PLO Granted Observer Status at the UN, 1975

Why was the PLO granted observer status at the UN in 1975?

Starting in the mid-1970s, an Arab-Soviet-Third World bloc joined to form what amounted to a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) lobby at the United Nations. The solidly anti-Israel Arab block was joined by the Soviet Block (opposing Israel as leverage against the US) and many smaller countries from Africa or elsewhere who were intimidated by Arab oil-power, were leaning toward the Soviets, or were anti-American as a reaction to their own colonial histories.


Since the UN Security Council was protected by the US veto power,it was in the General Assembly where these countries -- nearly all dictatorships or autocracies -- frequently voted together to pass resolutions attacking Israel and supporting the PLO. Sometimes this was directly related to issues with Israel itself, and sometimes Israel was a convenient proxy for a multitude of other agendas.

In 1974, when the UN General Assembly invited Yaser Arafat to address the body,he was the first representative of a non-governmental organization to appear before a plenary session of the General Assembly, and also the first speech to the UN by the head of a terrorist organization, responsible by his own admission for death and destruction across the Middle East. Arafat gave his speech on November 13, 1974 in his revolutionary garb with a holster attached to his hip (although he left the gun outside the hall). In the speech he bitterly denounced Israel as imperialist, colonialist, and reactionary. He recited all the familiar Palestinian claims about "usurpation of our land" and refugees.He attempted to ally himself with anti-colonialist, nationalist movements all over the globe. Arafat closed his speech with a threat to Israel, saying:

  • Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter?s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.

Even though Arafat's militant words were based on unfounded assertions and a mythical history of the Middle East, he was not seriously challenged. In fact, his speech received a standing ovation by the UN delegates, excepting the US, Israel and few others. The anti-Israel block of the UN General Assembly embraced the Palestinians and their terrorist leader. On November 10, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 3237 that conferred on the PLO the status of observer in the Assembly and in other international conferences held under United Nations auspices. This permanent representative status was a special arrangement for the PLO, a terrorist organization not a nation. The "PLO Observer Mission" then opened an office in midtown Manhattan as its UN base of operations.

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