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The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was formed in May, 1947 in response to a British Government request that the General Assembly 'make recommendations under article 10 of the Charter, concerning the future government of Palestine.' The British government had also recommended the establishment of a special committee to prepare a report for the General Assembly. The General Assembly adopted the recommendation to set up the UNSCOP to investigate the cause of the conflict in Palestine, and, if possible, devise a solution. UNSCOP was made up of representatives of 11 nations. UNSCOP visited Palestine and gathered testimony from Zionist organisations in Palestine and in the US. The Arab Higher Committee boycotted the Commission explaining that the Palestinian Arab's natural rights were self-evident and cannot continue to be subject to investigation, but rather deserve to be recognized on the basis of the principles of the United Nations Charter. The committee actively followed the unravelling of the Exodus Jewish immigration ship saga. Some committee members were present at the port of Haifamarker when the Jewish immigrants were forcefully removed from the ship and deported back to Europe.

Members of UNSCOP

  • Australia
    • Mr. J. D. L. HOOD, representative
    • Mr. S. L. ATYEO, alternate
  • Canada
    • Justice I. Rand, representative
    • Mr. Leon MAYRAND, alternate
  • Czechoslovakia
    • Mr. Karl LISICKY, representative
    • Dr. Richard PEACH, alternate
  • Guatemala
    • Dr. Jorge Garcia GRANADOS, representative
    • Mr. E. ZEA GONZALES, alternate
  • India
    • Sir Abdur RAHMAN, representative
    • Mr. Venkata VISWANATHAN, alternate
    • Mr. H.DAYAL, second alternate
  • Iran
    • Mr. Nasrollah ENTEZAM About Entezam, representative
    • Dr. Ali AKDALAN, alternate
  • Netherlands
    • Dr. N. S.BLOM, representative
    • Mr. A. I. SPITS, alternate
  • Peru
    • Dr. Alberto ULLOA, representative
    • Dr. Arturo Garcia SALAZAR, alternate
  • Sweden
  • Uruguay
    • Professor Enrique Rodriguez FABREGAT, representative
    • Mr. Secco ELLAURI, alternate
  • Yugoslavia
    • Mr. Vladimir SIMIC, representative
    • Dr. Jose BRILEJ, alternate

The UNSCOP Recommendations: Chapter V

On the 3 September 1947 the UNSCOP recommended that:-

Recommendation I Termination of the Mandate

It is recommended that

The Mandate for Palestine shall be terminated at the earliest practicable date.


Among the reasons for this unanimous conclusion are the following:

(a) All directly interested parties the mandatory Power, Arabs and Jews are in full accord that there is urgent need for a change in the status of Palestine. The mandatory Power has officially informed the Committee "that the Mandate has proved to be unworkable in practice, and that the obligations undertaken to the two communities in Palestine have been shown to be irreconcilable". Both Arabs and Jews urge the termination of the mandate and the grant of independence to Palestine, although they are in vigorous disagreement as to the form that independence should take.

(b) The outstanding feature of the Palestine situation today, is found in the clash between Jews and the mandatory Power on the one hand, and on the other the tension prevailing between Arabs and Jews. This conflict situation, which finds expression partly in an open breach between the organized Jewish community and the Administration and partly in organized terrorism and acts of violence, has steadily grown more intense and takes as its toll an ever-increasing loss of life and destruction of property.

(c) In the nature of the case, the Mandate implied only a temporary tutelage for Palestine. The terms of the Mandate include provisions which have proved contradictory in their practical application.

(d) It may be seriously questioned whether, in any event, the Mandate would now be possible of execution. The essential feature of the mandates system was that it gave an international status to the mandated territories. This involved a positive element of international responsibility for the mandated territories and an international accountability to the Council of the League of Nations on the part of each mandatory for the well being and development of the peoples of those territories. The Permanent Mandates Commission was created for the specific purpose of assisting the Council of the League in this function. But the League of Nations and the Mandates Commission have been dissolved, and there is now no means of discharging fully the international obligation with regard to a mandated territory other than by placing the territory under the International Trusteeship System of the United Nations.

(e) The International Trusteeship System, however, has not automatically taken over the functions of the mandates system with regard to mandated territories. Territories can be placed under Trusteeship only by means of individual Trusteeship Agreements approved by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.

(f) The most the mandatory could now do, therefore, in the event of the continuation of the Mandate, would be to carry out its administration, in the spirit of the Mandate, without being able to discharge its international obligations in accordance with the intent of the mandates system. At the time of the termination of the Permanent Mandates Commission in April 1946, the mandatory Power did, in fact, declare its intention to carry on the administration of Palestine, pending a new arrangement, in accordance with the general principles of the Mandate. The mandatory Power has itself now referred the matter to the United Nations.

Recommendation II. Independence

It is recommended that

Independence shall be granted in Palestine at the earliest practicable date.


(a) Although sharply divided by political issues, the peoples of Palestine are sufficiently advanced to govern themselves independently.

(b) The Arab and Jewish peoples, after more than a quarter of a century of tutelage under the Mandate, both seek a means of effective expression for their national aspirations.

(c) It is highly unlikely that any arrangement which would fail to envisage independence at a reasonably early date would find the slightest welcome among either Arabs or Jews.

Recommendation III. Transitional period

It is recommended that

There shall be a transitional period preceding the grant of independence in Palestine which shall be as short as possible, consistent with the achievement of the preparations and conditions essential to independence.


(a). A transitional period preceding independence is clearly imperative. it is scarcely conceivable, in view of the complicated nature of the Palestine problem, that independence could be responsibly granted without a prior period of preparation.

