Ivan Rand UNSCOP – continued

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine IVB


Howard Adelman

Ivan Rand

Why did Ivan Rand shift from pushing a federal solution to supporting partition and when did he make that shift? In his 12 August 1947 memorandum to the UNSCOP committee, he began with that lofty and flowery language that so turned off Ralph Bunche and which Emil Sandström could just barely tolerate.

Palestine is a land which, because of the religious conceptions and social sentiments to which its culture has given rise through nearly three thousand years, the hundreds of millions of adherents to the three great monotheistic religions whose spiritual interests are localized in its scenes and historical events, and the centuries of contest over its possession, is set apart irrevocably from the rest of the world, and recognition of the fact ought to be formally declared by the nations. It is the uniqueness of the land as well as that of the Jewish people and their relation to it, that in large measure justifies the Balfour declaration and the Mandate of 1922.

Not crass political considerations and the perceived need of the British for Jewish support during WWI. This doctrine of Jewish exceptionalism was ignored by the committee as much as it appealed to García Granados, and to some extent, Enrique Rödriguez Fabregat, because Rand was still on the federal state bandwagon. Even at that late date, he still opposed partition. Nor was anyone persuaded by his bastardization of history since, for centuries, other than for the holy places, no one gave a damn about the backwater of Palestine, except rhetorically, including the vast majority of Jews.

The overt appeal to García Salazar was even more explicit in the second paragraph when he insisted that Palestine be deemed a Holy Land and not a land for the self-realization of both Arab and Jewish national aspirations. Hence the provision for a continuing, indeed an eternal, role for the UN in the governance of Palestine. This was to be balanced by a second corollary – “unity and integrity of the economic and social life of the Commonwealth of Palestine.” (para. 3) Rand remained adamantly opposed to partition even when worded in most delicate and lofty language. “I would be disposed to modify the objective of statehood to that of a province in a Palestinian state and with alternate representation in the UNO (a new novel tweak versus the earlier totally impractical proposal of dual membership by a single state) by Jew and Arab rather than agree to partition.” (para. 5, p. 2, my italics)

His new federal proposal entailed three rather than two states – an Arab, a Jewish and a State of Jerusalem (read Christian since that group would arbitrate between the Jews and Arabs). Rand then proceeded to outline the basic structure of the different states rooted in individual rights and democratic processes. Except that the federation took away those democratic processes both for Arabs and Jews in controlling the economy and immigration. Land, in contrast to previous proposals, would be controlled by each national province of the federated commonwealth, but differences, particularly constitutional differences, would be adjudicated by a World Court. What the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away.

Instead of a population transfer, in paragraph 21, Rand recommended that Jews in the Arab states be entitled to sell their land to the state and receive fair compensation, but only when and if an Arab in the Jewish state did precisely the same thing. In other words, induced rather than forced transfer. Finally, again contrary to his previous position, each provincial entity would have its own army, but authorized only to maintain internal order. More shocking, Rand now advocated that Britain be entitled to continue housing troops in the areas. As one reads clause after clause, and recognizing the positions of the two contending parties at the time, one cannot help conclude, as both Bunche and Sandström did, but for very different reasons, that all of this verbiage was “pie in the sky,” though it indicated how watered down his idea of a federal state had become.

It was clear from the comments on Rand’s proposal that the weaknesses were readily apparent. Palestinian exceptionalism was questioned, as was the subordination of politics to religious interests. Self-governance and the “eternal role of the UN in the governance of Palestine” seemed totally contradictory to the principle of self-determination. Statements like the characterization of Jews as “parasitical and unwilling to engage in practical drudgery” were rejected, not as anti-Semitic, but as too broad a generalization. Making the International Court of Justice the final arbiter of disputes instead of the Supreme Court was perceived as impractical. How would the distinction between a home guard and a standing army be maintained? The various contradictions in the paper were pointed out, as was the impossibility of having three sovereign states in a single territory and then subsuming those sovereign states under a higher international authority. Independence was granted but then taken away. None of the comments explicitly stated that the scheme was hair-brained but, instead, politely suggested it was useful if only in clarifying choices.

