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U.N. Gets Sharply Divergent Views on Palestine Issue from Zionist and Arab Spokesmen

May 11, 1947
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Sharply divergent views on the Palestine problem were voiced at the U.N. Political and Security Committee this afternoon when Moshe Shertok, chief of the political department of the Jewish Agency, and Henry Katan, of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, were heard. It was the first time since the issuance of the Mandate that the Arabs and Jews had met face to face at an international tribunal considering the fate of the Holy Land.

Their testimony came after submission of a sub-committee report on the proposed instructions to the inquiry committee which revealed a difference of opinion between the American and Soviet concepts as to the terms of reference, with Soviet delegate Andrei Gromyko suggesting that among other proposals the committee draft one “on the question of establishing without delay the independent state of Palestine.”

While Shertok emphasized that it was the sincere desire of the Jewish Agency and of the Jewish community in Palestine to cooperate fully with the U.N. inquiry committee, the Arab representative, who was seated at the same place from which Dr. Abbe Hillel Silver spoke yesterday, insisted on a declaration of Palestine’s independence and demanded the abrogation of the Mandate. Mr. Katan charged that the Balfour Declaration was the root of all the disturbances in Palestine and said that the U.N. inquiry committee must investigate the legality of the Declaration and study the validity of the Mandate. He also requested the inquiry commission to study the question of halting Jewish immigration, alleging that the entry of Jews into Palestine has led to the present tension there. He strongly opposed the admission of displaced Jews.

The Arab spokesman said there is no basis for denying Palestine its independence now since the cultural level of both the Jews and the Arabs has reached such a high point as to permit self-determination. He told the 55 members of the Political Committee that prior to the issuance of the Balfour Declaration Jews and Arabs maintained the most friendly relations. He quoted at great length British pledges to the Arabs and said that the fact-finding commission must study the promises which the British made simultaneously to the Jews and the Arabs.


The sub-committee, which had been charged with creating a single working draft from the three resolutions on the proposed terms of reference introduced by the United States, Argentina and El Salvador, proposed the following six-point resolution:

1. That the inquiry committee shall have the widest powers to ascertain and record facts.

2. That it shall receive testimony, by whatever means it considers appropriate to such case, from the Mandatory Power, from representatives of the population of Palestine, and from such other governments, non-governmental organizations and indiduals, as it may wish to consult.

3. That the committee shall bear in mind the principle that independence for the population of Palestine should be the ultimate purpose of any plan for the future of that country.

4. That it shall prepare a report to the General Assembly and shall submit such proposals as it may consider appropriate for the solution of the problem of Palestine.

5. That its report shall be communicated to the Secretary-General if possible by August 15, 1947, but in any event not later than September 1, 1947, in order that it may be circulated to the member states of the United Nations in time for consideration by the second regular session of the General Assembly.

6. That it shall give most careful consideration to the interests of all in-abitants of Palestine and also to the religious interests in Palestine of Islam, Jewry and Christendom.”


Commenting on the terms of reference, Shertok said that the Jewish Agency approved the recommendation by the sub-committee which provides for testimony by the Mandatory. He declared that Britain had submitted the Palestine problem to the General Assembly because of the crisis which had arisen in the administration of Palestine as a result of Britain’s policy on immigration, which conflicts with the Mandatory’s obligation to the Jewish people. He emphasized that the rights and interests of Jews who wish to enter Palestine are involved as well as those already in the country.

Shortok warned that the point in the sub-committee’s resolution dealing with the future independence of Palestine was open to misunderstanding and might militate against cooperation by the Jews of Palestine. “We agree that independence must be the ultimate goal of the political evolution of Palestine and its people,” he said, but stressed that the establishment of the Jewish National Home is the primary purpose of the Mandate and that independence must be considered in that context.

The Jewish Agency, he said, does not object to point six of the sub-committee’s resolution, on the interests of Jews, Moslems and Christians in Palestine, but proposed to modify it to read “careful consideration to the interests of the Jewish people and of all inhabitants of Palestine” as well as the three religions. Shertok concluded his observations by pointing out that the Jews will cooperate with the inquiry commission and that they will “lend their fullest support and place their experience and knowledge freely at the disposal of the commission.”


Gromyko, emphasizing that he had no objection to the spirit of the proposed six-point resolution, suggested amending the first, second and third points of the terms of reference to read as follows:

“1. To study in detail the situation in Palestine by carrying out investigation on the spot.

