U N I T E D N A T I O N S
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Committee on Rights of Press Release GA/PAL/7
Palestinian People 9 March 1976
5th Meeting (AM)
PALESTINIAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE HEARS SUGGESTIONS FOR RETURN
OF DISPLACED PERSONS
Representative of PLO is First Speaker as General Debate Opens
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, beginning its general debate this morning, heard a statement by the representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Zehdi Labib Terzi (PLO) made a number of suggestions regarding the
right of return of the individual Palestinians and possible recommendations
by the Committee, particularly regarding return of those Palestinians
displaced in 1967.
The Committee agreed that the statement of the representative of the
PLO should be reproduced verbatim, as an official document, and in all
The Committee will meet again to continue its general debate at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, 11 March, when Egypt and Syria will speak.
PLO Representative Opens General Debate
As the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the
Palestinian People opened its general debate this morning, ZEHDI LABIB TERZI,
Deputy Permanent Observer of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to the United Nations, stated that in the last few years, a considerable number of constructive and objective resolutions had been adopted by the United Nations to achieve a major task — namely, the attainment of peace, in particular, peace in the Middle East.
It was an accepted fact, he said, that the heart of the so-called Middle
East crisis was the "question of Palestine", and that unless and until a
solution to that question was found and implemented, the situation in the
Middle East, and world peace, would remain in danger.
He recalled that the Assembly, in its resolution 3236 (XXIX), had
emphasized that "full respect for and the realization of the inalienable
rights of the Palestinian people are indispensable for the solution of the
question of Palestine".
That resolution, he said, had defined the inalienable rights referred
to, including the right to self-determination without external interference;
the right to national independence and sovereignty; and the right to return
to their homes and property from which they had been displaced and uprooted.
He said the Assembly had recognized the link between the national rights
of the Palestinian people and the individual right of the Palestinian to return to his homeland and had described both rights as inalienable.
Mr. Terzi said the Committee's task was "to formulate a programme of
implementation designed to enable the Palestinian people to exercise its
He said the character of the Committee was not conciliation; nor was it
entrusted to play the role of a mediator seeking to bring the adversaries
together. "It is not a body of arbitration or adjudication, not a negotiating
instrument", he added.
By its very mandate, he said, the Committee "is charged with drawing up a
blue-print for action, designed to enable the Palestinian people to exercise
the inalienable rights already defined by the General Assembly".
To the question of Palestine, there was one unitary and integrated
solution, he said. The Committee should keep constantly in mind the link
between the two rights he had mentioned.
At this stage, he said, he would offer suggestions concerning the
implementation of the inalienable right of the Palestinian to return to his
homeland. He would, in the future, make suggestions concerning the implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine, including the right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty.
The national inalienable rights "could and should be exercised only in
Palestine" and consequently, the exercise of the individual right of the
Palestinian to return to his homeland was a condition sine qua non to enable
the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty.
He said that "it is imperative that Palestinians should be physically in
Palestine in order to be enabled to exercise their inalienable national rights".
He noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provided in
article 13 (2) that "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including
his own, and to return to his country". The applicability of that right to
Palestinians in particular, he said, had been consistently recognized by the
United Nations ever since the first Palestinians were displaced.
The representative of the PLO said that the record showed that, whenever
a new wave of displacement of Palestinians occurred, the United Nations had
responded with a reaffirmation of its call for repatriation. Thus, the
first wave of displacement, in 1948, elicited the famous provisions of
paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948 — provisions which
had been reaffirmed by the General Assembly every year since then.
Since the massive displacement of more Palestinians in 1967, he said,
four organs of the United Nations — the Security Council, the General
Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council — had reaffirmed the right of the new displaced persons to prompt repatriation in no less than 18 resolutions.
He said that repatriation was the natural solution to the problem of
displacement. "It is the unanimous choice of my people", he said, The
Palestinians had invariably made it clear in every way and on every occasion
that they wanted to go back home.
The representative of the PLO said it was intolerable that Israel and
international Zionism should continue to agitate throughout the world for
recognition of the "right" of all Jewish citizens of all other countries
to emigrate from their respective lands and to immigrate into Israel. They
were facilitating the mass-immigration into Israel through the so-called
Law of Return — even though those Jews had never before seen Palestine or
set foot on its soil.
At the same time, Israel and world Zionism continued to deny in principle
the right of the displaced Palestinians to return to their country and continued to prevent the exercise of that right in practice.
"The return of the Palestinians to their homes and property from which
they have been displaced and uprooted is a prerequisite to peace", he said.
The dispossession and homelessness of the Palestinians was indeed the root
By the right of return, he said, he meant that Palestinians should return
to their homes and property — to their homeland — as of right and not on
sufferance. By the right of return he meant that the right to choose between
returning and not returning was a right vested in each Palestinian "and is
not subject to curtailment by any authority".
