Resolution 181: The Partition Resolution of 29 November 1947

On the 23rd day of September 1947, the General Assembly assigned the question of partitioning of Palestine to its Ad Hoc Committee. Another sub-committee was to study the proposal of establishing a unitary State in Palestine in which the Democratic Constitution would guarantee the human rights and fundamental freedom of all its citizens without distinction as to race, language or religion. The two reports were submitted and after prolonged discussions, there was great pressure from the United States and Soviet Delegations to adopt the Resolution to Partition Palestine.

It was on 25 November 1947 that the world became acquainted for the first time with the final draft of the partition resolution: Resolution 181. The General Assembly refused a resolution to submit the Palestine question to the International Court of Justice to determine whether the UN had any jurisdiction to recommend the partition of Palestine or any other country.

For a draft resolution to become an official one, UN procedures required a two-third majority of its ad hoc committee. As two votes were lacking for such a majority, the draft was handed to the General Assembly. Both Zionist and Arab delegations were now in a race against time. Other delegates who had originally favoured the partition proposals, but now seemed to be wavering, were pressured and guided by the White House to ensure that a favourable outcome is secured. Concerted and remarkable lobbying by the Zionist lobby ensured at the last moment that those 8 wavering and doubtful votes, were swung into the partition lobby. The strength of the Jewish/Zionist lobby in Washington should not have come as a surprise to the world community.

Zionist politicians did not waste time in recruiting and lobbying wavering delegates. At the same time, intensive efforts were made by the Zionist leadership around the world to gain crucial votes: the French altered their position from abstaning to supporting the resolution; Liberia, as a result of economic promises, offered support; the direct lobbying of President Truman and pro-Zionist senators and congressmen secured the votes of 12 out of 20 Latin American countries.

President Truman, in his memoirs, stated the following: "The facts were that not only were there pressure movements around the United Nations unlike anything that had been seen there before, but that the White House, too, was subjected to a constant barrage. I do not think I ever had as much pressure and propaganda aimed at the White House as I had in this instance. The persistence of a few of the extreme Zionist leaders—actuated by political motives and engaging in political threats—disturbed and annoyed me".

Not to be forgotten, the President of the General Assembly for that session was Oswaldo Aranha who is known to have lobbied as fiercely as the Zionists to sway the vote for acceptance. He even postponed the voting session for 3 days to ensure passage.

On Saturday morning, 29 November 1947, against the will of the Palestinian people, the General Assembly in New York voted for the partition of Palestine and accepted Resolution 181. The vote was 33 in support of the Resolution, 13 members opposed it and 10 members abstained including Britain. One small country, Siam, was absent.

When the time to vote arrived, the British Government, perhaps under the weight of its guilt for abusing the trust which the League of Nations had bestowed upon it to protect, guide and assist Palestine to achieve its independence at the end of its Mandatory period, opted to abstain from voting. A typical cop-out.

The roll-call vote was as follows:

For the Resolution (33) - Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, South Africa, Uruguay, the Soviet Union, the United States, Venezuela, White Russia.

Against (13) - Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen.

Abstentions (10) - Argentina, Chile, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia.

Absent (1) - Siam.

See official Records of the General Assembly, Second Session Supplement No 11, Volume I-IV

Although the U.N. Charter is considered a “law-making treaty”, the United Nations itself is not an international legislature that can make laws or pass legislations.

it was not in the UN mandate to create states. The United Nations had no business offering the nation of one people to the people of many nations. Its General Assembly had neither the legal nor the legislative powers to impose such a resolution or to convey title of a territory; Articles 10, 11 and 14 of the UN Charter bestows the right on the General Assembly merely to recommend resolutions.

GA Res181 never went to the Security Council for approval, therefore it remained as a 'recommendation'. Here is a paragraph from the UN Charter and The Security Council:

"Broadly speaking, while the General Assembly may discuss any international disputes or situations, it is the Security Council which recommends appropriate procedures or methods of adjustments or terms of settlement for the pacific settlement of disputes and takes preventive or enforecement measures with respet to threats to the peaces, breaches of the peace or acts of aggression".

The UN Partition of Palestine

The reason why the General Assembly Resolution 181 never went to the Security Council for consideration was because it implied that if it were to be approved by the Security Council, then it would require military force to implement it, considering the Zionist position at that time.

