The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is a United Nations-organized observance. Events are held at UN headquarters in New York and UN offices in Geneva and Vienna, with other observances under government and civic sponsorship around the world.
It is generally held on November 29 each year to mark the anniversary of Resolution 181, passed by the UN General Assembly in 1947 to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Palestine was at that time still under the British Mandate. The following year Israel fought its war of independence, and an estimated 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes. An independent Arab state of Palestine was never created.
At that time the status of the city of Jerusalem was determined as a “corpus separatum” — a separate entity — under a special international governance.
The annual observance of this day began in 1978. Special commemorative activities are organized by the Division for Palestinian Rights of the UN Secretariat, in consultation with the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
In 2012, the General Assembly voted to grant Palestine non-member observer state status at the UN by a vote of 138 in favor, 9 against, and 41 abstentions by the 193-member Assembly. This vote was a major milestone toward eventual Palestinian statehood.
Three years later, the UN decided that the flags of non-member observer states, including that of Palestine, shall be raised at its New York headquarters following the flags of member states. The ceremony of the raising of the flag of the State of Palestine took place on September 30, 2015.
“Today, 136 countries recognize the State of Palestine, and its flag flies at the United Nations next to those of all member states,” says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “However, these advances are not felt by children in Gaza, or by the residents of Nablus, Hebron and East Jerusalem…. Let us reaffirm our commitment to bring about the just peace that the peoples of Israel and Palestine deserve.”
The Palestinian people, now numbering more than eight million, live primarily within the internationally recognized borders of Israel, and in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights; also as residents in neighboring Arab states and in refugee camps in the region, and in the Palestinian diaspora around the world.
The International Day of Solidarity has traditionally provided an opportunity for the international community to focus its attention on the fact that the question of Palestine has remained unresolved, and that the Palestinian people have yet to attain their inalienable rights as defined by the General Assembly, namely, the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced.
The international community strongly supports the resumption and continuation of the negotiating process with Israel and other powers, and an end to unilateral actions that may predetermine the outcome of the negotiations. Given the extensive settlement by Jews in the Occupied Territories, encouraged by successive Israeli governments since 1967, and given the ever more rightward trend of the current Netanyahu regime, rapid progress toward Palestinian self-determination and toward a tangible improvement in the Palestinian economy and living conditions, still seems far off.
Whether eventually a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum will ever come about becomes more and more questionable with each passing year. There are still majorities in both Israeli and Palestinian polls that show support for two states, but achieving them now will be a formidable job with many, perhaps insurmountable compromises on both sides. In the meantime, the International Day of Solidarity reminds the world of the critical task.