Chapter 2 of the
Report of Sub-Committee 2
to the Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian question
of the UN General Assembly 1947

(in the printed document)
Introduction 270
Chapter I: Legal issues connected with the Palestine problem 272
Chapter II: Relief of Jewish refugees and displaced persons 283
Chapter III: Proposals for the constitution and future government of Palestine 288
Chapter IV: Conclusions 299
Appendix I: Estimated population of Palestine as at 31 December 1946 304
Appendix II: Estimated population of proposed Jewish State as at 31 December 1946 305
Appendix III: Note dated 1 November 1947 on the Bedouin population of Palestine presented by the representative of the United Kingdom 305
Appendix IV: Map of Palestine showing distribution of population by sub-districts 307
Appendix V: Map of Palestine showing land ownership 307
Appendix VI: Extracts from village statistics as at 1 April 1945 307
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Relief of Jewish refugees and displaced persons

41. The question of the relief of Jewish refugees and displaced persons is not strictly relevant to the Palestine problem, but the Sub-Committee has found it desirable to refer to it in view of the misconceptions which are entertained in certain quarters about this matter, and also in view of the fact that it has unnecessarily complicated the Palestine issue and rendered more difficult the reaching of a just and satisfactory settlement.

The recommendations of the majority of the Special Committee envisage the admission into that country of 150,000 Jewish refugees. In the course of the general debate in the Ad Hoc Committee, certain delegations based their support for those recommendations on the persecution which the Jews had undergone in Europe and on the presence in the European displaced persons centres of a large number of Jews.

In these circumstances the problem of refugees and displaced persons, its alleged connexion with the Palestinian question and its possible solution must be studied in the light of the documents available and the decisions taken by the General Assembly or the various other organs of the United Nations.

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Facts concerning refugees

42. From the documents placed at the Sub-Committee’s disposal by the Secretariat, a number of facts can be ascertained.

In the first place, according to statistics published by the Preparatory Commission for the International Refugee Organization, 656,831 refugees and displaced persons were in September receiving care and maintenance from the Preparatory Commission.

Secondly, the number of Jewish refugees and displaced persons in assembly centres is about 200,000.

Thirdly, the national origin of the above-mentioned Jewish refugees is as follows:

(a) About 75 per cent are of Polish nationality; a large number entered Italy and the western zones of Germany and Austria during the summer of 1946;

(b) About 8 per cent are of Romanian nationality;

(c) About 6 per cent are of Hungarian nationality;

(d) About 11 per cent are of Czech, German, Lithuanian and Yugoslav nationality.

Fourthly, the Jewish refugees and displaced persons are distributed among the centres in the following proportions :

Table C2-1: Jewish refugees and displaced persons in Europe
  United States zone 118,000
  British zone 14,900
  French zone 1,500
Austria 31,500
Italy 11,000
Total:   176,900
Table C2-2: Jewish refugees in East and West Asia
Shanghai 10,000
Cyprus 18,900
Total: 28,900

To this total should be added the Jewish refugees living in Shanghai and Cyprus, in the following numbers:

Fifthly, a resettlement programme has been prepared by the Preparatory Commission for the International Refugee Organization through agreements concluded with <284>a certain number of governments. These agreements envisage resettlement of some 135,000 refugees and displaced persons. In addition, individual resettlements processed by the organization are anticipated to amount to a monthly average of about 1,000 persons.

Sixthly, other countries are carrying out resettlement plans of their own without having concluded formal agreements with the Preparatory Commission. These plans envisage a total resettlement of some 165,000 refugees and displaced persons. Furthermore, voluntary agencies are expected to process individual immigrants at the rate of about 1,200 per month.

43. The study of the problem of refugees and displaced persons was begun in 1946 by the Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons set up under resolution 3 (I) of the Economic and Social Council, and the Committee’s report was considered by the Council at its second and third sessions. The outcome was the adoption by the General Assembly, on 15 December 1946, of its resolution 62 (I) providing approval of the Constitution of the International Refugee Organization and of various annexes thereto.