Palestine was thus divided into 3 parts: a Jewish part, an Arab part and an internationally administered zone to include the city of Jerusalem as a Corpus Separatum to be under the responsibility of the United Nations. After 10 years, a referendum would be held to seek the views of the city’s residents. Today, that referendum remains dead history.

The Partition Plan for Palestine offered 55% of historical Palestine to a Jewish population constituting a mere third of the entire population (not more than 10% at the time of Balfour) where Jews owned about 7% of the land. 

A painful reading of this illegal partitioning of a country goes like this:

"The area of the Arab State in Western Galilee is bounded on the west by the Mediterranean and on the north by the frontier of the Lebanon from Ras en Naqura to a point north of Saliha. From there the boundary proceeds southwards, leaving the built-up area of Saliha in the Arab State, to join the southernmost point of this village. Thence it follows the western boundary line of the villages of 'Alma, Rihaniya and Teitaba, thence following the northern boundary line of Meirun village to join the Acre-Safad sub-district boundary line. It follows this line to a point west of Es Sammu'i village and joins it again at the northernmost point of Farradiya. Thence it follows the sub-district boundary line to the Acre-Safad main road. From here it follows the western boundary of Kafr I'nan village until it reaches the Tiberias-Acre sub-district boundary line, passing to the west of the junction of the Acre-Safad and Lubiya-Kafr I'nan roads. From the south-west corner of Kafr I'nan village the boundary line follows the western boundary of the Tiberias sub-district to a point close to the boundary line between the villages of Maghar and Eilabun, thence bulging out to the west to include as much of the eastern part of the plain of Battuf as is necessary for the reservoir proposed by the Jewish Agency for the irrigation of lands to the south and east.

The boundary rejoins the Tiberias sub-district boundary at a point on the Nazareth-Tiberias road south-east of the built-up area of Tur'an; thence it runs southwards, at first following the sub-district boundary and then passing between the Kadoorie Agricultural School and Mount Tabor, to a point due south at the base of Mount Tabor. From here it runs due west, parallel to the horizontal grid line 230, to the north-east corner of the village lands of Tel Adashim. It then runs to the north-west corner of these lands, when it turns south and west so as to include in the Arab State the sources of the Nazareth water supply in Yafa village. On reaching Ginneiger it follows the eastern, northern and western boundaries of the lands of this village to their south-west corner, whence it proceeds in a straight line to a point on the Haifa-Afula railway on the boundary between the villages of Sarid and El Mujeidil. This is the point of intersection.

The south-western boundary of the area of the Arab State in Galilee takes a line from this point, passing northwards along the eastern boundaries of Sarid and Gevat to the north-eastern corner of Nahalal, proceeding thence across the land of Kefar ha Horesh to a central point on the southern boundary of the village of 'Ilut, thence westwards along that village boundary to the eastern boundary of Beit Lahm, thence northwards and north-eastwards along its western boundary to the northeastern corner of Waldheim and thence north-westwards across the village lands of Shafa 'Amr to the southeastern corner of Ramat Yohanan. From here it runs due north-north-east to a point on the Shafa 'Amr-Haifa road, west of its junction with the road to I'Billin. From there it proceeds north-east to a point on the southern boundary of I'Billin situated to the west of the I'Billin-Birwa road. Thence along that boundary to its westernmost point, whence it turns to the north, follows across the village land of Tamra to the north-westernmost corner and along the western boundary of Julis until it reaches the Acre-Safad road. It then runs westwards along the southern side of the Safad-Acre road to the Galilee-Haifa District boundary, from which point it follows that boundary to the sea.

