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November 13, 1974

United Nations General Assembly Official Records, 29th Session : 2282nd Plenary Meeting, Agenda Item 108, 'Question of Palestine (continued)'

As other documents in this collection on Moroccan nationalists in 1947 and 1950 have exemplified, the United Nations was an important arena in decolonization struggles for Arabs, as it was for Asians and Africans as e.g. Alanna O’Malley’s The Diplomacy of Decolonisation: America, Britain, and the United Nations during the Congo crisis, 1960-1964 (2018) has shown. In this regard, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was founded in 1964 and taken over by the Fatah movement in 1969, was no exception.

To be sure, Palestinian organizations including Fatah and the PLO decried key UN actions. One was the UN Palestine partition plan of 1947; another was UN Security Council resolution 242 of November 1967. Calling upon Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied” during the Six-Day War in June and calling for the “acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace,” it did not mention Palestine or the Palestinians. Even so, the PLO sought to get access to the UN and UN recognition. A crucial landmark on this road was the address to the UN in New York in November 1974 by Yassir Arafat (1929-2004), a Fatah co-founder in 1959 and from 1969 PLO chairman.

Arafat did not speak at the Security Council, which was and is dominated by its five veto-carrying permanent members Britain, China, France, the United States, and the USSR/Russia. Rather, he addressed the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where from the 1960s Third World states were in the majority; his speech was the first time that the UNGA allowed a non-state representative to attend its plenary session. The UNGA invited the PLO after having decided, in September, to begin separate hearings on Palestine (rather than making Palestine part of general Middle Eastern hearings), and after the PLO was internationally recognized as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, a landmark accomplishment for the organization. The UNGA president who introduced Arafat, Abdelaziz Bouteflika (1937-2021), was the Foreign Minister of Algeria, which since its independence in 1962 had supported the Palestinian cause organizationally, militarily, and politically. Arafat spoke in Arabic; the below text is the official UN English translation. Arafat did not write the text all by himself; several PLO officials and Palestinians close to the PLO, including Edward Said, assisted, as Timothy Brennan has noted in Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said (2021). Later in November 1974, the UNGA inter alia decided to give the PLO observer status and affirmed Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

June 10, 1960

Enrico Mattei, 'On the Decolonization of States and of the Economy'

This is the English translation of the translation, into Italian, of a French speech that Enrico Mattei (1906-1962) held in Tunisia in 1960 while negotiating an agreement in his function as the 1953 founder and director of Italy’s Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (ENI)—a conglomerate that managed Italy’s energy needs and led Italy’s energy foreign policy, pleasing many citizens but displeasing some high-ranking officials.

Already in the 1950s Mattei openly supported independence movements, also French Algeria’s. Moreover, he was a sharp Western critic of the world’s dominant oil companies, British Petroleum (until 1954, Anglo-Iranian Oil Company), Royal Dutch Shell, and the five US firms Standard Oil Company of California, Gulf Oil, Texaco, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, and Standard Oil Company of New York, who in various combinations enjoyed oil monopolies in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. He talked of Anglo-Saxon oil imperialism and in the 1950s coined the moniker the “Seven Sisters”—after the seven Pleiades sisters of Greek mythology—for those companies, leaving out the Compagnie Française des Pétroles that formed part of Iran’s and Iraq’s consortium, too. Unable to break into these two consortia or into the Saudi one, he succeeded to circumvent the Iranian one, which had been midwifed by the US government a year after the 1953 CIA-led coup d’Etat against Prime Minister Muhammad Musaddiq, who in 1951 had nationalized Iran’s oil.

In 1957 Mattei and Iran’s monarch, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-1980; r. 1941-1979), cut a deal whose profit terms—75-percent for Iran, 25-percent for ENI—undercut the Iranian consortium’s 50-50 terms. The US government did not oppose the deal, hoping it would buoy the shah’s popularity and hence stabilize a Cold War client bordering the Soviet Union. When in 1959 Mattei signed an oil deal with the Soviet Union, he again shocked the consortia and now also Washington: for dealing with the Soviets, and because they sold oil for less than the consortia. (This deal was a contributing factor to a price cut by the large US companies in July 1960, which angered oil producing countries and triggered the birth, in September, of the Organization of the Petroleum Producing Countries, or OPEC, a project discussed from 1959 by Arabs including the Saudi Abdallah al-Tariqi.) In 1958 and 1960, Mattei negotiated deals inter alia with two minor Arab oil producers, Morocco and Tunisia, respectively. Moreover, he entertained contacts with the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale. In 1962 he died in an airplane crash that in 1997 was ruled to have been caused by a bomb—perpetrators unknown.

