On November 30, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) officially declared May 15, 2023, as “Nakba Day,” the Palestine Chronicle reported in December 2022. As the largest democratic institution in the world, the United Nations’ recognition of Nakba Day undercuts repeated attempts by Israel to erase the history of the “Nakba.”
Nakba translates to “catastrophe” in Arabic and refers to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land in 1947-48. Following the war of 1967, Israel occupied the entirety of historic Palestine. After the Oslo Accords of 1993, Israel shifted the historical narrative away from the Nakba and prioritized a return to the borders of 1967.
As Ramzy Baroud reported for the Palestine Chronicle, Israel’s efforts to erase the Nakba from history have “impacted every aspect of the Palestinian struggle,” for example, by fomenting ideological and political splits between Palestinians; by diminishing the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, which is enshrined in UN Resolution 194; and by sparing Israel of accountability for its ongoing occupation of Palestine.
One example of Israeli policy directly censoring the Nakba from public discourse occurred in 2011 when Israel passed a law publicly recognized as the Nakba Law that prohibited the Nakba’s recognition and mourning.
In response to the UNGA’s passage of Resolution A/77/L.24, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gildan Erdan, expressed dismay. “Try to imagine the international community commemorating your country’s Independence Day by calling it a disaster. What a disgrace,” Erdan said, according to the Palestine Chronicle’s report.
By contrast, Baroud wrote, “UN Nakba Day represents the triumph of the Palestinian narrative over that of Israeli negationists. This means that the blood spilled during Gaza’s March of Return was not in vain, as the Nakba and the Right of Return are now back at the center of the Palestinian story.”
As of April 7, 2023, there has yet to be corporate media coverage of the UNGA’s recognition of May 15, 2023, as Nakba Day. Although the UNGA resolution has been mostly ignored by the establishment press in the United States, during the summer of 2022, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan introduced House Resolution 1123, calling for the United States to recognize the Nakba and the rights of Palestinian refugees. Fox News and the New York Post reported the story, which was scornfully titled “Democrats go to war against Israel” when also covered by the Washington Examiner. It is unclear why the news sources that reported on the Nakba in relation to US national politics have chosen not to cover the UNGA resolution and its implications on an international level.
Source: Ramzy Baroud, “The Nakba Day Triumph: How the UN Is Correcting a Historical Wrong,” The Palestine Chronicle, December 14, 2022.
Student Researcher: Cem İsmail Addemir (Illinois State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)