Full text of Mahmoud Abbas’s UN General Assembly speech

PA leader says peace in Mideast impossible without Palestinian state, charges Israel holding bodies of 600 ‘martyrs,’ blames Netanyahu government for crime wave in Arab community

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Following is the full text of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 21, 2023, according to the UN’s simultaneous translation from Arabic.

Those who think that peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full, legitimate and national rights would be mistaken.

Once again, I come to you, carrying the cause of my people who are struggling for freedom and independence, to remind you of the tragedy caused by the Nakba 75 years ago.

The effects of this Nakba continue and are exacerbated by the Israeli occupation of our land. This occupation challenges your resolutions — over 1000 resolutions, in fact.

This occupation violates the principles of international law and international legitimacy while it races against time to change the historical, geographical and demographic realities on the ground aimed at perpetuating the occupation and entrenching apartheid.

Despite this painful reality and 30 years after the Oslo Accords, which Israel has totally discarded, we still maintain hope that your esteemed organization will implement its resolutions demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of our territory and realizing the independence of the fully sovereign state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital on the borders of the fourth of June 1967 as well as resolving the issue of Palestinian refugees in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy, especially General Assembly Resolution 194 and the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, all of which affirm the illegality of the Israeli occupation, and its settlements — in particular resolution 2334 and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I stand before you here, the Israeli, racist right-wing government continues its attacks on our people and its army and its racist, terrorist settlers continue to intimidate and kill our people, to destroy homes and property, to steal our money and resources and continue to refuse to release the bodies of our martyrs — 600 bodies are being held. For what reason? I do not know. And this is done before the very eyes of the world and with complete impunity.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Rather, the leaders and the ministers of this government have been bragging about the apartheid policies that they are practicing against our people who are under occupation.

The Israeli occupation government also persists in its violations of the city of Jerusalem and its people. It continues to assault our Islamic and Christian sacred sites. It violates the historical and legal status of the holy site, especially the Aqsa Mosque, which international legitimacy has recognized as an exclusive place of worship for Muslims alone, including the Bab al-Rahma prayer hall and the Al Buraq Wall. According to a resolution by the League of Nations in 1930, the occupying power is also feverishly digging its tunnels under and around Al Aqsa mosque, threatening its collapse or the collapse of parts of it, which would lead to an explosion with untold consequences.

We have repeatedly warned against transforming the political conflict into a religious conflict for which Israel will bear full responsibility.

I hereby call on the international community to assume its responsibilities in preserving the historic and legal status of Jerusalem and its holy sites, specifically the Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

Here, I wonder why remain silent about all the flagrant violations of international law that are being committed by Israel, the occupying power? Why isn’t Israel being subjected to serious accountability? Why are sanctions not imposed on it for ignoring and violating international resolutions, as is the case with other countries in the world? Why practice double standards when it comes to Israel? Why accept that Israel is a state above the law?

Is it not time to answer these questions? Is it not time? For our part, we will persist with our pursuit of accountability and justice at the relevant international bodies against Israel because of the continued Israeli occupation of our land and the crimes that have been committed, and are still being committed against us; as well as against both Britain and America for their rules in the fateful Balfour declaration. Yes, Britain and America and against everyone who had a role and the catastrophe and tragedy of our people. We will not forget the tragedy, we will not forget the pain. We call for acknowledgment, we call for an apology — acknowledgment and apology. We call for reparations, we call for compensation in accordance with international law.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Ladies and gentlemen, in light of the deadlock of the peace process due to Israel’s policies, we come before you to again appeal for the holding of an international peace conference, Is this too much to ask? Hold an international peace conference in which all countries concerned with achieving peace in the Middle East will participate.

Therefore, I ask your esteemed organization and the Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, to call for and undertake the necessary arrangements to convene this peace conference, which may be the last opportunity, the last opportunity, to salvage the two-state solution and to prevent the situation from deteriorating more seriously and threatening the security and stability of our region and the entire world.

I also call on your organization and the secretary-general to act to implement the resolutions to provide protection for the Palestinian people. We demand protection. We want to be protected from occupation, from the constant aggressions of the occupation army and the terrorist Israeli settlers. We call for support when we approach international courts and bodies with jurisdiction because the current situation is intolerable.

Ladies and Gentleman in the face of all that Israel is doing — systematically destroying a two-state solution it’s become necessary, and in order to save the solution, to call on member states of your esteemed organization — each state in its national capacity — to take practical steps on the basis of the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy and international law.

I also call on the states that have not yet recognized the state of Palestine to declare their recognition. I call for the state of Palestine to be admitted to full membership in the United Nations. There are two states that the entire world is talking about: Israel and Palestine. But only Israel is recognized. Why not Palestine?

I can neither understand nor accept that some states, including America and European states, are reluctant to recognize the state of Palestine, which the United Nations has accepted as an observer state. These same states confirm every day that they support the two-state solution. But they recognize only one of these states, namely Israel. Why? What is the danger posed by the State of Palestine obtaining full membership in the United Nations? What is the danger? Israel enjoys this international recognition, though, it has not adhered to the conditions for its accession to the United Nations.

Palestinian Muslim worshippers heading to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount to attend the second Friday noon prayer of the holy month of Ramadan, wait to cross a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on March 31, 2023. (HAZEM BADER/AFP)

These conditions namely are the implementation of Resolutions 181 and 194. We therefore call on your esteemed organization to take deterrent measures against Israel until it fulfills its obligations, at least those that were presented in a written declaration by its minister of foreign affairs at the time Moshe Sharet. He sent a written commitment to implement these resolutions in 1949, but nothing has happened since.

