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Political Committee Votes to Delete Independence from Inquiry Body’s Terms of Reference

May 13, 1947
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The Arab drive to have the U.N. inquiry committee instructed to study the independence of Palestine collapsed this evening when the Political and Security Committee voted 29 to 14 to completely delete any references to the question of independence from the inquiry group’s terms of reference.

The vote came after the Political Committee had unsuccessfully sought to reconcile seven different resolutions covering the issue of independence. The Arab delegates and the Soviet bloc voted against the deletion. Poland was among the 12 nations abstaining. The motion for deletion was made by France and supported by the United States.

Earlier, David Ben Gurion, chairman of the Jewish Agency executive, in testimony before the committee advocated the establishment of a Jewish state. While Emil Ghoury, speaking for the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, demanded immediate independence for Palestine and an end to Jewish immigration. Moshe Shertok, political chief of the Jewish Agency, pleaded for unlimited immigration when he presented replies to the questions posed to Dr. Abba Hillel Silvor last week by several of the delegates. Shertok also presented the Agency view on the composition of the inquiry committee.


While deleting from the terms of reference any mention of independence, the Political Committee adopted a decision giving the inquiry commission “widest powers to ascertain and to record facts and investigate all questions and issues relevant to the Palestine problem.” The Arabs also voted against this clause.

At the same time the committee defeated by a vote of 33-10, with six abstentions, a Polish amendment specifying that the inquiry commission should conduct its investigation in Palestine and elsewhere including the DP camps and Cyprus. Instead it adopted a recommendation instructing the inquiry commission “to conduct investigations in Palestine and wherever it may be useful,” also to receive testimony from the Mindstory Power and any organization or individual it may deem necessary.


Ben Gurion, speaking this afternoon, said that the only real and long lasting solution of the Palestine problem is a Jewish State and a Jewish-Arab alliance. He appealed to the United Nations to promote such a solution. “The Jewish nation in its own country must become a free, independent state, with membership in the United Nations,” he said. “It is eager to cooperate with its free Arab neighbors to promote the economic development, social progress and the real independence of all the Semitic countries in the Middle East.”

Ben Gurion asked the United Nations “to set right” the failure of the British Government in Palestine and “to insure that the international obligation towards the wish people in Palestine is faithfully fulfilled.” This obligation, he said, is the restoration of Palestine to the Jewish people” as provided in the Mandate and other international documents.

Ben Gurion charged Britain with responsibility for the mass extermination of news in Europe by barring their entrance to Palestine under the White Paper policy. He also charged Britain with introducing racial legislation and a police regime in Palestine. He emphasized that Britain was not authorized by the Mandate to find a solution for Palestine, but was charged by the League of Nations with carrying out a definite settlement determined by herself and confirmed by all the Allies and associated powers of World War I as well as through Emir Feisal and the Syrian-Arab committee. Therefore the British statement that they tried for years to settle the Palestine problem and have failed “is open to misunderstanding” since Britain was not charged with discovering a solution, but with carrying out the restoration of Palestine to the Jewish people, the Agency chairman said.

Touching upon the Arab arguments that the Arabs are not responsible for the persecution of Jews in Europe and do not consider it their obligation to relieve the alight of the European Jews, Ben Gurion said it never entered the mind of the Jewish Agency to charge the Arabs with solving the Jewish problem or asking Arab countries to accept Jewish refugees.

“We are bringing homeless and persecuted Jews to our own country and settling them in Jewish towns and villages,” he declared. “There are Arab towns and villages in Palestine–Nablus, Jenin, Ramleh, Zarnucka, Libia, Terschicha. You will not find a single refugee in any of them. The Jews who are returning to their country are settled in Petach Tikvah, Rishon L’Zion, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Dagania and other cities and villages built by us. The return of the Jews to their country is a work of self-liberation and self-reconstruction which is contributing to the reconstruction and liberation of the country as a whole.”