The racist Zionist forces of occupation and their supporters had
marshalled a number of arguments against the exercise by Palestinians of
their inalienable right to return, he stated. One argument was that "the
clock cannot be turned back".
The argument of alleged irreversibility of the demographic changes which
had overtaken Palestine was not a statement in good faith describing
conditions which were judged to be impossible to alter, he said. It was,
rather, a reflection of a subjective opposition to the alteration of the new,
contrived situation — a determination to prevent the restoration of rightful
conditions. It was a confession of an unwillingness to envisage or effect
restoration, and not an objective assessment of inability to do so.
If the return of Palestinians to their homes and property should be
declared impossible by virtue of the passage of time since their dislodgement,
he asked, how much more persuasive should that same argument have been
in 1947/1948 against the attempt to restore Jewish presence in Palestine 1900
years after the expulsion of the Hebrews from Palestine?
"In 1947/1948, the United Nations was not daunted by the prospect of
erasure of 1900 years of history: should it, in 1976, be daunted by the
prospect of correction of 28 years of injustice?" he asked.
The United Nations had declared that Palestinians should be permitted
to return to their homes and homeland immediately after their displacement,
before any basic changes had occurred in their homeland, he went on. If it
were now to accept the argument that those changes — effected in defiance
of justice and the law — were sufficient and valid reason for nullifying the
right of Palestinians to return and obstructing their exercise of that right,
the United Nations would give the green light to any potential law-breaker to
do the same.
He said another argument was that there was no room in Palestine, and less room in those parts of Palestine occupied by Israel before 1967, for all the displaced Palestinians and the Jews now resident there. Yet, he said,
throughout the years of the British Mandate, it was the Zionists who were
arguing that the "absorptive capacity" of Palestine was not static but
elastic and flexible, and that modern technology and organizational techniques
could be relied upon to expand considerably the limited absorptive capacity
of the land.
Even now, he said, the same Israeli and Zionist spokesmen who argue that
Palestine cannot accommodate both the displaced Palestinians and the Jews now
in Israel were actively clamouring for the immigration of millions of Jews
from all over the world into the country.
If there was room for millions of Soviet, American, West European, and
other Jews who had never been to Palestine before, he asked, should not that
room be assigned first — as a matter of rightful priority — to the
indigenous Palestinians who were now refugees outside Palestine?
A third argument, he said, was that "one wrong could not right another",
and that the plight of a displaced Palestinian could not be remedied by
displacing an Israeli.
In the aftermath of Hitler, Zionism had played upon the sympathies of
a rightly outraged world by arguing that the gross injustice done by Hitler
to the Jews should be corrected by giving Jews a homeland of their own, he
said. Thoughtful observers had then protested that an injustice against
a Jew by a Nazi German could not be righted by inflicting an injustice on
a third party — the Palestinian Arab.
He said the Israeli who lived in the home of a Palestinian — a home
from which the rightful owner fled or was forcibly evicted and to which he
was not permitted to return — was a usurper, not an innocent third party.
His transfer to another place in Palestine, in order to permit the rightful
owner to return, might be an inconvenience, but it was not an injustice.
He said that "what the Palestinians demand is their own return, and not
the departure from the country of the alien Jews who have, under the influence
of Zionism, immigrated into the country".
Mr. Terzi said there was, then, the quasi-legal argument which suggested
that the Palestinian Arabs were not forcibly displaced but fled of their own
accord, or at the behest of their leaders.
He asked whether a man who fled his home because of fire, and in pursuit
of self-preservation, lost his right to return to it when the fire had been
The real Zionist opposition to the return of the displaced Palestinians
was that return would alter the demographic balance in Israel to such an
extent that it would destroy its Zionist, exclusionist character, he said.
That, of course, was true, he said. But "the preservation of the
Zionist, exclusionist character of Israel is neither an international
responsibility nor a moral-juridical-political fact that outweighs in
importance the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian
He said that the Balfour Declaration, the Mandate of the League of
Nations, and the Partition Recommendation of the General Assembly had each
in effect rejected the Zionist idea, by putting two conditions — the
safeguarding of the rights of the Palestinian Arabs inside the proposed
"Jewish State" or "national home", and the safeguarding of the status of
Jews outside it.
Regarding the United Nations Partition Recommendation, he said that far
from endorsing the Zionist idea of an exclusivist Judenstaat, or "State of
Jews", the plan envisaged a "Jewish State" whose population then consisted
of 499,020 Jews and 509,780 Arabs. The plan had also stated, he said, that
"it be accepted as incontrovertible that any solution for Palestine cannot
be considered as a solution of the Jewish problem in general".
It had stipulated, he said, that, before independence, the provisional
government of the proposed "Jewish State" should make a declaration to the
United Nations containing specific and precise guarantees of the rights of
the Palestinian Arab population of the territory.
