A day after the Palestinian Authority and Hamas announced a "comprehensive" agreement to implement a unity government to rule the Gaza Strip, PA President Mahmoud Abbas delivered an impassioned speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations on Friday as he accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" against the Palestinian people during more than 50 days of bombing and military attacks in July and August that left thousands dead, thousands more wounded, and life-supporting infrastructure obliterated in Gaza.
Abbas pleaded with world leaders and the international community to do their part in bringing an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and set out a new timetable for a full withdrawal of IDF forces from the West Bank and a permanent lifting of the seige in Gaza. In essence, Abbas took the opportunity to say that the official and so-called "peace process" that began with the Oslo Accords in 1993 has proven an utter failure and that new avenues to a just solution would now be put forward.
"In this year, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Israel has chosen to make it a year of a new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people," Abbas told those gathered in the main hall of the General Assembly.
Citing the more than 2,000 people—which the UN estimates a large majority were children, women, and non-combatant adult males—who were killed during Israel's assault, Abbas said he and the Palestinian people "will not forget and we will not forgive, and we will not allow war criminals to escape punishment."
Abbas recognized that he had given similar speeches at the UN before, but that Israel's most recent attack has drastically altered dynamics.
The difference today is that the scale of this genocidal crime is larger, and that the list of martyrs, especially children, is longer, as well as lists of the wounded and disabled, and that dozens of families have been completely decimated.
The difference today is that approximately half a million people were displaced from their homes, and that the number of homes, schools, hospitals, public buildings, residential buildings, mosques, factories and even cemeteries destroyed is unprecedented. And, the difference today is that the devastation caused by this recent aggression is unmatched in modern times, as confirmed by a witness, the honorable Commissioner-General of UNRWA.
This last war against Gaza was a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment, in a manner that makes it inconceivable that anyone today can claim that they did not realize the magnitude and horror of the crime. And, it is inconceivable that some are unable to characterize this situation in real terms and that they suffice with simply declaring their support for Israel’s right to self-defense without regard for the fate of the thousands of victims of our people, ignoring a simple fact that we remind them of today: that the life of a Palestinian is as precious as the life of any other human being.
We must also assume that no one will wonder anymore why extremism is rising and why the culture of peace is losing ground and why the efforts to achieve it are collapsing.
While affirming the right of Palestinians to both defend themselves and resist the occupation, Abbas said that the Palestinian people would never betray their "humanity" or "commitment to international law" as they push even harder to achieve official statehood and freedom from Israeli subjugation. Abbas also lamented recent breakdowns in peace negotiations, arguing that despite "unimaginable self-restraint" showed by the Palestinian side, Israeli leaders were once again notable for not missing "the opportunity to undermine a chance for peace."
The speech continued:
Israel refuses to end its occupation of the State of Palestine since 1967, but rather seeks its continuation and entrenchment, and rejects the Palestinian state and refuses to find a just solution to the plight of the Palestine refugees.
The future proposed by the Israeli government for the Palestinian people is at best isolated ghettos for Palestinians on fragmented lands, without borders and without sovereignty over its airspace, water and natural resources, which will be under the subjugation of the racist settlers and army of occupation, and at worst will be a most abhorrent form of Apartheid. Israel has confirmed during the negotiations that it rejects making peace with its victims, the Palestinian people.
Calling for a new approach, Abbas confirmed in his speech that the Palestinian leadership, alongside Arab partners and other backers, are working on a resolution that will be introduced to the United Nations. The resolution would put the prospects of a negotiated settlement back in the hands of the international community and mark the end of the U.S.-brokered negotiations that have failed repeatedly.
"The adoption of this resolution," Abbas told world leaders, "will affirm what you strived to realize in this year is the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, who will continue their struggle and steadfastness and will rise brave and strong from the rubble and destruction."
As the Guardian reports Friday in the wake of Abbas' speech:
According to diplomatic sources, the proposed resolution has caused a rift with the US, which had been working for some months on another resolution with the Israelis, Jordanians and Qataris aimed at bolstering the Gaza ceasefire with an exchange of Palestinian security guarantees with some loosening of Israel’s economic stranglehold.
Even though the US holds the presidency of the security council, diplomats said the Abbas resolution would most probably find support from the nine council members necessary to pass. Only the UK, Australia and Lithuania would be expected to abstain, forcing Washington to use its veto.
However, the US has signalled it would have no compunction to use that veto power.
Although Abbas insisted that Palestine was committed to achieving “a just peace through a negotiated solution”, the moves underlined the deep frustration among Palestinians over US proprietorship of the peace process amid a new desire to internationalise efforts to secure a two-state solution.
Abbas returned in the end to "historical injustices" perpetrated against the people of Palestine and said that peace within the borders of a new state and throughout the Middle East region remains the goal of Palestinians.
"There is an occupation that must end now," Abbas concluded. "There is a people that must be freed immediately. The hour of independence of the State of Palestine has arrived."