Reviewing Jewish achievements in Palestine, Ben Gurion said that they are as beneficial to the Arabs as to the Jews. “We have no conflict with the Arab peole,” the stated. “On the contrary, it is our deep conviction that historically the interests and aspirations of the Jewish and Arab peoples are compatible and complementary. A Jewish-Arab partnership based on equality and mutual assistance will help to bring about the regeneration of the entire Middle East. We Jews understand and deeply sympathize with the urge of the Arab people for unity, independence and progress. And our Arab neighbors, I hope, will realize that the Jews in their own historic homeland can under no conditions be made to remain a subordinate, dependent minority, as they are in all other countries of the Diaspora.”


Ghoury, who was heard this afternoon, said “the question of the Mufti was raised this morning by the spokesman of the Jewish Agency. The Jews are questioning the record of an Arab spiritual leader. Does that properly come from the mouth of a people who have crucified the founder of Christianity?” At this point he was interrupted by chairman Lester Pearson, but stated that he had ended his remark.

Ghoury defended the Mufti’s collaboration with the Axis, saying the Mufti had no other recourse than to seek refuge in Germany. He threatened that the Palestine Arabs may boycott the inquiry committee, if its terms of reference link the Palestine problem with that of the DP’s. He added that the Palestine Arabs will refuse to consider any solution affecting their sovoreignty and insisted on immediate and complete stoppage of Jewish immigration during the interim period while the inquiry committee is making its investigations.

Pearson twice sternly instructed Ghoury to restrict his remarks to the purpose of the inquiry. He said that the bona fides of any member of the Arab Higher Committee had not been questioned or attacked. When Ghouri complained that the members of the Palestine Arab delegation had been “victimized by anti-Arab propaganda” since their arrival in the United States, Pearson sharply reminded him that the Political Committee is not concerned with any statements made outside the Committee, but only with testimony before it.


Shertok stressed the impossibility of separating the issue of Palestine and the question of immigration. To treat the Palestine issue seperately from the immigration issue “would make as much sense as to study the beating of the heart in disregard to blood circulation,” he declared. He demanded “limitless Jewish immigration” to Palestine and pointed out that the present political crisis in Palestine is “noth-ning but a clash between the dire needs of Jewish immigration and the current anti-immigration policy of the Mandatory power.”

Shertok emphasized that “terrorism is the pernicious outgrowth of the disastrous policy” of the British government with regard to immigration. British officials in Palestine are victims of terrorist activities “because the White Paper of 1939 is still in force” he explained in answer to the question of Indian delegate Asaf Ali. He emphasized that the Jewish Agency has unreservedly condemned terrorism, but its effort to check it are continuously frustrated because British action in pursuance of the White Paper “adds fuel to the fire.”

Taking issue with the delegates of the Arab states who reported that Jews in their countries are well treated, Shertok urged the U.N. inquiry commission to investigate the position of the Jewish communities in the Arab countries. He said that information received by the Jewish Agency shows that Jews in those countries live in perpetual fear.

Answering another question of the Indian delegate, regarding the distinction between “Jewish state” and “Jewish National Home”, Shertok said: “The establishment of the Jewish National Home is a process. The setting up of a Jewish state is its consummation. That such consummation had been intended by the authors of the Jewish National Home policy and that a way is definitely left open for its achievement was conclusively proved by the Palestine Royal Commission.

“A home, in the words of a British statesman, is a place to which one is always free to come back. How is the national home to fulfill its primary function of being open to Jews in need of it, if it is to remain forever subjected to non-Jewish sovereignty? An Arab minority in a Jewish state will be secure, if for no other reason, because the state will forever remain surrounded by Arab countries with which it will be most vitally interested to be at peace; also, because there will always be Jewish minorities in other lands. But a Jewish minority in an Arab state will have no such security. It will be at the mercy of the Arab majority, which would be free from all restraints.”


