February 20, 2011
...that forcibly establishing a Jewish state in Palestine against the wishes of its pre-existing non-Jewish majority - a state which would be surrounded by 200 million Arabs and one billion Muslims who are overwhelmingly sympathetic to the plight of the pre-existing population, and which would require for its continuing existence the repeated involvement of those Western powers who engineered its creation in the first place - would turn out to be a source of perpetual grievance and escalating instability that threatens regional war involving the countries of the entire Mid East and far beyond...
Address to the 126th Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly, against the proposed partition of Palestine, by Dr Ernesto Dihigo (Cubaĺs Representative to the UN); 28 Nov 1947.
Mr. DIHIGO (Cuba) (translated from Spanish): I should like to explain very briefly why the Cuban delegation feels bound to vote against the plan for the partition of Palestine recommended by the Ad Hoc Committee.
We have followed the discussions with interest, and analysed the arguments of speakers on both sides, in order to arrive at what we believe to be the fairest conclusion. Cuba has shown its sympathy for the Jews and its appreciation of their qualities by admitting into her territories thousands of Jews, who are, today, living freely and peacefully amongst us, free from discrimination or prejudice. Nevertheless, we cannot vote as the Jews would wish us to do because consider that the partition of Palestine is neither legal nor just.
In the first place, all their claims are based primarily on the Balfour Declaration, the root of the problem with which we are faced today. But the Balfour Declaration, in our opinion, is not legally valid because in it the British Government was offering something which did not belong to it and which it had no right to give. But even if we accept the Declaration as valid, the course of action that is contemplated goes far beyond its scope. The Balfour Declaration promised to the Jews a "national home" in Palestine, without prejudice to the civil rights of the Arab population; but it did not offer a free State, the creation of which must necessarily prejudice those very rights which the Declaration was trying to safeguard.
Partition is also illegal when considered in the light of the League of Nations Mandate. One may question whether the League of Nations had any right to do what it did, namely, to order the establishment of a Jewish national home, with all the serious demographical and political consequences involved, in a foreign territory, without the consent of the inhabitants. But even if we admit that fact, the partition which we are now considering contravenes the terms of the Mandate, article 6 of which provides that the rights and position of the non-Jewish population of Palestine shall not be prejudiced. And it can hardly be maintained that these rights are not prejudiced when the indigenous population is to be deprived of more than half of its territory and hundreds of thousands of Arabs are to be placed under a Jewish Government, and forced to become a subject people in a land where they were once the rulers.
Thirdly, we consider the plan illegal because it is inconsistent with the self-determination of peoples, an essential principle of the Covenant of the League of Nations. In fact, the plan would mean deciding the fate of a nation without consulting it on the matter, and depriving it of half the national territory which it had held for many centuries. Moreover, leaving aside the Covenant of the League of Nations, if we turn to the Charter of the United Nations, we find that the plan violates its provisions too; for the principle of self-determination of peoples is recognized in paragraph 2 of Article 1 in a general manner, and reaffirmed in paragraph, b of Article 76 which states, in connexion with Non-Self-Governing Territories, that the Trusteeship System (equivalent to the League Mandate) shall take into account "the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned". We are not convinced by the argument which has been put forward to the effect that Palestine is not a State and therefore is not subject to international law, because these provisions speak of peoples, not States, and there can be no doubt that the inhabitants of Palestine are a people.
We have solemnly proclaimed the principle of the self-determination of peoples, but we note with alarm that, when the moment comes to put it into practice, we forget it. This attitude seems to us highly dangerous. The Cuban delegation is firmly convinced that true peace and the international justice about which the great leaders of the Second World War spoke so often cannot be brought into being by setting forth certain fundamental principles in conventions and treaties, and then leaving them there as a dead letter; on the contrary, these ends can be attained only if all of us, great and small, weak and strong, are prepared to put our principles into practice when the occasion arises.
Why was the democratic method of consulting all the people of Palestine not applied in this case? Is it because it was feared that the results of such a procedure would be contrary to what it was intended the outcome should be in any case? And, if that was so, where are the democratic principles which we are continuously invoking?