Three days later, Rand had shifted away from a federal solution altogether and on 15 August indicated that he supported partition with social and economic collaboration. As he articulated his support for partition on 27 August, “My objection to the federal scheme is that it puts the ultimate power in relation to broad fields of legislation in the Arab minority (sic! – he corrected himself and subsequently said majority) throughout Palestine.” He now regarded as absurd any proposal to give control over Jewish immigration to the Arabs. The federal scheme was now viewed as a confederation scheme with “very serious disadvantages.” Further, the federal scheme required two to tango; partition required only one community to cooperate to get the ball rolling.

There is a suggestion that a letter received by the UNSCOP Committee from the Delegation of Refugees in Switzerland indicating that 2,000 of the 6,000 Jewish refugees there wanted to go to Palestine was influential in this shift, especially given his radical change on the refugee issue. I, however, could not find any support for this other than the coincidence of dates. Clearly the issue of immigration exercised a great deal of time of the committee. Clearly the initial refusal of UNSCOP to visit the refugee camps in Cyprus and its subsequent affirmative decision to permit members to visit the DP camps in Europe seemed to be important to the committee members. In fact, the debates on the refugee issue merely reflected prior dispositions of the members. If they were sympathetic to Jewish self-determination and the needs of Jewish refugees, the issue of the visits and the report on that visit reinforced prior views. Members of the committee like García Salazar, Rahman and Entezam, who were at heart unsympathetic to Jewish self-determination and the refugee issue, stood by their guns.

Ivan Rand was an exception. Initially, unsympathetic to a guarantee of Jewish immigration, he became a strong supporter. Just as he initially argued against the committee becoming involved in such issues as the sentence of the captured Jews to death by the British Mandate military authorities, he reversed himself and later supported visiting the DP camps in Europe. Did he change because of what he saw and experienced or did he adapt to ensure he served as the compromise figure who could mediate between the various positions? Though I cannot be definitive based on the documents that I read, I have concluded that it was the latter.

For example, in the 24 June 1947 meeting of the committee discussing where the matter of intervening in the British military arrest and condemnation of the Jewish jail breakers, he played the role of an individual deeply steeped in a very cautionary approach. “The Committee ought to proceed judiciously in its actions towards both parties to the controversy and towards the administration of Palestine.” (p. 6, Minutes) The Committee should only act on universal principles and, like Rahman, he urged that it not be swayed by sentiment. By playing both sides of the fence – endorsing humanitarianism as a universal principle but discounting sentiment as a basis for influencing decisions – he managed to be elected onto the committee to look into the matter further.

This seemed to be his mode of operation. Using it, he managed to move Entezam and Rahman from a position favouring a unitary state with Arab control to a federal state with shared power. But, in the end, as described above, he supported “political division and economic unity.” (Rand Memorandum on Partition) His solution was self-determination of each group but with an integrated economy, the core of the recommendation of the UNSCOP Committee which he in the end drafted. Land was no longer to be controlled by a central government but by each of the partitioned states. Ditto with immigration.

While performing as the continuing juggler and seemingly shifting positions with the wind, he would suddenly fly into flowery rhetoric, which added to the impressions of both Bunche and Sandström that Rand was a legal slut dressed in the bold colours of cosmic views.

In the larger view here are the sole remaining representatives of the Semitic race. [He was referring to both Arabs and Jews.] They are in the land in which that race was cradled. There are no fundamental incompatibilities between them. The scheme satisfies the deepest aspirations of both, independence. There s a considerable body of opinion in both groups which seeks the course of cooperation. Despite, then, the drawback of the Arab minority [sic! – a repeated Freudian slip], the setting is one from which, with good will and a spirit of cooperation, may arise a rebirth in historical surroundings of the genius of both people. The massive contribution made throughout the centuries by them in religious and ethical conceptions, in philosophy, and in the entire intellectual sphere, should excite among the leaders a mutual respect and a pride in their common origin.

Ivan Rand was no Abe Lincoln. As I read his flowery prose I can see Emil Sandström thinking to himself, “What a crock!” and even hear Ralph Bunche not so cautiously muttering the same sentiment. But simply to characterize Ivan Rand as a political maneuverer amongst the shoals of international diplomacy does not do him justice.

