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United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 [1] was passed on December 11, 1948, near the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The resolution expresses appreciation for the efforts of UN Envoy Folke Bernadotte after his assassination by members of the Lehi group. It deals with the situation in the region of Palestine at the time, establishing and defining the role of the United Nations Conciliation Commission as an organization to facilitate peace in the region.

The resolution consists of 15 articles, the most quoted of which are:

  • Article 7: protection and free access to the Holy Places
  • Article 8: demilitarization and UN control over Jerusalem
  • Article 9: free access to Jerusalem
  • Article 11: calls for the return of refugees

International reception and interpretation

Many of the resolution's articles were not fulfilled by any of the parties involved in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Because of its charged nature, there were multiple reactions to the resolution. Since General Assembly resolutions are not binding, and only serve as advisory statements, there was no enforcement of Resolution 194.[1]

Article 11 - Refugees

Article 11 reads:

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.

The exact meaning and timing of enforcement of the resolution were disputed from the beginning.

Since the late 1960s, Article 11 has increasingly been quoted by those who interpret it as a basis for the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees.

Israel has usually contested this reading, pointing out that the text merely states that the refugees "should be permitted" to return to their homes at the "earliest practicable date" and this recommendation applies only to those "wishing to... live at peace with their neighbors".[2] The one exception was at the Lausanne Conference, 1949, where a Joint Protocol was accepted by the Israeli government and the Arab delegates on May 12, 1949. After Israel had become a member of the United Nations, it offered to repatriate 100,000 refugees. This offer was rejected by the Arabs,[who?] and subsequently withdrawn by Israel.[2] David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, insisted in an interview with the members of the Conciliations Commission that as long as Israel could not count on the dedication of any Arab refugees to remain "at peace with their neighbors" - a consequence, he contended, of the Arab states' unwillingness to remain at peace with the state of Israel - resettlement was not an obligation for his country.[3]

Supporters of this line of reasoning sometimes also raise the question of a large number of displaced Jews — usually quoted between 750,000 and 850,000 — which they argue could potentially qualify as refugees to which Resolution 194 might then be applied.[4][5][6][7][8]

It is estimated that about 4 million Palestinians living in refugee communities scattered mainly in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon could claim a right of return under this article.[9]

Full text

The General Assembly,

Having considered further the situation in Palestine,

1. Expresses its deep appreciation of the progress achieved through the good offices of the late United Nations Mediator in promoting a peaceful adjustment of the future situation of Palestine, for which cause he sacrificed his life; and extends its thanks to the Acting Mediator and his staff for their continued efforts and devotion to duty in Palestine;

2. Establishes a Conciliation Commission consisting of three States Members of the United Nations which shall have the following functions:

(a) To assume, insofar as it considers necessary in existing circumstances, the functions given to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine by resolution 186 (S-2) of the General Assembly of 14 May 1948;

(b) To carry out the specific functions and directives given to it by the present resolution and such additional functions and directives as may be given to it by the General Assembly or by the Security Council;

(c) To undertake, upon the request of the Security Council, any of the functions now assigned to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine or to the United Nations Truce Commission by resolutions of the Security Council; upon such request to the Conciliation Commission by the Security Council with respect to all the remaining functions of the United Nations Mediator on Palestine under Security Council resolutions, the office of the Mediator shall be terminated;

3. Decides that a Committee of the Assembly, consisting of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, shall present, before the end of the first part of the present session of the General Assembly, for the approval of the Assembly, a proposal concerning the names of the three States which will constitute the Conciliation Commission;

4. Requests the Commission to begin its functions at once, with a view to the establishment of contact between the parties themselves and the Commission at the earliest possible date;

5. Calls upon the Governments and authorities concerned to extend the scope of the negotiations provided for in the Security Council's resolution of 16 November 1948 and to seek agreement by negotiations conducted either with the Conciliation Commission or directly with a view to the final settlement of all questions outstanding between them;

6. Instructs the Conciliation Commission to take steps to assist the Government and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them;

7. Resolves that the Holy Places - including Nazareth - religious buildings and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practice that arrangements to this end should be under effective United Nations supervision; that the United Nations Conciliation Commission, in presenting to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly its detailed proposal for a permanent international regime for the territory of Jerusalem, should include recommendations concerning the Holy Places in that territory; that with regard to the Holy Places in the rest of Palestine the Commission should call upon the political authorities of the areas concerned to give appropriate formal guarantees as to the protection of the Holy Places and access to them; and that these undertakings should be presented to the General Assembly for approval;

