The United Nations Plan of Partition for Palestine Revisited: On the Origins of Palestine’s International Legal Subalternity


This Article critically examines the United Nations (U.N.) commitment to international law by revisiting General Assembly Resolution 181(1) of 29 November 1947 recommending the partition of Mandate Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State. The main claim advanced is that Resolution 181(11) was an expression of an international rule by law, rather than an international rule of law, through which law was used, abused or selectively applied with grossly iniquitous results. To this end, it undertakes a critical international legal analysis of Resolution 181(11) with specific reference to the verbatim and summary records of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine whose report of September 1947 formed the basis of both the Resolution’s text and its underlying rationale. Rather than being governed by the objective application of international law, the Resolution was driven by distinctly European political goals, which privileged support for the European Zionist program in Palestine. The result was to legislate into U.N. law the two-state framework as the legal cornerstone of the Organization’s position on Palestine against the wishes of the country’s indigenous Arab majority. In this sense, Resolution 181(11) can be understood as the opening act of Palestine’s disenfranchisement and contingency in the U.N., a subaltern position which continues to this very day.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • Ardi Imseis, The United Nations Plan of Partition for Palestine Revisited: On the Origins of Palestine's International Legal Subalternity, 57 Stan. J. Int'l L. 1 (2021).
Related Organization(s):