U.N. Assembly Adjourns with No Accomplishments on Arab-israel Issues
Menu JTA Search

U.N. Assembly Adjourns with No Accomplishments on Arab-israel Issues

Download PDF for this date

The 21st session of the General Assembly, which convened here three months ago, adjourned today with a record of almost no accomplishments on issues affecting Israeli-Arab relations, but with one major achievement in the field of human rights, an area of vital concern to Jews all over the world.

The two agenda items that dealt principally with Israeli-Arab issues were the old problem of the Arab refugees and the financing of the United Nations Emergency Force, the buffer between the Israeli and Egyptian borders. The Assembly passed a 1967 budget calling for expenditures totaling $14,000,000 for the UNEF force now totaling 3,400 officers and men. But an important issue reported by UNEF was ignored. The UNEF command had reported that, behind its lines in the Gaza Strip and on Egypt’s side of the border and on the Sinai Desert frontier, there are some 12,000 Arabs recruited by the Palestine Liberation Organization, a military complement being trained for warfare against Israel. No official action whatever was taken by the Assembly on this portion of UNEF’s report.

The PLO issue figured much more prominently in a debate by an Assembly committee on the annual report of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, the vast U.N. organization feeding and sheltering the Arab refugees. UNRWA now carries some 1,300,000 so-called refugees on its relief rolls. Laurence Michelmore, the American who heads UNRWA, had reported that he was channeling rations to about 8,000 PLO members. He reported also that he had made no significant progress toward ridding the relief rolls of fraudulent claimants, who include persons holding ration cards previously issued to people who are now dead.

Not only Israel, but a number of other governments, including the United States and Britain, called for an end of U.N. involvement, even if indirectly, in provision of relief to persons recruited for purposes of making war against another member state. The American, British and other delegations also called for more vigorous UNRWA efforts to rid its relief rolls of the fraudulent claimants. In the end, however, although the UNRWA debate lasted five weeks, nothing substantive was done about feeding PLO members or about the fraudulent claims.


The lengthy debates on the Arab refugee issue were not quite as stormy as usual, because Ambassador Michael S. Comay, Israel’s delegation chairman here, had refused to answer, except in wholesale fashion, the literally dozens of anti-Israeli diatribes voiced by the Arab delegations. The Arabs were as violent as ever, but Israel refused to join in transforming the sessions into a donnybrook.

On the human rights front, however, a highly significant development occurred here. After 12 years of debate, the Assembly adopted — unanimously — two draft covenants on human rights, transforming into international treaties two sets of documents guaranteeing economic, civil, political, religious and ethnic rights, including the right for all people to practice their own religion, to teach their own languages, and to enjoy other, full cultural rights. Those provisions are of particular importance to Russian Jews.

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