Outlining the Jewish Agency’s attitude on the composition of the inquiry commission, Shertok said the Agency does not differentiate between big and small powers, nor would it suggest the exclusion of any government merely because it happens to have or may develop a policy in Palestine. But the Agency believes that parties directly concerned should not serve on the inquiry commission.

“That,” Shertok emphasized, “should exclude the United Kingdom” adding that “we would also definitely exclude the Arab states unless it were agreed that the inquiry commission should contain one Arab and one Jewish member.

Shertok stressed that the Jews came to Palestine “not to fight the Arab world, but to live in peace with it.” He emphasized that the Jews “are not an outpost of any foreign domination” and said that Jews and Arabs are cooperating successfully in varied fields of municipal, commercial and labor affairs. He told the Political Committee that “Arabic is taught in all Jewish secondary schools in Palestine” and that the Jewish Agency is spreading knowledge of Arabic in the Jewish settlements.

He referred to the Mufti as the head of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee and charged him with being “directly involved during the war in the Nazi policy of the extermination of European Jewry.” He also emphasized that although Hitler is gone, anti-Semitism in Germany and other parts of Europe is as rife as ever and “potentially militant and fierce.”


During Shertok’s testimony, Syrian delegate Faris el Khouri warned that the Arabs will adopt “methods of self-defence” if there is not immediate cessation of Jewish immigration. Khouri also warned that Syria will not accept any solution except Palestine independence.

In a violent outburst that some delegates interpreted as a threat of war if a Jewish state is set up in Palestine, Khouri said that the “Arabs will never permit a drive into the heart of their fatherland.” He termed the demand for a Jewish state a “fatal dream.”

Angered by a strong appeal by Polish delegate Dr. Alfred Fiderkiewicz for free immigration of displaced Jews to Palestine, Fadhil Jamali, the delegate of Iraq, charge Poland with inviting an Arab war against the Jews.

The Polish delegate emphatically linked the Palestine problem with that of the Jewish DP’s. he stressed the “impossibility” of dividing the two questions, since, he said, the majority of DP’s wish to go to Palestine and the Jewish community there is the only one prepared to accept a large number of them. At the same time, he declared that the main objective to be considered in the terms of reference is establishment of a free and independent Palestine.


Appealing to all parties for peace in Palestine, he called on the Mandatory “to show good will” by a truce releasing all political prisoners, suspending all death sentences, and admitting the DP’s. Fiderkiewicz said that the Palestine problem is not merely an Arab-Jewish dispute, but a dispute between the Arabs and Jews on one hand and the Mandatory on the other. He assailed Creat Britain’s imposition of a “police state,” citing the expenditure of over $18,000,000 “for law and order” and $3,000,000 for education. He cited the prevailing absolute censorship and non-existence of civil rights.

Emphasizing Polish sympathy for the national aspirations of the Jewish people, he expressed “bitterness” at Britain’s use of “brutal force.” He cited the war contributions of Polish Jews and declared that the Nazi extermination of 3,000,000 Jews constituted the “most tragic bond of sympathy” between Poland and the Jews. He promised that Poland would not forget this mass tragedy and would support the efforts of the DP’s to resettle anywhere.

Fiderkiewicz argued that immigration to Palestine would not solve the general refugee problem, which the U.N. should consider very soon, and expressed the hope that every country would admit some Jewish DP’s according to its absorptive capacity. The Polish delegate cited the opportunities offered by Poland to encourage the return of Jewish refugees, mentioning legislation against anti-Semitism, a special resettlement and rehabilitation office and establishment of new Jewish communities in Silesia.

He urged reconciling of Jewish and Arab aspirations, pointing this up as the main task of the inquiry committee. The right of extended Jewish immigration to Palestine, for which he cited recommendations by President Truman, he said must be brought into compatability with Arab rights and interests. “Any Arab struggle for independence will always have our full support,” he declared. The Arab people deserve independence, he said, as much as the Jews merit the right of immigration and fulfillment of their aspirations in Palestine.

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