UN commemorates Palestinian Nakba for first time on 75th anniversary

Nada al-Taher & Thomas Helm

The National  /  May 15, 2023

 Abbas to make speech at UN General Assembly.

For the first time in 75 years, the UN will officially commemorate the Nakba — the plight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes upon the formation of Israel.

The UN passed a historic resolution in 2022, despite Israel’s vehement opposition, to recognize the Nakba, which roughly translates as “catastrophe”.

The day brings painful memories of displacement and widely documented reports of torture and mass killings by Israeli forces against Palestinians in 1948.

On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to make a speech at the UN General Assembly to mark the occasion.

The assembly will also host a commemorative event, with live music and personal testimonies.

“This is an occasion to highlight the noble goals of justice and peace, require recognizing the reality and history of the Palestinian people’s plight and ensuring fulfilment of their inalienable rights,” the UN said.

In November, the 193-member General Assembly approved a resolution by a vote of 90-30 with 47 abstentions requesting that the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People organize a high-level event on May 15 to commemorate the Nakba.

The US mission said none of its diplomats would attend Monday’s commemoration.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, criticized the UN’s decision to mark the “one-sided” commemoration, saying that it condones “Jew-hatred” and “gives a green light to the Palestinians to continue exploiting international organs to promote their libelous narrative”.

It was the UNGA resolution of December 1947 that approved dividing Palestine, which allowed Israel to declare independence once the British mandate expired in 1948, leading to mass displacement.

“The Nakba is a defining moment of the Palestinian people’s collective life, history and still ongoing dispossession: deprivation of space to commemorate it violates freedom of expression and is an intolerable act of condescendence and discrimination against them,” UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Franscesca Albanese tweeted on Monday.

Cross-border attacks

Many Palestinians argue that the Nakba is still happening.

On the day of the anniversary, a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank during a raid on the city of Nablus, the Palestinian Health Authority said.

On Saturday, five days of cross-border attacks between Gaza and Israel were ended by an Egypt-mediated ceasefire. The violence killed more than 33 Palestinians in the Gaza strip and two Israelis.

Last week, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh urged the UN to “condemn the aggression and the ongoing killings of our people” on Nakba Day.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, told AP that Palestinians had moved cautiously at the UN since the assembly raised the status of Palestine from a non-member observer to a non-member observer state.

Nada al-Taher is a senior foreign reporter at The National

Thomas Helm is Jerusalem Correspondent at The National