Back to PLO Bulletin 1-15 September 1979




The United Nations has been witnessing an intriguing battle of wits in recent weeks over the issue of whether the Security Council should pass a resolution affirming the Palestinian people's rights to self-determination and independent statehood.

The Security Council was supposed to debate a recommendation by the UN Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (which had been established earlier by the General Assembly). This committee proposed the adoption of a resolution specifying the right of Palestinian exiles to return to their homes and of the Palestinian people as a whole to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty in their ancestral homeland, Palestine.

Admittedly, this debate should never have been necessary in the first place. The UN Charter acknowledged the rights of every people on earth to self-determination, so there should be no need to adopt any separate resolution affirming that the Palestinian people also have this right.

UN Security Council debating draft resolution on Palestine

The need for such clarification has arisen because of the persistent efforts of both the United States and Israel to make an exception of the Palestinian people and deny them the basic right of self-determination and independent statehood. President Carter, indeed, seems to consider himself qualified to decide what is best not only for the Palestinians, but also for everyone else in the Middle East. "I am against any creation of a separate Palestinian state," Carter declared recently. "I don't think it would be good for the Palestinians. I don't think it would be good for Israel. I don't think it would be good for the Arab neighbours of such a state."


This is where the problems began in the efforts to obtain a new Security Council resolution. The United States government considered this resolution not as a means to correct a serious anomaly in international law (namely the deprivation of the Palestinian people's rights) but rather as a means to play a confidence trick to preserve and strengthen this anomaly.

The Carter administration's aim was to try to secure a resolution that would reaffirm resolution 242 and go even further by mentioning Israel's "right to exist" specifically, while referring to Palestinian rights only in the vaguest terms, such as the Camp David agreement's grudging acknowledgement that the Palestinians have "legitimate rights" and "justified requirements".

The US government hoped, by throwing the Palestinians this small and meaningless crumb, that it would be able to entice the PLO into accepting this resolution, thereby implicitly accepting resolution 242 and recognising Israel. This, it was hinted, would open the way for a "dialogue" between the PLO and the United States.

At this point, a second confidence trick was planned. For the purpose of such a "dialogue" was not to reach a genuine understanding that would ensure the Palestinian people obtained even part of the rights of which they had been deprived, but to lure the PLO into either joining the "self-rule" talks or nominating "moderate Palestinians" to do so on its behalf. In this way, US policymakers hoped, the PLO would be trapped into endorsing Israeli Prime Minister Begin's "self-rule" plan which is designed to perpetuate Zionist control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


At this stage, the complicated gymnastics required for this double confidence trick entangled US diplomacy in a certain amount of confusion. In July, the US Ambassador at the UN, Andrew Young, succeeded with painstaking effort in negotiating a compromise resolution calling for an end to Zionist settlements in the West Bank, in terms moderate enough for the United States to vote for it.

However, shortly before the vote, the US government changed its mind and instructed its delegation to abstain - after Young had indicated to the Arabs that they could expect a positive vote. This switch was reportedly on the advice of Robert Strauss, a Zionist who heads the US delegation at the "self-rule" talks.

After that, the moves to secure a Security Council resolution on Palestinian rights began to gain momentum. Kuwait, the Arab Security Council member at the time, drafted a resolution affirming the Palestinian right to statehood. This, of course, was "unacceptable" to the United States, which instructed Ambassador Young to seek a postponement of the Council debate.

According to "Newsweek" of 27 August, when Young raised this issue with Kuwaiti Ambassador Abdullah Bishara, the latter replied that he "could not deliver Arab agreement to delay the debate on the new resolution because Young had been unable to deliver the US vote on the settlements issue." Bishara then reportedly suggested that Young talk to the PLO representative at the UN, Zehdi Tarazi, and invited them both to meet informally at his home. At this meeting, on 26 July, Young argued in favour of a postponement of the debate, which in fact was delayed until 23 August.


It was at this point that US policy planners lost control of the game, when the Israelis learned that this meeting had taken place and leaked the information to "Newsweek", thus forcing Young's resignation.

Diplomatic sources have confirmed to Palestine that the "Atlanta Constitution" was correct in reporting that Israeli intelligence spied on the Young-Tarazi meeting, using electronic equipment. Despite energetic Israeli denials, the diplomatic sources were able to supply further details of the espionage operation.

Israeli intelligence agents set up the electronic equipment to eavesdrop on conversations in Ambassador Bishara's house on 24 July, two days before the controversial meeting took place. They also had Tarazi under surveillance on his way to Bishara's home.

