4 November 2011
General Assembly
GA/SPD/497

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

21st Meeting (AM)


Opportunity for Israeli‑Palestinian Peace ‘Slipping Away’, Fourth Committee Hears


During Consideration of Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices

 


Palestinian Observer Says ‘Occupying Power’ ‘Makes Mockery’ of International Law;

Israel Highlights ‘Glaring Omissions’ in Special Committee’s ‘One‑Sided Narrative’


The opportunity for Israeli‑Palestinian peace was “slipping away” and all efforts must be exerted to achieve a final peace settlement, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today as it began its consideration of the work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.


For its report, the Special Committee, which was established by the General Assembly in 1968, had carried out its first ever mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, specifically to the Gaza Strip, by crossing Egypt’s border with Gaza.  It also convened meetings in Jordan, and engaged with interlocutors in the occupied Syrian Golan via videoconferences.  In the course of its mission, the Special Committee collected testimony from 53 individuals.


During the morning’s debate, the observer for Palestine said that while Israeli officials had made statements in the media and at the United Nations about their commitment to realizing peace, according to the Special Committee’s report, during the reporting period more than 91 persons had been killed at the hands of Israeli occupying forces and more than 750 Palestinians in the West Bank had been displaced after their homes were demolished.


In the past month alone, amid serious diplomatic efforts by all concerned parties, Israel had announced the construction of nearly 6,000 more settlement units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, where its settlement expansion remained the most prevalent, she said.  At the same time, Israel’s expansionist wall continued unabated.


“The occupying Power”, she said, had chosen to make a mockery of the international legal system by continuing to deliberately engage in the violation of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, by committing systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people, including “countless acts constituting war crimes and State terrorism”.


She stressed that the international community must be unanimous in demanding that Israel fully lift the blockade and allow for the rehabilitation of a society that had been “decimated by this vicious form of collective punishment”.


Egypt’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continued to deteriorate severely.  That infringed on their human rights, including their rights to self‑determination, to freedom of movement, to education, to property, to development, to worship and even to life. 


He said the Movement was extremely concerned about the Israeli measures aimed at the displacement or transfer of the Palestinian civilian population from strategic areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, through illegal practices, which included the continuing aggressive settlement campaign, the construction of the wall, forced evictions, home demolitions, and the revocation of Palestinian residency rights. 


He urged the international community to act to prevent a total collapse of the peace process after so many years of efforts, and to remain united in its demand that Israel respect its legal obligations as an occupying Power and cease all violations.  There was unanimous conviction that such respect was imperative for achieving the two‑State solution that was mutually agreeable.


The representative of the European Union delegation said that recent events had shown the necessity of heeding the legitimate aspirations of people in the region, including those of Palestinians for statehood and of Israelis for security.  He reiterated an appeal to the parties to resume negotiations under the terms and within the timelines indicated in the Quartet statement of 23 September, and underlined the Quartet’s crucial role in facilitating the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.


He condemned the indiscriminate targeting of civilians everywhere, including through the renewed exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip and the south of Israel.


Israel’s representative said that to describe the reports of the Special Committee as “blind” would be charitable.  Year after year, the glaring omissions, findings presented out of context, and blatant distortions made a mockery of the fact‑finding process and undermined the credibility of the Fourth Committee.  That made it impossible to accurately or impartially reflect on the situation on the ground.  While the reports offered harsh and wide‑ranging criticism of Israel, Hamas’s brutal repression of Palestinians in Gaza was ignored.


He said that thousands of Israelis who had been killed and widowed by acts of Palestinian terror remained unmentioned, and the continued incitement in Palestinian schools, mosques, and media was not discussed.  He said the report contained “pages and pages bashing Israel” following the Special Committee’s July visit.  He said that when the Special Committee was on the ground, terrorists in Gaza fired 19 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians.  Those attacked were conveniently omitted from the report, as were the more than 9,000 rockets that had been launched in southern Israel over the past 10 years.


Advancing a one‑sided narrative, the Special Committee suggested that settlements were the core cause of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, he said.  That was an interesting assertion, considering that the conflict had bee raging for nearly half a century, before a single settlement had sprung up in the West Bank.


