18 October 2000


Press Release
GA/9790



SPEAKERS CALL FOR SUPPORT FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE EFFORTS, IN ASSEMBLY SPECIAL EMERGENCY SESSION

20001018

The Sharm El-Sheikh Summit on 16 and 17 October, and before it the meetings in Paris and Sharm El-Sheikh which Israel boycotted, represented serious attempts to rescue the situation in the Middle East and possibly to revive the peace process, the Permanent Observer of Palestine told the resumed tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly this afternoon, as it met to discuss “Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory”.

Those attempts deserved support and backing, he added. Nevertheless, he noted the Summit had not issued a signed communiqué and certain ambiguities remained about the understandings reached. Palestinians were also concerned more generally, because of their previous experience of Israeli non-compliance with anything agreed upon. However, the important thing was to see what happened on the ground, and especially what happened regarding the withdrawal of tanks and other heavy weapons, and the lifting of the siege on Palestinian territory.

He conceded two mistakes by Palestinians during the recent crisis. The first was the damage caused to Joseph’s Tomb near Nablus, which the Palestinian Authority had condemned and which was being repaired. He hoped Israel would do the same for the ancient mosque destroyed by its citizens near Tiberias. The second was the killing of the two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah, despite attempts by Palestinian police there to protect them. While the Israeli version of their presence there was hard to believe, the Palestinian Authority had condemned the killings and issued instructions to apprehend those responsible.

Only a negotiated solution, arrived at in an atmosphere free from violence, could put a permanent end to bloodshed and unrest in the Middle East, the representative of Israel told the Assembly. He called on Chairman Arafat to order his security forces and his people to stop the confrontations and provocation, to disarm the militias, and to re-arrest terrorists who were still at large. He also called on the Palestinian Authority to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and to refrain from using its official media to disseminate messages of hatred.

Events of the last weeks, he said, such as the lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah, the violation of Joseph's Tomb, and the freeing of terrorists convicted of violence against Israelis were sending a clear signal to Palestinians, to Israel, and to the world that Palestinians were choosing the path of violence. Only a negotiated solution, satisfactory to both Israelis and Palestinians, could lay the foundation for coexistence.


General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9790 Emergency Special Session 18 October 2000 13th Meeting (PM)

Peace was at the door, he said. The concrete political gains emerging from the Oslo agreements, the promising outlines of a final status agreement from Camp David, and the daily life that had been woven between people and people through seven years must not be annihilated in three weeks. Mutual recognition, sealed in Oslo, must repulse any impulse towards mutually negative action. Mutual recognition would see the triumph of wisdom and reason.

Speaking in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Senegal's representative said that, for more then two weeks, deadly violence and bloody confrontations had been raging. They became unavoidable following the provocative visit to Al-Haram al-Sharif by Ariel Sharon, escorted by a large contingent of Israeli forces. The escalation of violence was a cause for concern, and he welcomed efforts by the international community to save the peace process.

The Committee was concerned about the unforeseeable consequences of the confrontations, he said. He urged both parties to show maximum restrain and return to the negotiation table. The time had come -– it was perhaps the last chance -- for the international community to support the peace process. Of course, there were difficulties to overcome, but no effort could be spared to save the peace process. Israel had a right to live in peace and security, but its needs had to be linked with the rights of other people in the region.

The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, deplored the use of excessive force by the Israeli army against the Palestinians, and regretted the unacceptable loss of life, high incidence of injuries, and severe material damage. He called on all sides to cease hostilities, renew their resolve for dialogue, create an atmosphere for negotiation, refrain from activities that would foment further violence, and take whatever steps necessary to preserve the sanctity and physical integrity of holy sites in Jerusalem.

The Permanent Observer of Palestine exercised his right of reply.

The Assembly also took note of a letter of the Secretary-General informing it that 16 Member States were in arrears, in the payment to the United Nations, such that Charter Article 19 sanctions applied. It further noted that Haiti had made a payment sufficient to exempt it from falling under those sanctions. [Under that Article, Member States with arrears equal to their regular budget obligations for the past two years are deprived of their right to vote in the Assembly.]

The resumed tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly will meet again on Friday, 20 October, to hear a statement from the Secretary-General and to continue its deliberations.