Just reflect. The committee starts out with García Granados and Enrique Entezam openly for partition, Sandström quietly so, and Lisicky a surprise convert given that he came from a unified state with two different nationalities – Czechs and Slovaks. But partition needed at least six supporters not four. Ralph Bunche, though having no vote but a great deal of influence given the wide respect with which he was held, adamantly but very diplomatically opposed partition. It would of necessity lead to war. Rahman and Entezam opposed any Jewish self-determination, Simic favoured a federation. Hood and Blom began not wanting to antagonize the Arabs, García Salazar was disposed against Jewish self-determination, but willing to compromise and support a federal solution as long as Christians were given power in Jerusalem at the very least. Given these facts, a bookie would have given odds that a federal scheme would win the day.

But partition did win. Further, those who supported a unitary state under Arab control were reduced to zero. Those who supported a federal state were reduced to three. Partition won by seven votes. Hood abstained. Rand, in spite of his flowery overwrought and excessive verbiage, in spite of his shifting positions, or perhaps because of them, played a major role in moving the centre of gravity of the committee, first away from support for a unitary state, and then, in spite of his initial position and perhaps because he took that position, away from a federal state. Partition won against any foreseeable odds.

Of course, a clear role was played by happenstance. Hood moved to abstention and Blom moved to support partition, but not because of what they experienced but because of what they were ordered, given the occurrence of extraneous factors. But moving García Salazar into the partition camp required some doing and Rand can be given the most credit for accomplishing that task, even, if his prime motive was not principle but the desire to be the mover and the shaker behind the final solution, whatever it was.

What does that have to teach us about the process? That luck is king! Certainly, the timing of the Arab League alliance with Sukarno was not anticipated, and to the extent it was, who expected it to influence the final support of the committee for partition. The ambitions of the Australian Foreign Minister had not been taken into account in the committee’s deliberations, but when he did not get Arab support for the Presidency of the General Assembly, Hood received his instructions to forget about not alienating the Arabs and to abstain. (Eventually Evett, when he cast the first vote for partition in the General Assembly became a hero for Zionists.)
What is the lesson of all this and how did it effect whether Israel was born in a Western birthing process of democracy, individual rights and the rule of law? Did Israel then move to an Eastern position as the right became preeminent and conservatism and religion emerged as the prominent influences for most Israelis?

I would argue that this was not the case. For respect for the rule of law, liberty and democracy may have been the bathwater in which the baby was received, but the process of delivery was a result of luck combined with wily and pragmatic manipulation. And this has been the main characteristic of Israel. Ben Gurion preached principles but acted on the basis of getting the best deal you can get under the circumstances. Begin, the principled politician who wanted a unified state under Jewish control, while directly and absolutely opposing any transfer of Arabs, did not stand on principle and gave away the Sinai in return for peace.

Rabin, though convinced the PLO just consisted of terrorists, entered into the Oslo agreement. Sharon did the same with Gaza. Even Netanyahu, with all his wiles, openly endorsing the two state solution but doing almost nothing to advance it, is at heart a pragmatist, perhaps Israel’s most unprincipled and manipulative one. Last year, Netanyahu ardently argued that signing the accord with Iran was by far the greatest danger to Israel. Has anyone heard Netanyahu pipe up on the matter this year when the Israeli intelligence services and armed forces have determined that Israel is better off with the deal than without it?

And it is pragmatism, not the adherence to fundamental principles, that delivered the state of Israel and has sustained it ever since. Ivan Rand played a significant role in both ensuring that outcome and defining the ruling ethos of the Israeli state, rooted in Western values, most importantly, pragmatism.

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine – Emil Sandström IIA

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine – Part IIA


Howard Adelman

Emil Sandström

In the introduction to my study of UNSCOP, I asked whether the commission recommendation of partition into a Jewish and an Arab state had been based on a recognition of the national rights of the Jewish people to return and restore their homeland. I implied that the recommendation had not been based on a recognition of the rights of the Jewish people to national self-determination. If not, why did the committee recommend partition? Why did the commission recommend giving Jews their own state?

Dividing Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state meant war. The Arabs, including the Arab states, were clear and unequivocal – they would not allow an upstart minority led by Jews from Europe to carve out a separate state in the heartland of the Arabs. Further, they were not deterred by the United Nations. The committee had been deliberately set up to exclude states – Russia, the United States and the mandatory authority, Britain – from any direct role in the enforcement and implementation of the recommendation. The committee was to be a commission of influence and not one of enforcement, though presumably the imprimatur of the United Nations would bring some degree of authority to the recommendations. However, as shall become clear, beginning with Sandström, most committee members gradually came to the conclusion that enforcement would be required if partition were to be recommended.

