Palestinian journalist Said Arikat—known for criticizing Israel at U.S. State Department press briefings—surprised no one by posing a question to Vedant Patel, the department’s principal deputy spokesman, about the so-called nakba, the Arabic term for the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in May 1948.
“Today, May 15, marks the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba,” said Arikat. He noted that U.S. diplomats opted not to attend the U.N. event. “Is commemorating the Palestinian nakba an anti-Israeli event?” he asked.
Patel assured the Al-Quds reporter that “the attendance or U.S. representation at any event is not reflective of our commitment to the Palestinian people.”
“We continue to recognize the painful plight of Palestinian refugees,” added Patel. “I will also note that this administration has prioritized our support for the Palestinian people and has provided over $940 million for Palestinians, including $730 million in humanitarian assistance for Palestinian refugees.”
Arikat followed up. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said during the event that Washington and London “bear the responsibility for the Palestinian catastrophe. Do you agree with him? And the time has come to end it. Do you feel that the time has come to end this catastrophe?” he asked.
“I do not agree with those comments,” replied Patel.
Arikat asked Patel if he would comment on reports that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is considering appointing Dan Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, as an envoy to the Abraham Accords.
“I have no personnel announcements to offer,” the spokesman said.