Let the Palestinians have their “Kaf-Tet Be’November” (Sternfeld)

Lior Sternfeld writes in a guest column for Informed Comment:

On November 29, 1947 the UN general assembly granted the Zionist movement one of its most prominent diplomatic achievements, when it approved the Palestine Partition Plan. The non-binding resolution, never voted on by the UN Security Council, proposed dividing the land of the British mandate into a Jewish State and an Arab-Palestinian state. The Palestinian leadership rejected the UNGA resolution as giving away a substantial amount of territory to which they felt what they viewed as foreign settlers had no right. In contrast, Jews welcomed the idea of partition in principle (though they did not commit to settled borders for Israel) and they moved forward to establish the state of Israel.

Kaf-Tet means 29 in Hebrew letters, and to date every Israeli child can tell by heart what Kaf-Tet Be’November is, even if he does not know what or when November is. Every Israeli child recognizes the old radio recording of the voting process and thus know how Argentina and Australia voted on this issue (abstention and yes respectively). The war that erupted immediately afterwards and the bloodshed that has transpired since prevented the full implementation of the solution.

Some sixty-five years later, the original UN resolution has a chance to be realized. The President of the Palestine Authority, Mahmud Abbas, has vowed to seek a vote on fulfilling that decades-old pledge of Palestinian Statehood to the UNGA on a symbolic date: Kaf-Tet Be’November 2012. With the last round of fighting behind us now, and given that the bluff of Israel “not negotiating with Hamas” has been called, Israel can do the right thing, remember what the passion for an independent state felt like, and congratulate Abbas and Palestine with the best wishes for luck. This is all the more appropriate give Abbas’s moderation and the rise of much more radical forces among some Palestinians.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has declared his willingness to pursue a two-state solution and must be held accountable for that, and now is the time. Generations in Israel remembered what countries stood on the right side of history back in 1947, and did not forget who remained indifferent to the suffering of the Jewish people. It is Israel’s turn now to choose on which side of history it’d rather be on the issue of ending Palestinian statelessness and suffering.


Lior Sternfeld is pursuing a Ph.D. in History at the University of Texas, Austin.

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5 Responses

  1. Interesting to know. I really hope that Israel will for once stop attacking innocent Palestinians and making wars with the neighbors. It is time that the UN and the rest of the world also recognize the Palestinian Refugees and Diaspora ( not only Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza) who are anxiously anticipating this historical moment of the bid on 29th November, also the international Day for the solidarity with Palestinians.

  2. It’s a nice story about the founders of the state of Israel taking their cue from the young United Nations, but it’s a fairy tale. Menachem Begin is widely quoted as having denounced the 1947 partition plan: “”The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature by institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid.” And there are numerous statements by Ben Gurion that the borders of Israel must be decided by force and not according to the UN plan.

    Good for Mahmoud Abbas (his presidential term expired years ago) if he succeeds in obtaining a new UN resolution. But will he have accomplished anything more than another fairy tale? Never mind borders — will an elected Palestinian president even have the power to prevent an Israeli water company from cutting off water from Palestinian aquifers to Palestinian villages whenever they feel like it?

    We have seen this before. Last time round, it was called the Republic of Bophuthatswana.

  3. Breaking news- Aussie Parliament forces Prime Minister to abstain in upcoming Palestine UN status vote. Bibi’s gov’t furious
    Backbench revolt forces PM to drop Israel support

    Phillip Coorey
    Sydney Morning Herald
    Published: November 28, 2012
    link to smh.com.au

    JULIA GILLARD has been forced to withdraw Australia’s support for Israel in an upcoming United Nations vote after being opposed by the vast majority of her cabinet and warned she would be rolled by the caucus.

    As a result, Australia will abstain from a vote in the United Nations General Assembly on a resolution to give Palestine observer status in the UN, rather than join the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution as Ms Gillard had wanted.

    In a direct rebuff of her leadership, Ms Gillard was opposed by all but two of her cabinet ministers – Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy, both of the Victorian Right – during a heated meeting on Monday night.

    She was then warned by factional bosses she faced a defeat by her own backbench when the caucus met on Tuesday morning.

    The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, who met Ms Gillard before cabinet, drove the push to oppose the Prime Minister.

    The former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans briefed Labor MPs on Monday, warning they would be on the wrong side of history if they stood with the US and Israel against the rest of the world.

    Ms Gillard had wanted to vote no while the Left faction, which is pro-Palestinian, wanted to vote for the resolution.

