UN to commemorate Palestinians’ 1948 flight from Israel for the first time
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will headline the UN commemoration on Monday, May 15, 2023 (Tuesday, PH time) of what Palestinians call the “Nakba” or “catastrophe.”
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, called the UN observance “historic” and significant because the General Assembly played a key role in the partition of Palestine.
“It’s acknowledging the responsibility of the UN of not being able to resolve this catastrophe for the Palestinian people for 75 years,” Mansour told a group of UN reporters recently.
He said “the catastrophe to the Palestinian people is still ongoing:” The Palestinians still don’t have an independent state, and they don’t have the right to return to their homes as called for in a General Assembly resolution adopted in December 1948.
Israel’s UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, condemned the commemoration, calling it an “abominable event” and a “blatant attempt to distort history.” He said those who attend will be condoning antisemitism and giving a green light to Palestinians “to continue exploiting international organs to promote their libelous narrative.”
The General Assembly, which had 57 member nations in 1947, approved the resolution dividing Palestine by a vote of 33-13 with 10 abstentions. The Jewish side accepted the UN partition plan and after the British mandate expired in 1948, Israel declared its independence. The Arabs rejected the plan and neighboring Arab countries launched a war against the Jewish state.
The Nakba commemorates the estimated 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes in 1948.
The fate of these refugees and their descendants — estimated at over five million across the Middle East — remains a major disputed issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel rejects demands for a mass return of refugees to long-lost homes, saying it would threaten the country’s Jewish character.
As the 75th anniversary approached, the now 193-member General Assembly approved a resolution on Nov. 30, 2022, by a vote of 90-30 with 47 abstentions requesting the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to organize a high-level event on May 15 to commemorate the Nakba.
The United States was among the countries that joined Israel in voting against the resolution, and the US Mission said no American diplomat will attend Monday’s commemoration. / AP