UN Vote On Partition of Palestine

The United Nations Vote To Partition Palestine And Create Israel

The history of Palestine in the 19th and 20th century and the 1947 United Nations vote for its partition are subjects that have been extensively documented by historians, memoirs of the main actors, and contemporary news accounts. A brief film of the 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine can be found online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn0fnofNeLU. The suggestions for further reading at the end of this page are a representative sampling of some of the sources I relied upon to write Come November. I encourage those interested to dig far deeper and wider.

The lead-up to the vote on UN Resolution 181 and the vote itself depicted in Come November are accurate insofar as dates, times, and public comments of the individuals involved. Where I invented dialogue of historic figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Moshe Sharett (Shertok), Faris el-Khouri, Abba Eban, and Suzy Eban, I did my best to make it true to their modes of speech based their public speeches and their writings. For my depiction of Mr. Sharett, I had the invaluable assistance of his daughter, Yael Medini. She helped me avoid some egregious errors, such as depicting him smoking a pipe (he didn’t smoke), swearing, (Ms. Medini was emphatic that although Mr. Sharett spoke eight languages, he was never known to swear in any of them), and dressing informally while in public. During our email correspondence, Ms. Medini included her own fascinating recollection of the day of the vote. She was seventeen at the time and staying in the New York area. With her kind permission, I quote it in full:

Email Yael Medini to Scott Lord, August 12, 2022.

“Please bear with me for these few sentences. The weekend of Nov, 29, 1947 I was away somewhere in New Jersey as part of my activity in Habonim – the American Zionist youth movement. On the bus coming back to Manhattan with my friends on that Sunday afternoon we heard the joyous news on the radio and burst out with “hurras”. Entering our apartment in the Berkshire hotel, I met my excited parents and brother and was told to hurry up and change into something “more presentable” because we should immediately depart to that mass meeting held in that Arena [*Author’s Note, the St. Nicholas Arena at 66th & Broadway – see ad from the NY Times, 11-29-47] on the west side of Manhattan. This was the one time in my life that I saw Chaim Weizmann in person.

“Another item: on Monday, May 10th, my father and I flew from New York to Palestine. Next day, Tuesday May 11, we landed in a small airport north of Tel Aviv because Lydda airport was already under Arab attacks. The State of Israel was declared on Friday, May 14. The signatures on that declaration run according to the Hebrew alphabet. For that reason, my father’s is the last one. I was most fortunate to be present at that historical event.”

The Story of Resolution 181. The resolution passed by the UN in 1947 called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with the Jerusalem to be governed by an international administration. The resolution was considered by the Jewish community to be a legal basis for the establishment of Israel. It was rejected by the Arab community and immediately followed by war.

Palestine had been governed by Great Britain since 1922 under a mandate from the League of Nations. Since that time, Jewish immigration to the region had increased, and tensions between Arabs and Jews had grown. In April 1947, Britain referred the issue of Palestine to the UN. To investigate a suitable course of action, the UN formed the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), an inquiry committee made up of members from 11 countries. Ultimately, UNSCOP delivered two proposals: that of the majority, which recommended two separate states joined economically, and that of the minority, which supported the formation of a single binational state made up of Jewish and Palestinian areas. The Jewish community approved of the first of these proposals, while the Arabs opposed them both. The resolution was strongly supported both by the United States and the Soviet Union.

The resolution to partition Palestine, based on a modified version of the UNSCOP majority report, was put to a vote of the 57 General Assembly members on November 29, 1947. UN rules required a two-thirds majority of those present and voting to pass the resolution. The fate of the proposal was uncertain until almost the last minute. The resolution was passed with 33 votes in favor, 13 against, and 10 abstentions. There was one delegate absent, the delegate from Thailand.

Sources and Selected Reading

Bell, J. Bower. Terror Out of Zion: The Fight For Israeli Independence. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2009.

Bunche, Ralph J. Collected Papers, UCLA Library Collections.

Caplan, Neil & Sharett, Yaakov (eds.). Moshe Sharett: My Struggle for Peace, Moshe Sharett. Indiana University Press, 2019.

Circle Line Cruise Guide, New York: Circle Line-Sightseeing Yachts, Inc. 1951.

Eban, Abba. Abba Eban: An Autobiography. Lexington, MA: Plunkett Lake Press, 1977.

Eban, Suzy. A Sense of Purpose: Recollections. Lexington, MA: Plunkett Lake Press, 2008.

Finder, Henry, Ed. The 40s: The Story of The Decade, The New Yorker. New York: Random House, 2014.

Gilbert, Martin. Israel: A History. New York: Rosetta Books, 1998, 2008, 2014.

Hanania, Ray. Images of America: Arabs of Chicagoland. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.

Kemp, Martin. Leonardo. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Leonardo, da Vinci. Codex Ashburnham I. www.univeralleonardo.org/work.php?ed=470.

Meisler, Stanley. United Nations: A History. New York: Grove Press, 1995, revised 2011.

New York Landmarks Preservation Commission, Paramount Hotel, November 17, 2009.

Minchilli, Elizabeth Helman. Restoring a Home In Italy. New York: Artisan, 2001.

Moshe Sharett And His Legacy, https://www.sharett.org.il.

Oshinsky, David. Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem At America’s Most Storied Hospital. New York: Doubleday, 2016.

The Road Not Taken: Remembering Moshe Sharett, Yaakov Sharett, Jerusalem Post, July 15, 2015.

Rogan, Eugene and Shlaim, Avi, eds. Rewriting the Palestine War: 1948 and the History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Sharett, Yaakov (ed.), The Reparations Controversy. De Gruyter, 2011.

Sheffer, Gabriel. Moshe Sharett: Biography of a Political Moderate. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Wendt, Lloyd. Chicago Tribune: The Rise of a Great American Newspaper. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1979.

White, E.B. Here is New York. New York: The Little Bookroom, 1949.

www.1948.org.uk. 1948: Lest We Forget – Palestine and the Nakba.