This request of ours is for the sake of peace and justice and out of respect for international law, international legitimacy and this esteemed organization.

Ladies and gentlemen, our people are defending their homeland and their legitimate rights through peaceful, popular resistance. This is our policy. It is a strategic option for self-defense and to liberate the land from a colonial occupation that does not believe in peace and has no regard for the principles of truth, justice and human values.

We will continue our resistance — our peaceful, popular resistance of this brutal occupation until it is defeated from our land.

We are managing our affairs under extremely difficult and complex circumstances as a result of the restrictions imposed on us by the occupying power. These restrictions prevent us from accessing our natural resources.

The occupying power unlawfully withholds our money with no just cause. It continues to besiege our people in the Gaza Strip, only deepening the suffering of our people.

Illustrative: A Palestinian clashes with Israeli soldiers near the border fence east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 17, 2023. (Yousef Mohammed/Flash90)

Moreover, Israel bears full responsibility, through its control over all the crossing points and dividing lines between the occupied West Bank and its surroundings, and for the deliberate spread of weapons, drugs, and criminal killings taking place in Arab cities inside Israel, part of which is spilling over into our areas, creating a great threat to the societal security of Palestinians everywhere in our territory.

Allow me here to tell you that as long as we continue to suffer under the abhorrent Israeli occupation, we will continue to need financial assistance from the international community. When the occupation ends, we will thank you for your help.

In addition to the crucial provincial financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees UNRWA — it is in dire need so that it could support the refugees. We are thankful to the international community for the support it has given us to build our state and our economy, and we look forward to the continuation of the support until the occupation ends. Help us get rid of your occupation, and we will be able to rely on ourselves.

Ladies and gentlemen, our state institutions are engaged in a comprehensive development and reform process, and in this context, they are cooperating with international institutions and with partners in the region and the world.

Recently we held local elections and elections for institutions, federations, unions and others. There’s a specialized committee to develop the justice sector in Palestine. Civil society is also playing its role and adding vitality to our political system.

All that remains is for us to hold democratic general elections as conducted in 1996, 2005 and 2006. We held elections but since then, we have been unable to hold these elections. Why? Because the Israeli government is obstructing this by its decision to prevent elections from being held in East Jerusalem. And the first three rounds of elections were allowed in East Jerusalem. They were not stopped, despite the significant interventions by many countries and regional and international organizations, which we appreciate, to enable the Palestinian people in Jerusalem to vote and run as candidates in these elections.

Today we renew our rejection of any position holding us responsible for not convening these elections, which are a Palestinian necessity that we want today, before tomorrow. We want elections, but we want them to be held in East Jerusalem. Why is Israel stopping us from doing so? Please ask it.

Hamas members at a rally in solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem and against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decision to postpone Palestinian elections, in Jebaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, April 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

In the face of this intransigent position of the Israeli government, we will continue to approach the relevant international bodies to hold the Israeli government accountable and force it to allow us to hold these long overdue elections.

Ladies and gentlemen, I participated in a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba of 1948, a tragedy recognized by this august organization. This painful anniversary continues to be ignored and denied by Israel, which is the party that is primarily responsible for this Nakba.

I call upon you today to criminalize this denial — criminalize the denial of the Nakba and designate the 15th of May of each year an international day to commemorate the anniversary of the Nakba, to commemorate the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were killed in massacres committed by Zionist gangs. Palestinians whose villages were demolished and who were forcibly displaced from their homes. The number of these refugees reached 950,000 in 1948, constituting more than half of the Palestinian population at the time. This is the least that the United Nations should do in honor of these victims and to condemn this human tragedy — commemorate the anniversary of the Nakba in 1948.

Ladies and gentlemen, for several years now, we have presented our Palestinian narrative — the story of our people that has been deliberately distorted by the Zionist and Israeli propaganda. We are relieved that the people of the world and many countries in the world have started to believe our narrative and sympathize with it after having been misled for decades. We also thank all those who contributed to sharing this narrative, supporting it and sympathizing with it.

We thank people of conscience everywhere in the world who today stand up for Palestinian rights, and we thank support for our people’s struggle for freedom and independence.

Tell es-Sultan in Jericho on September 29, 2011 (Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)

Ladies and gentlemen, my message today to the Israelis is that this hideous occupation that is imposed on us will not last, regardless of their ambitions and their delusions because the Palestinian people will remain on their land, which they have inhabited for 1000s of years — one generation after the other — as again confirmed by a recent UNESCO resolution on the city of Jericho, which has existed for 10,000 years.

The Palestinians cannot leave their land, and if anyone must leave this land, then it must be the occupier. The occupier should leave not the people of the that we will stay in our land.

My message to the international community is that it should assume its responsibilities with full courage and implement its resolutions to realize Palestinian rights. We ask for no more than that. Realize our rights, implement our resolutions — 1000 resolutions have been adopted. We’re asking to implement just one. Just one resolution.

Finally, I address all of our people in Palestine, in the refugee camps, in the diaspora and in every place in this vast world. I address you with the highest expressions of appreciation and gratitude for your steadfastness, for upholding your just cause and your rights. I pay tribute to our righteous martyrs and our brave prisoners and our heroic injured people, and I say to everyone, the right is never lost when there is a demand behind it. Victory is ours. We will celebrate the independence of our state in Jerusalem, our eternal capital and the crown jewel, and the flower of all cities. They see it as impossible and we see it as inevitable.

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