Issue 170: 60 Years Ago Today: UN Votes for Jewish and Arab States

Sixty years ago today, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to created two states, one Arab and one Jewish, out of the former British mandate of Palestine. The world body played an integral role in fashioning the original two-state solution that the international community so desperately seeks today.

It is odd, then, that not only did the UN today decline to celebrate this proud moment, but it actually held rites of mourning—somber ceremonies around the globe, pursuant to Arab-sponsored resolutions, commemorating the annual “Palestinian Solidarity Day” with carefully screened speakers who, one after another, mercilessly slammed the Jewish state.

Today in Geneva, for example, the opening statement by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, read by a representative, lamented the “indignities and violence of occupation and conflict that Palestinians continue to suffer.” His message did mention that Israelis have died, too, but overwhelmingly pointed the finger at the Jewish state. The chairman of the “Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People,” Prasad Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka, accused Israel of committing “collective punishment” in Gaza. The Arab League’s Saad Alfarargi denounced the “ruthless daily attacks by Israel,” its “oppressive policies,” and its “apartheid wall.”

Remarkably, the next to join the jackals was a representative of World Vision—a major organization partly funded by the U.S. government (and which last year received $944 million from Americans), and whose mandate speaks of “relief and development,” not overt political activity. The speech by Thomas Getman, the organization’s Geneva-based international relations director, said not a thing about Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror attacks and their calls to destroy Israel, granting the terror groups effective immunity.

Instead, Mr. Getman sought to promote hatred of Israel among the assembled delegates, so innocently inviting them to “think about the first child that each of us saw in a terrible situation because of the Israeli occupation.” Conveniently left out of this picture were the Israeli pre-schoolers and other children who are attacked daily by Palestinian Kassam rockets–and the men that launch them. (Mr. Getman’s extremist political activity, conflicting with World Vision’s humanitarian mandate, is nothing new; in 2006, when the representative of a human rights NGO was cut short during a UN debate by Syrian objections—Damascus had demanded a special agenda item on “occupation,” but sought to censor any suggestion that this might include its own occupation of Lebanon—Mr. Getman shouted at the NGO representative, and published an open letter siding with Syria.)

So much for how the UN honored the 60th anniversary of one of its most famous resolutions.

That the only ones holding celebrations today were Jewish groups is, some might argue, hardly surprising. After all, back in November 1947, it was the Jews who, from Tel Aviv to Buenos Aires, danced and cried tears of joy when the international community voted to recognize the revival of a Jewish homeland. After 2,000 years of exile—and two years after the Nazi Holocaust that murdered one third of the Jewish people—genuine self-determination, even if only on a truncated portion of the original League of Nations mandate, was a dream come true. (This video powerfully conveys the sense of drama and exhilaration among Jews worldwide, whose ears were glued to radio sets as each country vote was announced.)

And it was the Arabs who immediately rejected the UN vote—“My country will never recognize such a decision,” said Syria, echoing its peers—and initiated bloody riots the very next day. These were followed with the opening of hostilities against Palestine’s Jewish community by irregular forces, and then, after the British left on May 14, 1948, with the full invasion of Israel by the armies of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan and Iraq.

So is it any wonder that it was once again only the Jews who, in several communities around the world, were today celebrating?

Perhaps it is no wonder—but it ought to be a disappointment.

First, we ought to be disappointed in the UN. The Partition Plan involved significant UN efforts and it was a great UN accomplishment. That the Palestinian Arabs tragically rejected the first chance in their history to govern themselves—as Abba Eban famously put it, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity—in no way minimizes the fact that the UN acted nobly to create two states.

We ought to be disappointed, also, in the judgment of a senior UN official who today endorsed Hamas even as it was busy demanding the UN cancel its 1947 resolution for a Jewish state. “It is not shameful to correct a mistake,” said Hamas today. “Palestine is Arab-Islamic land from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem, and Jews have no place there.” Hamas said it was “determined with the help of Allah to uproot this gland of cancer by armed resistance, no matter what cost of blood and sacrifices we will pay.” None of this, however, gave pause to Karen AbuZayd, head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), who urged Hamas inclusion in Palestinian government. “That would be something that I would be in favor of personally,” she told a Brussels news conference.

Second, we ought to be disappointed in the Palestinians and the Arab states. We are assured that the situation today is not like 1947. That things have changed. That the fundamental Arab rejection of a Jewish state in their midst is the relic of a bygone era. We are entitled, therefore, to expect that things not be the same as they were in 1947.

By treating this day as a catastrophe, both the Arab states and the UN undermine their stated commitment to the two-state solution. Until November 29, 1947 becomes a day of UN celebration, the organization effectively encourages today’s call by Hamas for the cancellation of resolution 181.

Let us hope that Palestinians asking for their own state will cease to begrudge the basic recognition of a Jewish state expressed by the UN sixty years ago.

Let us hope that the new optimism and momentum from the Annapolis gathering will lead to the peace for which so many pray.

In 1947, a most improbable convergence occurred when the U.S. and the Soviet Union, great ideological foes, briefly joined hands to support the two-state solution.

Let us hope, on the occasion of the Partition Plan’s diamond jubilee, for another such historical window to open–and that this time no one miss it.

 

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