Like any country, Israel had the right to defend its citizens, he said.  Today, the Palestinian leadership was calling for an independent Palestinian State, but insisted that its people “return to the Jewish State”.  That proposition was unacceptable to anyone who believed in the right of Israel to exist, because the so‑called “right of return” would mean the destruction of the State of Israel.


At the start of the meeting, General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz al‑ Nasser, spoke.


Reports were introduced by Palitha Kohona (Sri Lanka) and Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights.


Also speaking in the debate were the representatives of Senegal, Malaysia, Venezuela, Indonesia, Sudan, Syria, Kuwait, Namibia and the United Arab Emirates.


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 7 November, to continue this debate.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to begin its consideration of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, for which it had before it several reports.


The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary‑General transmitting the forty‑third report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (resolution 65/102) (document A/66/370).  The report reflects information gathered during the Special Committee’s mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, specifically the Gaza Strip, as well as from a meeting convened in Jordan.  The report emphasizes the situation of children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the situation of Palestinians detained by Israel, and Israel’s blockade of Gaza.  It also addresses continuing concerns throughout the occupied territories, such as land confiscations, demolitions, settlement expansion and restrictions on movement.


The report states that owing to the continuing practice of non‑recognition of and non‑cooperation with the Special Committee by the Government of Israel, the Special Committee’s annual mission to the region was not able to directly access all of the occupied territories within its mandate, or to hold consultations with relevant Israeli authorities.  However, the Special Committee was able to carry out its first ever visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, specifically to the Gaza Strip, by crossing Egypt’s border with Gaza.


The Special Committee sought a wide range of views regarding Israeli practices affecting the human rights situation in the occupied territories, the report states.  Invitations were extended to Palestinian, Israeli and Syrian victims, witnesses and non‑governmental organizations, and support was made available to facilitate their appearance before the Committee.  The report contains sections on the urgent need to reconstruct Gaza, Israeli‑enforced restrictions on freedom of movement in Gaza, land confiscation, demolition, displacement and settlements, and other issues.


The Committee also had before it a report of the Secretary‑General on the Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/66/373).  This report also draws attention to the Special Committee’s first ever mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, specifically to the Gaza Strip.  It highlights the meetings in Jordan, from 26 to 28 July, and says that in lightof the situation in Syria during the mission period, the Special Committee had engaged with interlocutors in theoccupied Syrian Golan by way of videoconferences convened during the visit toJordan.


The report further notes that during the mission, the Special Committee collected testimony from 53 victims, witnesses or representatives of organizations working on human rights in the occupied territories.  This testimony is reflected in the Special Committee’s regular report, transmitted to the sixty‑sixth session of the General Assembly by the Secretary‑General, in accordance with resolution 65/102.


Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary‑General on the Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (document A/66/362) submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 65/103, by which the General Assembly reaffirms that the Geneva Convention is applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, and demands that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Convention in those territories, and that it comply scrupulously with the provisions of the Convention.


A report prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/66/364) addresses the continuation of Israeli settlement construction in occupied Arab territories and its impact on the human rights of the residents, including violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property and the lack of accountability for settler violence.


The report recommends that the Government of Israel should bring its policies and practices into compliance with its international legal obligations and its commitments under the Road Map, as well as the repeated calls of the international community to immediately cease the transfer of its civilian population into occupied territory and to completely freeze all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and to immediately dismantle all “outposts”.


The Government of Israel, says the report, should also end its discriminatory policies and practices against Palestinians, in particular those that violate Palestinians’ right to adequate housing.  Non‑discriminatory planning policies that take account of natural growth of Palestinians should be developed and implemented as a matter of urgency.  The current situations in Area C and East Jerusalem merited priority action by the Government in this regard.


It was also recommended that the Government of Israel should take all necessary measures to prevent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and their property in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  In this respect, there was an urgent need for a comprehensive training programme for Israeli Defense Forces and other Israeli security forces deployed in the West Bank on applicable international legal standards.  The Government of Israel may consider requesting technical cooperation from OHCHR to design and deliver such a programme.


