U.N. Debate on Refugee Issue Opens; ‘palestine Arab Delegation’ Admitted

The annual debate on the Arab refugee question was opened here today by the General Assembly’s Special Political Committee and erupted immediately into a series of procedural fights which were lost by Israel and the Central African Republic. As a result of two roll call defeats, Amile Al Ghoury, a spokesman for the so-called “Palestine Arab delegation,” became the first speaker to address the Committee from the floor.

Dr. John H. Davis, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, opened the proceedings with a 15-minute oral statement in which he said that education of the refugees and financing of the relief work for the refugees are the matters of prime importance to UNRWA’s future. He totally ignored any mention of possible work projects. The current mandate of the UNRWA expires on June 30, 1963 and the United States is reported to be considering a suggestion that the mandate be extended for one or two years only instead of the usual three.

Dr. Leopoldo Benites of Ecuador, chairman of the Committee, then told the Committee that, in accordance with previous precedence he would permit “a spokesman or spokesmen” of the so-called Arab Palestine delegation to address the Committee at the appropriate time. The Arab delegations immediately insisted that Al Ghoury be heard this afternoon.

Ambassador Micahel S. Comay, Israel’s permanent representative, made a motion for adjournment–this motion was rejected by a vote of 29 to 17 with 44 abstentions. After a hot debate, which some of the Arab delegates denounced as a “filibuster,” Maurice Dejean of the Central African Republic requested a roll call vote on the specific point of whether Al Ghoury should be permitted to speak today. The vote in favor of an immediate speech by Al Ghoury was adopted by 34 to 16 with 42 abstentions.

After Mr. Comay explained to the Committee that “it is really a matter of indifference to Israel whether and when this man speaks or not,” the Israeli diplomat said he wanted it only understood that “there is no Palestine people and this group of 13 does not constitute the principle party” in this debate as claimed by the self-styled delegation.

Al-Ghoury, referring constantly to Israel, only as “the Zionists,” told the Committee that Israel has “violated” all international law by “robbing” the Arab people of their property in Israel. He demanded the appointment of a UN custodian over such property. He attacked sharply what he called United States support of the “unlawful Zionist occupation of Palestine” and the supply of missiles to Israel by the United States.

He “highly commended” Dr. Davis who had reported earlier to the Committee in a written report that “works” are unfeasible for the Arab refugees and that “the Arab people” want only “the repatriation” of the refugees to Israel as a solution to the problem.

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