Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged the United Nations to suspend Israel’s membership in the world body unless it ends its aggression against Palestinians and implements UN resolutions establishing separate Israeli and Palestinian states as well as the return of Palestinian refugees.
Abbas spoke on Monday during the first official UN commemoration of the flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from what is now Israel amid the violence of the partition of Palestine 75 years ago.
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More than 760,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in 1948 when Israel was created, an event Palestinians call Nakba — or catastrophe — and marked each year on May 15.
In an hourlong emotion-filled speech, Abbas asked the world’s nations why more than 1,000 resolutions adopted by UN bodies regarding the Palestinians had never been implemented.
He held up a letter from Israel’s foreign minister, Moshe Sharett, after resolutions were adopted in 1947 and 1948 promising to implement them and said: “Either they do respect these obligations, or they stop becoming a member.”
“We demand today officially, in accordance with international law and international resolutions, to make sure that Israel respects these resolutions or suspend Israel’s membership of the UN,” Abbas said in his speech.
Abbas accused Israel of having “never fulfilled its obligations and the prerequisites for its membership” of the United Nations.
The Palestinian president counted “around 1,000 resolutions” adopted by the UN General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council related to Israel. “To date, not one single resolution was implemented,” he said.
Abbas added that Nakba “did not start in 1948 and it did not stop after that date”.
“Israel, the occupying power, continues its occupation and its aggression against the Palestinian people and continues to deny this Nakba and rejects international resolutions regarding the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland,” he said. There are 5.9 million Palestinian refugees living in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, according to the UN.
The UN is commemorating Nakba at its headquarters in New York City this year for the first time after a resolution was passed in November.
UN member states expressed support for the Palestinian people and their cause on social media.
Today, 🇺🇳 commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Palestian Nakba.
In his letter on the occasion, PM @anwaribrahim expressed 🇲🇾’s solidarity & admiration towards the resilience & perserverance of the 🇵🇸 people against 75 years of oppression & injustice.
— Malaysia Mission to the UN (@MYNewYorkUN1) May 15, 2023
Amb Nusseibeh and Amb Abushahab attended a high-level meeting in the presence of H.E. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba.
— UAE Mission to the UN (@UAEMissionToUN) May 15, 2023
Israel’s UN representative, Gilad Erdan, branded the event “despicable” and wrote a letter to other ambassadors urging them not to attend.
According to the Israeli foreign ministry, 32 countries, including the United States, Canada, Ukraine and 10 from the European Union, did not attend.
The UN’s undersecretary-general for political affairs and peacebuilding, Rosemary DiCarlo, reaffirmed the UN’s “clear position” that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories must end because it is “illegal under international law”.
For 75 years, the unresolved question of Palestine has lingered on the agenda of the UNGA.
Let us harness this anniversary to breathe a new life into our quest for a solution: one that can guarantee lasting peace to a region that has already had to endure way too much. #Nakba75 pic.twitter.com/Bb6dZb7Xj0
— UN GA President (@UN_PGA) May 15, 2023
Abbas also said that the most important right Palestinians are demanding now is self-determination based on June 1967 borders.
Abbas added that Palestinians are not against Jews, but “I am against those who occupy our land”.
He said Israel should recognise and apologise for the Nakba and pay compensation to the refugees and for the land it now occupies. And he said that if these root causes are not addressed, the Palestinians will continue to pursue legal action, especially at the International Criminal Court, which was greeted by loud applause from the large audience in a UN conference room.
Israel has remained defiant.
“We will fight the ‘Nakba’ lie with full strength and we won’t allow the Palestinians to continue to spread lies and distort history,” Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a statement.