Further, the report recommends that the Government of Israel should ensure that all serious allegations concerning criminal acts committed by settlers or the Israeli Defense Forces are subject to independent, impartial, effective, thorough and prompt investigations, in accordance with international standards.  The Government of Israel should ensure that, in line with its international legal obligations, all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.  In particular, the Government should ensure that all judicial guarantees and procedural safeguards, including fair trial and due process, are guaranteed for all.


The General Assembly and the international community, the report states further, should more actively seek the implementation of their decisions, resolutions and recommendations, as well as those of the Security Council, the International Court of Justice and the United Nations human rights mechanisms, including treaty bodies and special procedure mandate holders, in relation to the human rights situation.


Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary‑General on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/66/356) which examines the themes identified in General Assembly resolution 65/105, including the right to life and security, displacement and other practices affecting the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


The report recommends that the Government of Israel should take all necessary measures to prevent further incidents of excessive use of force, and should include a review of regulations on the use of live ammunition in operations carried out by all Israeli security forces.  The report further says that the Government of Israel should review methods used by Israeli Defense Forces to enforce access restrictions on land and sea in Gaza.


The report also says Israel’s Government must ensure the accountability of members of its security forces, in particular, by conducting investigations that meet international standards of promptness, independence, impartiality, and thoroughness into all credible allegations of violations.  The report also recommended that Palestinian armed groups must comply with international humanitarian law and immediately cease the firing of indiscriminate rockets and mortars.  Those groups should seek to protect the civilian population of Gaza, in particular by abstaining from locating military objectives in densely populated areas.


The report further recommends that the Government of Israel must end its policies resulting in the forcible transfer of civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and should desist from revoking the residency status of East Jerusalemites.  It should cease policies and practices that lead to forced displacement of Bedouin refugees from Area C, and should immediately cease all demolitions of houses and other structures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


Additionally, the report recommends that the Government of Israel should fully comply with the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular by immediately halting the construction of the barrier and dismantling or re‑routing the constructed section to the Green Line.  It should also fully lift the blockade of Gaza, with due regard for legitimate security concerns.


The Committee also had before it a Report of the Secretary‑General on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/66/400), which had been prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights pursuant to General Assembly resolution 65/106 on the text’s implementation.  To a note verbale sent to Israel by OHCHR, on behalf of the Secretary‑General, requesting information on any steps that Government had taken or envisaged taking to implement the relevant provisions of that resolution, no reply had been received.  To notes verbale similarly sent to all permanent missions of the United Nations, only a reply had been received by Syria, which is documented in this report. 


Opening Statements


NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL‑ NASSER, President of the General Assembly, said the issue before the Fourth Committee spanned a number of diverse and complex issues.  He invited delegations to continue their work with a spirit of compromise, and with a decisive view towards achieving consensus on the road ahead.  The Committee’s extensive deliberations on peacekeeping operations in all their aspects related to the core mission of the United Nations:  the promotion of peace, security and prosperity worldwide, which was connected with sustainable development and prosperity, which was one of the four priority areas that he had announced at the commencement of this year’s session.


He said that the situation in the Middle East, which was under consideration today, was one of the most sensitive issues considered by the Fourth Committee, especially during this year’s session of the General Assembly with all the important events that had recently taken place.  The international community had witnessed an historic development in New York when the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, had transmitted Palestine’s application for membership to the United Nations to the Secretary‑General on 23 September.  That issue was currently being considered by the Security Council.


The Quartet, in which the United Nations was an eminent member, was accelerating its efforts to allow for a re‑launch of the negotiations, he said, expressing the hope that those efforts would be fruitful and would lead to a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine as soon as possible.  On 18 October, the international community had saluted the prisoners’ exchange.  That positive development showed the importance of mediation and negotiation in the peaceful settlement of disputes.  He hoped that such important developments would reinvigorate the regular work of the Fourth Committee.  The General Assembly should continue working for the attainment of a just and comprehensive negotiated peace settlement in the Middle East, resulting in two viable, sovereign and independent States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within internationally recognized borders, based on pre‑1967 lines.