General Assembly Plenary - 3 - Press Release GA/9790 Emergency Special Session 18 October 2000 13th Meeting (PM)

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly this afternoon resumed its tenth emergency special session to consider "Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory". The emergency special session was resumed following receipt of a letter by the President of the General Assembly, dated 13 October 2000, from the Permanent Representative of Iraq in his capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group and on behalf of the League of Arab States, requesting its resumption (document A/ES-10/36). Also before the Assembly was a letter from the Chargé d'affaires of the Permanent Mission of South Africa, writing in his capacity as Chairman of the coordinating bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressing the Movement's unanimous support for the Arab Group's request for a resumption of the special session (document A/ES-10/37).

Earlier meetings of the Assembly in its tenth emergency special session on this issue took place in 1997 (when the Assembly met in special session on the issue twice), in 1998 and in 1999. At those meetings, it adopted five resolutions on "Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory" (resolutions ES-10/2 of 25 April 1997, ES-10/3 of 15 July 1997, ES-10/4 of 13 November 1997, ES-10/5 of 17 March 1998 and A/ES-10/5 of 5 February 1999).

Among the terms of those resolutions were a call for the cessation of all assistance and support for illegal Israeli activities, a reaffirmation that Israeli settlements in territories occupied since 1967 were illegal and an obstacle to peace, and a reaffirmation that all Israeli measures that altered or purported to alter the character, legal status and demographic composition of Jerusalem were null and void. Among other terms in those resolutions were a demand that Israel accepts the de jure applicability of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War to all the territories occupied since 1967, and that it complies with relevant Security Council resolutions.

Statements

NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the recent tragic events, which began on 28 September, started with the ill-intentioned visit of the infamous Ariel Sharon to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the first qiblah and the third of the holy sites of Islam, in occupied East Jerusalem. The next day, the Israeli occupying forces stormed the site and attacked innocent worshippers. “Our people saw this as a flagrant aggression against their holy place and as a prelude to other steps, aimed at undermining their rights and possibly establishing other illegal realities, by the occupying Power in East Jerusalem”, he said. In response to the Palestinian protest, Israel used its huge war machine to launch a bloody campaign of repression against “our people”, which included a number of wilful killings, including of several children, and which wilfully caused many serious injuries and great pain to civilians. Those actions constituted grave and serious breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and, thus, constituted war crimes.

He asked why there was all this savagery and brutality on Israel’s part, and whether it was possible that the Israeli political leadership believed that by doing this they would break the will of the Palestinian people and leadership, thus, imposing unacceptable concessions in the peace process. Israel, in an attempt to divert attention from what was happening, had stated that some Palestinian policemen and others had exchanged fire with its forces. In reality, not one single shot was fired by the Palestinian side for the first three days of the bloody Israeli campaign. And even until this moment there have not been any comprehensive or even broad exchanges by the Palestinian police with Israeli forces. “We must also remember the illegal presence of the Israeli settlers and that most of these extremists are armed with weapons delivered by the Israeli army, that exceed whatever little arms are in the possession of the Palestinian side”, he said.

He said the first of two actions which should not have happened was the damage done to Joseph’s Tomb near the city of Nablus. “We have clearly condemned what happened and instructions were issued immediately to repair the place”, he said. Repairs had been undertaken and he expected that Israel would do the same thing, for example, with regard to the historic mosque which was burned by Israelis in the town of Tiberias. The second mistake was the killing of two Israeli soldiers by some individuals who broke into the police station in the city of Ramallah, and occurred despite attempts by police there to protect them.

The attackers had strong reasons to believe that the two detainees belonged to a special military group called the “al-mustaribeen unit”. That unit had, on previous occasions, infiltrated Palestinian areas and committed various savage acts against Palestinians, including the summary execution of some individuals. It was extremely difficult to believe the Israeli version that the two soldiers lost their way in the heart of the city of Ramallah in light of the current situation and the number of Israeli checkpoints surrounding that city.

“Despite this, we have clearly condemned the killing of the two soldiers and, furthermore, instructions were issued to apprehend those who committed this act, because it was illegal and is incompatible with our values”, he said. Those issues, however, and others, did not change the actual nature of all that was happening -- the excessive and unjustifiable use of force by the occupying Power and the committing of atrocities by the occupying force against a people who were expressing their anger and frustration at the occupation while attempting to defend their holy places.

