UN for first time marks anniversary of Palestinian Nakba
As the UN on Monday officially commemorated the Palestinian Nakba, or “Catastrophe,” for the first time, President Mahmoud Abbas told representatives of member states that his people have the right to live in freedom and dignity in their own independent nation.
He also called for Palestine to be granted full membership of the UN; it currently holds the status of non-member observer state, which was granted in November 2012.
And he urged the organization to suspend Israel’s membership of the UN if it continues to ignore UN resolutions condemning the occupation of Palestinian territories and the building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, which are considered illegal under international law.
Abbas was speaking during a meeting of the Special Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the word Palestinians use to describe the mass displacement from their land when the state of Israel was established in 1948.
Between 1947 and 1949, about 750,000 Palestinians from a population of 1.9 million were forced out of their towns and villages, which were taken over by Jewish immigrants. Most of the displaced Palestinians fled to neighboring countries, where they settled as refugees.
The UN adopted a resolution this year to officially commemorate the Nakba for the first time, although 30 nations voted against it. Addressing the representatives of the many UN member states that attended Monday’s meeting, Abbas demanded that Israel and its main state supporters, namely the UK and US, acknowledge their responsibility for the Nakba, apologize to the Palestinian people and compensate them.
He said the Palestinian people have accepted Israel’s right to exist on the 78 percent of historically Palestinian land that makes up the state of Israel, and now demand only that they be allowed to establish their own state on the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel occupied those and other Arab territories during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
Abbas reiterated that he is not opposed to the Jewish people or to Judaism, but rather “those who occupy my land, regardless of their beliefs.” He added that it is “the Israeli government that is responsible for the Nakba and for the killing, displacement and destruction” of Palestinians.
He called on the international community to hold Israeli authorities responsible for their actions in the occupied Palestinian territories and violations of international law.
“The international community should not accept, or stand idly by, the false claims of Israel,” said Abbas, and “Israel shouldn’t remain a state above the law.”
He said Palestinians will pursue legal challenges at the International Criminal Court over Israel’s violations of international law and war crimes committed against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.
He urged the UN to grant Palestine full membership because it is qualified to be one, and chastised the organization for not already having done so.
Senegalese diplomat, Cheikh Niang, the chairperson of the special committee, opened the meeting by reiterating its strong support for the rights of the Palestinian people, and calling for the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
He described the Nakba as the “epicenter” of Palestinian suffering, and condemned recent Israeli attacks on Gaza in which scores of Palestinians have been killed or wounded.
“The death of civilians, Palestinians and Israelis alike, is unacceptable and we urge all parties involved to end the hostilities,” he said.
“The Nakba, and the suffering of generations of Palestinians, is a story rarely told in history books, too often forgotten.”
Representatives of the African Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and a number of civil society groups expressed their solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to an independent state.
They also acknowledged that the Nakba continues, as Palestinians remain under Israeli occupation and continue to suffer under similar conditions to those to which they were first subjected 75 years ago.