By Arieh Miller, Director of the Zionist Federation
This week saw one of the most important dates in Israel’s history. On the 29th November (כ”ט בנובמבר in Hebrew) the Zionist community marked the 69th anniversary of the UN Partition Plan vote to divide British Mandate Palestine into two entities; a state for the Jewish people – Israel – and a state for the Arabs – Palestine. The vote passed with 33 voting in favour, 13 voting against, 10 abstentions and 1 absentee. This vote is largely seen (and quite rightly so) as the foundation stone of the State of Israel.
It says something about the UN that a motion passed over half a century ago, motivated by a genuine desire to find a balanced peaceful solution to a complex problem, feels like a high water mark from a bygone era for the Israeli, Jewish and Zionist communities. Since then, the UN has become a byword for institutional anti-Zionism – indeed, the UN even passed an infamous resolution in 1975 condemning Zionism as racism.
Only last year, for example, the UN General Assembly passed 20 motions singling out Israel for condemnation – and only three for other countries. (Iran, North Korea and Syria were the only offenders deemed bad enough to receive the kind of focus normally reserved for Israel.) And at the UN Human Rights Council, Israel has been condemned over 5 times more than any other of the 192 UN Member States.
So it’s with that evidence as a backdrop that one has to view the UN’s official commemoration of its own partition plan this week. Or rather what it has chosen to mark instead of the partition plan. Because while for Israelis the 29th marks a ground-breaking recognition of their budding state, the UN has wiped that date off the calendar, replacing it with an International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians.
The date is no unfortunate coincidence. Helpfully, the UN produced a video this year that made the connection crystal clear. It says “why the 29 November?” before recounting the aforementioned UN resolution that split the land in two, complete with the famous Partition Plan map. Viewers learn that “the State of Israel was established in 1948”, but that “the State of Palestine still awaits its independence”. And who is to blame for that lack of independence? The video moves swiftly onto the Israeli occupation, cementing the insinuation: the Jews got their state but the Palestinians didn’t – so there can be no celebration of the former as we must first mourn the latter.
Of course, the video conveniently omits the fact that the Arab League rejected the Partition Plan. It ignores their refusal in 1948 at the Jericho Conference to create a Palestinian state, despite calls from 2000 Palestinian delegates to do so. It forgets to mention the coordinated Arab attempt to destroy Israel in 1948 – that resulted in Jordan and Egypt occupying the disputed territories – and the coordinated Arab attempt to destroy Israel in 1967 – that then resulted in Israel occupying the disputed territories.
Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t actually have a problem with the UN’s solidarity with the Palestinians. But if that solidarity is just another excuse to bash Israel, then it’s no use to them at all. Firstly, because ignoring the facts above does nothing to encourage Palestinians to honestly assess their history, rather than wallowing in a culture of perpetual victimhood. And secondly, if the international community is going to help break the deadlock of conflict, both sides will need to see them as honest brokers.
If the UN wants to commemorate the Partition Plan, it should do so in the spirit that originally motivated it – the desire to find a solution for both sides. That, more than solidarity, is what the Palestinians need.