Palestine ambassador Husam Zomlot slams UK government over UN Nakba snub

Palestine ambassador Husam Zomlot slams UK government over UN Nakba snub
The Palestinian ambassador to the UK has criticised London's boycott of a Nakba commemoration at the UN.
4 min read
17 May, 2023
Zomlot spoke to The New Arab about the Nakba earlier this month [Reem Khabbazy/TNA]

The Palestinian ambassador to the UK has slammed the British government for its snub of events marking the 75th anniversary of the Nakba this week, including a first of its kind commemoration held at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.

Husam Zomlot decried the failure of any UK government official to show up to a Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group  (APPG) event marking the Nakba on Monday in the House of Commons and the boycott of the first Nakba commemoration at the UN by US and UK officials. 

The Nakba, or "Catastrophe", resulted in over 700,000 Palestinians being expelled from their homes by Zionist militias during the creation of Israel in 1948 and is remembered by Palestinians across the world on 15 May.

"The commemoration in the UN is not a Palestinian thing, it's a UN thing so it is the UN who invited all countries and we were informed that the US would not take part and the UK would not take part," Zomlot told MPs, journalists, and members of the public at the APPG on Monday.

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"The only thing we've heard from the British government [on the Nakba] is the celebration of the 75th birthday of Israel."

The first of its kind commemoration at the UN's New York headquarters marking the 75th anniversary of the Nakba saw representatives of most EU states attend but was the US, the UK, and Germany stayed away.

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan had called for countries to boycott the Nakba event, describing it as "despicable"

The UK government said it did not support the resolution that allocated UN funds to the event and so chose not to attend.

"The UK supports the establishment of a two-state solution with Israel and a future Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security. We did not think this event advanced that aim," a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson told The New Arab.

British MPs from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties did join Ambassador Zomlot and more than 100 attendees for the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group event at the House of Commons, organised by the non-profit Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu).

Despite sending out requests for UK government officials to attend the commemoration, none attended although Conservative Baroness Sayeeda Warsi spoke at the event.

"We did extend invitations (to UK government officials) and we did say we understand if you can't say much at such an event, but at least send a junior official to sit in one of these seats so the Palestinian people start feeling that you care, that their pain is equally important like all others, that the UK government deals with every single catastrophe in the world," he told the meeting.

"There is a decision somewhere that we will not take part in any of these things."

Zomlot said he hoped that the attention around this year's 75th anniversary - marked by Palestinians and their allies across the world - will see the UK government take a different stance next year.

"I believe that maybe next year we will see a government official present at the [Nakba] commemoration because this is the first time. according to my mind, that the three parties of the UK commemorate [the Nakba] in such a concerted and coordinated effort," he said.

Chris Doyle, director of Caabu, also slammed the no-show by British government officials at the event.

"It was vital to mark the 75 years of the Nakba and particularly so in the British parliament hosted by a Parliamentary body on the actual day, the 15 May. Britain has such a grave historic responsibility for what happened, leaving Palestine in chaos and war. It is a disgrace the British government could not be bothered to send a representative or at least a message on such an occasion. There was not even a junior official," he told The New Arab.

He praised the work of British parliamentarians in highlighting the actions of Israel in the occupied Palestinian Territory, which includes arecent proposal for a Nakba bill by MP Layla Moran.

"Many British parliamentarians are very active on issues of rights and justice for Palestinians.  They will no doubt continue to demand that the UK and other international actors holds Israel to account for its actions, not just Palestinian officials," Doyle said.

"Above all, we need to see serious international action to stop the massive violations of international law going on, including the settlement building, the demolitions and systematic discrimination that has led the global human rights community to accuse Israel of committing the crime of apartheid."