He said another issue that the Assembly had to consider, given its importance and its dangerous nature, was the brutality used by the Israeli police against Arab-Israeli demonstrators in Israel itself. That had resulted in 15 killings and hundreds of injuries. Those Arabs were expressing their anger and their rejection of what was being done by the occupying Power against the Palestinian people. The Israeli Government confronted this expression with use of deadly force. “What happened reminds us of the many questions about the so-called Israeli democracy, its nature, and whether it applies to all its citizens”, he said. The Security Council had dealt with the bloody events with great seriousness. Despite the difficulties it faced, the Council had adopted a very important resolution –- 1322 (2000) –- on 7 October. Yet, despite the adoption of that text, the situation on the ground had not changed and Israel had not complied with any of its provisions.

In the aftermath of the dangerous Israeli escalation, the Council was, once again, called upon to adopt an immediate resolution to end that escalation and prevent the whole region from falling into comprehensive confrontation, he said. That call was not successful, and a permanent member of the Council had declared that it would use its right to veto any resolution regardless of its content. That clearly meant that the Council would not be able to take any action. At that point, the Arab Group had no choice but to request the resumption of the tenth emergency special session of the Assembly, to consider the dangerous situation and the “illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory”.

He said a new development was the convening of the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit on 16 and 17 October. This Summit, and before it the meetings in Paris and Sharm El- Sheikh which were boycotted by Israel, all represented serious attempts to rescue the situation and possibly to revive the peace process. Those attempts deserved support and backing. Nevertheless, it must be noted that there was no signed communiqué issued by the Summit and, at the same time, certain ambiguities existed concerning the understandings reached. There was also constant concern stemming from previous experiences of Israel’s non-compliance with anything agreed upon.

He said it was important to see what happened on the ground, especially with regard to the withdrawal of tanks and other heavy weapons, and the lifting of the siege on Palestinian territory. While Palestinians would exert all efforts to making these understandings a success, they also wanted to see what Israel would do. Palestine would review the draft resolution that had been submitted in light of those developments and in light of what happened in coming hours. Palestine welcomed the participation of the Secretary-General in the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit and hoped that this would lead to effective participation by the United Nations in the inquiry into what had happened which was called for by Security Council resolution 1322 (2000) and agreed to by the parties in Sharm El-Sheikh. He believed the speedy establishment of that committee and its immediate work would have an impact on ending the situation created during the last three weeks.

YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) said he hoped that the statements made in Sharm El-Sheikh would succeed in restoring calm and quiet to the region. He noted, however, that the deliberations of the special session threatened, and were contrary to, the spirit of that declaration, and had the potential to aggravate and disrupt efforts under way to bring an end to the violence. The events of the past few weeks had a personal and a political impact. Personal, because of the immense human tragedy; political, because those events imperilled the future of peace and stability in Israel and in the Middle East.

He said that last Thursday two Israeli reserve soldiers had been lynched by an angry mob after they mistakenly entered the Palestinian-controlled town of Ramallah. The entire world had watched with disgust as one soldier’s body was thrown from a window, and Palestinians proudly displayed their bloody hands. That this unspeakable act had taken place inside an official building of the Palestinian Authority only contributed to the degradation of mutual trust and confidence that had taken so much work for so many years to establish. Thursday’s brutal lynching was not the first instance in which official organs of the Palestinian Authority had tolerated, encouraged, or even directly engaged in violent actions against Israelis. There had been numerous instances in which Palestinian forces had turned their weapons on Israeli soldiers and civilians, in flagrant violation of both the letter and the spirit of signed agreements.

One incident in particular, he said, had sparked tremendous outrage among Israelis. In an effort to reduce tension, an agreement was reached on 6 October whereby the Israeli personnel would be temporarily removed from Joseph’s Tomb, and the Palestinian Authority would ensure its continued protection and preservation. With the removal of Israeli personnel, a frenzied Palestinian mob, together with members of the Palestinian police, had entered the site, set it ablaze, and commenced dismantling the historic and sacred structure of the Tomb. He stressed that such events were not occurring spontaneously. The Palestinian Authority had also allowed its official television and radio to be used for the purposes of incitement, calling on its people to carry out attacks on Israeli citizens and soldiers.

