History of Palestinian Rights: An Appeal to the World by Sir Zafarullah Khan

October 23, 2023

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History of Palestinian Rights: An Appeal to the World by Sir Zafarullah Khan

Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan

Below we present the full text of the speech made by Hazrat Zafarullah Khan (ra), a companion of the Promised Messiah, and an accomplished statesman, at the United Nations in his post as the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan, in 1947. This seminal speech exposed the fundamental injustice perpetrated upon the Palestinian people, of unfair division of land, resources and opportunities, in the initial two-state solution formulation. He went on to become the President of the International Court of Justice and the President of the United Nations General Assembly (1961-2).


Held in the General Assembly Hall at Flushing
Meadow, New York, on Friday, 28 November
1947, at 11 a.m.

President: Mr. O. ARANHA (Brazil).

125. Continuation of the discussion on the Palestinian question

The PRESIDENT: The representatives must have the best possible conditions in order to give proper consideration to the merits of the serious question before the General Assembly. The President, therefore, must remind the public to refrain from applause or any kind of intervention in the debate of the General Assembly.

There are ten speakers on the President’s list. I call upon the representative of Pakistan.

Portrait of Mr. Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, President of the Seventeenth Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Khan was Pakistan’s first Foreign Minister from 1947 to 1954 and in that capacity headed Pakistan’s delegation to the annual sessions of the General Assembly. From 1954 until 1961, he served as a member of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. He served as Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from August 1961 to September 1962 (un photo)

Sir Muhammad ZAFARULLAH KHAN (Pakistan): It is with satisfaction that one notes, Mr. President, that you are anxious to secure, at least so far as this question is concerned, an undisturbed and uninfluenced discussion. Whether the vote is going to be equally free and uninfluenced is no longer a matter for satisfaction. But I shall not dwell on that.

Those who have no access to what is going on behind the scenes have known enough from the Press to have fear in their hearts not only on this question — because this is one individual question — but that the deliberations on crucial questions of this great body, on which the hopes of the world for the future are centred, will not be left free.

This is a solemn moment, solemn in the history of the world, in the history of this great — let us hope, at least — great Organization. The United Nations is today on trial. The world is watching and will see how it acquits itself — again, perhaps, not so much from the point of view of whether partition is approved or not approved, but from the point of view of whether any room is to be left for the exercise of honest judgment and conscience for decisions taken upon important questions.

We are often apt to read history backwards, which, I submit, is a very wrong method of reading history. History, in order to be properly appreciated, has to be read forwards. One must put oneself behind the events which one desires to evaluate, and then judge and appraise them.

With your indulgence, Mr. President, let me invite the representatives to read history in that manner for a few moments, at least that part of history which concerns the General Assembly.

Thirty-two years ago — not to go too far back — the Western Allies were in the midst of a mortal struggle with the Central European Powers. Turkey had just entered the war on the side of Germany. The fate of the Allied cause trembled in the balance. The Arabs, who alone could help to redress the balance in the Middle East, the vital region, were invited to repudiate their allegiance to Turkey and to throw in their lot with the Allies. In return for what? In return for the pledged word of the United Kingdom, subsequently confirmed by France, that at the end of the struggle, the Arabs in their own lands would be free. They agreed and did their part.

How have the pledges given to them been fulfilled? We have often been reminded that these pledges have been fulfilled to the extent of nine-tenths, and that such fulfilment ought to be sufficient. Is that the standard we wish to see established and adhered to in international, national, and even private affairs? We have fulfilled these pledges to the extent of nine-tenths and, therefore, that ought to be sufficient. If that is so, pause and consider whether faith will ever again be placed in pledges, particularly in the pledges of the Western Powers. Remember, nations of the West, that you may need friends tomorrow, that you may need allies in the Middle East. I beg of you not to ruin and blast your credit in those lands.

It has been said that there is some doubt whether Palestine was included in the pledges given to the Arabs. Throughout all these long discussions in committee and in sub-committee, back again in committee, and then in the General Assembly, no one has sought to argue that Palestine was not included in those pledges or was excluded from those pledges. Nevertheless, it was suggested that if there were any doubt concerning that question, it should be referred to the International Court of Justice, whose advisory opinion should be requested so that the question might be settled, once and for all, one way or the other, inasmuch as so far no independent and impartial tribunal had been invited to express an opinion on that question. That suggestion was not adopted.