(b). The importance of the transitional period is that it would be the period in which the governmental organization would have to be established, and in which the guarantees for such vital matters as the protection of minorities, and the safeguarding of the Holy Places and religious interests could be ensured.

(c). A transitional period, however, would in all likelihood only serve to aggravate the present difficult situation in Palestine unless it were related to a specific and definitive solution which would go into effect immediately upon the termination of that period, and were to be of a positively stated duration, which, in any case, should not exceed a very few years.

Recommendation IV. UN Responsibility

The sub-Committee recommended that United Nations responsibility during the transitional period was to be:-.

During the transitional period the authority entrusted with the task of administering Palestine and preparing it for independence shall be responsible to the United Nations.


(a). The responsibility for administering Palestine during the transitional period and preparing it for independence will be a heavy one. Whatever the solution, enforcement measures on an extensive scale may be necessary for some time. The Committee is keenly aware of the central importance of this aspect of any solution, but has not felt competent to come to any conclusive opinion or to formulate any precise recommendations on this matter.

(b). It is obvious that a solution which might be considered intrinsically as the best possible and most satisfactory from every technical point of view would be of no avail if it should appear that there would be no means of putting it into effect. Taking into account the fact that devising a solution which will be fully acceptable to both Jews and Arabs seems to be utterly impossible, the prospect of imposing a solution upon them would be a basic condition of any recommended proposal.

(c). Certain obstacles which may well confront the authority entrusted with the administration during the transitional period make it desirable that a close link be established with the United Nations.

(d). The relative success of the authority entrusted with the administration of Palestine during the transitional period in creating the proper atmosphere and in carrying out the necessary preparations for the assumption of independence will influence greatly the effectiveness of the final solution to be applied. It will be of the utmost importance to the discharge of its heavy responsibilities that, while being accountable to the United Nations for its actions in this regard, the authority concerned should be able to count upon the support of the United Nations in carrying out the directives of that body.

Ad Hoc Committee Deliberations

The unanimous decision of the UNSCOP was for the termination of the mandate and two plans were drawn up for the Governance of Palestine on the termination of the Mandate. Seven members of the UNSCOP endorsed a partition plan (the Majority report) favoured by the Zionist leadership on 2 October 1947. Dr Able Hillel Silver, Chairman of the American Section of the Jewish Agency, made the case for a Jewish State to the Ad Hoc committee on Palestine and announced on behalf of the Jewish Agency acceptance of 10 of the eleven unanimous recommendations of the UN partition plan and rejection of the minority report. Of the Majority report (the Partition Plan areas) Dr Able Hillel Silver vacillates saying that he was prepared to “recommend to the Jewish people acceptance subject to further discussion of the constitutional and territorial provisions”.While three members endorsed a federal state (the minority report) similar to the Grady Morrison plan that had been rejected by both Jews and Arabs and the UNSCOP found that a canton system “might easily entail an excessive fragmentation of the governmental processes, and in its ultimate result, would be quite unworkable.” No members of the UNSCOP endorsed a One-state solution as recommended by the Arab Higher Committee and on 29 September Mr Jamal al-Husayni Vice president of the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine (AHCP) acting for the AHPC announced opposition to the UN partition plan

Sub-Committee No. 1 to the Ad Hoc Committee

On 22 October the Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine formed a sub-Committee to:-

1). To draw up a detailed plan for the future government of Palestine in accordance with the basic principles of the unanimous recommendations of the majority plan of the Special Committee on Palestine;

2). To incorporate this plan in the form of recommendations;

3). To consider the exercise of administrative responsibility in Palestine during the transitional period, including the possibility of application of Chapter III of the UN Charter and

4. To consider methods by which recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestine question under paragraph 1 above would be put into effect.

On 23 October 1947 the sub-committee held its first meeting and held 32 meeting and on 19 November recommended to the Ad Hoc committee that:- There shall be a Commission appointed by the General Assembly comprising of 5 members representing Guatemala, Iceland, Norway, Poland and Uruguay

Britain was unwilling to implement a policy that was not acceptable to both sides and so refused to share with the UN Palestine Commission the administration of Palestine during the transitional period and on 20 November 1947 British Government informed the UN of a timetable for evacuating Palestine. On the Termination of the Mandate, Partition And Independence. Britain as the Mandatory Power was to use its best endeavours to ensure that an area situated in the territory of the Jewish State, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for a substantial immigration, was to be evacuated at the earliest possible date and in any event not later than 1 February 1948.

On 29 November the recommendations of the sub-committee having been incorporated into the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee were adopted by the United Nations General assembly as part of the Partition Plan.

Tasks allotted to the Palestine Commission

From the first meeting the tasks that the Palestine Commission were allotted were:-

1). The establishment of the frontiers of the Arab and Jewish States and the City of Jerusalem in accordance with the general lines of the Assembly's recommendations on partition.

2). The progressive assumption of responsibility for the administration of Palestine as the Mandatory Power evacuates the country, pending the establishment of the independent States.

3). The establishment of Provisional Councils of Government in the Arab and Jewish States and the direction of their activities in the transitional period.

4). The approval of election regulations governing democratic elections to constituent assemblies in each State; and the appointment of the Preparatory Economic Commission which is to pave the way for the Economic Union and the Joint Economic Board, envisaged in Resolution GA 181.


Jews were still a considerable minority, constituting only a third of the population. David Ben-Gurion testified that Jewish land holdings were roughly 6% of the total land in British Mandate of Palestine. However, the conditions were quickly deteriorating and a solution was urgently needed.

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