Having secured this information, the Israelis resolved to use it to force Ambassador Young out of his post. According to diplomats, President Carter himself ordered Young to resign, at the prompting of the Zionist lobby. Carter felt indebted to the lobby for favours its members had done for him in the past, and felt that he needed its support for his re-election.

Had Carter wished to resist Zionist pressure, he had a perfectly good excuse available. While the United States government has the authority to order its ambassadors not to speak to PLO representatives, it has no right to demand this of the President of the UN Security Council. It is perfectly arguable that it was in the latter capacity that Young met with Tarazi, in order to discuss a Security Council matter.


In their eagerness to "get rid of Young", the Zionists (both the Israeli government and the US Zionist lobby) bahaved with remarkable clumsiness, setting in motion a whole series of processes that are likely to cause them serious damage in the long run.

In the first place, they have undermined President Carter's position not only with millions of Afro-American voters who were decisive in his election in 1976, but also in the eyes of US and world public opinion in general. The whole affair has made Carter appear weak and unable to resist Zionist pressure. This is a poor way for the Zionists to repay an American President who has given Israel immense help, not only in terms of billions of dollars of aid and highly sophisticated modern weapons, but also in securing Sadat's signature to a treaty which greatly benefits Israel's position.

PLO Representative to the UN, Zehdi Tarazi, intervening on behalf of Palestine

The most striking and immediate result of Young's forced resignation was the angry reaction by Afro-Americans. As one of their leading spokesmen, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, put it: "So the President has apparently decided to sacrifice Africa, the Third World and Black Americans." Black Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm said that Carter had made Young "a scapegoat for the entire muddled mess in the Middle East."

In effect, the Palestinian national rights question has now been raised as an issue for debate among the American people for the first time, thanks to the Zionist "get rid of Young" campaign. One aspect of the debate that intelligent Americans, whatever their ethnic origins, cannot fail to miss is that their country's Ambassador at the UN can be dismissed from his post for meeting someone of whom Israel disapproves. This must arouse profound feelings among Americans who wish to preserve the dignity of their country as a major power.


In a desperate effort to salvage its move in the Security Council, the Carter administration sent Robert Strauss to visit Egypt and Israel two days after Young's resignation. His mission was to persuade Sadat and Begin to support the US formula for a Security Council resolution containing a vague reference to Palestinian rights.

Despite the fact that Strauss put forward some 15 proposals for drafting the resolution, including the specific mention of Israel's "right to exist", both Sadat and Begin rejected all the formulas offered, and stressed their opposition to any modification of the 242 formula. Sadat indicated that his reason for rejecting a new resolution was that it might steal the limelight from his initiative.

Diplomatic sources say Sadat is now in full agreement with the Israeli insistence that the Palestinian people should be denied independent statehood, and that Palestinian refugees now in Lebanon should remain there. Strauss also supports these views.

After Strauss returned to Washington from his abortive mission, differences arose between him and Secretary of State Vance. The main point of argument was Strauss' accusation that Vance knew in advance that Young would meet Tarazi and should have prevented the meeting. If Strauss is correct on this point, it reveals the dishonesty of Zionist news media attempts to discredit Young by claiming that he did not tell Vance the truth about his talks with Tarazi. By trying to make it appear that Young was dismissed for lying rather than for talking to a PLO representative, the Zionists are trying to conceal the fact that their pressure forced his resignation.


The Security Council met again on 23 August as scheduled, but no progress could be made towards passing a resolution. The deadlock remained owing to the United States' insistence on vetoing any resolution containing any real acknowledgement of Palestinian national rights, and its inability at the same time to find even a vague formula that would not offend the Israelis and Sadat.

Consequently, the debate was again postponed, reportedly owing to the Arab delegations' desire not to place Ambassador Young in the awkward position of having to cast a veto which he felt was wrong. In addition some Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia, wanted to give Carter more time to think about the issues involved before having to decide whether or not to use the veto.

A draft resolution affirming the Palestinian people's right to self-determination is on record, so the Security Council can be reconvened to vote on it at any time the PLO and the Arab states deem appropriate. It may well be reconvened after the Non-Aligned summit in Havana, and possibly also after the forthcoming General Assembly debate on the Palestinian question.

If the Security Council is prevented by the US veto from taking the necessary decision, the issue can then be referred back to an emergency General Assembly meeting. So the current diplomatic offensive at the United Nations is far from, and is likely to produce some interesting developments in the coming weeks.

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