On November 29th, 1947, the United Nations adopted Resolution 181 II, the partition of Palestine. This resolution intended for two independent and autonomous states, the “Jewish State”, and an “Arab State.” Of the two states to be formed under the resolution, only one has come to be. 30 years after the resolution, on the same day, November 29th, 1977, the UN called for an annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The UN encourages all member states to use the day to help promote Palestinian rights and cultural events. The UN also encourages member states to give their public and widely observed support to the Day of Solidarity. This year, 2017, has added significance, as it will be the 50th year since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The war was sparked by a combination of factors. Israel had, by 1966, occupied territories beyond it’s intended borders, and the Arab states in the region were beginning to engage, with the support of the Soviet Union, in an arms race against the Jewish State. Pre-war fighting was escalating: Palestinian guerrilla organizations were launching attacks within Israel, Israel responded with an attack on the West Bank and also soon began retaliating with force against Syria. Although the US was attempting to the quell the arms race and rise in violence, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to block Israeli shipping, an act that could have brought the US into the now impending war. Between June 5th and June 10th, Israel defeated Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and now occupied East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights.
Following the war, the concept of “peace-for-land” was the predominant concept employed by the US, the UN, and the Soviet Union. However, the Arab states rejected both a Latin American UN resolution as well as a similar US-Soviet draft that called for the full withdrawal of troops in exchange for the recognition of “the right of all states in the area to live in peace and security.” Although alarmed by the recent absorption of East Jerusalem by Israel, the US believed the Arab states to be too inflexible to justify pressuring the full withdrawal of Israeli troops. Sadly, to this day, lasting peace nor an autonomous “Arab State” has been found.
In 1975, the UN created the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRP) with the mandate of advising General Assembly programs which helped enable the people of Palestine to exercise their inalienable rights to national independence and sovereignty, self-determination without external interference, and the right to return to homes and property from which so many had been displaced.
The International Day of Solidarity provides the opportunity for the international community to reflect on the fact that the question of Palestine is yet unresolved, and the people of Palestine have yet to attain the inalienable rights as characterized by the General Assembly. According to the UN, “At United Nations Headquarters in New York, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People each year holds a special meeting to observe the International Day of Solidarity. Speakers include the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, the President of the Security Council, and representatives of relevant United Nations bodies, intergovernmental organizations, and Palestine. A message from the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority is also read out at the meeting. Civil society organizations (CSOs) are invited to attend and a spokesperson for the international community of CSOs accredited to the Committee addresses the meeting.” Official UN gatherings are also held in Geneva and Vienna on this special day. The UN Information Centers and Services are also available worldwide to help governments, NGOs, and others organize activities in coordinance with the day by providing information and documentation.
Although there is a great deal of work that needs to be done to find lasting peace and equality in the region, there still remains much hope. Palestine was overwhelmingly voted into non-member observer status within the UN in 2012, giving the Palestinian people a much-needed voice and means of influence within the sphere of official international communities. November 29th marks a day deeply entrenched in a history of discord and destruction, but with the relentless efforts of peacemakers worldwide, may it soon be a celebration of success in peace, and the ability of human-kind to work towards mutual understanding, respect, and equality.