8. Resolves that, in view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area, including the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most Eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most Southern, Bethlehem; the most Western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most Northern, Shu'fat, should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control;

Requests the Security Council to take further steps to ensure the demilitarization of Jerusalem at the earliest possible date;

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to present to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly detailed proposals for a permanent international regime for the Jerusalem area which will provide for the maximum local autonomy for distinctive groups consistent with the special international status of the Jerusalem area;

The Conciliation Commission is authorized to appoint a United Nations representative who shall cooperate with the local authorities with respect to the interim administration of the Jerusalem area;

9. Resolves that, pending agreement on more detailed arrangements among the Governments and authorities concerned, the freest possible access to Jerusalem by road, rail or air should be accorded to all inhabitants of Palestine;

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to report immediately to the Security Council, for appropriate action by that organ, any attempt by any party to impede such access;

10. Instructs the Conciliation Commission to seek arrangements among the Governments and authorities concerned which will facilitate the economic development of the area, including arrangements for access to ports and airfields and the use of transportation and communication facilities;

11. Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;

12. Authorizes the Conciliation Commission to appoint such subsidiary bodies and to employ such technical experts, acting under its authority, as it may find necessary for the effective discharge of its functions and responsibilities under the present resolution;

The Conciliation Commission will have its official headquarters at Jerusalem. The authorities responsible for maintaining order in Jerusalem will be responsible for taking all measures necessary to ensure the security of the Commission. The Secretary-General will provide a limited number of guards for the protection of the staff and premises of the Commission;

13. Instructs the Conciliation Commission to render progress reports periodically to the Secretary-General for transmission to the Security Council and to the Members of the United Nations;

14. Calls upon all Governments and authorities concerned to cooperate with the Conciliation Commission and to take all possible steps to assist in the implementation of the present resolution;

15. Requests the Secretary-General to provide the necessary staff and facilities and to make appropriate arrangements to provide the necessary funds required in carrying out the terms of the present resolution.

See also

References

  1. "The resolution in question, number 194, was passed by the UN General Assembly on December 11, 1948, in the midst of the Arab-Israeli war. The first thing to be noted about it is that, like all General Assembly resolutions (and unlike Security Council resolutions), it is an expression of sentiment and carries no binding force whatsoever. Efraim Karsh, The Palestinians and The 'Right of Return', Commentary Magazine, May 2001.
  2. Pappe, Ilan (1992). "The Lausanne Conference". The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 1 85043 819 6. 
  3. Progress Report of the Conciliations Commission, 23 October 1950, III:9
  4. "Only one of its fifteen paragraphs alludes to refugees in general—not “Arab refugees”—in language that could as readily apply to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were then being driven from the Arab states in revenge for the situation in Palestine." Efraim Karsh, The Palestinians and The 'Right of Return', Commentary Magazine, May 2001.
  5. Richard L. Cravatts, Abbas Is Mistaken in Sanctifying The Palestinian 'Right of Return', American Thinker, September 28, 2008.
  6. "Notable in this wording, is the fact that a “right of return” was not mentioned, and the reference to “refugees,” rather than “Arab refugees” and “governments,” rather than the government of Israel. This implies that the framers had in mind the rights of Jewish refugees in Palestine as well, and would also be applicable to Jewish refugees forced to flee Arab countries as a result of the conflict. The number of Jews were forced out of Arab and Muslim countries because of the conflict is about equal to the number of Arab Palestinian refugees." Ted Belman, "There Is No Right Of Return", Global Politician, 1/4/2008.
  7. "The resolution specifically uses the general term "refugees" and not "Arab refugees", thereby indicating that the resolution is aimed at all refugees, both Jewish and Arab. It should be remembered that following the establishment of Israel in 1948, at least an equal number of Jewish residents of Arab states were forced to become refugees." "Frequently Asked Questions About Israel", Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, November 1, 2001.
  8. "It has also been argued that Resolution 194 applies to Jews who fled from Arab lands in the aftermath of the 1948 war, and that they too are entitled to the "right of return"." "The 'right of return'", Al-Jazeera English, June 04, 2007.
  9. Sharp, Heather Sharp (15 April 2004). "Right of return: Palestinian dream". BBC website. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3629923.stm. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 

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