In UN General Assembly Speeches, Palestinian and Iranian Leaders Savage Israel and Zionism
Attacks on Israel’s legitimacy were in full flow at the UN General Assembly session in New York City on Wednesday, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the 1917 Balfour Declaration — in which Britain announced its support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” — as a “crime against our people,” while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described the Jewish state as “the rogue Zionist regime,” in language harking back to the “Zionism-is-racism” days at the world body during the 1970s.
In an angry speech in which he repeatedly accused Israel of violating international law and abandoning the two-state solution, Abbas — moments after wishing Jews a “Happy New Year” on the eve of Rosh Hashanah — slammed the United Kingdom for having launched the process which led to the creation of the State of Israel in the first place.
Abbas charged the British with having “inflicted a grave injustice on the Palestinian people” by issuing the Balfour Declaration, asserting that in 1917, “97 percent of the inhabitants of Palestine were Palestinians.” While 90,000 Jews lived in Palestine at the time, out of a total population of 600,000, the PLO — of which Abbas is the chairman — declares in its charter that Jews who “normally resided” in the country before the “Zionist invasion” of 1917 “will be considered Palestinians.”
Claiming that the Palestine of 1917 was a “prosperous, progressive” country, Abbas said that the Balfour Declaration and the subsequent imposition of the British Mandate amounted to a “historical injustice.”
“What is worse is that this November, [the British government] wants to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this crime against our people,” Abbas said, before calling on the UK to “apologize” for the Balfour Declaration as well as “provide compensation.”
The uncompromising tone of Abbas’s comments on the Balfour Declaration was reflected in the rest of the Palestinian leader’s speech. Abbas furiously attacked American and Israeli efforts to end discrimination against the Jewish state at the UN, calling on the Human Rights Council to retain its notorious permanent “Agenda Item Seven,” which focuses exclusively on alleged Israeli transgressions.
Continually accusing Israel of practicing “apartheid,” Abbas called for a boycott of the country — albeit without mentioning the activist phrase “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS). The “international community,” he said, had to end “all forms of direct and indirect support to the occupation,” and he demanded that Israel be confronted with an international onslaught “similar to the international community’s approach to the apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Abbas also called for the publication of the Human Rights Council’s so-called “blacklist” of companies that conduct business with Israeli communities in the West Bank. “Why should we hide this list?” Abbas asked rhetorically. “It is like terrorism — everyone should see this list to know who violates international law.”
Abbas restated his commitment to the Palestinian “right of return,” regarded by most Israelis as code for the destruction of the Jewish state, positioning it as a critical final-status issue that could only be negotiated once Israel agreed to substantial territorial concessions. Insisting the Israel has foregone the two-state solution, he nevertheless thanked outside parties, including the US President Donald Trump’s administration, for attempting to revive peace negotiations.
Nor was there any change announced to the PA’s policy of paying monthly stipends to convicted terrorists and their families at a cost of more than $300 million annually. Avoiding the payments question specifically, Abbas announced, “I salute our glorious martyrs and courageous prisoners in Israeli jails, and I tell them all that freedom is coming and that the occupation shall come to an end.”
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon expressed disgust with Abbas’ speech.
“Mahmoud Abbas has spread falsehoods from the UN podium which encourage hate, instead of ending the education towards violence in the PA,” Danon stated. “Today’s lies and excuses have proven once again that the Palestinian leadership is a serial evader of peace.”
Rouhani, meanwhile, could not even bring himself to utter the word “Israel” during his own address to the General Assembly earlier on Wednesday.
After issuing a call for “moderation,” Rouhani went on to say it was “reprehensible that the rogue Zionist regime that threatens international and regional security with its nuclear arsenal has the audacity to preach to peaceful nations.”
In another part of his speech, Rouhani described Israel as “the rogue racist regime,” before calling Israelis “usurpers” who had “trampled on the basic rights of the Palestinians.”
Rouhani restated that Iran would not accept any renegotiation of the July 2015 nuclear deal it agreed to with six world powers. The Iranian president also denied his country was dispatching its own troops abroad and supporting proxies, such as Hezbollah, throughout the Middle East, claiming, “We do not export our revolution through force of arms.”
“We enter hearts and engage minds, we recite our poetry and engage in discourse on our philosophers,” Rouhani said. “Our ambassadors are poets, mystics and philosophers.”
Like Abbas, Rouhani also offered Jewish New Year greetings, saying, “We rescued the Jews from Babylonian servitude” — a reference to the ancient Emperor Cyrus, who reigned in Persia one thousand years before the Islamic conquest, and who is revered in the Jewish Bible for having rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem.