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UN Recognition of Palestinian Displacement Angers Israel
The decision by the United Nations to commemorate the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from what is now the state of Israel on Monday — the day after the 75th anniversary of Israel's founding — angered Israeli officials and the Jewish state's supporters.    The U.N. earlier this year voted in favor of commemorating what Palestinians refer to as "al-Nakba" in Arabic, which translates to "the catastrophe." Israelis objected, particularly to the U.N.'s adoption of the word Nakba, which they said effectively endorses the view that the formation of their country was a disastrous event.     In a statement Monday, Rosemary DiCarlo, the U.N.'s undersecretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs said, "Palestinians deserve a life of justice and dignity and the realization of their right to self-determination and independence."   She reiterated the U.N.'s position that Israel must withdraw forces occupying land nominally under Palestinian control in furtherance of a plan to create a "two-state solution" that envisions "an independent State of Palestine living side-by-side with Israel."  In an emotional speech delivered at the commemoration, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on the U.N. to revoke Israel's membership in the organization unless the Israeli government takes steps to implement a two-state solution.    Israel responds  Israel has long disputed Palestinian Arabs' account of the Nakba.    In a statement Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said, "We will fight the 'Nakba' lie with full strength and we won't allow the Palestinians to continue to spread lies and distort history."    In a recorded statement, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, said that the organization's decision was "shameful" and would harm any efforts to find a peaceful solution to the generations-old conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people.    Asking other U.N. representatives to boycott the commemoration, he said, "[A]ttending this despicable event means destroying any chance of peace by adopting the Palestinian narrative calling the establishment of the state of Israel a disaster while ignoring Palestinian hate, incitement, terror and refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state."    Breaking up Palestine  In the years following World War I, the victorious allies carved up what had been the Ottoman Empire, resulting in a "mandate" for the United Kingdom to govern land on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by Lebanon, Syria, modern-day Jordan and Egypt. The region was commonly called Palestine.     In 1947, the British government voted to evacuate the region, and later that year, a U.N. resolution proposed partitioning the land into separate Arab and Jewish states.    Jews living in the region largely supported the resolution, but Palestinian Arabs overwhelmingly did not.    On May 14, 1948, the day before the British mandate was scheduled to expire, Israel declared itself a state, and was soon attacked by the forces of the Arab League, a coalition of multiple countries in the region that opposed the partition arrangement. An armistice in 1949 established temporary new borders, the so-called Green Line.    Under the Green Line borders, what was then known as Transjordan controlled large amounts of land on the west bank of the Jordan River, commonly known as the West Bank. In the southwest, Egypt controlled a narrow patch of land on the Mediterranean coast, the Gaza Strip.    75-year-old trauma  During the fighting and in its aftermath, hundreds of thousands of Arabs were expelled from, or fled, their ancestral homes, the movement that would become known by Arabs as al-Nakba. Israelis are quick to point out that during the same period, a large number of Jews who had been living outside the new state of Israel's borders were also displaced, sometimes forcibly, from Arab-controlled land.    In a series of conflicts over the next decades, de facto borders shifted significantly. Israel now occupies the majority-Palestinian West Bank.    The United Nations continues to classify millions of Arabs whose families left their homes in Israel as refugees, several generations after the war. There are 58 U.N.-recognized Palestinian refugee camps in the region, some dating back to the late 1940s. Many have grown to the size of small cities.    Many refugee families pass sets of keys to homes fled during the war from one generation to another. Leaders of Palestinian Arabs generally demand that refugees be given the right to return to their families' ancestral property, a demand that Israel has summarily rejected, because acceding to it would amount to accepting a Muslim majority population in what was founded as a Jewish state.    Countercharges  A number of organizations that support Israel have called the U.N.'s decision to commemorate the Nakba as evidence of anti-Jewish sentiment.   "Make no mistake, the U.N.'s commemoration of 'Nakba Day' carries a concerning undertone of bias against the Jewish people," Sacha Roytman Dratwa, CEO of the organization Combat Antisemitism Movement, said in a statement. "For a global organization, supposedly dedicated to peace, to portray Israel's right to exist as a tragedy is disheartening to witness."    However, many who support the Palestinian side see the U.N.'s decision as too long in coming.    "The United Nations has long spoken about the plight of the Palestinians and has focused on the plight of Palestinian refugees," Yousef Munayyer, a senior fellow with Arab Center Washington, D.C., told VOA. "But for it to take 75 years to commemorate the loss of Palestinian life, and land and society, I think, is far, far too long."   Munayyer said that he hopes Monday's commemoration is the beginning of a movement toward change.    "It's one step in the process of recognition, and hopefully, restitution and repatriation one day as well," he said. 

Full "Voice of America:News" article

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