The black-and-white photos showed masses of people yearning for independence, celebrating a vote recognising a state in Palestine. It was a day that generations of pupils would be taught to remember with reverence — November 29.
The jubilant revellers were Jews, the year was 1947, and the vote was held in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The Palestinians rejected the partition plan, which called for Jewish and Arab states to be established after the imminent expiration of the British rule over Palestine. The outraged Arabs soon started a war they eventually lost.
Sixty-five years later, the tables somewhat reversed — Palestinians turned to the General Assembly for a second chance and it is the Israelis who dismissed the vote, which resoundingly upgraded the Palestinians’ U.N. status, as a symbolic trifle.
The irony of the date was not lost on the Israelis.
“We are the best teachers of the Palestinian people in their struggle for independence,” wrote Eitan Haber, a veteran columnist for the Yedioth Ahronot daily. “They have studied carefully the history of the Zionist movement.”
While it’s true that Thursday’s vote won’t immediately create a state of Palestine, it will give the Palestinians a boost, elevating their status from U.N. observer to non-member observer state like that of the Vatican.
The resolution upgrading the Palestinians’ status was approved by a vote of 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, in the 193-member world body.
Anton Salman, a resident of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the West Bank, said he hoped international recognition would mark the beginning of a new period that “will begin to build a real state and to recognize our identity as a people with a state and land”.
The vote recognises a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
This represents far less territory than the Palestinians were offered on November 29, 1947, when the U.N. General Assembly passed Resolution 181.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a rare moment of candour, admitted in an Israeli TV interview last year that the Arab world erred in rejecting the plan. “It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole,” he said at the time.
After the vote, ecstatic Palestinians in Ramallah and other West Bank towns waved flags, danced in the streets and set off fireworks.
A group of Israeli peace activists held a rally Thursday to support the Palestinian bid in front of the old Tel Aviv Museum, where Israel’s independence was declared in May 1948.
“The choice of date is not accidental. It’s aimed at correcting a historical mistake,” said Mossi Raz, a former Israeli lawmaker and veteran activist.
“Sixty-five years ago, the United Nations decided to establish a Jewish state and an Arab state ... but it never happened. Today we are completing a historic decision with the establishment of Palestine.”