|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
23rd Meeting (AM)
terminate mandate of special committee, israel urges as Fourth Committee
continues debate on human rights violations in occupied arab lands
Syria Accuses Delegate of Attempting to Divert Attention from Abuses
The mandate of the Special Committee that investigates Israel’s practices in occupied Arab lands should be terminated “once and for all”, that country’s representative told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning, as it continued its discussion of that topic.
Describing the Special Committee’s work as “utterly divorced from reality”, he said the body –- formally known as the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of he Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories -- did not serve the United Nations agenda. It was an “incontestable fact” that the weeks of futile rhetoric had “no bearing whatsoever on the well-being of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank”. The only effect of the “absurd, indeed, shameful, waste of resources” was to undermine the credibility of the United Nations as a relevant and serious player in global politics.
The Palestinians themselves should actively pursue measures on the ground to improve their own situation, he said, announcing that the Israeli Defence Forces had completed operations this morning against terror and rocket-launching infrastructure in the Gaza Strip terrorist hub of Beit Hanoun. Dozens of gunmen had been killed during searches throughout the town to locate terrorists and in the course of which, Israeli soldiers had uncovered large amounts of weaponry. Dozens more Palestinians suspected of terror involvement had been taken in for questioning.
Noting that the Gaza operation was “short-termed and limited in scale”, he said it had been triggered by daily rocket attacks and urged the Palestinians to concentrate on the only possible way to emerge from the current situation; ending terror, accepting all existing agreements and re-opening direct peace talks with Israel. While the international community should take measures to support both sides in ending their conflict, the work of the Special Committee did not constitute such a measure.
Several representatives, however, stressed the importance of the Special Committee’s work until a just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict was found. Algeria’s representative said Israel’s questioning of the validity of that work was particularly troubling, and its actions in the Gaza Strip, which targeted women and children, confirmed its contempt for the international community. Repressive Israeli policies fed hatred and its actions did not paint a good picture of Israel as a good neighbour. It was to be hoped that Israeli actions in Lebanon were not a sign of the good neighbourly relations it envisioned for the region.
Iran’s delegate, also emphasizing the importance of the Special Committee’s work, said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was worse than ever, owing to the Israeli regime’s atrocious, brutal and callous treatment of the Palestinians and those in the occupied Syrian Golan. The continued construction of the illegal separation wall was a main source of injustice for the Palestinians, and a primary cause of poverty and the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Many Palestinian photojournalists and cameramen had been injured, he pointed out, requesting the Secretary-General to seek ways to help the media in the smooth discharge of their duties. Moreover, it was regrettable that certain countries persisted in maintaining their unjustifiable boycott of the democratically elected Palestinian Government. That kind of approach only emboldened the occupier to commit more crimes and increasingly violate human rights in the Occupied Territories. Iran fully supported the Special Committee’s recommendation regarding sanctions against Israel.
Syria’s representative, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the Israeli delegate had tried to divert the Committee’s attention from the real problem by turning the discussion of human rights violations to matters concerning United Nations resources. Israel’s non-compliance with the Organization’s resolutions was the main reason why measures must be taken. The question of human rights in the Occupied Territories was a historic, moral and legal responsibility originating in the United Nations Charter.
Other speakers taking the floor this morning were the representatives of the Sudan, Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Namibia.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Iran, Israel and the Sudan, as well as the representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday 8 November, to conclude its debate on the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to continue its general debate on the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Actions Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (For background information see press release GA/SPD/61 of 6 November).
RAN GIDOR (Israel), recalling the Fourth Committee’s discussion on the situation in the Middle East, said it was an “incontestable fact that these hours, days and weeks of futile rhetoric have no bearing whatsoever on the well-being of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank”. The only effect of the “absurd, indeed, shameful, waste of resources” was to undermine the credibility of the United Nations as a relevant and serious player in global politics.
He said the Palestinians themselves should actively pursue measures on the ground to improve their own situation. Last year, Israel had withdrawn its army and communities from Gaza and later elected a new Government committed to the unprecedented realignment of its forces and the civilian population in the West Bank. Unfortunately, the election of a Hamas leadership had escalated Gaza-based terrorist activities, which had changed the landscape. Palestinian leaders, rather than heeding the Quartet’s calls to commit to non-violence, had consolidated terrorist links with Syria and Iran, losing international aid for the Palestinian people. Hamas was responsible for plunging them into further despair.