December 24, 1958

Contribution of Algeria to the Construction of Africa

Born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, a French colony, Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) fought with the Free French Army in 1943-1944 in North Africa and Europe. In 1945, he was repatriated. After shortly working for Aimé Césaire (1913-2008), a famous politician and author who helped found the négritude movement in Francophone literature, he moved to France to study psychiatry. In 1952 he wrote the first text that would make him a worldwide leading postcolonial thinker; originally his dissertation, Peau noire, masques blanches (Black Skin, White Masks) analyzed colonial conditions’ mental effects on colonized subjects. (Another text, for which he would become even more famous, was the 1961 Les Damnés de la Terre [The Wretched of the Earth].)

In 1953, Fanon agreed to become the head of the psychiatric hospital at Blida-Joinville, in French Algeria, for principally professional reasons—but got involved with Algeria’s Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) mere months after it started the war of independence in November 1954. His hospital treated both FLN fighters and Frenchmen and -women, including security personnel whose violent counter-insurgency work, including torture, had destabilized them. In 1956 he resigned, and in early 1957 fled to neighboring Tunisia, which had become independent in 1956. Moving up the FLN’s civilian command structure, he helped run its principal organ, El Moudjahid, and in 1958 became the ambassador to Ghana of the FLN’s Provisional Algerian Government.

In 1957 Ghana had become the second British African colony, after Sudan, to gain independence. Its leader, Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972, r. 1952/1957-1966), was a known pan-Africanist who continued efforts reaching back into the late 1800s, including the Fifth Pan-African Congress that he had co-organized in 1945 in Manchester. He believed true independence was possible only if African countries unite their energies. To this effect, his government inter alia organized conferences. The earliest one, the first Conference on Independent African States, took place in Ghana’s capital of Accre in April 1958; Ghanaian, Liberian, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Tunisian, Libyan, Sudanese, and Egyptian/United Arab Republic (UAR) delegates inter alia emphasized that they form one African family, whether they are Arabs or sub-Saharan Africans. Moreover, as Jeffrey Ahlman has shown in “The Algerian Question in Nkrumah’s Ghana, 1958-1960: Debating ‘Violence’ and ‘Non-Violence’ in African Decolonization” (2010), when the FLN arrived at the conference and, with UAR support, asked to be heard and accepted as Algeria’s voice, Nkrumah felt forced to consent. He did so although he was advocating decolonization by nonviolent means, which had worked in Ghana that, unlike French Algeria, was not a settler colony and not unified with the metropole. Differences between the FLN’s approach and Nkrumah’s, which was shared by some other Africans like the Kenyan Tom Mboya (1930-1969), showed also in the December 1958 First All-African People’s Conference (AAPC), to which the FLN was invited.

The text printed here is an English translation of the rendering, in El Moudjahid, of Fanon’s talk, in French, to the AAPC. It framed Algeria’s violentdecolonization experience as the model for Africa. The AAPC indeed was an important landmark in African discussions about the means of decolonization, and it was after this conference that Fanon became influential also outside the FLN.

July 13, 1957

Telegram, Colonel [Amar] Ouamrane to Lt. John Kennedy, Senator, Washington

On July 2, 1957, US senator John F. Kennedy made his perhaps best-known senatorial speech—on Algeria.

Home to about 8 million Muslims, 1.2 million European settlers, and 130,000 Jews, it was from October 1954 embroiled in what France dubbed “events”—domestic events, to be precise. Virtually all settlers and most metropolitan French saw Algeria as an indivisible part of France. Algeria had been integrated into metropolitan administrative structures in 1847, towards the end of a structurally if not intentionally genocidal pacification campaign; Algeria’s population dropped by half between 1830, when France invaded, and the early 1870s. Eighty years and many political turns later (see e.g. Messali Hadj’s 1927 speech in this collection), in 1954, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched a war for independence. Kennedy did not quite see eye to eye with the FLN.

As Kennedy's speech shows, he did not want France entirely out of North Africa. However, he had criticized French action already in early 1950s Indochina. And in 1957 he met with Abdelkader Chanderli (1915-1993), an unaccredited representative of the FLN at the United Nations in New York and in Washington, DC, and a linchpin of the FLN’s successful international offensive described in Matthew Connelly’s A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (2002). Thus, Kennedy supported the FLN’s demand for independence, which explains its very positive reaction to his speech, evidenced in the telegram sent to Kennedy printed here.

