UNITED NATIONS, May 16 (APP): The United Nations Monday commemorated for the first time in its history, the mass displacement of Palestinians from land that was to become Israel, 75 years ago, that turned 700,000 Palestinians into refugees, almost overnight.
The mass displacement in 1948, known as the Nakba (meaning “catastrophe”), has an importance to Palestinians across the world, Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said, while addressing a high-level event at UN Headquarters in New York, marking the day.
The event was attended by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas; many member states from Asia, Africa, Central and South America and the Middle East; and representatives of the African Union and the Arab League, who delivered speeches. The United States and Britain did not attend.
“The legacy of the event lives on, spearing us to continue our unflagging efforts to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Ms. DiCarlo said, noting that the General Assembly had adopted a resolution in November 2022 for this commemorative day.
Ms. DiCarlo expressed deep concerns about diminishing prospects for kickstarting the peace process on the way to forging a two-State solution, given the current landscape of expanding Israeli settlements in occupied territory, recent violence, and Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights.
“Palestinians deserve a life of justice and dignity and the realization of their right to self-determination and independence,” she added.
She said “The UN position is clear: the occupation must end. A two-State solution must be achieved in line with international law. We want to see an independent State of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace.”
For Palestinians, the 1948 the massive displacement meant families took what they could carry or was shipped in trucks, from their homes to areas outside the new State of Israel.
The UN agency created to serve the displaced population (UNRWA), reports that 5.9 million Palestinian are currently registered as refugees.
The sombre anniversary spotlights the world’s longest-standing protracted refugee crisis, serving as a stark reminder that Palestine refugees continue to live amidst conflict, violence, and occupation while aspiring to a just and lasting solution to their plight, said the UN Committee on the Rights of Palestine People.
“The Nakba memory will remain; it will continue to motivate our people to end the occupation,” President Abbas said in his address.. “The occupation will end. The Palestinian right will prevail sooner or later, so that peace can prevail in our region and in the world.”
The United Nations General Assembly, composed of 193 member states, has often been sympathetic to Palestinians. Its commemoration on Monday came at a tense period in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank, where violence has surged this year. While Palestinians celebrated the U.N. action as validation, the Israelis saw it as an attack on their state.
President Abbas called for the suspension of Israel’s membership from the United Nations, saying that the Jewish state never “fulfilled nor respected its obligations and commitments” as a prerequisite to its membership, and had violated resolutions.
The Palestinian leader received a standing ovation and two rounds of long applause after his speech, which lasted over an hour. Chants of “free Palestine” and “end the occupation now” were shouted from the audience.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, condemned the event as “shameful” and called for countries to boycott it in a letter he sent to diplomats on Sunday.
“Attending this despicable event means destroying any chance of peace by adopting the Palestinian narrative calling the establishment of the state of Israel a disaster,” Erdan claimed in a video statement.
The event was organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a body made up of 25 member states that was created in 1975 by a General Assembly mandate to promote the rights of Palestinians and support peace. Members include Pakistan, Turkey, South Africa, Venezuela and Malta.
“The plight of Palestine refugees remains the longest unresolved refugee crisis in the world,” UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, said in a video message.
“More than ever, they require our collective solidarity,” he said. “There simply is no alternative to a political solution for all. Until such a day, there is no alternative to UNRWA; we have to continue to support them until a just solution is finally found to their plight.”
On Monday evening, UN Headquarters hosted a special event and concert, featuring films and performances by Palestinian singer Sanaa Moussa, cellist and composer Naseem Alatrash, and the New York Arabic Orchestra, directed by four-time Grammy Award winner, Eugene Friesen.
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