Reaffirming that Israel could not always be held responsible for the consequences of bad choices by others, he said Israel was open, as a democratic State, to discussing the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In any given year, the region was examined by foreign Government agencies, including those of the United States Department of State, the European Union and United Nations as well as Special Rapporteurs. It was unfortunate that they did not similarly scrutinize the Palestinian Authority.
Early this morning, the Israeli Defence Force infantry had completed operations against terror and rocket-launching infrastructure in the Gaza Strip terrorist hub of Beit Hanoun, he announced. In the course of that operation, the Israeli forces had conducted searches throughout the town to locate terrorists and dozens of gunmen had been killed. Israeli soldiers had uncovered large amounts of weaponry and dozens of Palestinians suspected of terror involvement had been taken in for questioning. The operation in Gaza, short-termed and limited in scale, had been triggered by the daily rocket attacks.
He described the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable rights of the Palestinian People as redundant bodies, and “anti-Israel propaganda apparatuses” that countered a more effective allocation of United Nations resources. Israel strongly urged the Secretary-General to use resources in the most efficient manner by adopting the best management practices. The Special Committee did not serve the United Nations agenda and its work was “utterly divorced from reality”. The text before the Committee “betrayed a biased and anachronistic picture of the situation in the region”, where the rights of only one side were acknowledged. Israel, therefore, urged the Palestinians to stop wasting their efforts on futile diplomatic manoeuvres and concentrate on the only possible way to emerge from the current situation: ending terror, accepting all existing agreements and the re-opening of direct peace talks with Israel. The international community should take measures to support both sides in ending their conflict. The work of the Special Committee did not constitute such a measure.
KHALID MOHAMMED ALI (The Sudan), expressing regret that the Special Committee had been unable to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories due to Israeli’s non-cooperation, said he was concerned at developments there and by the actions of the occupying authorities, such as extrajudicial killings, destruction of houses and the policy of hunger caused by the blockade of the Gaza Strip. All those actions made the achievement of a lasting and just peace impossible. Since their democratic elections, the Palestinian people had been victims of collective punishment. More than 900,000 of them were affected by the suspension of foreign assistance and the non-payment by Israel of dues derived from taxes and customs. Just last week, the Israelis had killed 50 women holding a peaceful demonstration in Gaza.
He said the construction of the separation wall in the West Bank continued unabated, negatively impacting Palestinian lives. United Nations resolutions stipulated that all measures taken by Israel in the occupied Syrian Golan were null and void, and its activities there, including mining the area, burying nuclear waste near the borders and building a dam, were in violation of international law. It was time for the international community, in particular the Security Council, to end the suffering and take decisive actions to implement international resolutions. Sudan supported the recommendations of the Special Committee, particularly the one regarding the imposition of sanctions on Israel.
TAISTO HUIMASAL (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his delegation remained committed to a two-state solution, as laid out in the Road Map and agreed between the parties, that would lead to the creation of a sovereign and independent Palestinian State. The Union would not recognize any change to the pre-1967 borders, other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties. Underlining the urgent need for progress in the Arab-Israeli conflict, with a negotiated two-state solution at its core, he called for the parties to work together to achieve peace.
The Union remained deeply concerned about the Israeli operation in the Palestinian Territories and deplored the loss of civilian life. He called on the Palestinian leadership to end terrorist activities. While recognizing Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence, he urged restraint from disproportionate reaction. In that context, the Union called for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldier, as well as of the Palestinian ministers and legislators in Israeli custody. His delegation remained seriously concerned over the administrative detentions practised by Israel, and particularly that those detained had not been informed about the reasons for their detention.
The Union acknowledged the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and reiterated its demand that Israel reverse construction of the barrier, including in and around Jerusalem. Moreover, he urged Israel to stop activities in Palestinian territories, including the destruction of homes, which ran counter to international law. The Union recalled the full implementation of the agreement on movement and access and called on Israel to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, particularly in Gaza. The Union supported President Abbas, and urged Palestinians to support efforts for the formation of a Government with a political platform reflecting the Quartet principles.