In another disturbing development, the Palestinian Authority had last week freed scores of terrorist prisoners convicted in Palestinian courts of committing violent acts against Israelis, he said. Taken together, those actions all pointed to an alarming pattern of behaviour by the Palestinian leadership. They were sending a clear signal to their people, to Israel, and to the world that they were choosing the path of violence. It must be understood that only a negotiated solution, satisfactory to both Israelis and Palestinians, could lay the foundation for coexistence.

It was unfathomable that, despite the incitement and repeated calls for holy war on Israel, the Palestinians continued to place the blame for the escalation squarely upon Israel. Israel had, however, exercised the utmost restraint in responding to Palestinian provocations. Allegations that Israel had used “excessive force” in confrontations were completely unfounded. Could there be any doubt, he asked, after witnessing the brutal lynching of two Israeli soldiers, that an angry Palestinian mob posed a real and immediate threat to human life?

Referring to the attack on the police station in Ramallah, he said extreme precautions had been taken to minimize loss of life. Not a single Palestinian had been killed in that pinpoint attack. He stated unequivocally that Israel had never declared war on the Palestinian people. Israel had no interest whatsoever in inflicting pain or damage on its neighbours. Its actions were intended not to harm, but to maintain order in the area, and were in full accordance with international law. “While we deeply regret the loss of life that has occurred, we maintain our right -- in fact, our obligation -- as a sovereign nation to protect our people”, he said.

Only a negotiated solution, arrived at in an atmosphere free from violence, could put a permanent end to bloodshed and unrest in the Middle East, he said. "We call yet again on Chairman Arafat to order his security forces and his people to stop the confrontations and the provocations, to disarm the militias as he has previously agreed, and to re-arrest members of Hamas and other terrorist organizations that are still at large", he said. He also called on the Palestinian Authority to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and from using official media to disseminate messages of hatred, and insisted that the Palestinian leadership take immediate and concrete steps to act to restore peace and security to the region. He said the proposed resolution displayed arbitrariness and did not mention Palestinian excesses. The disembowelling of two soldiers had not left its mark on the immaculate preparation of the resolution. Nor did the unheard of violation of the Joseph's Tomb at Nablus or the ancient synagogue of Jericho give rise to any negative comment about the Palestinians. The determined silence in the resolution on the human barbarity experienced at Ramallah and on the attack on the age-old holy places of Nablus and Jericho gave a stamp of respectability to base instincts and to sacrilegious fury. The silence was a profound source of harm to the spirit of peace and reconciliation, and risked freezing the Israelis for a long time into their instinct for self-preservation.

He categorically rejected the draft resolution which ran blatantly counter to peace. Yet, peace was at the door, he said. The concrete political gains emerging from the Oslo agreements, like the promising outlines of a final status agreement drawn up at Camp David, and above all the common daily life that had been woven between people and people through seven years, must not be annihilated in the tragedy of the last three weeks. Peace would come. It was here. Mutual recognition, sealed in Oslo, must repulse any impulse towards mutually negative action. Mutual recognition would see the triumph of wisdom and reason. Rather than turn to a resolution which was a trophy of indignation for one, and a chalice of bitterness for the other, Palestinians and Israelis must now seek the answer in their own resources and in their own instinct for mutual help.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that tragic circumstances had obliged the General Assembly to resume the tenth emergency session to deal, yet again, with the situation of occupied Palestine. For more than two weeks, deadly violence and bloody confrontations had been raging and become unavoidable since the provocative visit to Al-Haram al-Sharif by Mr. Sharon, accompanied by members of the Likud Party, and escorted by a large contingent of security agents and Israeli police forces. There had been a tragic toll of more than 110 dead, most of them Palestinians, and some 3,000 injured.

He said this was the “horrifying spectacle” that still haunted people’s memories, along with the murders of Palestinian children, some not even two years of age. The Israeli forces had been using metal bullets, tanks, armoured transport vehicles and anti-tank missiles. Armed Jewish settlers had been authorized to use their firearms as they saw fit against a defenceless Palestinian population. The Israeli Government had sealed off Palestinian territories, and forced Palestinians to be immobile and unable to work. Finally, bulldozers from the Israeli Defence Forces had dug ditches and trenches to prevent movement between Jerusalem and towns controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

He said those were illegal measures designed to inflict collective punishments on the Palestinian people, gravely violating their human rights and denying their most basic living conditions. The events were clearly the result of acts, measures and policies on the Israeli side, which were in contradiction to agreements to which Israel remained bound. The Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People welcomed the efforts of the international community to save the peace process. On 7 October the Security Council had adopted resolution 1322, demanding that the violence ended immediately and calling for the immediate resumption of negotiations. He said the Committee had adopted a declaration on 10 October on the situation of the occupied territories, affirming that the United Nations must continue to shoulder its permanent responsibility in the region until the issue was settled in a satisfactory manner, and until Palestinians were in a position to exercise their inalienable rights. The role of Secretary-General Kofi Annan was welcomed. He had shown his political courage and given peace a new chance.

