Was the UN Partition Plan unfair to the Palestinian majority?

The original 1947 UN partition plan for Palestine was grossly unfair because it awarded more than half the country to the Jewish minority which, at the time, numbered no more than one-third of the total population.

– Ali Hasan Abunimah 1

How was the land divided?

In 1946 one year before the UN partition proposal there were twice as many Arabs living in British Mandatory Palestine (608,000 Jews and 1,237,000 Arabs), however looking only at these numbers paints an inaccurate picture as Jews they formed the majority in the area allotted to the, (498,000 Jews and 407,000 Arabs).2

israel-arab-jewish-population-1946

The land wasn’t just divided along population lines, but land ownership was also considered. In 1945 the British commissioned a survey of land ownership in Mandatory Palestine for the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine. The illustration below is a visual representation of this survey which clearly shows the proposed Jewish state included the areas with heavy Jewish land ownership, while Arab state was formed from of the regions where Arabs owned the majority of land. 3

israel-arab-jewish-land-ownership-1945

To further compound this the Jews never had a chance of reaching a majority because of the restrictive immigration policy of the British. By contrast, Palestine’s Arab population, which had been declining prior to the Mandate in 1922, grew exponentially as hundreds of thousands of Arabs from all the surrounding countries flocked into the land to advantage of the rapid economic development created by Zionist enterprise.

Why should the Jews have been awarded a state?

The decision to partition Palestine was not just determined by demographics and land ownership. Jews and Arabs had been fighting over the land for decades – both making irreconcilable territorial claims to the land… partition seemed the only viable solution.

Ironically, in that same year the British were involved was another partition, which has left tenfold more dead, displaced many more millions and has locked two nations in conflict to this day. Unlike the Israel/Palestine partition this one was accepted by the Arab members of the United Nations and the new predominantly Muslim state of Pakistan was born.

Partition and state creation was incredibly common during this period, just one hundred years ago none of the states surrounding Israel today existed as independent countries (Jordan, Syria or Lebanon and Egypt), they were all created by European colonial powers in the twentieth century. By drawing up borders that in most instances had never existed the Europeans thrust a diverse mixture of ethnicities and religions together under a forced national identity. As a result these countries have remained fragmented and frequently slip into civil war.

The principles of self-determination guided the colonial powers – a belief that people have the right to determine their own political status and independence. The Jews were one of the largest ethnic groups in the region and they were to be awarded a tiny strip of land in their ancestral homeland – yet the Arabs rejected this tiniest concession. In contrast the land the Jews were forced to leave in Arab countries has been estimated at 120,000 square kilometers – four times the size of the State of Israel (valued today at about 15 trillion dollars). 4 While the Arabs came to control over thirteen million square kilometers (22 countries in total), they couldn’t bring themselves to give up 0.15% to their Jewish neighbours.

On top of the Jewish ancestral claim, and the claim of self-determination that was granted to other ethnic groups of that era. The Jewish state was also born out of necessity, the Holocaust had seen six million Jews slaughtered throughout Europe and massacres were occurring throughout the Arab world (thousands of Jews were murdered in Muslim lands in the period between the holocaust and establishment of Israel).5 The Jewish people needed a refuge where they could escape centuries of persecution.

Faced with all of these claims, the Arabs rejected the two state solution and have waged war on the tiny Jewish State ever since.

Summary

  • Jews formed a majority in the region that the United Nations proposed as a Jewish homeland
  • The UN proposed Arab homeland contained the areas where Arab land ownership was highest
  • All of the states that border Israel are modern creations, but their ‘fairness’ is rarely questioned
  • Israel is 0.15% of the land controlled by 22 Arab states, but even this is too much for the Arab world to accept
  • Jewish refugees from Arab lands were forced to leave land four times the size of Israel
  • Jews needed a state to escape centuries of persecution from Arab and European nations

Learn more about how Israel as created:

Sources

1. “Defusing Israel’s ‘demographic bomb'”, Ali Hasan Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, 8/3/2005
2. UNITED NATIONS: General Assembly: A/364: 3 September 1947: OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: SUPPLEMENT No. 11: UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PALESTINE: REPORT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY VOLUME 1
3. Results of 1945 Village Statistics survey
4. Arabs expelled the Jews from all their Countries – Confiscated their assets, Times of Israel, 23/12/14
5. List of antisemitic fatalities since the holocaust