As we shall see in subsequent sections, Sandström was not so naïve as to think no force would be needed to enforce a solution. In a memorandum he prepared in early August in preparation for making the final recommendation, he wrote, “who will enforce the partition scheme? The answer is that, insofar as it is accepted by Jews, the Jews themselves will look after their enforcement in their State and that for the rest of enforcement will depend on the force the United Nations will put behind the adoption of a solution.” Absent that enforcement, war was inevitable.

As Sandström concluded “Without resorting to force, it is to fear that no solution will get through.” (Memorandum by the Chairman, p. 6) In the Minutes of the First Informal Private Meeting of UNSCOP on 6 August 1947 to begin their deliberations where the views of the members were all surveyed, Sandström, in contrast to any of the other members, insisted that, “[We] must also consider possibility of enforcing the solution and the desirability of peace in Palestine.” (p. 5) He continued, “Any solution adopted will be met with rather violent reactions from both sides in the community and will have to be enforced by outside forces.” (p. 6)

In a Memorandum of the Chairman on 12 August, he reiterated, “As the main aim, I see an appeasement. I am aware that an appeasement might not come by itself, that a solution might have to be imposed by force. It is desirable that as little force as possible will have to be used in the appeasement-action and that, after this action will have come to an end, there is a fair chance of the peace being maintained.” (p. 1) Finally, in the notes used to prepare the final report (The Essential Factor in a Solution on the Palestine Question), on p. 15 on section IV “Implementation and Enforcement of a Solution,” he wrote, “Whatever the final solution it seems apparent that enforcement measures, at least for a time, will be necessary. On the basis of Articles 10 and 14 of the Charter it would seem clear that the General Assembly may properly make recommendations on such matters in connection with the final settlement of the Palestine question.”

In clause 2 of the section, he wrote, “The Crucial issue, however, is where the responsibility for enforcement will lie and where the expense involved will rest…it would probably be advisable for the Assembly to determine the size of the units required for this purpose, the states responsible for providing them, and other necessary details such as the command, and to incorporate these matters into a draft treaty which would be appended to its recommendations.” (p. 15) Sandström then went on to suggest why the creation of this international force might be extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve and fell back on the suggestion that the UK might assume responsibility for enforcement. Given the attitudes towards Britain, Sandström concluded that this would be “an extraordinarily difficult task” and we shall soon see why.

In effect, the game was over before it started since no path seemed open to an enforcement mechanism and an enforcement mechanism was viewed as absolutely necessary. In fact, the UN had proven itself to be impotent, though in 1947 there was still some hope that a UN recommendation would be effective in keeping the peace. That had been the chief goal of all international diplomatic efforts following WWII – peace based on the rule of law and not a peace enforced by might. 1948 would dash that hope even though the International Court of Justice began hearing its first dispute since the end of WWII, even though the third UNGA session adopted the Genocide Convention as well as a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The ineffectiveness in many areas could be blamed on the outbreak of the Cold War and the absence of co-operation between the great powers, a presumed keystone for the United Nations to function. However, on the Palestine question, both superpowers supported the end of the mandate and both supported partition, though American support wavered. Can the impotence of the recommendation on partition in securing a peaceful resolution of the problem be blamed on inadequate consideration and poor reasoning of its members and not just an absence of enforcement of the recommendations?

Of the four members of the sub-committee on the constitution sub-committee, Emil Sandström and Jorge Granados, as well as Ivan Rand, were men very well acquainted with edicts from on high that carried weight through the quality of the legal and political reasoning and the authority of the institution issuing the decision. Only Dr. N. S. Blom had been involved in the actual exercise of power to implement the edicts of the Dutch imperial regime. The Jewish-Arab dispute was not an issue of power appropriate to understanding international resolutions on economic issues, for power relations failed to explain the resulting institutional recommendations once power was bracketed and surrendered as the mechanism to settle the conflict. When influence and authority both failed, the parties themselves resorted to military power to settle their conflict.

However, when the issue was referred to UNSCOP, an UNSCOP that deliberately excluded world powers (primarily the U.S. and the USSR), power from above had been surrendered as a means to settle the dispute, in part because the U.S. did not want to provide an opening for the USSR to have an influence in the Middle East. (This is particularly pertinent to the present when Russia has once again resumed its centuries-old efforts to acquire a geopolitical presence and influence in the Middle East.) Either of the major powers might have been able to settle the matter with a free hand, and certainly working together they could have, even though Britain had tied itself up in multiple knots and clearly failed to do so. Instead, the issue was referred to members of the Committee for a recommendation.