“2. To assemble, analyze and collate all data relating to the question; to ### written and verbal testimony from interested governments and such non governmental organizations and individuals who will wish to give the testimony and whom the commission will deem appropriate to grant a hearing; to study various other issues connected with the problem of Palestine.

“3. To prepare and submit to the next regular session of the General Assembly proposals on the solution of the problem of Palestine which the commission will consider useful, including a proposal on the question of establishing without delay the independent state of Palestine.”


Finn Moe of Norway expressed the hope that the sub-committee’s resolution meant that the problem of the homeless Jews in Europe would be investigated by the inquiry committee, pointing out that it was the problem of immigration, limited by the British White Paper, which had made the problem of Palestine so acute and brought it before the United Nations. He concluded by saying that to make this clear he favored the Soviet amendment which instructed the committee “to study various other issues connected with the problem of Palestine.” H.T. Andrews of South Africa endorsed the position of the Norwegian delegate.

Faris El-Khouri of Syria took issue with the Norwegian delegate’s insistence on the connection between the problem of Palestine and that of the homeless Jews in Europe. Mr. El-Khouri reminded the committee of a clause in the constitution of the proposed International Refugee Organization, which stipulates that resettlement of refugees shall not take place in any non-self-governing territory without the consent of its population. Mr. El-Khouri questioned why the Jewish refugees should come to Palestine. Why did not Norway take them, he asked, or other countries with “wider space or better means?”

Katan, during his testimony, demanded that the British immediately stop all Jewish immigration to Palestine whether legal or illegal, charging that all such immigration was illegal. He also said that the refugee and Palestine problems are two distinct questions, that the matter of refugees is not limited to any race or nationality, but is a humanitarian question for settlement by the countries of the world as was evidenced by the establishment of the I.R.O. Linking the two problems, he said, would make solution of both infinitely more difficult, “if not impossible.”

Denying Palestine is an Arab-Jewish problem, Katan claimed that Arab opposition to immigration and establishment of a Jewish National Home is not based on racial prejudice, but would be equally strong against any group which tried to force immigration. He likewise challenged the contention that Palestine is an economic problem and that European Jews make better colonizers than the Arabs. He said this was not only an unacceptable and immoral concept, but would justify any aggression by a more advanced people against a less advanced one.


Poland, India, Guatemala, Colombia and India asked Katan questions similar to those submitted yesterday to the Jewish Agency, all of which will be answered in writing. Poland asked for information about the organization and functions of the Arab Higher Committee and whether there have been any attempts at collaboration between the Arab Higher Committee and the Jewish Agency.

The Indian questions added one about the reported interest of “many outsiders” in the estimated three trillion dollars worth of chemicals and metals in the Dead Ses, Asaf Ali, the Indian delegate, also asked whether the immigrants entering Palestine speak “Arabic, Hebrew or Yiddish” and whether Yiddish is not a mixture of Russian, Lithuanian, Polish, Rumanian and Hebrew and also whether these immigrants are easily assimilable. The Colombian asked for the views of the Arab Higher Committee on the composition of the inquiry committee.


During the debate on the sub-committee’s resolution, Sir Alexander Cadogan, the British delegate, was again asked–this time by Charles Malik of Lebanon–to state whether his country would carry out the recommendations of the U.N. when they are finally arrived at. Replying, Cadogan expressed Britain’s interest in finding a “just” solution of the Palestine problem, but added that “we should not have the sole responsibility for enforcing a solution which is not acceptable to both parties and not reconcilable with our conscience.”

The five-men sub-committee which this morning considered requests from additional groups which have asked for a hearing before the Political Committee reiterated that only the Jewish Agency and the Arab Higher Committee be recognized as the bonafide organizations entitled to express their views and announced that it had rejected the pleas of the following groups: Agudas Israel Organization; Palestine Communist Party Central Committee; Institute of Arab American Affairs; Young Egypt Party; League for Peace with Justice in Palestine; Union for the Protection of the Human Person; United Israel; Church of God, Faith of David, Inc.; Catholic Near East Welfare Association, of which Cardinal Spellman is president. All these groups can testify before the inquiry committee, the decision provided. This holds good also for the Hebrew Committee of National Liberation and other groups whose requests were rejected by the same sub-committee several days ago.

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