by Colin Rubenstein, MAY 30, 2023 10:09 AM
On May 15, the day following the 75th anniversary of Israel’s establishment, the United Nations chose to endorse the Palestinian rejectionist narrative by convening the first-ever “Nakba (Catastrophe) Day” commemoration.
For Palestinians, the term Nakba refers to losing the war that they and their Arab military allies launched to attempt to destroy Israel upon its establishment in 1948, a war that ultimately saw about 750,000 Palestinians displaced, many by choice.
However, Nakba Day is only 25 years old. It was the PR brainchild of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who was looking to counter positive publicity surrounding Israel’s 50th anniversary. To this end, he chose the day after Israel had been established.
According to the false Nakba Day narrative, Israel’s creation itself caused the Palestinian refugee crisis, and this was always the Zionists’ intent.
Yet, in fact, UN General Assembly Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947, endorsed partitioning the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab, with borders based on existing demographics. Majority-Jewish areas were assigned to the Jewish State and vice-versa. The Jews accepted the plan and began preparing their institutions for statehood.
The Arabs violently rejected it and launched a war of aggression, utilizing the armies of five Arab states to try to prevent the Jews from exercising their right to self-determination anywhere in the Mandate.
While Israel won this desperate, existential war, nearly one percent of its total population was killed (that would be the equivalent of more than 3 million Americans today).
The territory held by Arab armies was ethnically cleansed to the last Jew. On the other side, most Arabs inside the newly formed Jewish state fled the fighting, sometimes at the behest of their leaders, though the residents of some particularly strategic villages were expelled in the context of Israel’s desperate war of survival. Around 156,000 people remained and became Israeli citizens.
While it’s understandable that Palestinians wish to mourn the displacements and losses they suffered in the war, even if their own leaders ultimately caused these, the UN has absolutely no business having a day of mourning for the loss of a war of aggression launched against a UN member state — and the UN’s own partition plan, in violation of the UN Charter — much less labeling that loss a “catastrophe.”
At the UN Nakba Day event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas railed against Israel for a full hour, making hateful statements totally inimical to the international community’s consensus vision for a two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace.
He denied any Jewish historical connection to Judaism’s holiest sites including not only the Temple Mount, but even the Western Wall.
Abbas also reversed his previous comments about foregoing the “right of return” to his original hometown of Safed — now going all in on the Palestinian demand for implementing this legally baseless “right” in full, despite it being completely incompatible with a two-state resolution, or the survival of Israel as a Jewish nation.
Abbas, whose doctoral thesis promoted Holocaust denial and who was last year widely criticized for a speech accusing Israel of perpetrating “50 Holocausts,” also likened Israel to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.
He also blamed the US and Britain for the “Nakba,” saying that Israel was created for their own “colonial goals” and “these countries wanted to get rid of their Jews.”
Abbas called for Israel’s suspension from the UN, falsely claiming that Israel’s original UN membership was conditional on it accepting both a “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and the creation of a Palestinian state. Moreover, Israel had no hand in Egypt and Jordan’s failure to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza between 1948 and 1967.
Abbas’ ugly performance was unhelpful to the well-being of Palestinians. It’s a moral imperative to separate humanitarian compassion for Palestinian refugees and their descendants — who have been used as pawns by Arab leaders — with Nakba Day, a cynically politicized creation aimed at undermining Israel’s legitimacy.
The Nakba Day ceremony underscored how ridiculous the UN’s institutional anti-Israel obsession has become. There are two permanent UN committees devoted to demonizing Israel and promoting the Palestinian narrative, plus a “Division of Palestinian Rights” in the UN Secretary-General’s office and a new, unprecedented permanent inquiry against Israel in the UN Human Rights Council.
This year’s UN calendar will now have two Palestinian “special days” — Nakba Day, and also the annual Day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People (Nov. 29). The UN has no other “special day” to express “solidarity” with or commemorate the history of any other national group.
The US, Canada, Australia, and dozens of other countries deserve credit for steering clear of the Nakba Day spectacle. By declining to attend, these countries upheld the international consensus to support two states for two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, achieved through direct peace negotiations — meaning you cannot treat the establishment of one of those states as a crime and a disaster.
President Abbas’ speech was a strong reminder why there is no two-state peace today. Negotiations are the only way forward, but Abbas’ speech demanded the UN force Israel to concede Palestinian claims without negotiations — typical of a totally counter-productive Palestinian strategy over recent years of rejecting all talks and focusing instead on demonizing Israel in international forums.
Abbas has called upon the UN General Assembly to make Nakba Day another permanent day to “commemorate the Palestinian plight.” For the UN, whose credibility is at an all-time low, Abbas’ vile speech hopefully caused enough embarrassment that the Nakba Day hate-fest won’t be repeated.
Dr. Colin Rubenstein is Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).