ASIM IFTIKHAR AHMAD ( Pakistan) said his delegation was deeply concerned at the continuing deterioration of the socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Territories, especially their devastating impact on women and children. The crisis was being exacerbated by the social and economic blockade and the withholding of taxes and customs payments by Israel. The continuing construction of the wall, expansion of settlements, and restrictions on access and movement by road closures, checkpoints and roads built for the exclusive use of settlers were human rights violations in themselves. As for the separation wall, he urged an early establishment of the Register of Damage. He was also concerned at the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan.
The Special Committee’s observation that, not since 1968 had it experienced such anger and misery among the people in the Occupied Territories, was particularly alarming, he continued. For the violation of human rights to cease, an end to occupation was a necessary prerequisite. He supported the legitimate struggle for self-determination and freedom of the Palestinian people and stressed the permanent responsibility of the United Nations until the question of Palestine was resolved.
On the Palestine-Israel track, Israel should end its military campaign in Gaza, freeze settlement activities and accept negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, led by President Abbas, among other confidence-building measures. The Palestine side should halt rocket attacks and violence, secure release of the captured Israeli soldier and establish a national unity government, among other things. The international community should oversee implementation of the confidence-building measures and provide international assistance to the Palestinians. A new time frame should be set for the attainment of the two-State solution, with the resolution of the final status issues to be addressed at the end. Efforts would also need to be undertaken in parallel to achieve negotiated and lasting settlements on the Israel-Lebanon and the Israel-Syria tracks.
TAREQ MD. ARIFUL ISLAM ( Bangladesh) said the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories had reached a new low. Israeli actions to subdue the legitimate Palestinian resistance had broken all known international humanitarian norms. It was dismaying to note that the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access had failed to improve the situation. Despite international condemnation, Israel continued to construct the separation wall well inside Palestinian territory, destroying Palestinian settlements and cutting off Palestinians access to water sources, land, employment, health, education and other social services. Those activities were serious impediments to the Road Map and to the achievement of a two-State solution.
He said Israel was systematically trampling the basic human rights of the Palestinian people with impunity and in continued brazen disregard of its obligations. Bangladesh demanded the full and immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Occupied Territories and called on Israel to exercise maximum restraint. The Road Map, drawn up by the Quartet, held the key to a peaceful solution to the conflict. Bangladesh fully endorsed the recommendations of the Special Committee and urged their implementation. It was high time the international community re-engaged itself vigorously in the peace process so that the confidence that peace-loving Palestinians and Israelis placed in the United Nations system could be vindicated.
NADJEH BAAZIZ ( Algeria) said Israel had confirmed its contempt for international community through its actions in the Gaza Strip, which targeted women and children. Particularly troubling was Israel’s questioning of the validity of the Special Committee’s work. Algeria re-stated its commitment to the Special Committee, found Israel’s challenge to the international community unacceptable and demanded an end to its activities against the Palestinian people.
Having studied the Special Committee’s report, she noted with bitterness the impunity of Israel’s operations. The report highlighted that human rights, beginning with the fundamental rights to life and freedom of movement, had been violated daily by the occupying power. Repressive Israeli policies fed hatred and the hardship faced by Palestinian refugees was not a choice but rather a situation imposed on them. Israel should renounce its disproportionate use of force, as seen in the construction of the wall, destruction of houses, and bombing of infrastructure and agricultural land. Those actions did not paint a good picture of Israel as a good neighbour. Moreover, it was to be hoped that Israel’s actions in Lebanon were not a sign of the good neighbourly relations it envisioned for the region.
She said she remained concerned at the violations of human rights and the declining economic and social situation in Gaza. The right to self-defence and the struggle against terrorism had given Israel increased motivation to use force. The region had been transformed into a vast prison. In that context, she regretted that the international community had interrupted their grants to the Palestinian people. Israel had ignored international law and the International Court of Justice by its construction of the separation wall and Algeria called for the creation of two independent States, living side by side in peace. Palestinians living in the occupied Syrian Golan were being harassed and Algeria endorsed recommendations for broad coverage of that situation, especially in the area of human rights.
