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United Nations: Introducing the Palestinian Problem
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Posted on December 17, 2001


The question of Palestine was brought before the United Nations shortly after the end of the Second World War.

The origins of the Palestine problem as an international issue, however, lie in events occurring towards the end of the First World War. These events led to a League of Nations decision to place Palestine under the administration of Great Britain as the Mandatory Power under the Mandates System adopted by the League. In principle, the Mandate was meant to be in the nature of a transitory phase until Palestine attained the status of a fully independent nation, a status provisionally recognized in the League's Covenant, but in fact the Mandate's historical evolution did not result in the emergence of Palestine as an independent nation.

The decision on the Mandate did not take into account the wishes of the people of Palestine, despite the Covenant's requirements that "the wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory". This assumed special significance because, almost five years before receiving the mandate from the League of Nations, the British Government had given commitments to the Zionist Organization regarding the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, for which Zionist leaders had pressed a claim of "historical connection" since their ancestors had lived in Palestine two thousand years earlier before dispersing in the "Diaspora" [click here to read our response to this argument].

During the period of the Mandate, the Zionist Organization worked to secure the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The indigenous people of Palestine, whose forefathers had inhabited the land for virtually the two preceding millennia felt this design to be a violation of their natural and inalienable rights. They also viewed it as an infringement of assurances of independence given by the Allied Powers to Arab leaders in return for their support during the war. The result was mounting resistance to the Mandate by Palestinian Arabs, followed by resort to violence by the Jewish community as the Second World War drew to a close.

After a quarter of a century of the Mandate, Great Britain submitted what had become "the Palestine problem" to the United Nations on the ground that the Mandatory Power was faced with conflicting obligations that had proved irreconcilable. At this point, when the United Nations itself was hardly two years old, violence ravaged Palestine. After investigating various alternatives the United Nations proposed the partitioning of Palestine into two independent States, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalized. The partition plan did not bring peace to Palestine, and the prevailing violence spread into a Middle East war halted only by United Nations action. One of the two States envisaged in the partition plan proclaimed its independence as Israel and, in a series of successive wars, its territorial control expanded to occupy all of Palestine. The Palestinian Arab State envisaged in the partition plan never appeared on the world's map and, over the following 30 years, the Palestinian people have struggled for their lost rights.

The Palestine problem quickly widened into the Middle East dispute between the Arab States and Israel. From 1948 there have been wars and destruction, forcing millions of Palestinians into exile, and engaging the United Nations in a continuing search for a solution to a problem which came to possess the potential of a major source of danger for world peace.

In the course of this search, a large majority of States Members of the United Nations have recognized that the Palestine issue continues to lie at the heart of the Middle East problem, the most serious threat to peace with which the United Nations must contend. Recognition is spreading in world opinion that the Palestinian people must be assured its inherent inalienable right of national self-determination for peace to be restored.

In 1947 the United Nations accepted the responsibility of finding a just solution for the Palestine issue, and still grapples with this task today. Decades of strife and politico-legal arguments have clouded the basic issues and have obscured the origins and evolution of the Palestine problem, which this study attempts to clarify.

CLICK HERE for the official UN's version of this booklet.

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