The boundary of the hill country of Samaria and Judea starts on the Jordan River at the Wadi Malih south-east of Beisan and runs due west to meet the Beisan-Jericho road and then follow's the western side of that road in a north-westerly direction to the junction of the boundaries of the sub-districts of Beisan, Nablus, and Jenin. From that point it follows the Nablus-Jenin subdistrict boundary westwards for a distance of about three kilometres and then turns north-westwards, passing to the east of the built-up areas of the villages of Jalbun and Faqqu'a, to the boundary of the sub-districts of Jenin and Beisan at a point north-east of Nuris. Thence it proceeds first north-westwards to a point due north of the built-up area of Zir'in and then westwards to the Afula-Jenin railway, thence north-westwards along the district boundary line to the point of intersection on the Hejaz railway. From here the boundary runs southwestwards, including the built-up area and some of the land of the village of Kh.Lid in the Arab State to cross the Haifa-Jenin road at a point on the district boundary between Haifa and Samaria west of El Mansi. It follows this boundary to the southernmost point of the village of El Buteimat. From here it follows the northern and eastern boundaries of the village of Ar'ara, rejoining the Haifa-Samaria district boundary at Wadi'Ara, and thence proceeding south-south-westwards in an approximately straight line joining up with the western boundary of Qaqun to a point east of the railway line on the eastern boundary of Qaqun village. From here it runs along the railway line some distance to the east of it to a point just east of the Tulkarm railway station. Thence the boundary follows a line half-way between the railway and the Tulkarm-Qalqiliya-Jaljuliya and Ras el Ein road to a point just east of Ras el Ein station, whence it proceeds along the railway some distance to the east of it to the point on the railway line south of the junction of the Haifa-Lydda and Beit Nabala lines, whence it proceeds along the southern border of Lydda airport to its southwest corner, thence in a south-westerly direction to a point just west of the built-up area of Sarafand el 'Amar, whence it turns south, passing just to the west of the built-up area of Abu el Fadil to the north-east corner of the lands of Beer Ya'Aqov. (The boundary line should be so demarcated as to allow direct access from the Arab State to the airport.) Thence the boundary line follows the western and southern boundaries of Ramle village, to the north-east corner of El Na'ana village, thence in a straight line to the southernmost point of El Barriya, along the eastern boundary of that village and the southern boundary of 'Innaba village. Thence it turns north to follow the southern side of the Jaffa-Jerusalem road until El Qubab, whence it follows the road to the boundary of Abu Shusha. It runs along the eastern boundaries of Abu Shusha, Seidun, Hulda to the southernmost point of Hulda, thence westwards in a straight line to the northeastern corner of Umm Kalkha, thence following the northern boundaries of Umm Kalkha, Qazaza and the northern and western boundaries of Mukhezin to the Gaza District boundary and thence runs across the village lands of El Mismiya, El Kabira, and Yasur to the southern point of intersection, which is midway between the built-up areas of Yasur and Batani Sharqi.

From the southern point of intersection the boundary line runs north-westwards between the villages of Gan Yavne and Barqa to the sea at a point half way between Nabi Yunis and Minat el Qila, and south-eastwards to a point west of Qastina, whence it turns in a south-westerly direction, passing to the east of the built-up areas of Es Sawafir, Esh Sharqiya and Ibdis. From the south-east corner of Ibdis village it runs to a point south-west of the built-up area of Beit 'Affa, crossing the Hebron-El Majdal road just to the west of the built-up area of Iraq Suweidan. Thence it proceeds southwards along the western village boundary of El Faluja to the Beersheba subdistrict boundary. It then runs across the tribal lands of 'Arab el Jubarat to a point on the boundary between the sub-districts of Beersheba and Hebron north of Kh. Khuweilifa, whence it proceeds in a south-westerly direction to a point on the Beersheba-Gaza main road two kilometres to the north-west of the town. It then turns south-eastwards to reach Wadi Sab' at a point situated one kilometre to the west of it. From here it turns northeastwards and proceeds along Wadi Sab' and along the Beersheba-Hebron road for a distance of one kilometre, whence it turns eastwards and runs in a straight line to Kh. Kuseifa to join the Beersheba-Hebron-sub-district boundary. It then follows the Beersheba-Hebron boundary eastwards to a point north of Ras ez Zuweira, only departing from it so as to cut across the base of the indentation between vertical grid lines 150 and 160.

About five kilometres north-east of Ras ez Zuweira it turns north, excluding from the Arab State a strip along the coast of the Dead Sea not more than seven kilometres in depth, as far as Ein Geddi, whence it turns due east to join the Transjordan frontier in the Dead Sea.

