Palestine presented a monumental challenge to the fledgling United Nations. Three Zionist paramilitary groups were waging a war of terrorism against the Mandate British to drive them out and the British, eager to oblige, announced that they would withdraw in May 1948 and turn the problem over to the UN. A UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was convened in 1947 to decide on a plan. Less than a third of the Palestinian population was Jewish, most were landless recent immigrants and refugees, and 94% of Palestinian land was Arab-owned. The Arab nations challenged UN authority to make decisions about predominantly Arab land, citing the UN Charter principle of self-determination, and refused to participate in the proceedings. This left the political game in the hands of the Zionist players, who lobbied the committee heavily. Due to the Arab boycott, UNSCOP was comprised of members who knew little or nothing about the Middle East. The Zionist delegation obtained a seat on the Political Committee, on which there was no Palestinian or Arab representation. Under this heavily biased influence, UNSCOP returned a proposal to the General Assembly that Palestine be partitioned into Jewish and Arab states with the colonial immigrant minority receiving more than the indigenous majority that owned over 90% of the land. This was in flagrant violation of Article 55 of the UN Charter, which specifies the principle of majority self-determination.
When this proposal was presented to the UN General Assembly, intense lobbying ensued to pressure members to approve the resolution. This included US bribes and threats using American post-war financial clout upon which many nations were dependent. The vote required a two-thirds majority and was delayed by numerous manipulations including a Zionist filibuster until enough votes were lined up for passage on November 29, 1947. With 20% of members abstaining or absent, the UN General Assembly issued UNGA Resolution 181, recommending a division of Palestine into two states, one Jewish on 55% of the land and one Arab on the remaining 45%. The Arabs naturally refused this offer, the British declined to implement it on this account, and massive Arab/Jewish conflict erupted.
In March 1948 the partition plan was referred for approval to the UN Security Council, which declined approval and instead returned it to the General Assembly for further consideration. The resolution was never enacted, and the UN Security Council was drafting an alternative plan to place Palestine into a 5-year UN-administered trusteeship. Despite this inconvenient truth, and the fact that the land was not the UN's to give, Zionists and their supporters typically claim that "the UN gave Israel the land."
Since the British forces were committed to withdraw in five months they did nothing to stop the well-organized, well-armed, well-funded and ruthless Zionist terrorism and ethnic cleansing that ensued. Recognizing that they would not get what they wanted from the UN, "Plan Dalet" was launched by Zionist militias in March 1948 and by the time the British departed two months later, this brutal campaign was in full operation, had already committed 16 massacres and had driven over 300,000 almost entirely helpless Palestinians from their homes, never to return.
After British withdrawal in May 1948 external Arab forces intervened with too little too late, and the only Arab military possibly capable of stopping the Zionists - the Arab Legion of Transjordan - had been co-opted by the Zionists in an agreement to let Transjordan keep Judea and Samaria (the present West Bank) in exchange for non-intervention with Zionist seizure of the rest. In short, they divided the spoils, the first in a six-decade series of betrayals by Arab states suffered by the Palestinians right up to Egypt's 2006 closure of the Rafah crossing into Gaza, collaborating with Israel in the illegal collective imprisonment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza behind a suffocating blockade.
The UN had no intervention force and was rendered impotent in the situation, but established the right of all refugees to return to their homes in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948, applied explicitly to the Palestinian refugees in UN Resolution 194 that same month.
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