HOSSEIN MALEKI (Iran), emphasizing the importance of the Special Committee continuing its work, said it was regrettable that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was worse than ever, owing to the Israeli regime’s atrocious, brutal and callous treatment of the Palestinians and those in the occupied Syrian Golan. The continued construction of the illegal separation wall was a main source of injustice for the Palestinians. It was a primary cause of poverty and the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, requiring the immediate attention of the international community. Iran supported fully the proposals of the Special Committee, including the one requesting Security Council sanctions against Israel.
As in previous years, the working conditions of independent journalists, including Palestinian journalists in the Occupied Territories, remained difficult, he said. Many Palestinian photojournalists and cameramen had been injured and Iran requested the Secretary-General to seek ways to help the media in the smooth discharge of their duties. Boycotting and paralysing the democratically elected Palestinian Government was unjustifiable, and it was also regrettable that certain countries still persisted on maintaining such an unacceptable approach simply because the Palestinian people had exercised their right to choose their officials. That kind of behaviour only emboldened the occupier to commit more crimes and increasingly to violate human rights in the Occupied Territories.
FAHAD KHALLAF ( Saudi Arabia) noted that, 38 years after the Special Committee’s creation, Israel had still not authorized it to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories, nor permitted a fact-finding mission authorized by the Commission on Human Rights. That refusal was only possible because the Security Council was incapable of acting. Because of the international community’s lack of will to implement its own decisions, Israel had enhanced its barbaric aggression in Gaza, continuing its attempts to erase the Palestinian culture and identity by erecting the separation wall on Palestinian land, tearing apart Palestinian communities and depriving Palestinians of their water resources and lands.
The unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip had not been an end to occupation as Israel continued to control land, air and sea through checkpoints, thereby imprisoning the Palestinian population, he said. The Palestinians had democratically chosen their own Government, but that election had turned out to be a calamity, as the economy was paralysed by the refusal of donors to give financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, as well as Israel’s withholding of customs duties and tax revenues. A renewal of violence had shattered Palestinian hopes and Israel paid no attention to any international resolution, continuing to reject the recommendations of the Special Committee. Saudi Arabia called upon the Special Committee to continue to submit reports and take any necessary measure to ensure that resolutions were implemented.
KAIRE MBUENDE ( Namibia) said the Special Committee remained an important component of the United Nations’ work. It was, therefore, of utmost importance that it be given the support necessary to carry out its work. Regrettably, Special Committee members had not been given permission to undertake field visits to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and it was to be hoped that they would be allowed to visit in the near future. Trips to Egypt, Jordan and Syria should be undertaken, as scheduled, in the coming month. Namibia looked forward to an updated report to be submitted to the General Assembly in early 2007.
He said the situation in the Occupied Territories constituted a humanitarian disaster and human rights crisis, as the most fundamental right to life was violated on a daily basis. That situation should not continue. It was important to realize that the will of Palestinians to self-determination could not be killed. It was equally important to recognize that the destruction of the State of Israel was neither feasible nor desirable. To kill the will, Namibia called upon the Quartet to implement the Road Map to lasting peace.
Rights of Reply
Exercising his right of reply, the Permanent Observer of Palestine said it was strange that the Israeli delegate could talk about the well-being of the Palestinian people and a waste of United Nations resources. Israel had to end its aggression and occupation of Palestinian territories and other Arab territories in order to achieve the real well-being of the Palestinian people and the establishment of a Palestinian State. United Nations resources could then be earmarked for other purposes.
He said the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip had been unilateral and had not ended the occupation. Israel had closed all crossings and not a single day had passed without killing or destruction. The Israeli delegate had talked about Palestinians not abiding by the conditions of the Quartet, but failed to talk about Israel’s non-compliance with international law. He had talked about Israel’s concern for human rights, but did not mention the violation of the human rights of the Palestinians. Israel had to end its occupation of the Palestinian and other Arab Territories, including East Jerusalem.
