UN General Assembly

1947-05-12 - David Ben Gurion


First of all, I should like to try to clarify further the nature of the problem which the mandatory Power has placed before the United Nations as this is essential for defining properly the terms of reference of the special committee. Last Friday, the representative of the United Kingdom, on behalf of his Government, declared that it had tried for years to settle the problem of Palestine and had failed. It has, therefore, brought the problem to you in the hope that the United Nations would find a just solution.

This statement is open to misunderstanding. The mandatory Power was not charged with discovering a solution to the Palestine problem and its failure was not in its inability to find the right solution. The mandatory Power was charged by the League of Nations with the carrying out of a definite settlement. That settlement was set out and determined originally by the United Kingdom itself and subsequently confirmed by all the Allies and associated Powers in the first world war, as well, as by the Arabs through Amir Faisal and the Syrian Arab Committee. It was later embodied in the mandate, approved by fifty-two nations and made international law.

The terms of that settlement as decreed by the conscience and the law of nations are common knowledge. It is the restoration of Palestine to the Jewish people.

At the time the United Kingdom took over the mandate, the problem of Palestine had been clearly adjudicated and settled. The failure of the mandatory Government, as admitted by the British representative, was a failure to carry out the settlement agreed upon and entrusted to it by the nations of the world. That failure became manifest with the introduction of a policy, set forth in the White Paper of 1939, which violated the most essential terms of the mandate and vitiated its entire purpose.

The White Paper policy, as you know, was condemned by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations as incompatible with the mandate and with the pledges repeatedly given by the mandatory Government itself. It was also denounced by the most eminent political leaders of the United Kingdom itself, including all the prominent members of the present Government of the United Kingdom, as a breach of faith. Only recently, the White Paper was again unanimously condemned by the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry.

The White Paper policy is responsible for the misery and deaths of a large number of Jews and for cruel acts of expulsion of Jewish refugees. It is responsible for establishing in Palestine a police State without parallel in the civilized world. It is responsible for the introduction in Palestine of racial discrimination against Jews in land legislation. This is the real nature of the failure of the mandatory Power.
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Therefore, I venture to suggest that the first problem facing the United Nations is how to set right that failure and to ensure that international obligations toward the Jewish population in Palestine are faithfully fulfilled.

The second point to which I should like to invite the attention of your Committee is the fact that in Palestine you are faced not merely with a large and growing number of Jews, but with a distinct Jewish nation. There are Jews and Jewish communities in many countries, but in Palestine there is a new and unique phenomenon - a Jewish nation, with all the attributes, characteristic resources and aspirations of nationhood. This nationhood springs from a long history and an uninterrupted connexion, for three thousand five hundred years, with its ancestral soil.

Palestine, which, for the Jewish people, has always been and will always remain the land of Israel, was in the course of centuries conquered and invaded by many alien peoples, but none of them ever identified its national faith with Palestine. The Jewish nation in Palestine is rooted not only in past history but in a great living work of reconstruction and rebuilding, both of a country and of a people.

The growth of this nation and its work of reconstruction must not and cannot be arrested - and this, for two reasons. One is the existence of large numbers of homeless Jews for whom there is no other salvation in the future except in their own national home. The second is that more than two-thirds of the land in Palestine is still wasteland, uncultivated, unsettled, and believed by the Arabs to be uncultivatable. The history of our settlement in the last seventy years has shown that this land can be and is being cultivated by us. This is not because we are more skilled or more capable than others, but because this is the only soil in the world which we call our own. We are not, like our Arab neighbours, in possession of vast under-populated territories, like Iraq, Syria, Arabia, etc. We must therefore make use of every bit of free land in our country, even desert land.

Another observation is this. We are told that the Arabs are not responsible for the persecution of the Jews in Europe, nor is it their obligation to relieve their plight. I wish to make it quite clear that it never entered our minds to charge the Arabs with solving the Jewish problem, or to ask Arab countries "to accept Jewish refugees. We are bringing our homeless and persecuted Jews to our own country and settling them in Jewish towns and villages. There are Arab towns and villages in Paestine - Nablus, Jenin, Ramleh, Zarnuka, Lydda, Tarshiha. You will not find a single Jewish refugee in any of them. The Jews who have returned to their country are settled in Petah Tiqva, Rishon le Zion, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Deganiya, the region of the Negev, and other Jewish towns and villages built by us.

The return of the Jews to their country is a work of self-liberation and self-reconstruction, which is contributing to the reconstruction and liberation of the country as a whole.

My fourth and last remark, is this. We have no conflict with the Arab people. On the contrary, it is our deep conviction that, historically, the interests and aspirations of the Jewish and Arab peoples are compatible and complementary. What we are doing in our country, in Palestine, is reclaiming the land, increasing the yield of the soil, developing modern agriculture and industry, science, and art, raising the dignity of labour, ensuring women's status of equality, increasing men's mastery over nature and working out a new civilization based on human equality, freedom and co-operation in a world which we believe is as necessary and beneficial for our Arab neighbours as for ourselves.

A Jewish-Arab partnership, based on equality and mutual assistance, will help to bring about the regeneration of the entire Middle East. We Jews understand and deeply sympathize with the urge of the Arab people for unity, independence, and progress, and our Arab neighbours, I hope, will realize that the Jews in their own historic homeland can under no conditions be made to remain a subordinate, dependent minority as they are in all other countries in the Diaspora. The Jewish nation in its own country must become a free and independent State with a membership in the United Nations. It is eager to cooperate with its free Arab neighbours to promote economic development, social progress, and real independence of all the Semitic countries in the Middle East.

Mr. Chairman, I most earnestly suggest to your Committee that the real, just, and lasting solution of the problem before you is a Jewish State and a Jewish-Arab alliance.