Mr. Terzi said the following conclusions could be derived:
"(a) The international community, including the United Nations, has
never given its consent to the Zionist concept of Israel;
"(b) On the contrary, the United Nations, in its Partition Recommendation — like the League of Nations before it — prohibited the actions which led Israel to approximate its own unilateral Zionist conception of itself;
"(c) The United Nations is under no obligation to protect or safeguard
the Zionist character of Israel, particularly in its demographic aspect;
"(d) On the contrary, the United Nations is a guarantor of the rights
whose denial was a prerequisite of the Zionization of Israel;
"(e) The United Nations is obligated to the Palestinian Arabs to
restore their rights and to undo the actions of Israel which led to the denial
of those rights."
He suggested that the Committee, in its initial report to be submitted
before 1 June 1976, recommend that "the first phase of the implementation of
the right of return should consist of the return of the Palestinians displaced
from territories occupied since June 1967".
That priority, he said, was one of time only, and was not meant to imply
either that the need of those displaced persons was greater than that of the
Palestinians displaced in 1948, or that the right of one group was clearer
than the right of the other. The suggestion was dictated purely by practical
considerations of timing, and not by any other considerations.
He said the Committee "could recommend that the Security Council demand
that the Palestinians displaced in 1967 should be permitted immediately and
without delay to return to the territories occupied since 1967".
Their return, he said, should not await any political or territorial
arrangements, such as the Security Council might be considering at the same
time, including arrangements for withdrawal from the territories occupied in
1967 or future sovereignty over those territories. The return should be
immediate and not linked to any other dispositions.
The Committee could also recommend that the International Committee of
the Red Cross (ICRC), which had played a role in the very limited return of
some of the displaced persons in the summer of 1967, be asked to help organize
the envisaged return of the persons concerned, he said.
If the ICRC declined to participate in the programme, perhaps the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) could be asked to do so, he said. Its mandate could be adjusted accordingly, and its budget and staff would have to be commensurately expanded.
He said that the agency in charge would have to perform its duties in
constant consultation with the competent authorities in the host countries,
with the PLO and with the occupying power, over the mechanics of the
Mr. Terzi said the Committee should strongly recommend to the Security
Council at the same time that, in conjunction with the immediate return of
the Palestinians displaced in 1967 to the territories occupied by Israel since
that date, "the Council should demand, in accordance with the powers conferred
upon it by the Charter, that (a) Israel desist from the establishment of new
settlements in the occupied territories, and effectively prevent its citizens
from creating so-called `unauthorized' settlements, and that (b) Israel
withdraw its citizens from the 50 or so settlements already established since
1967 in the occupied territories contrary to the provisions of article 49 of
the Fourth Geneva Convention and contrary to several resolutions of several
bodies of the United Nations".
In addition, he said, the Committee should urge the Security Council
"to demand that, pending the early termination of the occupation, Israel
should abide scrupulously by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention
and declare its recognition of the applicability of that Convention".
Effective supervision by the ICRC of the application of all the
provisions of that Convention — both to the existing population and to the
returnees — should be requested by the Council, on the recommendation of
the Committee, he said. The Committee should recommend alternative methods
and instruments of supervision in case the ICRC declined to undertake this
Finally, he said, the Committee should urge the Security Council "to
consider what steps or measures should be taken, in accordance with the
Council's competence under the Charter, if Israel refuses to permit the
application of this phase of the `programme of implementation' in all its
Preparations for the second phase of the programme — namely, the phase
relating to the Palestinians displaced in 1948 from territories occupied
by Israel and placed under its jurisdiction before 1967 — should be taking
place while the first phase was being implemented, he stated.
This, he said, involved the following elements:
"(1) Designation or creation of a competent agency to be entrusted with
the organizational and logistical aspects of the mass return of displaced
"(2) Creation and financing of a fund for that purpose; and
"(3) Registration of displaced Palestinians other than those already
registered with UNRWA."
Also, he said, the Committee might also consider recommending to the
Security Council, or to the General Assembly, immediate action in accordance
with Article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations. (This article provides
that either organ "may request the International Court of Justice to give an
advisory opinion on any legal question".)
Israel's refusal to permit the return of the displaced Palestinians —
should it be reiterated by Israel, as in all likelihood it would — could be
one legal question on which an advisory opinion of the Court might be
requested, he said.
Other subjects which suggested themselves in that connexion, he said,
were the compatibility with Section C of Part I of the Partition Plan,
of several laws enacted by Israel, including the so-called Law of Return,
the Nationality Law, the Absentees' Property Law and the Development
Authority (Transfer of Property) Law.
All those laws, he said, had direct bearing on the status and rights
of the displaced Palestinians after their return. All those laws infringed
upon the rights of the Arab population guaranteed in Section C of Part I of
the Partition Plan.
He noted that that Section stated that any dispute relating to
applicability or interpretation should be referred to the International Court
of Justice unless the parties agreed to another mode of settlement.
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