October 15, 1951

Complaint of Failure by the Iranian Government to Comply with Provisional Measures Indicated by the International Court of Justice in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Case (S/2357)

In 1901, Iran granted an oil concession to a foreigner: William Know D’Arcy (1949-1917), a British national who before had worked in mining in British imperial Australia and New Zealand. The 60-year concession gave the Iranian government, then led by the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925), 16-percent of annual profits. In 1908, D’Arcy’s engineers found oil in the southwestern province of Khuzistan, bordering Ottoman Iraq. The same year, D’Arcy’s company became the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC; from 1935 Anglo-Iranian Oil Company [AIOC]; from 1954 British Petroleum [BP]), which by 1913 began to commercially exploit Iranian oil. In 1914, the British government bought 51-percent of APOC’s shares and hence effectively its control, which mattered particularly to the Navy, the world’s largest, that was shifting from coal to oil combustion. In 1933, the 1901 concession was moderately revised. Iran now received 20-percent of annual profits, and APOC made other minor concessions, agreed on in a meeting between Reza Shah Pahlavi (1878-1944, r. 1925-1941) and APOC Chairman John Cadman (1877-1941).

Iranian AIOC laborers’ and the Iranian public’s complaints about the status quo grew audible after the Anglo-Soviet occupation of Iran opened up the political sphere in 1941. Later that decade, nationalist parliamentarians, including Muhammad Musaddiq (1882-1967), began to demand a new agreement along the lines of the 50-50 profit-sharing deal that Venezuela’s 1943 Hydrocarbons Law had successfully imposed on foreign oil companies. AIOC refused. Its 1949 counter-offer was accepted by Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-1980, r. 1941-1979) but rejected by parliament, not the least because in 1950 also Saudi Arabia got a 50-50 profit-sharing deal with ARAMCO. In April 1951, parliament elected Musaddiq Prime Minister.

Having for a long time criticized AIOC’s role—and by extension Britain’s influence—in Iran, Musaddiq demanded AIOC respect sovereign control. When it refused, he cancelled its concession and nationalized its assets in Iran. The following two years were fateful. They ended with a CIA-led coup d’Etat that in 1953 ousted Musaddiq, turned Iran into a US client, and allowed the US government to bring (initially not quite willing) US oil companies into Iran, sidelining BP, and to create a consortium in 1954 that paid Iran 50-percent of its profit. Moreover, Iran’s oil nationalization drama was an international affair. Anticolonial masses treated Musaddiq as a hero also outside Iran, as Lior Sternfeld shows in “Iran Days in Egypt: Mosaddeq’s Visit to Cairo in 1951” (2015). And Christopher Dietrich’s Oil Revolution (2017) demonstrates that among anticolonial elites in many non-Western countries and at international organizations like the United Nations (UN), Iran’s case sharpened conversations about and demands for economic decolonization, i.e. for politically independent countries’ right to also exercise sovereign rights over their resources. (Publics were involved in these debates, too.)

In New York, Iran’s UN delegate Djalal Abdoh (1909-1996) was a leading voice in this regard, together with colleagues especially from Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. Moreover, Musaddiq himself addressed international organizations on economic decolonization. In June 1952, he was at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands, which would accept Iran’s claim that AIOC’s nationalization was a domestic Iranian rather than an international legal matter. And on October 15, 1951, he addressed the UN Security Council’s 560th meeting in New York, speaking in French; as he was frail, after a while Allahyar Saleh, Iran’s ambassador to the United States, took over.

February 1927

Statement of the Delegation of the "Etoile Nord Africaine" ("North African Star") by Hadj-Ahmed Messali

The presenter of this address, Ahmed Ben Messali Hadj (1898-1974), is known as the “father” of Algerian nationalism, one of whose foremost biographies is Benjamin Stora’s Messali Hadj, 1898-1974 (2012). Having served in the French army in 1918-1921, Messali Hadj for economic reasons moved to Paris. There, he met his French wife, the leftist Emilie Busquant. In 1925, he was recruited to the French Communist Party’s (PCF) colonial commission. In June 1926, he co-founded, and became Secretary General of, the Etoile Nord Africaine (ENA), which at first demanded political and legal equality for France’s Muslim North Africans. As this text shows, demands shifted by February 1927. That month, ENA functionaries including Messali Hadj travelled to Bruxelles. Together with leftists and delegates from three dozen colonized countries, they participated in the founding conference of the League against Imperialism (LAI), which was initiated by the Moscow-headquartered Comintern and organized by the PCF and the German communist Willi Münzenberg; the experience in Bruxelles of one non-Arab delegation, India, has been analyzed in Michele Louro’s Comrades against Imperialism: Nehru, India, and Interwar Internationalism (2020).