Power was bracketed because, by 1947 it was evident that the world was entering a cold war between two fundamentally incompatible economic systems with equally incompatible values. Western values were premised on the preservation of individual liberty against the encroachments of government power. In the East (loosely speaking), government coercion was the sole arbiter, not just in the use of force, but to facilitate the collectivity maximizing its economic potential. Such a conception was not viewed as the exercise of law; liberals in the West regarded this conception of law as the negation of the rule of law, for courts of law were neither independent nor impartial, but were simply instruments of the state. When all power is concentrated in the state and safeguards of individual liberty are abrogated, there is no rule of law but only the growth of tyranny. So UNSCOP was created largely on liberal premises related to the rule of law and the use of arbitration to mediate and arbitrate disputes to bring about a peaceful resolution of conflict.

In this case, that reference to the committee for this purpose failed. The intent of this paper is not to explain the failure, but the foundation for its recommendations that were presumed to be based on findings of fact, on customary international law and on the independence of the individuals on the committee. Emil Sandström , who became chair of UNSCOP, was steeped in these values aimed at using international arbitration as a solution for disputes that can result in violence and undermine international understanding and goodwill. Recommendations were to be based upon reason by men pledged to impartiality lest the alternative, war, result. But outside force was needed and it was not available.

Abdur Rahman in the Minutes of the Fourth Informal Meeting, Mr. Sandström’s Office, 8 August 1947, said that, “Partition would promote war – almost immediately – both inside and outside the state.” (p. 4) Hood said that there is, “No real evidence to suggest that partition would be easily enforced; evidence points in exactly opposite direction.” (p. 4)
Sandström was but one of a cluster of Swedish international civil servants who emerged after WWII to serve as mediators. The dispute between Thailand and Cambodia was arbitrated by a Swede. Olof Rydbeck mediated in the Western Sahara dispute, another conflict that remains unresolved seventy years later. Gunnar Jarring served as the mediator between India and Pakistan over Kashmir in 1957 and in the Middle East after the 1967 war. Of course, there was also Hammarskjöld, who, along with Mike Pearson of Canada, helped establish the original UN peacekeeping force following the crisis of 1956 and became Secretary-General of the United Nations.

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine I

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine I


Howard Adelman


After completing the latest phase of my research on the role of UNSCOP in the partition of Palestine, I started writing this article on 14 May 2016, sixty-eight years to the day, 14 May 1948, on which the British Mandate over Palestine expired, and sixty-nine years after the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was established by the United Nations on 15 May 1947. One year later, in the Tel Aviv Museum, the Jewish People’s Council approved a proclamation declaring the establishment of Israel, not simply as a state, but as the restored state of and for the Jewish people.

The Proclamation of the State of Israel read: “The land of Israel [Palestine] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and the restoration of it and their political (national?) freedom.”

It was a statement of national belonging, return and restoration. Further, the assertion went further and claimed that the efforts at restoration had been continuous throughout history. “Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim [(Hebrew) – immigrants coming to Eretz Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.”

This was historically remarkable. How did this happen? How did the Jewish people gain the support of the UNSCOP that recommended the partition of Palestine and the creation of two states, one state for the Jews from everywhere and another for the Arabs then living in Palestine? Had UNSCOP bought into the Zionist narrative of restoration and continuous national rights, of the right of the Jewish people to rebuild their national home, that such rights were recognized in the Balfour Declaration and reaffirmed by the League of Nations?

The declaration was linked to the Holocaust. But not in the way a contemporary observer would think. “Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland. In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom – and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.” Thus, the linkage was not because six million died and the world was and should feel guilty. The reason was a specifically Zionist one – the struggle to migrate to Eretz Israel – had been continuous and, secondly, Jews had fought as a nation in WWII against the Nazi menace.
This statement was a declaration of national rights confirmed by the resolution (181 II) of the United Nations on 29 November 1947 that permitted the inhabitants (not just the Jews) “to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. The UN recognized “the right of the Jewish people to establish their state.” Did the UN do any such thing? Did the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) that looked into the situation of the Palestine Mandate and make proposals for resolving the conflict there, base its recommendations on the national rights of the Jewish people? If not, why did the members of UNSCOP recommend the creation of a Jewish state alongside that of an Arab state in Palestine?

