UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PALESTINE
UN on Partition DAy
.In the Spring of 1947, Britain, in frustration over the question of Palestine, turned to the UN for help. The UN appointed a special committee to investigate the situation. The committee was made up of representatives of 11 neutral states. It recommended partition of the country into two states on November 12, 1947.
On February 18, 1947, British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin announced in the House of Commons that the British government did not see any prospect of a solution to the problems of Palestine. On April 2, the British delegation to the United Nations requested that the UN Secretary-General summon, as soon as possible, a special session of the UN General Assembly to decide the fate of Palestine. The British decision to turn the problem over to the United Nations was arrived at for a number of reasons and should be understood in the context of a post-World War II British Empire that was crumbling. Although Britain had been one of the winners of the war, the economic and human cost of the victory had been very high, and the British were becoming more and more dependent on the United States for economic maintenance. The negative publicity that the British were receiving for their rejection of illegal immigrants was making it more challenging to obtain vitally needed financial aid. In addition, the cost of the occupation of Palestine was becoming greater and greater -- both in economic and military terms. After sustaining devastating casualties in World War II, the British people were not inclined to stoicism in this matter.
A special session of the United Nations began meeting on April 27. The first issue on the agenda was whether the Jewish Agency should be allowed to present the Jewish people's case. After the initial objections that there was no provision for a non-governmental body to present before the UN, Jewish Agency representatives were allowed to make presentations to the United Nations first committee. Abba Hillel Silver, Moshe Shertook, and David Ben Gurion, all presented the case for the Jewish Agency. The major item on the agenda was the membership of the special committee of inquiry. After extensive debate, it was agreed that the make-up of the United Nations committee should come from eleven small states, and not from any of the five large countries.
During the summer of 1947, the United Nations committee held extensive hearings and meetings in Palestine to assess the conditions there. Thirteen public meetings and 18 closed sessions were held in Palestine, with 34 witnesses called. From Palestine, the committee moved to Beirut, where it heard the opinions of the Arab governments. The final stop for the committee was Geneva, where sub-committees toured camps for displaced persons, reporting that almost all of the displaced persons wished to go to Palestine. The committee issued two analyses; a majority report and a minority report. The majority report -- which was supported by representatives from Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, and Uruguay -- called for the establishment of two independent States in Palestine, one Jewish and one Arab. The minority plan, supported by India, Iran, and Yugoslavia, called for the establishment of a confederation of two subordinate states; one Arab and one Jewish.