It was in Bruxelles that Messali Hadj held the below address, speaking ex catedra as his notes had disappeared. The LAI was soon paralyzed by discord between communists and activists for whom allying with communists was a means to an anticolonial end; in 1936, it dissolved. Even so, it was the first truly international attempt to combat imperialism, as shown by the edited volume The League against Imperialism: Lives and Afterlives (2020). As for the ENA, it in 1928 cut its ties with the PCF, being too independent-minded and -organized and vexed that the PCF, following the Comintern line, was moving away from ENA’s ideas about self-determination. In 1929, the French government outlawed ENA. In the 1930s Messali Hadj became closer inter alia to Shakib Arslan, translated excerpts of whose work Why Muslims Lagged Behind and Others Progressed is included in this collection. Even so, in 1936 to early 1937 a rebranded ENA shortly joined the leftist French Front Populaire, but then again was closed down. Messali Hadj reacted by establishing the clandestine Parti du Peuple Algérien (PPA), which—a shift—demanded absolute Algerian autonomy within the French Republic.

Condemned by the Vichy government to hard labor in 1941, Messali Hadj returned to Algeria in 1945. He continued to play a leading political role, founding in 1946 a PPA successor, the Mouvement pour la triomphe des libertés démocratiques. But from 1954, his star declined. By 1957, the Front de Libération Nationale, the new organization that in November 1954 started the War of Independence, ravaged the Mouvement National Algérien that Messali Hadj had founded that month, too. Politically neutralized, he stayed in France. He was allowed to return to Algeria only after his death, in 1974, for burial in his hometown of Tlemcen.


A Handwritten Note by Alfred Sursock, Omar Beyhum, Habib Trad, Joseph Audi, and A. Bassoul, to General Henri Gouraud

In the last two years of World War I, British Empire troops based in Egypt succeeded in occupying Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria, roughly present-day Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan), which had been Ottoman from 1516/17. In October 1918, British troops evacuated the area roughly corresponding to present-day Lebanon, and a French contingent landed in Beirut and spread southwards along the coast. The following month, France occupied also Cilicia, in present-day southern Turkey, and in July-August 1920 it took Syria, terminating the originally British-supported Arab Kingdom there governed by the Hashemite King Faysal I (1885-1933) and imposing a League of Nation Mandate over that country and Lebanon that it had in principle received in the Allied San Remo conference, in April 1920, and that became official in 1923. (France evacuated Cilicia in March 1921, following a treaty with the Turkish National Movement, which would establish the Turkish Republic in 1923.) With these measures, France implemented key parts of the 1916 Franco-British Sykes-Picot Agreement regarding the post-war, post-Ottoman administrative-territorial order of Greater Syria, Iraq, and southeastern Anatolia. (While secret, this agreement was made public by the Bolsheviks in November 1917.)

In November 1919, General Henri Gouraud (1867-1946) became France’s new political representative and troop commander in Lebanon, and French troops took full control of most parts of present-day Lebanon. The below printed here, a short note to Gouraud that may or may not have been sent in actual fact, was penned by a number of Beirut’s leading Christian and Muslim merchant-politicians. Picking up concepts current following World War I in other parts of the world and especially Europe―discussed e.g. in Dominique Kirchner Reill’s The Fiume Crisis. Life in the Wake of the Habsburg Empire (2020) ― the authors of this document show how much the postwar order was in flux, as discussed in Carol Hakim’s The Origins of the Lebanese National Idea, 1840-1920 (2013) and, for Bilad al-Sham, in Cyrus Schayegh’s The Middle East and the Making of the Modern World (2017). Beirut did not become a Free City or free port, though it did become the capital of Greater Lebanon, created in 1920, and the headquarters of the French Mandate government over Lebanon and Syria.

November 2, 1979

Letter Dated 2 November 1979 from the Permanent Representative of Viet Nam to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General

The Vietnamese Permanent Representative to the UN submits an excerpt from a record of conversation between Pol Pot and Hua Guofeng, dated September 29, 1977.

August 1, 1958

Note Relating to the Designation of an Objective

Authorization request to eliminate an organizer of a French legion deserters organization, Schulz Lesum, in Tetouan, Morocco.

June 1958

Operations Conducted Since the 1st of January 1956

List of 47 paramilitary actions conducted or planned by the French Service Action between January 1956 and Summer 1958.