U.N. Assembly Adopts Resolution on Arab Refugees Opposed by Israel
Menu JTA Search

U.N. Assembly Adopts Resolution on Arab Refugees Opposed by Israel

Download PDF for this date

The United Nations General Assembly adopted in a plenary session here today a resolution which, among other points, calls upon the Palestine Conciliation Commission “to continue its efforts for the implementation” of a paragraph in a 1948 Assembly resolution interpreted as giving the Arab refugees the “right” to return to Israel.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 82 to one, with 14 abstentions, the only negative vote having been cast by Israel. The draft adopted by the Assembly was identical with one passed by the body’s Special Political Committee on November 20. Then, as today. Israel rejected the resolution, introduced by the United States, as “unacceptable.”

Ambassador Michael S. Comay, Israel’s permanent representative here, denounced the resolution in a speech delivered before the balloting, pinpointing his Government’s rejection of the draft specifically to the clause which ties PCC action to the disputed Paragraph Eleven of the 1948 resolution. That paragraph, said Mr. Comay, “torn from its setting, has undergone an irrational transformation in the Arab mind. It has become a mystic symbol of the contention that Israel does not belong to the Israelis–and it must be wiped off the map of the Middle East.”

Pointing out that that very 1948 draft also had called upon the Arab states to negotiate a full and final settlement of all disputes with Israel, Mr. Comay declared: “It is a sorry fact that the Arabs hail Paragraph Eleven as a denial of the sovereignty of a United Nations member state and as a license for belligerency.”

Mr. Comay called for a separate vote on the clause in the U.S. resolution linking the refugee settlement to Paragraph Eleven of the 1948 document. On a roll call ballot on that clause in the American draft, 79 members voted in favor, Israel voted against, while 18 members abstained and 13 members were declared as “absent.” A number of those “absentees” were members obviously friendly to Israel and did not want to place their names on record as failing to endorse the American draft.


Ambassador Comay told the full Assembly that Israel sees the Arab refugee issue as “a human problem resulting from political and military events of 15 years ago.” “Israel.” he said, “has been and is willing to cooperate in an overall settlement of this problem agreed to between the host countries and herself.” Those countries, which have jurisdiction over the areas where the refugees live now and receive United Nations relief are Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

“On the other hand,” Mr. Comay maintained, “Arab delegations insist that the refugees reject Israel’s statehood and must return in order to overthrow that statehood, with the help of the rest of the Arab world.” He cited the fact that an “Algerian solution” has been called for by high Arab spokesmen, saying, such a solution meant the establishment of a “Palestine Army” to overthrow Israel.

Thus the Arabs, said Mr. Comay, “have left no room for serious and realistic discussion. The issue goes much deeper than a text or a mandate. It is rooted in the Arab refusal to come to terms with Israel in general–and on the refugee question in particular. While this stalemate is maintained, Israel can do no more than she has already done to help solve the problem. We certainly cannot cooperate in bringing our statehood into question or in undermining the safety of our realm.”

In addition to Mr. Comay, representatives of Jordan, Cyprus and Syria also addressed the Assembly, all of them declaring they would vote for the American resolution. The United States delegation, which had presented the resolution originally in the Special Political Committee and which had amended its own resolution under Arab pressure to make it acceptable to the Arab bloc, sat mute in the Assembly today.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund