NEW YORK — International singing sensation Mohammed Assaf, the Gaza-resident winner of “Arab Idol” in 2013, stood on a world stage Monday at the United Nations.
Donning his cap as the UNRWA Regional Ambassador for Youth, Assaf, who hails from a Palestinian refugee camp in Khan Yunis, participated in a United Nations committee meeting honoring the 26th International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the first since the Palestinian Authority gained nonmember status at the UN in November 29, 2012.
At the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People special session, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s message was clear: “Our objective [at the UN] remains full membership,” which is “our people’s legitimate and legal right.”
Palestinians and world leaders at the meeting also reiterated the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, while simultaneously criticizing Israel.
Also on Monday, the UN General Assembly discussed an upcoming resolution that would “proclaim 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent his deputy secretary general, Jan Eliasson, to read a message at the special session on his behalf.
“This annual solidarity day is an opportunity to reflect on the critical situation faced by the Palestinian people,” he said.
Citing the “occupation,” Eliasson said on Ban’s behalf, “I am alarmed by the increasingly dire situation on the ground.”
He called for an end to Palestinians losing their homes due to Israeli demolitions, which displaced 300 people this month because “their houses were built without Israeli housing permits.”
Further, Jewish “settlements are in violation of international law,” Ban’s letter read. He also reiterated his “condemnation of rocket fire into Israel.”
Abbas also sent a letter which was read at the meeting.
“Since its inception, the UN has defended our cause, keeping it a priority,” Abbas wrote. However, today’s new “regrettable reality” presents new challenges to a lasting peace.
Unequivocally calling for a Palestinian state along pre-67 lines with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, Abbas wrote, “We look forward with great hope to the future” and seek to “solve the Arab Israeli Conflict on all tracts, starting with the core, the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.”
The special session was held in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The meeting was followed by a screening of Elise Pearlstein’s film “State 194,” a 2012 documentary chronicling the Palestinians’ quest for statehood.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor spoke at the General Assembly later in the afternoon on the topic of the Palestinian Question.
“Peace won’t be achieved in Manhattan, Midtown East, but rather in the Middle East,” Prosor noted, and pointed out the United Nations’s biases. “Country after country sees no problem in standing up and parroting anti-Israel propaganda.”
On the topic of settlements, Prosor said, “Just two percent of the Israeli population lives in settlements which are blamed for 100% of the conflict.”
Prosor, however, reiterated that Israel is “committed to negotiating with Palestinian neighbors so that two peoples can live side by side in peace, dignity and freedom.”
The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People closed with Arab Idol Assaf’s performance with Palestinian singer Nai Barghouti.