There is no proof of Jewish ties to the area of al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday at the United Nations as he referenced Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount and its adjacent Western Wall.
“They [Israel] dug under al-Aqsa… they dug everywhere, and they could not find anything,” Abbas said.
He spoke during a special session of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to mark the 75th anniversary of Nakba Day, Arabic for “Catastrophe Day,” the term Palestinians use to describe the 1948 war. The UN also held a second Nakba Day event in the General Assembly hall on Monday evening with musical performances and films.
Israel has in the past waged a stiff diplomatic battle against Palestinian attempts at the UN to disavow its connection to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, the third-holiest site in Islam.
It also protested the UN General Assembly resolution approved last November to hold Nakba Day events for the first time at the organization’s headquarters in New York.
In his speech, Abbas emphasized that “the ownership of al-Buraq Wall [the Western Wall] and al-Haram al-Sharif [Temple Mount] belongs exclusively and only to the Islamic Wakf alone.” He cited a 1930 League of Nations report that he said affirmed this conclusion.
Abbas also repeated the claim, which Israel has denied, that Palestinians were not given freedom of worship on the Aqsa Mosque compound.
During his speech, Abbas said the US and the UK were responsible for the permanent displacement of what he said was close to a million Palestinians during the 1948 war.
These two countries “bear political and ethical responsibility directly for the Nakba of the Palestinian people because they took part in rendering our people a victim when they decided to establish and plant another entity [the Jewish people] in our historic homeland,” he said.
The US and the UK did this for “their own colonial goals and objectives,” Abbas said, adding that “Israel would not have continued its hostility and aggression without the support it receives from these two countries.”
He took the UK to task for issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which recognized the Jewish right to a homeland in full coordination with the US but did not recognize the self-determination of the Palestinians.
“These countries wanted to get rid of the Jews and benefit from their presence in Palestine,” Abbas said. This was “a promise of those who do not own to those who do not deserve. Britain gave Palestine as a gift to Israel. Why Palestine? Give them another island somewhere else.”
Comparing Israel's narrative to Nazi propaganda
He compared Israel’s rendition of its historical narrative to the kind of misinformation disseminated by Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels during World War II.
“The Israelis and Zionists continue their false claims that Israel made the desert bloom,” he said. “Palestine was a desert, and they made it blossom, a paradise. They can’t but lie. But what can we do? They lie and lie just like Goebbels. They lie, lie and lie until people believe.”
The early Zionists “falsely” claimed that “Palestine was a land without people,” but this was never true, Abbas said, adding that the Palestinians were descendants of the biblical Canaanites. This was proven “in religious scriptures, including the Torah,” he said.
“But the biggest lie is the claim that Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East… How can you have an occupation and still call yourself a democracy. It’s an oxymoron” to do so, Abbas said.
“But the biggest lie is the claim that Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East… How can you have an occupation and still call yourself a democracy. It’s an oxymoron.”Mahmoud Abbas
He said the Palestinians were not “against Jews. We cannot be against Jews, because Judaism is one of the three monotheistic religions. I believe in Judaism, but I am against those who occupy my land.”
“I believe in Judaism, but I am against those who occupy my land.”Mahmoud Abbas
In his address, Abbas alternatively called for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the pre-1967 lines and insisted that he was open to holding talks with Israel to achieve that goal.
At the same time, he also claimed Palestinian rights to both land within sovereign Israel as well as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Abbas called for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to land within the pre-1967 lines, a move that Israel has in the past opposed on the grounds that it undermines any possibility of a two-state solution.
Abbas told the UN it was important that there be a “return of the refugees to their towns and villages of which they were displaced so that this tragedy does not constitute a scar for humanity.”
He said the UN should implement the hundreds of resolutions it has issued upholding the rights of Palestinians, including Resolution 181 from 1947, which he said called for the establishment of an Arab state “for the Palestinian people on 44% of the total area of historic Palestine alongside the state of Israel.”
He did not mention that Israel accepted that resolution and that the Arab states rejected it, proceeding to launch an existential war against the nascent Jewish state, in what became known to Israelis as the War of Independence.
Israel should be forced to accept Resolutions 181 and 194 on the return of Palestinian refugees or face suspension, Abbas said.
“We demand today officially” that the UN must insist that Israel respect “these resolutions or suspend Israel’s membership in the UN,” he said.
Abbas reiterated his accusation that Israel had “committed 50 massacres” against the Palestinian people, and that during the 1948 war, Israel had demolished 530 villages and led to the creation of 957,000 refugees, according to the UN statistics.
The UN must recognize Palestine as a member state of the UN and provide the Palestinians with international protection, he said. This is particularly true, given that members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, have called for the displacement and expulsion of Palestinians, Abbas said.