What is the conclusion? That those who entertain any doubt concerning the matter are convinced what the reply of the International Court of Justice would be.

It was stated, particularly by the representative of Czechoslovakia, that these pledges were only promises, that they were not international agreements; the meaning was that a promise need not be fulfilled whereas an international agreement is binding. However, before an international agreement emerges, particularly in the midst of an emergency like a world war, we have to place faith in promises. If no faith need be placed in promises, we shall never be able to get promises or pledges accepted.

It is then said: but the Balfour Declaration is also a pledge. True, it is also a pledge, but there is this point: either it can stand with and be consistent with the prior pledges or it is not consistent with the prior pledges. If it is not consistent with the prior pledges, then since the prior pledges occupy the field, there is no more field to be occupied by an inconsistent pledge; or else it is consistent with the prior pledges. In other words, the Balfour Declaration meant the establishment of a Jewish national home in a free and independent Palestine. Both these pledges can stand together — let them stand together and let both be fulfilled.

The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 during the First World War announcing its support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population.

As far as the mandatory power is concerned, one pledge has been fulfilled: the Jewish national home has been established. The independence of Palestine as a whole should now be established. Again, it has been argued: no, the Balfour Declaration meant something more than this. Very good. If there is a question of the legality, of the scope of the Declaration, refer it to the International Court of Justice. Sub-Committee 2 made that proposal also. It has been rejected.

Much emphasis has also been placed on the humanitarian aspect of this question, an aspect which is not denied. But from the humanitarian point of view, it is not only a question of Jewish refugees and displaced persons. Any person who is persecuted or discriminated against or unjustly or unfairly used has the right to appropriate redress. That is not denied.

What has Palestine done? What is its contribution toward the solution of the humanitarian question as it affects Jewish refugees and displaced persons? Since the end of the First World War, Palestine has taken over four hundred thousand Jewish immigrants. Since the start of the Jewish persecution in nazi Germany, Palestine has taken almost three hundred thousand Jewish refugees. This does not include illegal immigrants who could not be counted.

One has observed that those who talk of humanitarian principles, and can afford to do most, have done the least at their own expense to alleviate this problem. But they are ready — indeed, they are anxious — to be most generous at the expense of the Arab.

There have been few periods in history when members of the Jewish race have not been persecuted in one part or another of Europe. When English kings and barons indulged in the pastime of extracting the teeth of Jewish merchants and bankers as a gentle means of persuading them to cooperate in bolstering their feudal economy — a sort of medieval one-way lead-lease — Arab Spain provided a shelter, a refuge and a haven for the Jews.

Today it is said: only the poor persecuted European Jew is without a home. True. And it is further said: why, then, let Arab Palestine provide him, as Arab Spain did, not only with a shelter, a refuge, but also with a State so that he shall rule over the Arab. How generous! How humanitarian!

The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, as we know, in recommendation VI1, one of the unanimous recommendations, urged that the General Assembly take up this question of refugees and displaced persons immediately, apart from the problem of Palestine, in order to afford relief to the persecuted Jew so that there should be an alleviation of this humanitarian problem and an alleviation of the Palestinian problem.

What has this great and august body done in that respect? Sub-Committee 2 made a recommendation and drew up a draft resolution on that basis (resolution II, document A/AC.14/32). First, let those Jewish refugees and displaced persons who can be repatriated to their own countries be repatriated; secondly, those who cannot be repatriated should be allotted to Member States in accordance with their capacity to receive such refugees; and, thirdly, a committee should be set up to determine quotas for that purpose.

The resolution is put forward for consideration. Shall they be repatriated to their own countries? Australia says no; Canada says no; the United States says no. This was very encouraging from one point of view. Let these people, after their terrible experiences, even if they are willing to go back, not be asked to go back to their own countries. In this way, one would be sure that the second proposal would be adopted and that we should all give shelter to these people. Shall they be distributed among the Member States according to the capacity of the latter to receive them? Australia, an over-populated small country with congested areas, says no, no, no; Canada, equally congested and over-populated, says no; the United States, a great humanitarian country, a small area, with small resources, says no. That is their contribution to the humanitarian principle. But they state: let them go into Palestine, where there are vast areas, a large economy and no trouble; they can easily be taken in there.