The Israeli operation “Autumn Cloud” aimed at collective punishment of Palestinians, he said. It had led to the killing of more that 60 Palestinians, including women and children, and the destruction of houses and mosques. He underlined the importance of the Special Committee, as long as Israel was continuing its aggression and violations of human rights. Once again, the main problem was the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem and other Arab territories since 1967. There would be no solution without the Palestinian people exercising their right to self-determination.
The representative of Iran, in his right of reply, said the Committee had heard false and baseless accusations made by the Israeli delegate against his country; accusations made by a regime that stood accused of violence and crimes against humanity. He said that, since its inception, Israel had suffered from a lack of legitimacy and it was, therefore, natural that the Israeli delegation would try to remedy that through the use of fabricated propaganda.
Raising baseless allegations against others was a fruitless attempt to divert attention away from Israel’s crimes against humanity in the Middle East, he said. Iran categorically rejected those baseless accusations. He asked the Israeli representative to explain why his Government practised State terrorism and committed crimes against humanity, in violation of international law and the opinion of the International Court of Justice. Recalling the “illegal” wall, which was a symbol of injustice, Iran supported Palestinian resistance against foreign occupation and would continue to cooperate with any Government resulting from a democratic process.
The representative of Syria said the Israeli delegate had tried to divert attention from the real problem, by turning the discussion of human rights violations to matters concerning the United Nations and its resources. Israel’s non-compliance with United Nations resolutions was the main reason why measures had to be taken. The question of human rights in the Occupied Territories was a historic, moral and legal responsibility that originated in the Charter of the United Nations itself.
Even while refusing to receive the Special Committee, Israel claimed its reporting was not objective, he pointed out. If Israel had nothing to hide, why did it refuse to receive the Committee? The Palestinian presence in Damascus was linked to Palestinian refugees and the occupation. The scenes, seen everyday, showed that Israel practised State terrorism and organized crime. Syria asked that Israel be held responsible for once.
The representative of Israel said it was interesting that his delegation was being instructed about terrorism by Syria and Iran, leading terrorist States. It was also interesting to be informed about human rights by countries, in which women were continually denied privileges and justice systems were anachronistic. Israel was further interested to know where the Sudanese delegate had found his figures concerning Palestinian casualties. Perhaps he was confusing those figures with the genocidal activities taking place in Darfur.
He said the fact that Iran embraced the Special Committee’s report was indicative of that document’s “legitimacy”. While Israel was not beyond criticism, it asked that the Special Committee’s mandate be terminated once and for all.
The representative of Sudan said the figures mentioned came from the report of the Special Committee. The figures mentioned by the Sudanese press were worse, but one need not turn to them, as the mass media had recorded the massacres against the Palestinians. Tanks shot individuals in Palestinian streets; that was a fact. As for what happened in Sudan, the current framework was not the right one in which to discuss it, but the problem of Darfur would soon be resolved.
Noting the Israeli delegate’s reference to “underdeveloped regimes”, he asked whether there was any worse underdevelopment than occupation, than to throw children into prison, to destroy homes and bury their inhabitants inside, than to have 500 checkpoints.
The representative of Syria said the reports of the Special Committee and the Special Rapporteur indicated that Israel had continued its bombardments and assassinations, a policy that could only be described as a policy of “terrorist gangsters”. The reports indicated increasing poverty and a deterioration in health, but Israel wished to avoid discussion of those matters, an indication of its political bankruptcy.
Describing Israel as a unique, aggressive phenomenon, he said it practised State terror and organized crime and it occupied territories in contravention of international law. The Israeli delegate pretended his Government was democratic, but avoided mentioning that it did not respect the will of the Palestinian people. The Israeli Government had exercised terror democratically, without discrimination, against the Palestinian people. Democracy meant respect for the will of others, but that so-called democratic Government had detained the leadership of the Palestinian people. Syria affirmed the importance of the Special Committee’s work. It was the responsibility of the United Nations to deal with the issue.
The representative of Iran said the Israeli delegate’s comment, that his country was enjoying the only democracy in the Middle East, was a comic and laughable matter. If that model was the only one for democracy, Iran would prefer not to have it. The Israeli Government behaved like a savage animal and Iran denounced its terrorist record.
* *** *For information media • not an official record