The resolution (181 II) passed by the United Nations General Assembly just six months earlier (29 November 1947), based on the recommendations of UNSCOP, was much more complex. First, the resolution envisioned a transition period of about four months; the creation of the Jewish and Arab states was to take place no later than 1 October 1947. Second, the plan was based, not on contiguous areas allocated to each state, but rather on three enclaves assigned to the Jewish state and three to the Arab state. A seventh enclave of Jaffa entirely within the Jewish state was to be allocated to the Arab state.

Most interesting of all, the eighth segment, Jerusalem, was, as everyone knows, to be allocated to and governed by the United Nations Trusteeship Council. If the Jewish people’s national rights in Israel had been recognized, why was the application restricted to three enclaves and not applied to all of Palestine and not even Jerusalem, for the call for return in the Jewish sacred texts was not to Palestine or Eretz Israel but to Jerusalem? And why did Recommendation XII (with two votes against and one abstention) insist that, “In the appraisal of the Palestine question, it be accepted as incontrovertible (my italics) that any solution for Palestine cannot be considered as a solution of the Jewish problem in general.”

Other than the territorial divisions, the resolution recommended an economic union, transit rights, how citizenship of the members of each of the polities was to be determined, how religious sites and minority rights were to be protected, and a transitional administration was provided to oversee the implementation of the recommendations and the assumption of UN power over Jerusalem by the United Nations Palestine Commission. That the plan read like a Rube Goldberg creation should have been no surprise since it was the product of enormous political jockeying, beginning with the make-up of UNSCOP and the proceedings within that committee. More surprising to some, however, there is no recognition of the national rights of the Jewish people to set up a state in their traditional homeland or, for that matter, the “natural” rights of the Arabs in Palestine for self-determination.

This paper does not deal with the full scale civil war that took place in the aftermath of the resolution, the rejection of the resolution by the Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs on the basis that the resolution contravened the doctrine of self-determination to replace imperial edicts, the conditional acceptance by the Jewish Agency and the abandonment of the terms of the original resolution by the Special Session of the United Nations in the month preceding 14 May 1948 and the appointment of a mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, and of a Truce Commission, and certainly not on the Jewish declaration of independence and the war that ensued.

Instead, the focus of this paper is on the machinations within UNSCOP, in particular, the role of Ivan Rand of Canada, in recommending the series of compromises that made up Resolution 181 (II). This is the first in a series to explore the rationale and decision-making of UNSCOP by analyzing the thinking of each of the eleven members of UNSCOP. Though this paper does not start with the zeitgeist of the times, the emergence of a particular kind of globalization that would march forward in the next seven decades and the East-West collisions that emerged in that process, it does explore how the new state of Israel was caught in those tensions through an examination of the minds and voices of those who recommended partition.

Why Ivan Rand? Because, as I will illustrate, Rand was a key player who resisted partition, who helped persuade certain “eastern” representatives to support a federal solution which he, in the end, abandoned. Why? The answer, I believe, will not only throw some insight onto why Israel inherited the added problem of UN precedents without any recognition of the rights of the Jewish people to national self-determination, but will also indicate why, twenty years after UNSCOP, Canada would emerge from its hundred years of sleep and emerge from it cocoon as a leader of Western democratic values.

There is another reason. Ivan Rand was a member of one of two sub-committees set up by UNSCOP. The Working Group on Constitutional Matters, as distinct from the one on Boundaries. In addition to Ivan Rand from Canada, it had three members: Justice Emil Sandström of Sweden who served as Chair of UNSCOP, Dr. N.S. Blom from the Netherlands. and Dr. Jorge Garcǐa Granados from Guatemala. All four came from Western countries. Sir Abdul Rahman, a Muslin judge from India, Nasrollah Entezam from Iran, the two representatives of Eastern countries, were not on the sub-committee or working group. Neither was Vladimir Simic, the representative from Yugoslavia, who so adamantly opposed partition for understandable national reasons.

Why did Blom resist the recommendations of the Constitutional Working Group? Why was there so much tension between Rand and Sandström? And why and how did Garcǐa Granados play such a critical role in resolving those tensions? Next: a summary introduction to those three other members of UNSCOP, their predispositions and values.

