i) Reservation on recommendation XII of Chapter V.
- (i) Declaration on independence.
- (ii) Observations on the Mandate in its historical setting.
- (iii) Declaration on form of government.
- (iv) Declaration of reasons why partition cannot be accepted.
- (i) Reservation on recommendation XII of Chapter V.
- (ii) Declaration on boundaries. (iii) Declaration on immigration. (iv) Declaration on religious interests.
- (i) Observations on historical background.
- (ii) Appraisal of the Mandate.
- (iii) Observation on the present situation.
3. The reservations and observations referred to above were not communicated to all the other members of the Special Committee before the signing of the Report.
Ad Hoc Committee Deliberations
The unanimous decision of the UNSCOP was for the termination of the mandate and two plans were drawn up for the Governance of Palestine on the termination of the Mandate. Seven members of the UNSCOP endorsed a partition plan (the Majority report) favoured by the Zionist leadership on 2 October 1947. Dr Abba Hillel Silver, Chairman of the American Section of the Jewish Agency, made the case for a Jewish State to the Ad Hoc committee on Palestine and announced on behalf of the Jewish Agency acceptance of 10 of the eleven unanimous recommendations of the UN partition plan and rejection of the minority report. Of the Majority report (the Partition Plan areas) Dr Abba Hillel Silver vacillates saying that he was prepared to “recommend to the Jewish people acceptance subject to further discussion of the constitutional and territorial provisions”. While three members endorsed a federal state (the minority report) similar to the Grady Morrison plan that had been rejected by both Jews and Arabs and the UNSCOP found that a canton system “might easily entail an excessive fragmentation of the governmental processes, and in its ultimate result, would be quite unworkable.” No members of the UNSCOP endorsed a One-state solution as recommended by the Arab Higher Committee and on 29 September Mr Jamal al-Husayni Vice president of the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine (AHCP) acting for the AHPC announced opposition to the UN partition plan
Sub-Committee No. 1 to the Ad Hoc Committee
On 22 October the Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine formed a sub-Committee to:-
1). To draw up a detailed plan for the future government of Palestine in accordance with the basic principles of the unanimous recommendations of the majority plan of the Special Committee on Palestine;
2). To incorporate this plan in the form of recommendations;
4. To consider methods by which recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestine question under paragraph 1 above would be put into effect.
On 23 October 1947 the sub-committee held its first meeting and held 32 meeting and on 19 November recommended to the Ad Hoc committee that:- There shall be a Commission appointed by the General Assembly with five members representing Guatemala, Iceland, Norway, Poland and Uruguay
Britain was unwilling to implement a policy that was not acceptable to both sides and so refused to share with the UN Palestine Commission the administration of Palestine during the transitional period and on 20 November 1947 British Government informed the UN of a timetable for evacuating Palestine. On the Termination of the Mandate, Partition And Independence. Britain as the Mandatory Power was to use its best endeavours to ensure that an area situated in the territory of the Jewish State, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for a substantial immigration, was to be evacuated at the earliest possible date and in any event not later than 1 February 1948.
On 29 November 1947 the UN General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of a plan substantially in the form of The Plan of Partition with Economic Union in CHAPTER VI: PROPOSED RECOMMENDATIONS (II), as Resolution 181(II).
Ben-Dror, Elad (2015). Ralph Bunche and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Mediation and the UN 1947–1949,Routledge. ISBN 978-1138789883.
- A/RES/106 (S-1) of 15 May 1947 General Assembly Resolution 106 Constituting the UNSCOP
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- UNITED NATIONS: General Assembly: A/364: 3 September 1947: OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: SUPPLEMENT No. 11: UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PALESTINE: REPORT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLYL VOLUME 1: Lake Success, New York 1947: Retrieved 9 May 2012
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- ST/DPI/SER.A/47: Background Paper No. 47, 20 April 1949]
- It was urged that the special interests of the Great Powers meant that they would not be impartial and that their inclusion in the committee might result in political discussions which would delay its work, that the committee must not only be impartial but must also give the impression of being impartial. It was also felt that the United Kingdom as the Mandatory was an interested party and should not therefore sit on the committee.
- A/RES/106 (S-1)15 May 1947: Creation of the Committee: Retrieved 18 April 2012
- Report of UNSCOP - 1947
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- Report of UNSCOP - 1947 and the ANNEXES, APPENDIX, M A P S of the Report
- Ivan Rand and the UNSCOP papers
- Exodus 1947 - the ship that launched a nation (documentary film).