The northern boundary of the Arab section of the coastal plain runs from a point between Minat el Qila and Nabi Yunis, passing between the built-up areas of Gan Yavne and Barqa to the point of intersection. From here it turns south-westwards, running across the lands of Batani Sharqi, along the eastern boundary of the lands of Beit Daras and across the lands of Julis, leaving the built-up areas of Batani Sharqi and Julis to the westwards, as far as the north-west corner of the lands of Beit Tima. Thence it runs east of El Jiya across the village lands of El Barbara along the eastern boundaries of the villages of Beit Jirja, Deir Suneid and Dimra. From the southeast corner of Dimra the boundary passes across the lands of Beit Hanun, leaving the Jewish lands of Nir-Am to the eastwards. From the south-east corner of Beit Hanun the line runs south-west to a point south of the parallel grid line 100, then turns north-west for two kilometres, turning again in a south-westerly direction and continuing in an almost straight line to the north-west corner of the village lands of Kirbet Ikhza'a. From there it follows the boundary line of this village to its southernmost point. It then runs in a southerly direction along the vertical grid line 90 to its junction with the horizontal grid line 70. It then turns south-eastwards to Kh. el Ruheiba and then proceeds in a southerly direction to a point known as El Baha, beyond which it crosses the Beersheba-El 'Auja main road to the west of Kh. el Mushrifa. From there it joins Wadi El Zaiyatin just to the west of El Subeita. From there it turns to the northeast and then to the south-east following this wadi and passes to the east of 'Abda to join Wadi Nafkh. It then bulges to the south-west along Wadi Nafkh, Wadi Ajrim and Wadi Lassan to the point where Wadi Lassan crosses the Egyptian frontier.

The area of the Arab enclave of Jaffa consists of that part of the town-planning area of Jaffa which lies to the west of the Jewish quarters lying south of Tel-Aviv, to the west of the continuation of Herzl street up to its junction with the Jaffa-Jerusalem road, to the south-west of the section of the Jaffa-Jerusalem road lying south-east of that junction, to the west of Miqve Yisrael lands, to the north-west of Holon local council area, to the north of the line linking up the north-west corner of Holon with the north-east corner of Bat Yam local council area and to the north of Bat Yam local council area. The question of Karton quarter will be decided by the Boundary Commission, bearing in mind among other considerations the desirability of including the smallest possible number of its Arab inhabitants and the largest possible number of its Jewish inhabitants in the Jewish State.

The boundaries of the Jewish State: The north-eastern sector of the Jewish State (Eastern Galilee) is bounded on the north and west by the Lebanese frontier and on the east by the frontiers of Syria and Transjordan. It includes the whole of the Hula Basin, Lake Tiberias, the whole of the Beisan sub-district, the boundary line being extended to the crest of the Gilboa mountains and the Wadi Malih. From there the Jewish State extends north-west, following the boundary described in respect of the Arab State.

The Jewish section of the coastal plain extends from a point between Minat et Qila and Nabi Yunis in the Gaza sub-district and includes the towns of Haifa and Tel-Aviv, leaving Jaffa as an enclave of the Arab State. The eastern frontier of the Jewish State follows the boundary described in respect of the Arab State.

The Beersheba area comprises the whole of the Beersheba sub-district, including the Negeb and the eastern part of the Gaza sub-district, but excluding the town of Beersheba and those areas described in respect of the Arab State. It includes also a strip of land along the Dead Sea stretching from the Beersheba-Hebron subdistrict boundary line to Ein Geddi, as described in respect of the Arab State.

The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations. The Trusteeship Council shall be designated to discharge the responsibilities of the Administering Authority on behalf of the United Nations.

The City of Jerusalem shall include the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern Shu-fat, as indicated on the attached sketch-map (annex B [following p. 236 in the present Yearbook]).

It should be noted that the status of Jerusalem within the Corpus Separatum included in the above resolution, was re-asserted by Resolution 303(IV) of the General Assembly dated 9 December 1949 as the Armistice Line was being finalised at the end of hostilities between the Zionist forces and the neighbouring Arab countries.

Jerusalem as "Corpus Separatum" under the UN Partition Plan

UN Resolution 181 called for the immediate creation of The Palestine Commission to oversee the implementation of the Partition Plan. It was composed of 5 member states: Bolivia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Panama and The Philippines. This Commission, however, was disbanded in May 1948 when it became clear that the Partition Plan could not be implemented as the land of Palestine was being ethnically cleansed by the Jewish underground which lead to the creation of Israel in May 1948 and beyond (see below).

Irony has it that the Jewish Provisional Government's 'foreign minister of Israel' Moshe Shertock, chose the first anniversary of UN Res 181 to apply for Israel to be admitted as a member of the UN. The Jewish underground massacres and conquests of Palestine were rewarded when Israel's application for UN membership was approved, first, by the Security Council through its Resolution 69 on Mach 4 1949 and, later, passed by the General Assembly through its Resolution 273 on 11 May 1949 - a mere 4 days short of Israel's first anniversary of its creation. 

