United Nations Resolution 181

On this day in 1947, the United Nations votes in favor of an Independent Jewish State of Israel, the partition of Palestine and an end to the British Mandate. The final UN vote was 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions and 1 absent, in favor of a modified Partition Plan.

Going back to the early 20th century, the British administration of the region was formalized by the League of Nations under the Palestine Mandate in 1923, as part of the Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire following World War 1. The Mandate reaffirmed the 1917 British commitment to the Balfour Declaration, for the establishment in Palestine of a “National Home” for the Jewish people, with the prerogative to carry it out. A British census of 1918 estimated 700,000 Arabs and 56,000 Jews in the region.

Beginning in 1929, Arabs and Jews openly fought in Palestine, and Britain attempted to limit Jewish immigration as a means of appeasing the Arabs. As a result of the Holocaust in Europe, many Jews illegally entered Palestine during World War 2. Radical Jewish groups employed terrorism against British forces in Palestine, whom they believed betrayed the Zionist cause. At the end of the war in 1945, the US took up the Zionist cause. Britain, unable to find a practical solution, referred the problem to the United Nations.

After the mandate vote, significant fighting recommenced between Zionist and Palestinian Arab forces, and the Zionists effectively secured all the lands included in the mandate. On May 14, 1948, Britain withdrew with the expiration of its mandate, and the State of Israel was proclaimed by Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion. The next day, forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq invaded.

The Israelis, though less well equipped, managed to fight off the Arabs and then seize key territories, such as Galilee, the Palestinian coast, and a strip of territory connecting the coastal region to the western section of Jerusalem. In 1949, UN-brokered cease-fires left the State of Israel in permanent control of those conquered areas. The departure of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs from Israel during the war left the country with a substantial Jewish majority.

In more recent years under PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli government continued to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip and facilitate the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank. In the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict alone, some 2,310 combatant and civilian souls perished on both sides as the ceaseless struggle drags on to this day.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.