That is the contribution made by this august body to the settlement of the humanitarian principle involved.

In the photograph are (left to right): Acting U.N. Secretary-General U Thant; General Assembly President Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (Pakistan); and U.N. Legal Counsel Constantin Stavropoulos (UN PHOTO)

What is the position today, apart from these other considerations? As soon as the Mandate is laid down, this is the situation that arises. I invite attention to paragraph 4 of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, under which the Mandate was granted. I quote: “Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized, subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone.” That is the paragraph that refers to Palestine.

The mandatory power says that it will lay down the Mandate. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine says that the Mandate should be laid down. Everybody is agreed that in some shape or other Palestine should be independent.

That stage of rendering administrative advice and assistance having been concluded, the legal position, is that Palestine, whose provisional in-dependence has been recognized juridically, will be from that date independent. That is the problem with which the United Nations has to deal.

How is Palestine to be independent? What sort of independence? What is the solution that we are invited to endorse and to attempt to carry through? In effect, the proposal before the United Nations General Assembly says that we shall decide — not the people of Palestine, with no provision for self-determination, no provision for the consent of the governed — what type of independence Palestine shall have. We shall call Palestine independent and sovereign, but Palestine shall belong to us and shall be, not the apple of our many and in different-direction-looking eyes, but shall become the apple of discord between East and West, lest, perchance, the unity which our name so wistfully proclaims may have a chance to establish itself.

We shall first cut the body of Palestine into three parts of a Jewish State and three parts of an Arab State. We shall then have the Jaffa enclave; and Palestine’s heart, Jerusalem, shall forever be an international city. That is the beginning of the shape Palestine shall have.

Having cut Palestine up in that manner, we shall then put its bleeding body upon a cross forever. This is not going to be temporary; this is permanent. Palestine shall never belong to its people; it shall always be stretched upon the cross.

What authority has the United Nations to do this? What legal authority, what juridical authority has it to do this, to make an independent State forever subject to United Nations administration?

The representative of the United States said that the problem is without precedent meaning obviously that it was not visualized and therefore is not provided for in our Charter. But he feels that if thirty-eight States accept the partition scheme, that would almost amount to law in and of itself. What is the significance of that observation made by the representative of the United States to the Committee and then to the Press? Is that not a confession that the scheme lacks legal, juridical and constitutional authority, and that you are called upon not only to accept the scheme as a scheme, but by your vote also to supply the juridical authority that it lacks? In other words, you are in effect invited to amend the Charter by your vote, and to write into it a new and a most controversial chapter. Will you take the responsibility? Where in the Charter is there the authority to do what you are invited to do? Has the General Assembly the authority to do it? Has the Security Council the authority to do it? Are both combined authorized to do it?

What are you invited to do? You are invited first to set up a commission to exercise sovereign authority over two independent States. You are invited to set up these States and exercise authority over them during the transitional period — all the functions of government; legislative, executive and administrative. To whom is the permanent sovereignty of these two States to belong? To the people of these two States? By no means. The permanent sovereignty is to be in the hands of a joint economic board. Is that board to be a link between the two States in the sense that nobody else will be concerned? Again, no. That board will be a council of nine, in effect, ruling Palestine: three members from the Arab State, three from the Jewish State, and three from the United Nations. In every case, they will be managing customs, currency, railways, international airways, the development of water resources and water power, the development of agriculture and so on. Without then-contribution, neither State, it is admitted, will be viable; that is, neither State will be able to render either its administrative services or its social services, or to make any progress whatsoever, or to provide for its defence. Who will in effect be the sovereign? The sovereign is the Joint Economic Board. The Joint Economic Board is constituted of three Arabs, three Jews and three United Nations representatives. The United Nations will permanently exercise sovereignty in Palestine. Where is the authority for doing that?

Moreover, so far as Jerusalem is concerned, an international city is to be created to be internationally administered — again, forever. There was a provision in the report of sub-Committee 1 that after ten years this system might be revised; that if two-thirds of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were to express a view, one way or another, that view shall also be given consideration. But that provision has been wiped out by amendments. It was stated that we must make Jerusalem an international city forever, to be administered by a governor to be appointed by the United Nations.

