November 29th marked the 21st annual UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. UN headquarters in New York, Geneva, and Vienna were turned over to speakers from the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and to the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, among others. With the exception of the Secretary-General’s balanced and hopeful statement, the largely one-sided speeches were disingenuous and counter-productive to the search for peace in the Middle East.
Analysis: On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, a plan to create two states in British Mandate Palestine, one Jewish and one Arab. It would also have established an international regime for Jerusalem and an economic union between the two new states, and would have resulted in declarations protecting access to holy places and a range of civil, political, and cultural rights.
Unfortunately, the promise of Resolution 181 was not realized. The Jewish community accepted the complex state boundaries set out in the Resolution, while the Arab leadership both inside and outside of Palestine rejected the compromise.
The contemporary observance of November 29 does an injustice to the spirit of collaboration called for in Resolution 181. With most speeches condemning alleged Israeli violations of peace agreements, yet uttering not one word about Palestinian terrorist activities or internecine violence, it is fair to ask, what is really going on here? Is this day anything more than an opportunity for political grandstanding by some UN Member States?
This Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People carries the full imprimatur of the UN. In Geneva, printed material, distributed in all five official UN languages, contained historical inaccuracies and a one-sided portrayal antagonistic to Israel. At no other UN event in recent memory were more publications made available. Indeed, the English language publications alone weighed over 3 pounds! While raising awareness is integral to the work of the UN, its actions should never compromise the UN Charter imperative for Member States “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours.”
Essentially, Resolution 181 reflected the will for bi-national cooperation. The fact that this day has become known as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People may suggest that the Resolution’s moderate origins have been willfully erased. In a spirit of peace and conciliation, the UN must once again find and exercise the same statesmanship in marking November 29 as it showed in passing Resolution 181 over 50 years ago.