UNSCOP and East/West Tectonic Plates

UNSCOP and East/West Tectonic Plates


Howard Adelman

Below is the long form of the abstract that I submitted to the Israel Studies Association in a much briefer version for presentation of a paper at this June’s conference in Jerusalem. It is really the overview of the book that I never finished and have now resurrected and on which I am currently working. I include it in my blog both to keep readers posted and to invite leads for information or discussion of the topic.

The paper explores one important exogenous influence on the definition of Israel – the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) that was set up by the United Nations on 15 May 1947 to investigate the causes of the conflict in Palestine and make recommendations, if possible, for a solution. Though UNSCOP’s make-up and deliberations were not only supposed to be impartial but appear to be impartial, the committee only succeeded in fulfilling the latter half of that principle of its mandate. This paper examines the thinking of each of the 11 representatives (alternates are only considered when they have specific relevance such as S.L. Ayteo of Australia), using records of the committee, the majority and minority reports, UN archives, records in the national archives of the different members, as well as other scholarly and biographical sources, in order to assess how each of the members of the committee assessed the different possible solutions to the problem in terms of the extant theories of how to resolve inter-nation and inter-religious conflicts in terms of various conceptions of the state and how this affected their votes in support of or opposition to partition.

This paper argues that the minority (federation) and majority (partition) reports were not ways of resolving the conflict. Most of those intimately knowledgeable about the problem did not expect the recommendations to affect the outcome one way or the other. And neither the UN, using what would become the idea of a peace enforcement force, or the major powers were willing to enforce a solution. The minority report’s recommendations would not have done any better. The two recommendations – federation OR partition with an economic union and Jerusalem under international auspices – were more reflections of two dominant models, and compromise solutions to inter-nation and inter-religious conflicts reflective of what I call Western and Eastern perspectives, both ill-suited to the character of this type of conflict.

This was not simply the case in Palestine, but would prove to be equally unsuitable to resolving conflicts in any area where the Western political tectonic plate rubbed against the Eastern political tectonic plate, whether in Palestine, the Balkans, Iraq, Syria, and, as to be soon demonstrated, in Turkey. Nevertheless, the recommendations set a template that would not only dominate the Israeli-Palestinian problem, but many other conflicts in the Middle East and the Balkans.

In my analysis, the stakes were stacked in favour of partition given the predispositions of the members by 4-3, and needed only the conversion of two other members to constitute a majority report with 6 of the 11 members in support. The majority report received seven votes; the minority report received three votes; there was one abstention. As it turned out, the conversion of John Hood from Australia from opposing the majority recommendation to abstaining proved to be totally fortuitous. Neither he nor Dr. N.S. Blom of the Netherlands were independent thinkers on the committee, but representatives of what were perceived to be their own country’s national interests.

Representation from countries around the world was not intended to represent the specific interests of a country. Rather, the membership was intended to be constitutive of independent individuals coming from countries representative of the membership of the United Nations, excluding the five major powers, especially Great Britain, the mandate of which was under examination. Though drawn from a variety of countries from different regions of the globe, the members of the committee were not there to represent the interests of their countries.

In the case of John Hood of Australia, perhaps representing the interests of Australia is a misleading description. He was there to represent the interests of H.V. Evatt, the then Foreign Minister of Australia. Evatt’s ambition was to become President of the UN National Assembly. When he was thwarted in that ambition, he released John Hood from opposing partition, which he had instructed him to do when the vote came lest he alienate the Arab states whose support he would need to be elected President. Instead, he instructed Hood to abstain as a virtual cover for the equivocation of Hood during the discussions in the committee. Abstention for an obscure reason allowed Hood to save face and later, when the issue of the Presidency was out of the way, to allow Evatt to cast the first vote for partition, thereby becoming a hero to Australian Jews and Israel.

The case of Dr. Blom of the Netherlands is another story. He was also a toady of the Netherlands Foreign Affairs Ministry. The Netherlands, like many waning imperial powers at the time, still wanted to hold onto its overseas colonies, Indonesia in particular. To do that, Netherlands would need the support of other Muslim states, particularly the large number of Arab states. Blom was instructed to oppose partition, cautiously, diplomatically and almost surreptitiously to avoid becoming a spokesperson for the anti-partition faction. However, just weeks before the issue came to a head, the Arab League announced its support for Sukarno, the leader of the Indonesian independence movement. Blom was then instructed to support partition.

