You will be well aware of one of the frequent arguments in the arsenal of the supporters of Israel (and proponents of its right to exist) is that the United Nations created the state – supposedly providing its foundation with legal authority. But documents from the time, including the infamous Resolution 181, shine a harsh light on a this central constitutional linchpin for pro-Israel supporters. I would make the point the only clear legal statement was Prime Minister Ben Gurion’s declaration, and this is insufficient legal grounds for the state as it presently is.
As many of you will well know, following World War I, the United Kingdom was granted the mandate of Palestine. But the increased tension and the complexity of the situation meant we extracted ourselves from responsibility in 1947. Britain appealed to the newly created United Nations General Assembly to make recommendations, concerning the future government of Palestine.
Months later, the UN’s Special Commission on Palestine made a recommendation that Palestine be partitioned into separate Jewish and Arab states. The Arab state would hold 45.5% percent of the whole of Palestine, while the Jews would take 55.5%. It is worth noting that at the time of this, Arabs owned 85% of the land.
The British government agreed with the report but crucially stated
‘His Majesty’s Government could not play a major part in the implementation of a scheme that was not acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.’
So, to continue to study the problem and make recommendations the Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine was established. A scathing rebuttal to the Special Committee was to follow. The Ad Hoc Committee stated it was not the case that both the Arabs and the Jews ‘possessed validity’. They saw that the culmination of the British mandate of Palestine meant that the state was of no issue to the United Nations General Assembly and should be “struck off”. Also, and pay attention, this is important, they found ‘The General Assembly is not competent to recommend, still less to enforce, any solution other than the recognition of the independence of Palestine, and that the settlement of the future government of Palestine is a matter solely for the people of Palestine.’
Washing their hands of it, they were saying whatever happens must be by Palestine, for Palestine. If there was to be a partition plan, it must be done so by the new kid on the block – the newly created International Court of Justice.
The Ad Hoc Committee went on to say that the United Nations had no power to create a new State unless the free will of all the people in said territory was expressed, and its prior recommendation was contrary to the principles of its Charter – most importantly the right to self determination.
It’s well known the General Assembly passed Resolution 181, with a majority of roughly 3-1. But if we take a look at the resolution itself we can clearly observe that it did not legally mandate its creation.
An authority on the subject, Jeremy Hammond reminds us
‘It merely recommended that the partition plan be implemented and requested the Security Council to take up the matter from there.
‘It called upon the inhabitants of Palestine to accept the plan, but they were certainly under no obligation to do so.’
Meanwhile, there was sporadic back and forth violence between the Arabs and the Jews of the area. And months later the situation began to deteriorate further. The United States Representative to the Security Council proposed Resolution 43 which amongst other things called for a cessation of hostilities and no bias against either Arabs or Jews”, in fact it was the US that proposed this. Unfortunately nothing was done regarding this, and we can see the disastrous effects of this inaction today.
On May 14, 1948, minutes before the legal end of the British Mandate at midnight, David Ben- Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, declared the establishment of a Jewish state. The British withdrew and, as was predicted by many opponents of Resolution 181, war broke out.
It is thus apparent that the United Nations’ Partition plan was violated the rights of the Palestinian people to self determination and was quite clearly partisan, something the new system was supposedly inherently opposed to being.
Even if it were true that the United Nations created Israel in 1947, it wouldn’t justify the occupation of Palestinian Territories. The only person who created Israel was David Ben Gurion, at a few minutes to midnight, and that, in my view, is not sufficient legal evidence for the state’s foundation.