Statement made by the representative of Tunisia
at the 13th meeting of the Committee on
22 April 1976*
Now can we fail to understand that the Palestinian people, with an admirable instinct for survival should refuse to abandon their land and their homeland and to agree indefinitely either to be reduced to a state of being refugees forever or to stay in the land of their ancestors and live there as undesirable, subjugated and resigned strangers?
Although they were forced to suffer the consequences of the partition plan, the Palestinians have never renounced the fundamental and inalienable rights to which they have never ceased to aspire and for the implementation of which they will not cease to struggle. It is only the complete and full implementation of those rights, which are recognized even in the partition resolution, that can open the way to a final solution of the crisis that has been disrupting that region of the world for 30 years.
But to wish to reduce the solution of a problem whose historic, spiritual and human dimensions are so obvious to a simple question of recognition of Israel by the neighbouring countries and by the Palestinians is to take a simplistic approach designed to cover up the root causes of this tragedy. Moreover, would such recognition — which some lave sought, unsuccessfully, to achieve for more than a quarter of a century — really be the key to the problem? Can one reasonably hope that recognition could constitute a guarantee of peace and security, when the very circumstances that have so far prevented that recognition are being constantly exacerbated?
How can Israel and its friends plead for recognition of the Tel Aviv authorities when those authorities, having taken over the best part of the land of Palestine, constantly expropriated further land — in 19^8, and then in 1956, and finally in 1967? How could anyone, without losing his reputation for good faith, plead the cause of recognition when Israel is still despoiling the Palestinian people of their property, chasing them from their homes, alienating, their fundamental rights, violating their Holy Places and changing the age-old demographic balance by establishing new Jewish settler colonies in order to worsen, through a policy of fait accompli, a situation that is already explosive and complex in itself?
Furthermore, the Tel Aviv Government is so aware of this that for some weeks now it seems to have been tending towards the analysis of a formula — which is actually rather confused — based on the concept of non-belligerence, and no longer on the concept of recognition, since it is convinced that because of its past and present policy it cannot now claim any recognition that would really be operative.
Resolution 242 (1967), adopted on 22 November 1967, by the Security Council, is based on a defective equation. Indeed , it is founded on three elements which, added together , are supposed to provide the solution to the problem — that is, recognition plus withdrawal from territories plus liquidation of the refugee question equals peace in the Middle East. But the fourth element and the most fundamental — that is, the fate of the Palestinian people — is made to disappear like magic; hence the inoperative character of resolution 242 (1967) and the explanation of its failure.
Adopted in the wake of the Israeli aggression, in a context marked by the imbalance in the relationships of strength and by the desire to limit the effects of that aggression, this resolution is all the more outmoded because the Palestinian people, thanks to its resistance and determination, has aroused world public opinion from its complacent indifference and has opened the eyes of all the peoples of the world to the true nature of Israel's intentions and ambitions.
We have seen recently with what spirit and determination the Palestinian people have risen up against the occupier; we have just learned of the overwhelming support which that people gave the pro-nationalist candidates in the municipal elections held on Monday, 12 April; indeed — and this is a detail which has a symbolic value —- some of those candidates were elected although they are being held in Israeli military prisons.
What difference is there between the Palestinian people and the other peoples that have risen up courageously against colonial occupation? To ask the Palestinian people to recognize the right of the occupier seems to us as inconceivable as to ask the people of Rhodesia to recognize the legitimacy of the power of the white minority or to ask the people of Namibia to recognize the legality of South African occupation.
That is why the Palestinian people has no other choice but to continue its liberation struggle. It is our duty to support it in its struggle and to give it the benefit of our advice and the fruits of our own experiences. That support is all the more necessary because the Palestinian people is faced with an occupation that is slightly different from the occupation to which other peoples have been subjected. For in the case of Palestine the problem, in addition to its colonial essence, has a special dimension resulting, on the one hand, from the so-called historic claims of the Israelis and, on the other, from present realities which are the outcome of an international attitude which, objectively, cannot be lost sight of.
