UN marks 1948 Palestinian exodus

Lazy eyes listen


For the first time in the international body’s history, the United Nations commemorated the expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from what is now Israel on Monday. The gathering, which was criticised by Israel and the United States, was headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

During the 1948 war between the newly proclaimed state of Israel and the surrounding Arab states, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes. The event is known as Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic.

“The catastrophe for the Palestinian people is still ongoing,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, told AP on Monday. Despite several UN resolutions to the contrary, Palestine remains an autonomous state, and the estimated 5 million descendants of those who have been displaced do not have the right to return.

The commemoration, according to Israel’s ambassador to the UN, is a “abominable event” and a “blatant attempt to distort history,” and anyone who attends will be condoning anti-Semitism and encouraging the Palestinians “to continue exploiting international organs to promote their libellous narrative.”

The United Nations General Assembly voted 33-13 in 1947 to divide the British-held Palestine Mandate into two ethno-religious nations. While Jews accepted the partition, Arabs did not. The West Jerusalem government argues that most Palestinians evacuated willingly to allow Arab troops to slaughter Jews after Israel proclaimed independence. According to Israel, a mass return would jeopardise the country’s core identity as a Jewish state.

The General Assembly agreed 90-30 in November to have the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People organise the May 15 commemoration. According to the group, which is led by Senegalese ambassador Cheikh Niang, the event will “serve as a reminder of the historic injustice suffered by the Palestinian people” and would highlight the ongoing refugee issue.

The United States voted against the commemoration, and Washington has told its diplomats and staff not to attend.

Last week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vetoed Representative Rashida Tlaib’s attempt to commemorate the Nakba at the US Capitol. Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, is a descendant of Palestinian immigrants. McCarthy, a Republican from California, called her event “antisemitic” and cancelled it in favour of a “bipartisan discussion to honour the 75th anniversary of the US-Israel relationship.”