The Arab League rejected the plan to partition Palestine by any outside power. The stage was thus set for the Zionists to make their dream a reality. They dusted off the map they showed to UNSCOP in May 1947 and decided it was time to act. They immediately faced the problem of having 1 million Palestinians in the part of Palestine allocated to them in the Partition plan. But since the 1880’s, the Zionists had been preparing for such an eventuality. Now was the time to act.

The Palestinians rebelled as the Zionist underground forces attacked Palestinian villages and towns in order to secure more than their portion of Palestine allocated to them by the Partition Plan. As noted above, the United States admitted around March 1948 that the partitioning of Palestine could not be carried out in a peaceful manner and proposed that Palestine be placed under a temporary UN Trusteeship. This plan and calls for a ceasefire fell on deaf ears. The Jewish forces exerted all military efforts to achieve maximum land gains as the British prepared to end their Mandate in Palestine in mid-May 1948. By April 1948, they had achieved a military superiority and set in motion all political machinery to declare their Jewish State. Herzl’s prediction to establish a Jewish State in Palestine within 50 years was missed by only 1 year.

The context of the next stage is summarised thus: After FDR, the 4-term U.S. president, died of illness on 12 April 1945, his vice president Harry S Truman assumed office as the U.S struggles in a global WW2. 1948 was an election year in American and all the predictions were that Truman's opponet Thomas Dewey was going to win the election in November of that year. The Zionist lobby went out in full force to ensure that Truman secures the White House. It does not take a big brain to realise that this has a price attached to it. As the Jewish Agency was about to declare the birth of Israel, Truman was ready to reward it with a political recognition against all advice from his State Department officials. But Zionist pressure proved too much to resist (see Truman's quote above).

On May 14, 1948 Eliahu Epstein of the Jewish Agency for Palestine (and the Agent for the Provisional Government of Israel) wrote a letter to US President Harry Truman which read in part: "I have the honour to notify you that the state of Israel has been proclaimed as an independent republic WITHIN FRONTIERS APPROVED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS IN ITS RESOLUTION [181] OF 29 NOVEMBER, 1947..." [our emphasis].

At 6:00pm Washington time, on Friday May 14, 1948 the Jewish State of Israel was proclaimed just as the Sabbath began at sunset that day. At 6:11pm, U.S. President Harry Truman authorised the recognition of Israel, and America became the first nation to do so. Truman's decision to recognise the new State was not shared by many of his high ranking advisors, such as Dean Rusk, Dean Acheson, Secretary of Defence James Forrestal and Secretary of State George Marshall. Details of such reservations by these high ranking advisors to Truman can be found in "A Calculated Risk" by Evan W Wilson.

On the day after Truman's recognition of Israel, Epstein wrote to Moshe Shertok, Israel's then Foreign Minister saying that "...THE UNITED STATES RECOGNIZES THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT AS THE DE-FACTO AUTHORITY OF THE NEW STATE OF ISRAEL" [our emphasis]. "De-Facto" mean a state of affairs that is true in fact but that is not officially sanctioned.

With the Jewish underground forces ravaging and ethnically cleansing the Palestinian landscape, even as the US recognition landed on Ben-Gurion's desk, the status of congered borders and frontiers was not far the mind of US State Department officials. Loy Anderson was keen for Israel to 'define' its borders. Eliahu Epstein sought to assure him that "...any territory taken until peace was achieved would be returned to the Arab State". Israel would not have been recognised by Truman had it nor declared its borders on the basis on UN Resolution 181.

No sooner had Truman won the election on 3 November 1948, than Chaim Weizmann, the President of the World Zionist Organization and Israel's first President shot a letter of congratulation to him dated 5 November in which he states: "We have special cause to be gratified at your re-election because we are mindful of the enlightened help which you gave our cause in these years of our struggle".

The rest is history: the British mandate ended the next day on 15th May 1948 at noon.

Palestine was not only partitioned. It was destroyed.

Most of Palestine’s indigenous population were expelled and, together with their descendents, became numbers in an UNRWA refugee register. Today, they total about 5.5 million people living in miserable refugee camps in Lebanon (12 camps), Syria (10 camps + 3 unofficial sites), Jordan (10 camps), in the occupied West Bank (19 camps) and in blockaded Gaza (8 camps). These Palestinian refugees hold the Guinness Book of Records for being the longest suffering and largest refugee population in the world.

Where did the refugees go?

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