Concerned with the Jewish problem from the moment the Second World War ended, the United Nations, which was composed of about fifty States at that time, decided to partition Palestine on the basis of racial and religious criteria. But that plan, although it satisfied the supporters of the Zionist concept of the Jewish State, created so many problems for non-Jewish people that it was the cause of the Palestine tragedy. Conceived and regarded by those who thought it up as the means to avoid a renewal of the nightmare experienced by the Jews because of the Nazi doctrine, partition became the point of departure of a new human tragedy. Four wars, tens of thousands of people killed, vast amounts of money spent each day, intellectual and physical energies and capabilities wasted, international peace threatened every day: that is the result of a decision which, although internationally recognized, will nevertheless remain the unique decision of its kind. That is why the United Nations has sought to remedy the negative effects of the decision by trying to settle first the problem of the refugees, through resolution 194 (lll) and those resolutions that followed it, and then the Palestinian problem as a whole, whose fundamental nature the Organization finally understood in the Middle East crisis.
That decision, which the international community wished to see become a historic fact and which from then on was a not negligible element in the approach to the problem., gave birth to a State enjoying legal recognition by the major Powers and moral, political, financial and military assistance from one of the two super-Powers. Its military arsenal, one of the best equipped and most sophisticated in the world, seems about to be supplemented by possession of the nuclear weapon. But that is a factor which is far from constituting a sufficient guarantee of security, for not only can other, neighbouring countries do the same thing but also, and above all, in a region where the distances are so small there is an equal danger for everyone. However, Israel's force rests essentially on the support it receives from its powerful ally. That is one of the most important facts that must be kept in mind in an analysis of the Palestine question as a whole and in the examination of the question of the rights of the Palestinian people in particular.
Thus 3 we realize that the implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people is to be viewed in a historic, and political context different in nature from and more complex than the traditional colonial context. And that same context, in its complexity, contains the possibility of a solution to the Palestinian problem., including its Israeli component. For, in opposition to the Zionist notion of the exclusive Jewish State, the people of Palestine put forward the concept of a secular and democratic State.
Some have described that proposal as an ideal, and even as an impossible dream. That could be, but we think that humanly and intellectually it is possible to make that dream come true if the international community wants to promote peaceful development in favour of a cohabitation based on the concept of no racial and religious discrimination. Is that not the spirit of the Charter? Is that not one of the ideals for which millions of Christians died in combatting the Hitlerite notion of the superiority of one race over another?
We know, and experience confirms this every day, that there is no problem that does not contain at least the seeds of a solution, which in turn engenders a process leading to a better, if not final, solution. In our case the premises of a solution exist now. They exist in a recent document, which received 14 out of 15 votes during the Security Council debate in January last devoted to the Middle East problem including the Palestinian question.
That document, which reflects the position of the overwhelming majority of the members of the Security Council, including four of the permanent members and all the other members, who represent the five continents, has primordial importance. Indeed, it indicates the path which should be followed and the means to be used to reach a solution in keeping with the process of reflection and the tradition of the United Nations.
This document recalls that the question of Palestine is the core of the conflict in the Middle East-, affirms the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to establish an independent State in Palestine; confirms the right of the refugees to return to their homes or to receive compensation; stresses the necessity for withdrawal from the territories occupied since 1967; and deals with the problem of the guarantees necessary for the maintenance of peace in the Middle East.
Fourteen members of the Security Council, representing nations with different economic levels, political systems and military power, voted in favour of this document. It was rejected because of a single negative vote, which we know was based on quite unconvincing reasons and in any case on psychological factors resulting from present circumstances. Nevertheless, the document contains ideas which in the end will remove the last hesitations, particularly in the United States, and will form the necessary and sufficient platform for starting the process towards the exercise of the rights of the Palestinian people.
I would add that this document, taking up the principles laid down in General Assembly resolution 3236 (XXIX) defining the rights of the Palestinian people, provides our Committee with adequate clarification not only on the nature of our action but also on its possible scope.