Our doubts as to legality do not end there. In the course of the discussion, the Assembly's power to decide in favour of partition has been attacked. The answer to this attack was that, in accordance with Articles 10 and 11 of the Charter, the Assembly may make recommendations on any question within its jurisdiction or connected with the maintenance of international peace and security. Without discussing here whether or not the Palestine problem comes within that jurisdiction or whether it is likely to endanger international peace, we must point out that it is one thing to make a recommendation and quite another to adopt a plan prejudicial to the territorial integrity of a people and their political and legal status, and to appoint a committee of the Assembly to carry out that plan. Nor does it seem to us possible to contend that this plan is merely a recommendation, because there is always the possibility that a recommendation may not be accepted. On the contrary, this plan undoubtedly implies coercion, as is proved by the fact that one of its clauses provides that any attempt to alter by force the settlement set forth in the resolution shall be considered a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression in conformity with Article 39 of the Charter. This, then, is a settlement which is to be imposed by force, and is not merely a recommendation; and as this procedure, in our opinion, constitutes an infringement of the Charter, we cannot vote in favour of the plan.
It was because we had these doubts as to the legality of the proposed measure that we voted in the Committee in favour of consulting the International Court of Justice, so that we might be able to go forward on solid ground. The proposal for consultation was rejected by a majority vote. We consider that this was a mistake, which cannot be justified on the grounds of the delay consultation would involve. The fact is that it would have been better to have waited for a few months than to have rushed into such a dubious course of action, apart from the fact that refusal to consult the International Court of Justice may well give the impression that the Assembly is avoiding solutions which conform to the law.
Furthermore, we consider that the plan is unfair. The Arabs have held Palestine for many centuries, and according to the official data provided for us, at the end of the First World War, they constituted nearly 90 per cent of the entire population. Through the agency of the United Kingdom, as the mandatory Power, and in conformity with the decisions of the League of Nations, Palestine was opened to foreign immigration, offering immigrants a place where they could live as they pleased, enjoying freedom of religion and free from humiliating discrimination. I said foreign immigration intentionally, because, with all due respect to what the Jews themselves think, they are, in our opinion, foreigners in the territory of Palestine.
Indeed during the discussions in the Committee, information was submitted to show that the ancestors of many of the Jews who have entered Palestine already, and of others who wish to do so, never lived in that country. But even if then-remote ancestors were born there, it is certain that they left the country so many years ago to settle in other countries, that their descendants have ceased to belong to Palestine, just as we people of the Americas, descendants of immigrants from the four corners of the earth, have no claim on the countries which were the homes of our ancestors in Europe.
The burning desire of the Jews to return to Palestine, based perhaps on tradition, perhaps on mystical reasons or religious enthusiasm, is worthy of all our consideration and sympathy. But, in our opinion, it does not contribute a valid reason for giving them a land that does not belong to them, especially not if it must first be taken by force from those who have a greater right to it.
We also consider this plan unjust because it involves forcing the will of a minority upon an overwhelming majority, in contravention of one of the cardinal principles of democracy. In the present case, that minority, not wishing to submit to the will of the majority, is trying to keep apart, but in order to do so it is annexing part of the territory belonging to the people who originally allowed it to enter.
There is another aspect to the question, on which I should like to touch, which has a bearing on the future. The plan of partition for Palestine implies the establishment by this Assembly of the principle that any racial or other minority may ask to secede from the political community of which it forms part.
As the head of our delegation has already informed the Committee, not many years ago Cuba was in danger of losing part of its territory owing to immigration of United.States citizens into Pinos Island. Fortunately for us, and to the honour of the United States Government, which was magnanimous enough to recognize our rights, this attempt failed. Nevertheless, we cannot forget how much that danger meant to us; and, knowing what our feelings would have been if we had lost part of our territory in that way, we can easily imagine the feelings of the Palestine Arabs if the partition plan were approved. We cannot vote in favour of doing to them what we were not prepared to have done to us.
It is useless to tell us that a political solution must sometimes be accepted despite the fact that it is unjust; for international peace and friendship cannot be built upon injustice.
With regard to the Jewish or non-Jewish refugees now in camps for displaced persons, a problem on which so much emphasis has been laid by those in favour of partition, the Cuban delegation has stated that it should be solved by good will on the part of all the United Nations, each of which should receive a proportion of refugees in accordance with its ability to do so and the particular conditions in each country. But we do not see why Palestine should be expected to solve the whole problem alone, especially as that country had no hand in determining the circumstances which originally caused the displacement of all these persons.
For these reasons, we feel bound to vote against the plan of partition, as we have already done in the Committee, for having taken our stand, we feel that it is our duty to make it clear through our vote and to adhere firmly to it, despite the negotiations and despite the pressure which has been brought to bear upon us.
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