Is there any pretence even there that it is going to be an independent city? No. Where is die authority for it? So far as the General Assembly is concerned, it is stated in Articles 11 and 14 of the Charter. Article 11 states that the General Assembly may discuss and make recommendations. Article 14 states that the General Assembly may take steps for the peaceful adjustment of disputes — obviously, between Member States.

Where is the authority to do what the General Assembly is invited to do here? So far as the Security Council is concerned, Articles 34, 39 and 41 of the Charter were referred to. Moreover, as the result of what is called the Danish amendment, (document A/AC.14/43/ Rev.l) Articles 39 and 41 have now been incorporated in the final resolution. But do they apply? The preamble of the resolution contained in document A/516, states, in effect, that if the situation so demands, the Security Council, by taking measures under Articles 39 and 41, of the Charter, shall authorize the United Nations Commission to do what the Commission has been asked to do in this scheme. I utterly fail to grasp the meaning of the statement to the effect that, taking measures, under Articles 39 and 41, shall authorize the United Nations Commission to do what the Commission has been authorized to do. Where do Articles 39 and 41 come in? Articles 39 and 41 apply as between Member States.

Conversing (l. to r.) are: Mr. Nathan Barnes (Liberia); Dr. Tesfaye Gebre-Egzy (Ethiopia); Mr. Leo Malania of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General; and Mr. Muhammad ZafArullaH Khan (Pakistan), President of the General Assembly (UN PHOTO)

But the problem is this. In the first place, where is the authority for the United Nations to rule sovereign States? In the second place, the Members of the Assembly are aware that the Arabs of Palestine will not cooperate in setting up the Arab State. I am not talking of blood-shed; I am not talking of violence. They will not cooperate. How is the General Assembly, then, going to set up the Arab State? How is it going to set up the administrative services in the Arab State? How is it going to provide for the Arab State’s defence? How is it going to provide for all the numerous functions that a working government has to carry out? Where has the General Assembly provided the authority for that? Those questions have been put repeatedly, but they have not been dealt with. All that has received attention is, the problem of how are they to be dealt with if the surrounding Arab States should create trouble.

That is not the problem about which I am worried. I am hoping — as a matter of fact, I am convinced — that the Arab States, being Members of this Organization, will not do nor attempt to do anything which would be contrary to the obligations we have undertaken under the Charter as Members of this Organization. But how is the General Assembly going to set up the Arab State if the people say: no, we are not cooperating? Where are you going to get the services? Who is going in to keep order? These problems were put, but where have they been provided for?

If force becomes necessary for the purpose of setting up the Arab State, where is it going to come from? Who is going to contribute to it? Who is going to provide it? From where will the administration come? From where will the finances come? This will be a continuing situation which may become a festering sore in the international body. Forces and finances may be required in ever-increasing volume, as the experience of the mandatory power confirms. Why is the United Kingdom, today, sick of the Mandate over Palestine?

The question was raised of the legal or juridical authority of the United Nations to do all these things, and it was submitted that this question ought to be referred to the International Court of Justice. Does the Charter authorize the doing of what is here proposed? This matter was put to a vote in the Ad Hoc Committee, and reference to the International Court was rejected by twenty votes in favour to twenty-one against. Only twenty-one members were even nominally satisfied, or professed to be satisfied, that somehow, somewhere, there must be authority to do what we proposed to do. Only twenty-one Moreover, a large majority of these members voted as they did, not because they were really satisfied on the legal question, but because they were anxious that some scheme or other for Palestine should be adopted before the General Assembly adjourns. Even that is to be brushed aside.

Let us come to practical problems. What will be the situation with regard to the viability of the two States? Take the Arab State. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine itself admitted that the Arab State by itself would not be viable and, therefore, provided for the joint economic board. I invited the attention of the Ad Hoc Committee to the pronouncement of that eminent, highly intellectual and highly respected Jew, Dr. Judah Magnes, the President of the Hebrew University, for whom I personally have the greatest admiration and respect, and who has stated, “Your economic union without political union is a flop from the beginning and will never work. What a hope,” he says, “that economic unity could be brought about without political unity!” If the Arabs will not cooperate, as they will not, even the Jewish State will not be viable. It will be under a great and continual strain, financial as well as economic, and extending also to the field of personnel. How are you going to make it viable? Again, who is going to provide, and continue to provide the finances?

