That’s right: 63 years ago today, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 181 which calls for the establishment of a Jewish State and an Arab State in Palestine.
For 63 years, the “international community” as we know it has backed the establishment of a Jewish State.
Six months later, the State of Israel was proclaimed as a Jewish state by virtue of UN General Assembly resolution 181.
And, though some argue otherwise, this is “international legitimacy” — a term coined by Palestinians, many of whom wish to preserve an option for their national rights based on UN resolutions and international treaties and various other agreements that are now called international law.
In November 1988, the Palestinians themselves declared independence, based on this same UN General Assembly resolution 181. But, it remains unrealized. Vague Palestinian pronouncements are met with threats against any “unilateral” actions — though Israel is perhaps the world’s foremost practitioner of “unilateral” actions , the country of “unilateral” actions par excellence .
So, how is it that we are all still talking past each other?
And, how did this situation come to be?
The “Allied” victors of World War I formed an international organization, which they called the League of Nations, which was based in Geneva.
Britain was pleased to have been awarded the Palestine Mandate — a move which it itself engineered — by the League of Nations, several years after British troops marched out of Egypt and swept up in a crescent to Jerusalem by December 1918, and then moving on to Iraq.
After years of carrying out a military administration of the Palestine Mandate — and before it was actually offically awarded as a Mandate — Britain had already divided it into two parts: “Palestine”, and “Transjordan”.
The Jewish immigration that Britain was enjoined by the League of Nations to encourage was, thus, restricted to “Palestine” (and excluded from “Transjordan”).
The Palestine Mandate was officially awarded to Britain by the Council of the League of Nations only after the official surrender of the Ottoman Empire, which took place at a Conference in Lausanne in 1923 — only after a lot of hard bargaining by Turkey (the Ottoman successor).
Within a decade, the League of Nations was gradually paralyzed by its members’ bad behavior, and had already suspended functioning by the time the Second World War broke out.
Meanwhile, Britain was supposed to encourage the development of the two communities in Palestine, but was really rather bad at managing the communal conflict that developed alongside increased Jewish immigration.
By the end of World War II, Britain simply wanted to get out of Palestine.
Concurrently, the Allied victors of the Second World War had formed the United Nations (UN), as the successor organization to the League of Nations.
Britain asked the UN General Assembly to decide how to dispose of the Palestine Mandate awarded by the League of Nations.
After months of deliberatation, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 on 29 November 1947. Britain announced it would pull its troops out by mid-May 1948. And, as it did so, the State of Israel was proclaimed, from Tel Aviv, as a Jewish State (not one mention of it being “democratic”, a much more recent concept, enunciated only after the fall of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s.
By November 1988, the Palestinian leadership said that although they didn’t like Resolution 181 very much, it nevertheless provided the basis for the Declaration of an independent Palestinian state.
Now, after a prolonged and agonizing labor, are we facing a dangerous delivery by forceps?
Israel’s continued military occupation of what is left of Palestine has caused a miserable postponement of Palestinian self-determination.
Today, in Geneva, Richard Falk — an America, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, and an expert on international law who is also currently the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Palestinian rights, According to a press release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Falk today “stressed the need to impose ‘some outer time limit after which further occupation becomes a distinct violation of international law, and if not promptly corrected, constitutes a new type of crime against humanity’.”
The press release was entitled, more straight to the point, “Prolonged occupation, a new type of crime against humanity”.
Falk said that he “wished to express sympathy for the Palestinian people who continue after more than 43 years to live under Israeli occupation that daily violates many of their fundamental and inalienable human rights. Above all, the failure to resolve the underlying conflict between Palestine and Israel in such a manner as to realize after decades of delay the Palestinians’ right to self-determination is of urgent concern. It should be observed, also, that negotiation between the parties to the conflict needs to be guided by the implementation of several principles of international law if a settlement of the conflict is to achieve Palestinian self-determination. These principles, as set forth in the General Assembly Resolution 48/158, 20 December 1993, include the following: (1) withdrawal from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem; (2) resolving the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 181 and subsequent resolutions; (3) dismantling settlements established during the occupation; (4) fixing of secure and internationally recognized borders; (5) guaranteeing free access to sacred sites and religious buildings throughout historic Palestine. A peace process that does not heed these guidelines, with appropriate degrees of flexible implementation, cannot realize either self-determination for the Palestinian people or peace with security and justice for both Palestinians and Israelis”.
Falk added that “it is important to ponder the special consequences of prolonged occupation and refugee status, which inflicts serious physical and mental harm on Palestinians living under occupation [n.b. — as it also does to many Palestinian refugees and their descendants living outside the occupied territories, several hundreds of thousands of whom still live in refugee camps…]. International humanitarian law was developed under the assumption that occupation would be temporary and short-lived. The Palestinian experience suggests the need for a new protocol of international humanitarian law that addresses the distinctive situation of prolonged occupation and refugee status, imposing some outer time limit after which further occupation becomes a distinct violation of international law, and if not promptly corrected, constitutes a new type of crime against humanity. The United Nations and the international community as a whole will be judged in the future by whether effective action is now taken to end the humanitarian catastrophe that has befallen the Palestinian people. In this respect, the United Nations, the governments and the peoples of the world will all be judged complicit to the extent that this persistent violation of fundamental human rights is endured without taking the necessary steps in a spirit of urgency and commitment to bring this abusive occupation to an end and achieve Palestinian self-determination in accordance with international law and the dictates of global justice”.
His statement can be consulted in full here.