    The Right faction, which would usually support Ms Gillard, backed an abstention, in part due to the views of its members that the government was too pro-Israel, and also because many MPs in western Sydney, who are already fearful of losing their seats, are coming under pressure from constituents with a Middle East background.

    Senior sources have told Fairfax Media that in cabinet on Monday night, at least 10 ministers, regardless of factional allegiance and regardless of whether they were supporters of Kevin Rudd or Ms Gillard, implored the Prime Minister to change her view.

    At one stage there was a heated exchange between the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, and Senator Conroy, the Communications Minister.

    One source said Ms Gillard was told the cabinet would support whatever final decision she took because it was bound to support the leader but the same could not be said of the caucus.

    ”If you want to do it, the cabinet will back you but the caucus won’t,” a source quoted one minister as telling the Prime Minister.

    After the meeting, Ms Gillard received separate delegations from the Left and the Right factions.

    There was to be a motion put to the caucus by the ACT backbencher Andrew Leigh calling for Australia to back Palestine in the UN vote.

    The Left was going to support it. Normally, the Right would have voted against it and defeated it. But the Right conveners, including Joel Fitzgibbon, are understood to have told Ms Gillard the Right was not going to bind its members on the vote and she would lose heavily. Members of the NSW Right and others would support the motion.

    ”She had no choice after that,” said one MP.

    Ms Gillard told the caucus meeting that her personal view was to vote no because she believed the UN vote, which will pass easily with the overwhelming support of UN member states, would hurt the peace process because the US has threatened to withdraw funding for the Palestinian Authority.

    But she conceded that after sounding out ministers and MPs, Australia should abstain.

    The Israeli government is understood to be furious but an embassy spokesperson declined to comment.

    The opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, said the decision to abstain was disappointing because the Coalition backed a no vote as ”the path to peace and reconciliation”.

  4. Israel works to deny more international status for Palestinians as such can increase the range of international bodies they can exploit (for example international juridical bodies). Until the US decides that its interests rest with a fair settlement, the Israel-Palestine conflict will drag on for a long time.

    On the issue of the 1947 Partition Resolution, “The Zionist leadership did formally accept the partition plan. Many Zionist leaders objected, but were persuaded by Ben-Gurion to agree to the official acceptance. However, in several secret meetings Ben-Gurion made it clear that the partition borders were unacceptable and must be rectified at the first opportunity. The minutes of these meetings are there for all to read.”

    Also, while it is argued that “the Palestinians are to be blamed for what occurred to them since they rejected the UN partition plan, this allegation ignores the colonialist nature of the Zionist movement. It would have been unlikely that the Algerians, for instance, would have accepted the partition of Algeria with the French settlers – and such a refusal would not be deemed unreasonable or irrational. [Accordingly, Palestinian rejection] should not have justified the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians as a ‘punishment’ for rejecting a UN peace plan that was devised without any consultation with them.” link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

  5. It is a good point that the 1947 Partition Plan did not have the approval of the United Nations Security Council and therefore could not be enforced.

    The Soviet Union backed the formation of Israel because they believed it would be Marxist in orientation. The First Knesset in 1949 had seats taken by members of the Israel Communist Party – including Meir Vilner and the Christian Arab Toufik Toubi. David Ben-Gurion’s Mapai Party’s symbol resembled the Soviet hammer and sickle.

    There were many Jews that opposed the declaration of a Zionist state. Ben Gurion had bitter arguments with former Warsaw Ghetto uprising subcommander Marek Edelman, who vehemently opposed Israeli statehood and was later recognized for his work in opposing Nazism with Poland’s highest award. Ultraorthodox Jews also opposed a Zionist state.

    Many Arabs on the other hand did not oppose Israel’s creation. The Druze fought the British in cooperation with the Jewish Underground from the 1930s. The Arab villagers of Deir Yassin, near Jerusalem declared themselves neutral and repulsed an Arab militia shortly before being massacred by a Jewish terror gang; Deir Yassin today is the site of an Israeli mental health facility.

    Plan Dalet was the blueprint of Zionist leaders for expelling Arabs from areas of Palestine and was being drawn up long before the UN Partition Plan was declared. The Palestinian refugee camps that to this day exist in Gaza and Lebanon are remnants of that forced expulsion of Arab residents of such places as Lydda, Haifa, Ramleh, Jaffa and other cities and villages. Deir Yassin, for example, was totally obliterated from existence as an Arab village, as were other Palestinian communities.

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