Let us come to the question of the fairness of the solution, since everybody has professed the belief that this is a fair solution which will work if the Arab States cooperate and if the people of Palestine, Jews as well as Arabs, also cooperate. Let us examine the three considerations on the basis of which it is urged that the solution is fair.

The first contention is this. There are 1,300,000 Arabs in Palestine and 650,000 Jews — with room wanted for more — and the problem has become insoluble. It is said: therefore, let us divide because it would be unjust and unfair that thirty-three per cent of the population — which is the Jewish population of Palestine to-day — should occupy a minority status in a unitary State. Let us have a fair solution, the Arabs to have their State and the Jews to have theirs.

Representatives of Pakistan and Yemen sign the “”Instrument of Adherence”” to the United Nations Charter, during the ceremony of admission to membership in the United Nations. Seated at the table in Mr. Lie’s office are, from left: Trygve Lie, United Nations Secretary-General; Sir Mohammad Zafarullah Khan of Pakistan; Dr. Hanna Saba, Director of Treaties Division, United Nations Legal Department, and Prince Seif el Islam Abdullah of Yemen (UN PHOTO)

The boundaries were drawn accordingly. The Arab State will be an Arab State in the sense that there will be only 10,000 Jews in it and almost 1,000,000 Arabs. Very well, but what of the Jewish State? In the Jewish State there will be 498,000 Jews and 435,000 Arabs. Have you solved the problem? Jews are not to live as a minority under the Arabs, but the Arabs are to live as a minority under the Jews. If one of these is not fair then neither is the other; and if one is not a solution, the other is not.

Jews constitute 33 per cent of the population and Arabs 67 per cent, but 60 per cent of the area of Palestine is to go to the Jewish State

UN General Assembly Hall, New York, on Friday, 28 November 1947

Let us now consider the boundaries for a moment. How about the area? Jews constitute 33 per cent of the population and Arabs 67 per cent, but 60 per cent of the area of Palestine is to go to the Jewish State. Moreover, what is the character of the area, excluding for the moment the desert waste to which I shall refer later? Of the cultivable area of Palestine the plains, by and large, go to the Jewish State, the hills to the Arabs. There was a document circulated to members of the Committees by the United Kingdom representative showing that, of the irrigated, cultivable areas, 84 per cent would be in the Jewish State and 16 per cent in the Arab State. A very fair division for one-third of the population to receive 84 per cent while two-thirds receive 16 per cent.

The United Nations Special Committee itself has observed that the largest export from Palestine is citrus produce, and that it is owned almost half and half by Arab and Jew, and that the citrus area will be almost entirely in the Jewish State. How fair is that? Palestine pro-duces only 50 per cent of the cereals it requires, and the rest has to be imported. Eighty per cent of the cereal-producing area is in the Jewish State, and only 20 per cent in the Arab State.

The United Nations Special Committee itself has observed that the largest export from Palestine is citrus produce, and that it is owned almost half and half by Arab and Jew, and that the citrus area will be almost entirely in the Jewish State. How fair is that?

UN General Assembly Hall, New York, on Friday, 28 November 1947

Moreover, there is the question of scope for development. Look at the map. Where is there scope for development in the Arab State? We were told by one representative: Oh, in the hills you can grow a lot of olives. Admittedly, you can increase the production of olives in the hills; but on the average olives take twenty-five years to come to full yield.

What about ordinary agriculture? In the Negeb, as was pointed out in the Committee, there are two million dunams of land cultivated by Arab Bedouins whenever the scanty rainfall there permits. Ninety-nine per cent of that area is being allotted to the Jewish State. In that area, 15 per cent of the land is owned by private owners. Of the 15 per cent, 14 per cent is owned by Arabs and one per cent is owned by Jews. The whole of it is to go into the Jewish State. There is an Arab population of one hundred and some odd thousand, and a Jewish population of only two thousand. The whole of it is to go into the Jewish State.

Take the area farther south. It is admitted on all sides that that extreme triangle is uncultivated waste, burning desert. I understand, although my information may not be correct, that the representative of the United States in Sub-Committee 1 raised the question of why it was proposed to allot this area to the Jewish State. No reason has been given. However, there is a reason if one looks at the map: it takes the Jewish State down to the Gulf of Aqaba and gives it access to the Red Sea. At one time — in connexion with its recently proposed scheme which was not accepted — the mandatory power was anxious to retain that area. However, the mandatory power said frankly that its reason was that possession of that area would provide access to the Gulf of Aqaba, which was strategic-ally important for its purposes. Is that area strategically important to the Jewish State? That cannot be the case. So far as access to the sea is concerned, the Jewish State will be on the Mediterranean itself. Why go through this desert to the Gulf of Aqaba? To whom is it strategically important? This area is to be retained in the Jewish State for some other purpose, because no reason has been disclosed for including it in the Jewish State.

