“The thought that an international organisation could mark the establishment of one of its member states as a catastrophe or disaster is both appalling and repulsive,” wrote Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan when asking UN diplomats to refrain from attending the unprecedented UN General Assembly’s commemoration of the 1948 Nakba. Truth be told, the most repulsive action was the UN’s acceptance of the Israeli settler-colonial enterprise as a member state in 1948, at the expense of the ethnically-cleansed Palestinian population whose land was (and continues to be) usurped, and whose legitimate return to their land was a still unfulfilled condition of Israel’s UN membership.
The Nakba commemoration, while significant, pales in comparison with the UN’s complicity in allowing Israel to thrive. How, we might ask, can the UN avail itself of Palestinian historical memory for a commemoration, when it fails to refer to it in terms of the Palestinian people’s political rights, or the legitimate right to resist Israel’s military occupation by all means?
“This is an occasion to highlight that the noble goals of justice and peace, require recognising the reality and history of the Palestinian people’s plight and ensuring the fulfilment of their inalienable rights,” the UN’s website stated, without the slightest discomfort at knowing that the international organisation ensures the complete opposite.
Yet the commemoration, despite the hypocrisy prevalent in its hosts, was enough to make Israel panic, exposing its paranoia that enough awareness might be raised about the fact that the Palestinian people are suffering a decades-long political wrong that is actually reversible. All it would take would be enough political opposition to the status quo of normalising the settler-colonial state and backing the moribund two-state compromise.
According to the Times of Israel, 32 countries stated they would boycott the event, ten of which were EU members. The diplomatic clout that Israel wields at an international level is considerable; not only did a number of countries heed Erdan’s plea, but he also managed to convince some countries of a non-existent pro-Palestinian narrative at the UN. The organisation’s narrative on Palestine is both erroneous and totally pro-Israel. That the US, the UK and Canada would boycott the event was predictable; both the US and Canada are settler-colonial states themselves, and Britain is a former colonial power, so their allegiance to the apartheid state is strong. Moreover, the lack of any condemnation of Israel as a colonial entity depriving Palestinians of their land boosted the normalisation of colonialism and settler-colonial violence.
This means that the significance which such an exhibition could have inspired was lost as a result of the UN’s own complicity in giving Israel’s false narrative some credibility. A single commemoration of the Nakba cannot compete with decades of colonial support. It must be remembered that the UN relies heavily on symbolism and has coerced Palestinians into the same narrative. However, Palestinians’ collective memory is not symbolic, it is a lived reality, which the UN prefers to ignore.
And yet, Israel still feels threatened at the thought of its atrocities being exposed. While Erdan made a lot of fuss over the UN’s symbolic Nakba event, the truth is that Israel is reluctant for any exposure of Nakba-related memory. The reluctance to release its own archives to academic scrutiny is a case in point. What the UN event brought to the fore is that Israel will continue to have a hard time concealing the violence of its creation on usurped land in Palestine, despite the unwillingness of the international community to end the state’s colonialism and violence.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.