The following guiding principles emerge from the discussion of the refugee problem as a whole and from the decisions adopted by the United Nations:

(a) Genuine refugees and displaced persons constitute a problem which is international in scope and character (see first paragraph of preamble to the Constitution of the IRO);

(b) Refugees and displaced persons should return to their countries of origin (see second and third paragraphs of preamble and article 2. paragraph 1 (a) );

(c) Only in case where refugees cannot be repatriated should steps be taken to resettle them elsewhere than in their countries of origin (see article 2, paragraph 1 (b);

(d) In the performance of its functions, the IRO should act in accordance with the purposes and the principles of the United Nations, in particular as regards the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons in countries able and willing to receive them (see article 2, paragraph 1);

(e) In addition, the IRO should carry out the functions set forth in its Constitution in such a way as to avoid disturbing friendly relations between nations (see annex I to the Constitution, paragraph 1 (g));

(f) The IRO should exercise special care in resettling refugees or displaced persons cither in countries contiguous to their respective countries of origin, or in non-self-governing territories, and should also give due weight to any evidence of genuine apprehension and concern felt in regard to such plans, in the former case by the country of origin of the persons involved, in the latter case by the indigenous population of the non-self-governing territory in question (see annex I, paragraph 1 (g)).

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Comparative figures of Jews admitted to Palestine and other countries

44. In considering the connexion of the Palestine problem with the question of refugees and displaced persons, it must be remembered that Palestine, though a small country and possessing very limited resources, has made a contribution to the relief of Jewish refugees far beyond its capacity, falling little short of the total contribution of practically all other countries taken together. The following figures, supplied by the Secretariat, give the number of Jewish immigrants admitted during the years 1933 to 1946 by the principal countries which have accepted them:

Table C2-3: Jewish refugees admitted 1933-1946 per country
USA 188,648
United Kingdom 65,000
Argentina 26,000
Brasil 23,500
Chile 14,000
Bolivia 12,000
Canada 12,000
Australia 8,500
Union of South Africa 8,000
Uruguay 7,000
Total: 364,648
Palestine 287,063

<285>The figure for Palestine does not include the 118.378 Jews admitted to Palestine during the years 1920 to 1932.

These figures speak for themselves and are sufficient comment upon the genuineness of the concern felt by many States for Jewish refugees, and upon the patent unfairness of the demand that Palestine should absorb more Jewish immigrants.

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International responsibility in the matter of refugees

45. In its comment on recommendation VI, contained in chapter V of its report, the Special Committee emphasizes two important aspects of the problem of refugees and displaced persons in relation to Palestine. The first is that the problem of refugees and displaced persons is a “recognized international responsibitity"; and the Special Committee recommends that the General Assembly should undertake immediately the initiation and execution of an international arrangement whereby the problem of the distressed European Jews would be dealt with as a matter of extreme urgency. The second is that a programme of international action for the relief of Jewish displaced persons is "a vital prerequisite to the settlement of the difficult conditions in Palestine”.

46. Apart from the fact that the specific problem of Jewish refugees and displaced persons is an international responsibility, Palestine cannot provide the solution for it. On the contrary, a perusal of the reports of the debates in the Economic and Social Council and in the Third Committee of the General Assembly would show that no proposal presenting Palestine as a solution for the problem of Jewish refugees was taken into consideration by those organs. Moreover, recommendation VI, which was unanimously adopted by the Special Committee, confirms this view implicitly but nonetheless clearly.

47. In addition, there exist legal, political and economic obstacles and objections to any attempt to solve the problem of Jewish refugees and displaced persons by further immigration into Palestine. The main political ground is that Jewish immigration into Palestine is opposed by the large majority of the population. There can be no justification for recommending any immigration into any country against the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants.

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Legal objections to further Jewish immigration into Palestine

48. The legal objections to any further Jewish immigration into Palestine rest on the considerations enumerated below.

(a) Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine laid down that Jewish immigration into Palestine was to be subject to a number of safeguards and restrictions.

In the first place, the administration must ensure that "the rights and position” of other sections of the population were not prejudiced.