Practically the whole of Jewish industry is within the Jewish State…As against that, however, what about Arab industry? Forty per cent of Arab industry is in the Jewish State. Is that fair?

UN General Assembly Hall, New York, on Friday, 28 November 1947

Consider the situation in regard to industry. Practically the whole of Jewish industry is within the Jewish State. After I had pointed this out in the Committee, one representative said: “Oh, objection is being taken to having Jewish industry within the Jewish State! But that is where it ought to be.” Of course, that is where it ought to be. I have not said that it should not be there. I said that it was perfectly correct perfectly just, perfectly fair. As against that, however, what about Arab industry? Forty per cent of Arab industry is in the Jewish State. Is that fair?

Sir M. Zafrullah Khan, right, Pakistan, speaks with Amir Faisal al Saud, center, and Shaikh Asad al Faqih, of Saudi Arabia, in conference room before the 30th meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question of the Second Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UN PHOTO)

It will be said, and it has been said, that a great concession has been made to the Arabs in regard to Jaffa. What is the concession? The predominantly Arab city of Jaffa has been cut out as an enclave to be included in the Arab State. Why as an enclave? The map included in the minority report of the Special Committee1/ shows that, through Arab areas, it could be connected with the southern portion of the Arab State. The map included in the majority report2/ shows that, through predominantly Arab areas, it could be part of the Arab State toward the cast. Why is it to be an enclave? The lands between Jaffa and the Arab State to the east and to the south are predominantly Arab. Why should Jaffa be an enclave?

An amendment was proposed in regard to the boundaries. It was suggested that, if there must be partition, at least fair boundaries should be drawn. The amendment proposed that proper boundaries should be recommended by a commission composed of three boundary experts to be appointed by the Security Council; and that they should ensure that inside the Arab State there should not be more Jewish-owned land than would constitute ten per cent of the privately-owned land in that State, and that in the Jewish State there should not be a greater area of Arab-owned land than would constitute ten per cent of the privately-owned land in that State. That would have been quite fair, but the proposal obtained almost no support outside the Arab States.

We now come to the question of whether the plan is workable, in general. As I have said, the representative of the United States has expressed the hope that, given the support of the surrounding Arab States and of the people of Palestine, the scheme might work. The surrounding Arab States will certainly not support the experiment; all that can be expected of them is that, as States, they will do nothing which is contrary to their obligations under the Charter.

But the Arabs of Palestine have declared that they are not going to cooperate. And the members of the Assembly must remember that this plan is not an experiment. It is not like the experiment regarding the Interim Committee which was set up for a year. If that fails, it can be scrapped and the General Assembly can then adopt another scheme.

On the contrary, this plan is proposed as a permanent solution. If it fails, the United Nations has failed. It is a permanent system, and it pledges the credit, the honour, and indeed the very existence of the United Nations. Therefore, we had better give heed at this stage to what we are going to lend ourselves to. Is the General Assembly prepared to make the gamble?

Seen here exchanging views are (left to right): General Assembly President Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (Pakistan); Mr. Talaat Ghoussein, Kuwait Minister in Washington and Chairman of his country’s Delegation to the UN; His Highness Shaikh Saba el Ahmed Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Foreign Minister; and Mr. Saeed Yacoob Shammas, Kuwait’s Permanent Observer to the UN (UN PHOTO)

Let us pause and consider before we launch the United Nations upon a course which commits it to carrying through a scheme which lacks moral justification, is beyond the legal and juridical authority of the United Nations, and is impossible of achievement.

UN General Assembly Hall, New York, on Friday, 28 November 1947

Let us pause and consider before we launch the United Nations upon a course which commits it to carrying through a scheme which lacks moral justification, is beyond the legal and juridical authority of the United Nations, and is impossible of achievement. In making this futile, this fatal attempt, you set at nought the wishes of sixty-six per cent of the people of Palestine. You destroy the faith and trust of all the surrounding and neighbouring States in the fair-ness and impartiality of the United Nations, particularly having regard to what has been happening during the last three or four days — all the manoeuvres, even with regard to the meetings of the General Assembly, that great and honourable nations are descending to.

