On November 15, 1988 the Palestine National Council (PNC) proclaimed the Palestinian Declaration of Independence at Algiers in Arabic, the language of the desert and of the holy Koran. Arabic shall always remain the sole, exclusive, official, and only authentic language for the Palestinian Declaration of Independence. Immediately thereafter, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) gave the Arabic language text of the Declaration to the United Nations Organization in order to be translated into the five official languages of the United Nations (English, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish), and then distributed as such to all U.N. member states. It soon became obvious that the United Nations bureaucracy had deliberately sabotaged their English-language translation of the Declaration in order to grossly misrepresent and distort its true meaning and ultimate significance. The late Professor Ibrahim Abu-Lighoud immediately sought my urgent advice on how to retrieve and rectify this situation that seriously threatened the related Palestinian Peace Initiative.
During the course of our lengthy conversation on this crucial matter, it became clear that the parameters for a solution must be as follows:
First, the PLO would have to immediately prepare its own English-language translation of the Declaration.
Second, the PLO would have to make it clear that its English-language translation of the Declaration was the only officially authorized English-language translation of the Declaration, thus implicitly repudiating, negating, superseding and nullifying the bogus English-language translation of the Declaration by the U.N. bureaucracy.
Third, however, for diplomatic reasons, this repudiation had to be done in such a way so as not to attack or criticize the United Nations Organization, or even explain why the PLO was putting out its own officially authorized English-language translation of the Declaration. At this critical moment in time, the PLO could not afford to antagonize the U.N. Secretariat and the U.N. Secretary General.
Fourth, this all had to be done in a manner that would not undercut the original Arabic language of the Declaration as proclaimed by the Palestine National Council. Only the Palestine National Council has the legal authority to represent the interests of all the Palestinian people living around the world. The PLO has no legal authority to do anything that would contradict , undermine, or even call into question any Decision by the Palestine National Council.
Given these requirements, it was my recommendation that the PLO prepare their own English-language translation of the Declaration, then simply put it onto official PLO Letterhead as is without any explanation whatsoever as to its status or otherwise, and then circulate this document to the member states of the United Nations Organization as well as to the world’s news media. So it was done. But in the meantime, the bogus English-language translation by the U.N. bureaucracy had already inflicted terrible harm upon the just cause of the Palestinian people.
Why would the United Nations bureaucracy do this? Obviously, someone at the very top of the U.N. Secretariat had given the order to sabotage the English-language translation of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence. Probably, this was done at the behest of an extremely powerful U.N. member state.
In any event, it had been the United Nations Organization in the first place that had illegally carved up the Mandate for Palestine in gross violation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Right from the very outset of this conflict, the United Nations Organization has always been biased in favor of Israel. Still today, Israel is a U.N. member state, whereas Palestine is not. The Palestinians must never rely upon the United Nations Organization to do the right thing on their behalf!
Professor Francis A. Boyle is an international law expert and served as Legal Advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization and Yasser Arafat on the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence, as well as to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations from 1991 to 1993, where he drafted the Palestinian counter-offer to the now defunct Oslo Agreement. His books include “ Palestine, Palestinians and International Law” (2003), and “ The Palestinian Right of Return under International Law” (2010).