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UN marks 75 years since displacement of 700,000 Palestinians

The mass displacement in 1948, known as the Nakba (meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic), has an importance to Palestinians across the world, said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, addressing a high-level event at UN Headquarters in New York, marking the day.

‘The occupation must end’

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“The legacy of the event lives on, spearing us to continue our unflagging efforts to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she said, noting that the General Assembly had adopted a resolution in November 2022 for this commemorative day.

Currently, the Israeli and Palestinian road towards peace and the implementation of an agreed two-State solution follows decades pock-marked with war, flaring tensions, violence, and multiple negotiation processes.

Ms. DiCarlo expressed deep concerns about diminishing prospects for kickstarting the peace process on the way to forging a two-State solution, given the current landscape of expanding Israeli settlements in occupied territory, recent violence, and Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights.

“Palestinians deserve a life of justice and dignity and the realization of their right to self-determination and independence,” she said. “The UN position is clear: the occupation must end. A two-State solution must be achieved in line with international law. We want to see an independent State of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace.”

1948 ‘catastrophe’

For Palestinians, the 1948 the massive displacement meant families took what they could carry or was shipped in trucks, from their homes to areas outside the new State of Israel.

The UN agency created to serve the displaced population (UNRWA), reports that 5.9 million Palestinian are currently registered as refugees.

The sombre anniversary spotlights the world’s longest-standing protracted refugee crisis, serving as a stark reminder that Palestine refugees continue to live amidst conflict, violence, and occupation while aspiring to a just and lasting solution to their plight, said the UN Committee on the Rights of Palestine People.

‘Memory will remain’

The morning event brought together UN Member States and high-level speakers, including the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas.

The Nakba memory will remain; it will continue to motivate our people to end the occupation,” Mr. Abbas said. “The occupation will end. The Palestinian right will prevail sooner or later, so that peace can prevail in our region and in the world.”

‘Longest unresolved refugee crisis’

“The plight of Palestine refugees remains the longest unresolved refugee crisis in the world,” UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, said in a video message.

“More than ever, they require our collective solidarity,” he said. “There simply is no alternative to a political solution for all. Until such a day, there is no alternative to UNRWA; we have to continue to support them until a just solution is finally found to their plight.”

A convoy of trucks carries refugees and their belongings from Gaza to Hebron in the West Bank.
© 1949 UN Archives Photographer

A convoy of trucks carries refugees and their belongings from Gaza to Hebron in the West Bank.

Special commemorative event

On Monday evening, UN Headquarters will host a special event and concert, featuring films and performances by Palestinian singer Sanaa Moussa, cellist and composer Naseem Alatrash, and the New York Arabic Orchestra, directed by four-time Grammy Award winner, Eugene Friesen.

Palestinian singer Sanaa Moussa, Ambassador of Palestinian heritage.
© Sanaa Moussa

Palestinian singer Sanaa Moussa, Ambassador of Palestinian heritage.

Learn more about what UNRWA is doing for Palestine refugees here.

Commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Nakba

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