November 29, 1947: The Story of a Vote

 

Seventy years ago to this day, the United Nations voted on Resolution 181, the partitioning of the British Mandate into Jewish and Arab states as recommended by the UN’s special investigative commission (UNSCOP).

The story behind the scenes is told in this short movie, which combines historical footage with recent interviews of people who lived the event. The woman in the thumbnail is Suzy Eban, wife of Abba Eban.

A two-thirds majority was needed. In the end, thirty-three countries voted in favor:

• Latin American and Caribbean Group: Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela

• Western Europe and Others: Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden

• Eastern Europe: Byelorussian SSR (Belarus), Ukrainian SSR (Ukraine), USSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland

• African: Liberia and South Africa

• Asia-Pacific: Australia, New Zealand, Philippines

• North America: USA and Canada

Ten countries abstained:

• Latin American and Caribbean Group: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico

• Four other countries: UK (the outgoing mandate holder), China, Ethiopia, and Yugoslavia

Thailand was absent from the vote.

Thirteen countries voted against, ten of them Muslim:

•  Arab or Islamic countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Turkey, and Egypt

• Others: India, Cuba, and Greece. It should be noted that Greece then had a large diaspora in countries like Egypt, and was thus vulnerable to threats.

Voting happened by voice vote, alphabetically. The vote that put the resolution over the top was cast by the Philippines.

The day of the vote is remembered in Israel to this day as kaf-tet be-November  (from the Hebrew notation of the number 29, כ׳׳ט). The British Mandate was to end at midnight between May 14-15, 1948. On the afternoon of May 14, around 4pm, a hastily convened assembly gathered at a museum building in Tel-Aviv, and with a minimum of pomp and circumstance, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independent State of Israel.

 

Our hope is not yet lost

The hope of two thousand years

To be a free people in our land

The land of Zion, Jerusalem

 

 

 

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