UN General Assembly votes in favor of commemorating Palestinian ‘Nakba’

Pro-Palestinian resolution lamenting Israel’s birth passes 90-30, as Israeli envoy blasts move as a ‘disgrace’ and unveils display about Jewish expulsions from Mideast countries

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 23, 2022. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Illustrative: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 23, 2022. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

NEW YORK — The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday voted to adopt a pro-Palestinian resolution to commemorate the “Nakba,” the Palestinian term for Israel’s establishment.

The UN resolution calls for a “commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Nakba, including by organizing a high-level event at the General Assembly Hall” in May 2023. It also urges the “dissemination of relevant archives and testimonies.”

The initiative was sponsored by Egypt, Jordan, Senegal, Tunisia, Yemen and the Palestinians and passed by a vote of 90 in favor, 30 against and 47 abstentions.

Israel, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and the US were among the countries that voted against.

Ukraine did not vote. Kyiv sparked a diplomatic spat with Jerusalem by voting in favor of an anti-Israel resolution earlier this month.

Arab and Muslim states Israel has ties with voted in favor, including Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.

“Nakba” is the Arabic word for “catastrophe” which Palestinians use to recall the displacement and dispossession they experienced during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

The partition plan adopted by the General Assembly in 1947 called for independent Jewish and Arab states in what was then British-controlled Mandatory Palestine. Jewish representatives accepted the plan, but the Arab world rejected it and launched the 1948 war. The Palestinians have rejected additional offers of statehood since. The likely next coalition to be led by prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is dominated by lawmakers who oppose a two-state solution.

The General Assembly Nakba item was one of several similar resolutions put forward during the meeting on the “Question of Palestine.”

Another resolution said it was “noting with deep regret the passage of 55 years since the onset of the Israeli occupation” and 75 years since the UN partition plan and “the Nakba” with no resolution to the conflict.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said the resolutions’ “sole purpose is to put all the blame for what is happening in the Middle East solely on Israel while absolving the Palestinians of any responsibility.”

“Try to imagine the international community commemorating your country’s Independence Day by calling it a disaster. What a disgrace,” Erdan said of the Nakba resolution. “The Palestinians’ lies must no longer be accepted on the world stage, just as this body must stop allowing the Palestinians to continue pulling its strings. I urge you all to stop blindly supporting the Palestinians’ libels.”

“This General Assembly, this body, voted to adopt Resolution 181 – the Partition Plan. My people, the Jewish people, accepted this resolution without hesitation. But the Arabs and the Palestinians did not,” Erdan said. “Five Arab armies, together with the Arabs living in Israel, tried to destroy and annihilate us.”

Erdan also unveiled an exhibit at the UN on the “Jewish Nakba,” the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries and Iran in the 1940s and 1950s following the partition plan.

“Their only crime was being Jewish. This is the true Nakba. This is the disaster carried out against the Jewish people, and this is the disaster that this body has ignored for decades,” he said. “I will fight in every way the false narrative that the Palestinians spread at the UN.”

The exhibit features documentation about the lives of Jews in Middle Eastern countries and will be on display for a week at the UN Headquarters in New York.

He said UN resolutions targeting Israel pushed the Palestinians away from bilateral talks and concessions, and a resolution to the conflict.

The Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour said at the event, “We are at the end of the road for the two-state solution. Either the international community summons the will to act decisively or it will let peace die passively. Passively, not peacefully.”

He called on the international community to pressure Israel, for the UN to grant the Palestinians full recognition and for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“Anybody serious about the two-state solution must help salvage the Palestinian state,” he said. “The alternative is what we are living under now — a regime that has combined the evils of colonialism and apartheid.”

Mansour blasted the partition plan, saying the UN had not “understood the consequences” of the outline.

“The plan was, and in many cases still is, to displace our people on their ancestral land,” he said, claiming “75 years of Israeli policies aiming to uproot our people” since the plan’s adoption. He repeatedly referred to Israel as a colony, denying Jews’ ancestral ties to Israel and roots in Israel and the Middle East.

On Tuesday, the UN held an event marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the event that the “occupation must end,” blaming the conflict on occupation, settlements, home demolitions, evictions and closures of Gaza crossings.

Guterres and other speakers focused on Israeli forces in the West Bank and did not mention Palestinian terrorism, the Hamas terror group, Israeli security concerns or Israeli victims of violence.

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