The partition side needed only one more member of the committee to support partition. The Peruvian delegation, particularly Dr. Alberto Ulloa Sotomayor, was not on the committee in his own eyes to represent his country’s interests, but rather the interests of all of Christendom, more particularly, the Roman Catholic Church. If the committee voted for a federated state, then Jerusalem would be its natural capital. If the committee voted for partition, then there was a very divisive issue of whether the Arabs or the Jews would gain control of Jerusalem, Given the conditions on the ground, and the contention between the two sides, Sotomayor was able to convince his fellow members of the committee to support making Jerusalem an international city with the Church having a major input into its governance. The conversion of the Peruvian delegation to support partition was a result of a deal to take care of their major concern, Christian power in Jerusalem.

Vladimir Simić of Yugoslavia, given the different ethnicities and the coexistence of Christianity and Islam within his state, was adamantly wedded to a federal solution. He opposed partition. Nasrollah Entezam of Iran and Sir Abdur Rahman a Muslim judge from India, began by favouring a unified state, but what they witnessed and heard, the debate within the committee and the influence of Ivan Rand from the federal state of Canada with two dominant nations each with a different language, persuaded them to support a federal solution as the only realistic option that might gain majority support.

The irony was that Ivan Rand in the end supported partition and became the 7th vote making partition the clear winner. The conversion of Ivan Rand was interesting as a bell-weather since he was a major influence on the members of the Eastern tectonic caucus to adopt a federal rather than a unified state solution. The reasons are complex and cannot be summarized here, but given that Canada is a federal state with two major national groups each then having two different religions for the majority, Canadian support of a federal solution would seem to come naturally. But Rand went on to support partition. The question of why and how that happened is one of the most interesting aspects of the tale.

There are a few side conclusions. On a day after we just memorialized Holocaust Day, contrary to a great deal of mythology, there is little evidence in the historical records that the Holocaust had any noticeable let alone significant influence on the thinking of the various member parties at the time, or, for that matter, the different states that were members of the United Nations and voted to support or oppose the partition recommendation. The issue of refugees, particularly the 250,000 Jewish refugees still in Europe whom no one at the time wanted, did. There are other important challenges to received wisdom, but this is perhaps the most important one.

The study also adumbrates why dealing with refugees, whether Jewish refugees after WWII, Palestinian refugees following the Arab-Jewish War in 1947-8, or waves of refugees from the Balkans, Iraq and Syria, turned out to be so difficult. Most importantly, the analysis has implications for assessing various two-state and one-state models, not only for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but for political solutions to conflicts in the whole region and elsewhere.

The modern period in which the nation-state has emerged supreme has never been able to resolve how that nation-state can be a full democracy representative not only of all of its members, but of all the nations within it. For example, Canada has somewhat succeeded in ensuring a degree of representation for the Francophone nation but not for its aboriginal peoples. And it, relatively speaking, is a great success The study is intended to answer the question, Why? And How? and If? there can be any definitive answer to how inter-nation conflicts can be resolved within the body politic of a single state, and, more particularly, the conflict between Jews and Arabs over Palestine.

The half-thesis as abstracted and abbreviated here with respect to the historical material, rather than the issue of political theory which I have not yet discussed, can be expected to be subject to much revision. The summary above was based on research undertaken a number of years ago. It will need to be updated. Further, since I conduct my research to falsify what I believe rather than looking for evidence to support it, it is difficult to imagine that the final product will resemble what I have written above. But that is the nature of intellectual inquiry.

With the help of Alex Zisman

List of  Representatives on UNSCOP categorized according to the analysis

  1. Floaters

John Hood, Australia

Dr. N.S. Blom, Netherlands

Dr. Alberto Ulloa Sotomayor, Peru

  1. Mediator

Justice Ivan Rand, Canada

  1. Western Tectonic Plate

Karel Lisicky, Czechoslovakia

Justice Emil Sandstrőm, Sweden

Dr. Jorge García Granados, Guatemala

Professor Enrique Rodríguez Fabregat, Uruguay

  1. Eastern Tectonic Plate

Sir Abdur Rahman, India

Vladimir Simić, Yugoslavia

Nasrollah Entezam, Iran