Abbas urges UN to 'suspend' Israel on Nakba anniversary
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called for Israel to end its "aggression" against Palestinians or be suspended from the United Nations during a speech marking the 75th anniversary of the "Nakba" Monday.
More than 760,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in 1948 when Israel was created, an event Palestinians call Nakba, or catastrophe, and mark on May 15.
The United Nations is commemorating Nakba at its headquarters in New York this year for the first time, after a resolution was passed in November.
"We demand today officially, in accordance with international law and international resolutions, to make sure that Israel respects these resolutions or suspend Israel's membership of the UN," Abbas said during an hour-long speech.
Abbas, whose "State of Palestine" has observer status at the UN, spoke in Arabic at a special session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to which dozens of UN ambassadors had been invited.
Israel's UN representative, Gilad Erdan, branded the event "despicable" and wrote a letter to other ambassadors urging them not to attend.
According to the Israeli foreign ministry, 32 countries, including the United States, Canada, Ukraine and 10 from the European Union, did not participate.
The UN's under-secretary general for political affairs and peace building, Rosemary DiCarlo, reaffirmed the UN's "clear position" that Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories must end because it is "illegal under international law."
Israel was established on May 14, 1948, following a UN vote in November 1947 that divided the British Mandate for Palestine into two Jewish and Arab states.
Abbas accused Israel of having "never fulfilled its obligations and the prerequisites for its membership" of the United Nations.
The Palestinian president counted "around 1,000 resolutions" adopted by the UN General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council related to Israel.
"To date, not one single resolution was implemented," he said.
Abbas added that Nakba "did not start in 1948 and it did not stop after that date."
"Israel, the occupying power, continues its occupation and its aggression against the Palestinian people and continues to deny this Nakba and rejects international resolutions regarding the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland," he said.
There are 5.9 million Palestinian refugees living in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, according to the UN.
The memory of the Nakba has become a rallying point for the Palestinian quest for statehood.
It falls a day after Israel declared statehood in 1948, prompting an invasion by five Arab armies which the young nation defeated.