The word “rights” must be interpreted as covering the civil, economic and political rights of the Arabs of Palestine. Again, the word “position” must necessarily cover their economic, social and political position. The position of the Arabs at the time of the institution of the Mandate was that of a majority of 93 per cent of the total population. The reduction of that majority from 93 to 90 or 85 per cent as a result of immigration might not have <286>seriously prejudiced the position of the Arabs, but its reduction to 66 per cent, as it stands at present, certainly amounts to prejudicing that position.

Secondly, Jewish immigration was to be allowed only "under suitable conditions".

Thirdly, such immigration was to be controlled by the administration of Palestine. It was the duty of the Mandatory Power to set up such an administration which, under article 2 of the Mandate, was to become self-governing. In fact, the Mandate contemplated two constitutional governing bodies in respect of Palestine, namely, the Mandatory and the administration of Palestine. The basic idea of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, as well as of the Mandate, was that there should be a government of Palestine to which the Mandatory Power would render “administrative advice and assistance". The terms of the Mandate distinguished between those two bodies and assigned different functions to them. Thus it appears from article 6 that the question of immigration was to be within the competence of the administration of Palestine, as distinct front the Mandatory, and that the said administration, developed on self-governing lines and representative of the country, would receive "administrative advice and assistance” within the meaning and according to the objects of Article 22 of the Covenant. This view is in accord with the general principle that no immigration should be allowed into the territory of any nation against the wishes of its inhabitants or without their consent.

(b) The following observation appears in paragraph 150 of chapter II of the Special Committee’s report:

“To contend, therefore, that there is an international obligation to the effect that Jewish immigration should continue with a view to establishing a Jewish majority in the whole of Palestine, would mean ignoring the wishes of the Arab population and their views as to their own well being. This would involve an apparent violation of what was the governing principle of Article 22 of the Covenant.”

The Special Committee thus conceded that the creation of a Jewish majority by immigration in the whole of Palestine would amount to ignoring the wishes and well being of the Arab population and would involve a violation of Article 22 of the Covenant. Yet the majority of the Committee, in formulating its recommendations, did not pause to consider that the creation of a Jewish majority in a part of Palestine would also disregard the wishes and well being of more than half a million Arabs. An injustice would not cease to be an injustice merely because, instead of affecting 1,300.000 Arabs, it affected only half a million.

(c) In 1939 the British Government officially declared in its statement of policy that its obligation under the Mandate to encourage and develop the establishment of a Jewish National Home by immigration had been fulfilled and that further immigration could not be allowed to continue if it was desired not to affect or prejudice the rights of the non-Jewish communities, the rights and position of which the Mandatory was required to protect.

(d) The imposition of any Jewish immigration into Palestine would further constitute a breach of the guiding principles adopted in General Assembly resolution 62 (I) to which a brief reference has been made in paragraph 43 above.

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Objections on economic grounds to further Jewish immigration to Palestine

49. Palestine is a small country, having limited resources, practically no raw materials and no unoccupied cultivable land available for settlement. This is amply borne out by the report of the Special Committee, from which extracts are quoted below.

Palestine is already over-populated. Excluding the desert area of Beersheba, it has a density of 324 persons per square mile (see chapter 11, paragraph 20). The <287>natural rate of increase of population is very high and leaves no scope for artificial increase by means of immigration.

Palestine is poor in economic resources and far from self-sufficient (see chapter II, paragraphs 27 and 54). Most of the land capable of cultivation by present methods is under crops (see chapter II, paragraph 27), and the prospect of further development of the semi desert area of the Negeb is problematic (see chapter II, paragraph 38). In chapter II, paragraph 9, it is observed that "in the physical resources which are typically the basis of modern industrial development, Palestine is exceedingly poor, having neither coal, iron nor any other important mineral deposit”, and in chapter V, paragraph 3. Palestine is described as "a country that is arid, limited in area and poor in all essential resources”. With regard to industry, it is stated in chapter II, paragraph 43, that "Palestine is not very favourably endowed for industrial production” and that "it has no raw materials of any consequence apart from the Dead Sea minerals”. Industry is on a small scale, and the labour costs are relatively high. Although, during the war. industry received a great stimulus owing to abnormal demands and the closing of outside sources of supply, it would find it difficult to survive post-war competition from the highly industrialized countries of the West.