He said there were difficulties to be overcome, but no effort could be spared to save the peace process. Israel had a right to live in peace and security, but those needs and requirements had to be linked with the rights of other people in the region. The summit in Sharm al-Sheikh had been an attempt to ease a crisis which threatened to do away with all that had been achieved in the Middle East. “To let the results of the summit escape our grasp would be irresponsible of us all”, he said. It was hoped that true progress would be achieved, so that peace and stability might reign in this region which was a crossroads of cultures and history.

DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa), on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Movement deplored the use of excessive force by the Israeli army against the Palestinians, and regretted the unacceptable loss of lives, high incidence of injuries, and severe material damage. He welcomed the participation of world leaders in the Sharm al-Sheikh Summit, along with agreements reached there regarding Israeli troop withdrawal, lifting the blockade on the territories, and the reopening of the Gaza airport. He also supported the creation of an impartial fact-finding commission, working in conjunction with the United Nations, and called for full and expeditious implementation of Security Council resolution 1322. Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement countries considered the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War applicable to the territories, as well.

He also called on all sides to cease hostilities and renew their resolve for dialogue, creating an atmosphere for negotiation. They should refrain from activities that would foment further violence, and take whatever steps were necessary to preserve the sanctity and physical integrity of holy sites in Jerusalem. The Ministers had reiterated this year the need for implementation of and compliance with agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. They had reaffirmed their determination to actively strive towards the achievement of a just and comprehensive peace on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and on the basis of land for peace. They also hoped for a final settlement that led to an independent Palestinian State, and pledged full support for the current initiatives of leaders towards the restoration of the peace process.

This Assembly, he said, should send a clear message to the Palestinian people that, until that comprehensive solution was reached, the responsibility of the United Nations regarding their plight would not diminish. For its part, the Non-Aligned Movement pledged to remain fully involved until their legitimate aspirations were fulfilled.

Right of Reply

Mr. AL-KIDWA, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he had listened to the regrettable statement by Israel's representative and it simply reflected the same Israeli patterns and methods –- to ignore the real essence of the issue. Listening to Israel’s representative was almost as if Israeli blood was different to Palestinian blood. Israel’s representative also provided detailed information that was not important, including statements from people “we do not know”. The Israeli statement also made very specific attacks on particular people, but it only used partial quotations or inappropriate ones that were out of context. Perhaps Israel’s representative was deliberately attempting to misguide and misinform. If that was Israel’s approach, then he said he had no use for anything Israel’s representative had to say.

He said that Israel had said that it had not declared war. Israeli bombings, however, had caused heavy losses. If that was not a declaration of war, when was Israel actually going to declare war on the Palestinians? he asked. Israel had also referred to pinpoint attacks and used terms such as "benign occupation" and "benign military attacks". He did not know the meaning of those words. The Israeli representative said there was no nation on earth that would tolerate such violent attacks on its citizens and not respond in kind. The Permanent Observer asked who these citizens were and what they were doing in Palestinian territories. He said the occupation of Palestine must end immediately.

He said that Israel’s representative had said that all accusations about excessive use of force by Israel were unfounded, but the United Nations Special Rapporteur had said otherwise. There were many human rights organizations and cameras that had witnessed the criminal Israeli actions against Palestinian people. Israeli officials should be taken to court for the deliberate killing of Palestinian people. As to the reason for the special session, he said that Israel had not listened to what one permanent member of the Security Council had said, which had thwarted the Council from taking up the issue now before the Assembly. If that member was willing to change its position, then perhaps the issue could go back before the Council.

In conclusion, he said that, in his earlier statement, he had omitted to mention a rumour he had heard today to the effect that Israel had kidnapped and abducted a number of Palestinians from the town of Ramallah. If that was true, it was a dangerous threat to everything achieved so far and what could transpire at Sharm El-Sheik.

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