In the hearts of the populations of all the countries from the North African Atlantic Coast to the steppes of Central Asia, you sow doubt and mistrust of the designs and motives of the Western Powers. You take the gravest risk of impairing, beyond the possibility of repair, any chance of real cooperation between East and West, by thus forcibly driving what in effect amounts to a Western wedge into the heart of the Middle East.

How has the United Nations discharged its responsibility with reference to this very difficult, very live and very human problem?

There were two proposals, and they have been described as extreme proposals. One was for a unitary State and the other for partition. Two Sub-Committees were set up. One sup-ported the unitary scheme with the responsibility of drafting a proposal on that basis; and the other was composed of Members in favour of partition, with the responsibility of drafting a proposal on that basis.

Has the United Nations made any effort to bring the Arab and the Jew together, to find a middle way which might provide a solution on which both peoples might combine to work — the only solution that could have any possible chance of being successfully worked out?

There was the minority report. There were other suggestions — and there can be other suggestions, if statesmanship is not entirely bankrupt — which could have been committed to the consideration of a third body. A large number of delegations did not support either the unitary idea or the partition idea. Why was their talent not utilized to find some solution, some middle way?

Sub-Committee 2, when it began to work, found itself composed of Members who had taken one view. The representative of Colombia, who in the meantime had been elected the Chairman of the Sub-Committee, felt very uncomfortable because of the situation. He suggested that we approach the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question and request him to nominate to Sub-Committee 2 certain States other than Colombia who were not committed to the idea of a unitary State, who could take the middle view, and who could try to bring about a solution that might be acceptable.

This was submitted to the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee and he was informed that two of the Arab States were willing, indeed were anxious, to step down from the Sub-Committee so that it might be reconstituted on that basis. But that suggestion was rejected; the Chairman did not see his way clear to accede to the request. The only attempt that was made in that direction was rejected.

Now we are told: you must accept either partition or nothing. But is that so? Is that the only choice? How much genuine support has the scheme of partition received? In the Ad Hoc Committee, it received the support of twenty-five delegations. Some of these twenty-five delegations said they supported the partition plan with a heavy heart; others said they supported it with reluctance. Why? Because there is nothing else. This shows that the General Assembly as a whole is, at least, not happy to commit itself to this so-called solution.

It is said that if partition is not accepted, there will be no room left for a solution. On the contrary, if partition is accepted the fatal step will have been taken. The Arabs and the Jews will have been set by the ears and never again will there be a chance of bringing them together. Far too many unfinished vendettas will then bar the way. If you delay and do not take the fatal step, you still leave open to the Arabs and the Jews the chance of a conciliatory solution through which they combine and work. It is not that if you do not take a final decision today, your jurisdiction to decide anything is barred. It means that ‘neither of these two solutions is acceptable and that something else must be found. The responsibility remains with you. Do not throw away that chance. Do not dose a door that may not be opened again. The United Nations must find a solution which is not only just and fair, but which has the best chance for success as regards the largest number of Jews and Arabs in Palestine.

Our vote today, if it does not endorse partition, does not rule out other solutions. Our vote, if it endorses partition, bars all peaceful solution. Let him who will shoulder that responsibility. My appeal to you is: do not shut out that possibility. The United Nations should seek and strive to unite and bring together rather than to divide and put asunder.

The representative of the United States made reference to the prayer and the wish that I expressed at the end of my statement to the Ad Hoc Committee. I again utter it humbly, sincerely, and earnestly: May He who controls all hearts and knows their innermost thoughts and designs, who alone can appraise the true value and foresees the consequences of all human action, in His Grace and Mercy so guide our judgment that what we decide here today shall promote and foster the peace, prosperity and welfare of all His creatures, Jews, Arabs, and Gentiles alike, and shall redound to His Glory forever.

Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan continued his remarks in Arabic. (Translated from Arabic): Our last cry is: All praise is due to God, the Lord of all the Universes.

President John F. Kennedy (in rocking chair) meets with President of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Muhammad Zafrulla Khan. Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C. Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

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