May 22, 2023 | Washington Examiner

UN ‘Nakba’ Day devolves into antisemitism

May 22, 2023 | Washington Examiner

UN ‘Nakba’ Day devolves into antisemitism

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas used his United Nations speech last week to accuse Israelis of systematically lying, likening the Jewish state to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. The overtly antisemitic remarks made by Abbas were not surprising given the context of the day on which they were delivered.

In accordance with a resolution passed by the U.N. General Assembly in late 2022, the world body held its inaugural commemoration of the Nakba on the 75th anniversary of Israel’s establishment. The word “Nakba” means “catastrophe” in Arabic, and the day was designed to convey that Israel’s establishment itself was a catastrophe. More than 30 countries chose not to participate in the event.

Abbas’s U.N. tirade mirrored his own presidency: It significantly exceeded the allocated time. Abbas is currently serving in his 19th year of a supposed four-year term. But the interminable harangue was just part of the problem. Early on in his speech, Abbas tried to rewrite history by denying the existence of Jewish holy places at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Later, Abbas said that Israelis “continue to lie, like Goebbels, and they continue to lie until people believe their lies.”

Setting aside Abbas’s denial of Jewish history in the Holy Land, equating Israelis with Nazis is 21st-century antisemitism. It has been declared so by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, whose definition of anti-Jewish hatred has been adopted by dozens of countries. Abbas’s Nazi comparison drew an official censure from Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. envoy for combating antisemitism at the State Department.

Of course, Abbas is no stranger to antisemitic controversies. Last year, he had to retract statements accusing Israel of committing “50 Holocausts” against the Palestinian people. His 1982 dissertation at a university in the Soviet Union titled “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism” promotes Holocaust denial and revisionism.

Abbas’s speech only reinforced the fact that the U.N. suffers from systemic anti-Israel bias, which often overshadows the multilateral organization’s other activities. The event with Abbas was coordinated by the “Division for Palestinian Rights” and the “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” both established specifically to promote the vilification of Israel. The U.N. does not have similar bodies that exist to target any other country.

Indeed, Nakba Day at the U.N. invoked another shameful moment in the organization’s history. In 1975, the UNGA passed a resolution declaring Zionism to be a form of racism, denying the notion that Jews have a right to autonomy in their ancestral homeland.

Two years later, in 1977, the UNGA made the decision to observe an annual day of solidarity with the Palestinian people on Nov. 29, coinciding with the anniversary of the U.N.-sponsored plan to divide the Holy Land into two states, one for Arabs and one for Jews. Though Jews accepted partition and the Arabs rejected it in favor of a war they lost, the U.N. marks the day by promoting Palestinian grievances against Israel.

The Palestinian yearning for the realization of their national project is undeniably real, but the Nakba narrative is a deliberate reimagining of history. Israel’s war of independence was, in fact, a war of survival for Israel, in which some 600,000 Jews were forced to fend off an invasion by up to seven Arab armies. The war was hard fought, and Israel lost 1% of its population — some 6,000 Jews.

The term “Nakba” originally referred to the failure to smother the nascent Jewish state in its infancy. However, it has now come to connote a tragedy in which the Palestinians are somehow the victims of a one-sided atrocity committed by Israel. The U.N. has embraced this, bringing further shame to what was once a noble experiment to unite the international community.

As a contributor of 22% of the U.N.’s budget, the United States should apply pressure to the intergovernmental body to ensure American tax dollars are not funding antisemitism and attempts to erase Israel.

David May ( @DavidSamuelMay ) is a research manager at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies , a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


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