The document, in our opinion, is an essential element in the series of United Nations resolutions. Indeed, all the United Nations resolutions in this field complement each other like a perfect jigsaw puzzle — from resolution 181 (ll), which lays down the partition plan and defines the practical modalities of that plan, up to resolution 3236 (XXIX), which confirms and lists the rights of the Palestinian people. Moreover, resolution 3236 (XXIX) only recognized a principle of which the General Assembly had never lost sight during its previous sessions. We can quote, for example, the text of the first paragraph of the preamble to resolution 2535 B (XXIV), of 10 December 1969.
That paragraph reads as follows:
"Recognizing that the problem of the Palestine Arab refugees has arisen from the denial of their inalienable rights under the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Need I recall that paragraph 9 of resolution 2949 (XXVII), adopted on 8 December 1972, states that the General Assembly
That is why my delegation believes that the Committee's recommendations should take as their sole point of departure, in respect of the right to return, resolution 194 (lll), the validity of which the United Nations has constantly confirmed.
The fact that for practical and material reasons the Committee envisages two stages for the return of the refugees should in no way be understood as a restrictive interpretation of resolution 194 (lll), which is the only resolution in the records of the United Nations that has been recalled and confirmed every year for 28 years. The requirement of full implementation of resolution 194 (lll) must therefore be a fundamental element of the recommendations and report of this Committee. That is a position of principle which in no way prejudges the stages that must be defined and the specific solutions that must be drawn up and adopted with the participation of the Palestinian people. In my delegation's opinion, our Committee must stress the fact that the return of the Palestinians to their homes must be carried out within the framework of resolution 194 (lll).
Furthermore, the exercise of the right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State must be carried out within the framework of resolution l8l (ll), which, despite its unjust and arbitrary nature provides juridical support and a legal framework which the Committee must take into consideration in drawing up its recommendations. For if the Committee, an organ of the General Assembly, hesitates to recommend the implementation of the fundamental text on this question, the Assembly might reproach it with having disregarded an essential element of the jurisprudence of the United Nations.
It is in that spirit and with that approach that my delegation feels that the Committee should stress the following 3 among other things, in its recommendations:
First, Israel should immediately cease the transfer of property which it is carrying out in the occupied territories either through expropriation or through sale, since such a practice, apart from being illegal and contrary to the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, is likely to prejudice the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. The Committee should therefore recommend to the Security Council and the General Assembly that adequate conservation measures to that effect be taken urgently.
Secondly, the Committee should recommend that as soon as the return and withdrawal provided for in the first phase of the recommendations have been carried out, economic and technical assistance in keeping with the suffering endured by the Palestinian people should be furnished to the Palestinian authorities to help with the economic and social rebuilding and flowering of the new State it being understood that such assistance is part of the imperative duty of the United Nations, which, through its resolution l8l (ll) bears a heavy share of the responsibility for the tragedy that has plunged that region of the world into mourning for almost 30 years now.
In conclusion, I should like to point out that even a solution within the framework of resolution l8l (II) will not deal finally with the problems raised by the claims of the various parties. Neither will it deal with the problem of the inalienable rights of the Palestinians in Palestine as a whole. It can however promote the development of a climate of non-belligerence and create objective conditions allowing for the search for a formula of cohabitation: a unified State could perhaps see the light of day. Other formulas are possible, for in the relations between peoples accommodations even provisional ones are sometimes necessary to ensure the progress and well-being of those peoples. But what we must bear in mind in the present circumstances is that the Member States of the United Nations, particularly the Treat Powers, individually or collectively, through the United Nations or bilaterally, should not spare any effort to ensure that justice is done to the Palestinian people, in the deep conviction that that is the necessary condition for the settlement of the conflict and the establishment of peace, which cannot fail to result from it, in the interest not only of the countries of the region but also of mankind.
Document Type: Statement
Document Sources: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), General Assembly, Special Unit on Palestinian Rights (SUPR) (See also - CEIRPP > DPR)
Subject: History, Middle East situation, Palestine question
Publication Date: 22/04/1976