The report of the Special Committee also draws attention to the adverse balance of trade existing in Palestine, the excess of imports over exports in 1946 being over 45 million pounds.UN3 It points out that a remarkably large proportion of the balance of imports over exports is financed by import of capital consisting mainly of funds — or gift capital — coming from world Jewry (see chapter II, paragraph 54). It is obvious that this situation is unhealthy and uneconomic. In regard to future prospects, it is stated in chapter II, paragraphs 55 and 56, that "the further economic development of Palestine depends to a considerable degree on increasing its trade with other Middle East countries”, and that the boycott of Jewish products in Arab countries "could seriously hamper industrial development in Palestine if it were indefinitely maintained”. It is further mentioned that should there be a fall in military expenditure “a period of economic depression and unemployment would be the natural consequence” and that therefore "the Palestine economy may be expected in the near future to have to adjust itself to the double effect of increased industrial competition and a fall in income as a result of reduction of military expenditure” (see chapter II, paragraph 66).

In view of the facts observed and recorded by the Special Committee itself regarding the economic resources and absorptive capacity of Palestine, and its bleak future economic prospects, it is astonishing that the Special Committee, in disregard of all these facts, should have recommended the admission into Palestine of 150,000 Jewish immigrants. It is obvious that there is no room for more immigrants in Palestine, and that it is necessary to look elsewhere for the resettlement of such Jewish refugees and displaced persons as cannot be repatriated to their countries of origin.

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Solution for the problem of refugees

50. The resettlement plans envisaged by the Preparatory Commission for the International Refugee Organization in agreement with a certain number of governments, together with individual resettlement plans carried out by other countries, would, by absorbing about 300,000 persons, be calculated to simplify the task of the United Nations very considerably, if they were carried out in full. This Sub-Committee deplores the fact that very few <288>Jewish refugees seem> to be included in this substantial quota.

51. In this Sub-Committee’s opinion, the question of refugees and displaced persons is indivisible in character as regards its possible solution, and there can be no question of discrimination in favour of any particular category of refugees or displaced persons.

Whatever the category of refugees concerned, the solution found must, in this Sub-Committee’s opinion, be based on the following two principles:

(a) It is the duty of the governments concerned to make provision for the return of genuine refugees and displaced persons to the countries of which they are nationals ;

(b) Where such repatriation proves impossible, the solution should be sought by way of resettlement in the territories of the Members of the United Nations which are in a position to absorb a proportion of the persons concerned.

52. With regard to persons who are not repatriated to their countries of origin, a special committee of the General Assembly should be set up to recommend for the acceptance of the Members of the United Nations a scheme of quotas of refugees and displaced persons to be resettled in their respective territories. The special committee should, as far as practicable, work in consultation with the International Refugee Organization or its Preparatory Commission. In drawing up this scheme, the committee should be guided by the principles of the United Nations enumerated in paragraph 43 above. It should, in addition, take into account the national income of each country as indicated by the state of its industry, trade and developed resources, the per capita income of its population, and the area and possibilities of future development, subject to the consideration that the surplus territory of each State must in the first place serve the interests of the normal and natural increase of its own population.

In allocating quotas of refugees and displaced persons for resettlement, account must also be taken of the legitimate apprehensions of some countries with regard to their national unity or their social and economic equilibrium. This is an important consideration not only for the populations of the countries in question but also for the refugees themselves, who have a vital interest in not incurring the resentment or hostility of local populations.

53. In this Sub-Committee's opinion, a solution on these lines, making each country responsible for a moderate number of refugees, should prove acceptable to the great majority of the Members of the United Nations and will go far towards carrying out recommendation VI of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine.

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Footnote numbers from the original text are prefixed with "UN", those from the editor at by "Ed"

UN3 All references to pounds in this report are to Palestinian pounds.