The issue at hand required dedication, flexibility and cooperation, and he was encouraged to hear that the negotiations on the relevant resolutions were progressing.  On the work of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) he said that the suffering of the Palestinian refugees had been continuous over six decades.  Since its foundation in 1949, the Agency had played a pivotal role in alleviating the suffering of the growing Palestinian refugee population under extreme political and financial conditions.  He urged Member States to solidify their valuable contributions to the work of UNRWA.


PALITHA KOHONA (Sri Lanka) introduced the forty‑third Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/66/370).  He said that the report examined the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan between September 2010 and August 2011.  It also contained information gathered during the Committee’s mission to the region, which had taken place from 21 to 28 July.  That mission included the Special Committee’s first ever visit to an Occupied Palestinian Territory, namely to the Gaza Strip, as well as meetings in Jordan.


He said that the Government of Israel had again failed to accommodate the Special Committee’s request to visit the occupied West Bank and the Golan.  The Special Committee had extended invitations to Palestinian, Israeli and Syrian victims, witnesses and non‑governmental organizations, and support had been made available for them to appear before the Special Committee.


The overarching observation of the Special Committee following its visit to the Gaza Strip was that Israel’s blockade continued to amount to a collective punishment of the civilian population, despite its limited relaxation, he said.  That collective punishment was having a grave impact on the children of Gaza, in particular.  The Special Committee had received extensive testimony regarding the high prevalence of physical and mental health problems that had resulted from Israel’s blockade.  Organizations working on health issues stressed that there had been increases in the incidence of high blood pressure, cancers, and other physical ailments, while psychological conditions such as depression, post‑traumatic stress disorder and others were widespread.


He said that the Special Committee had also seen that much of the devastation of infrastructure that had occurred during Israel’s operation “Cast Lead” remained.  Witnesses had informed the Committee that reconstruction was constrained, since Israel’s blockade impeded the importation of materials.  Special Committee members had been disturbed by testimony that Israel was enforcing its restriction on movement on the borders of Gaza through the use of live fire.  Witnesses had also noted that Israel’s “buffer zone” excluded around 35 per cent of Gaza’s land territory from agricultural use, and that such restrictions extended to Gaza’s fishing territory.  While the Oslo Agreement had allotted 20 nautical miles of maritime area to Palestine, Israel had reduced that to three nautical miles.  The blockade was especially hard on the children in Gaza:  75 per cent of children at the age of nine months were anaemic, 13 per cent of children less than five years suffered from malnutrition, and 25 per cent did not regularly eat breakfast.  Further, deficiencies in critical vitamins and minerals were diminishing children’s capacity for learning.


The Special Committee recommended that Israel lift the siege of Gaza, take immediate action to reverse indicators of children’s poor health in Gaza, and clarify restrictions on the freedom of movement within Gaza, he said.  Israel should also desist from confiscating further land in the West Bank and should cease the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and dismantle settlements.  Israel should also take effective measures to end settler violence against Palestinians and ensure human treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.  As for the Syrian Golan, Israel should ensure adequate access to water, including for agricultural purposes, and facilitate visits for Syrians in the occupied Golan with family members throughout Syria.


Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights, introduced five reports submitted under agenda item 53.  Those included the report of the Secretary‑General on the Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/66/373), which outlined the activities undertaken by the Special Committee during the period from September 2010 to August 2011 and by the Department of Public Information in support of the work of the Special Committee.  The second report concerned the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (document A/66/362).


He also introduced the Report of the Secretary‑General on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/66/364).  That report’s main recommendations included that Israel should comply with its international legal obligations and that all serious allegations concerning criminal acts committed should be investigated.  The fourth report addressed Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/66/356).  Its main recommendations included the need to improve observance of international humanitarian principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions to avoid civilian casualties, and the need to ensure accountability.  The final document was the Report of the Secretary‑General on the occupied Syrian Golan.  It contained a summary of a note verbale received from the Permanent Mission of Syria in response to the Secretary‑General’s efforts to gather information from Member States regarding actions taken or envisaged to be taken concerning implementation of the General Assembly resolution 65/106.


Statements in Debate


NADYA RASHEED, observer for Palestine, said that the obligations of Israel under international humanitarian law as an occupying Power were mainly set forth in the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, to which Israel was party.  Further, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child were all applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Despite that, the occupying Power had chosen to make a mockery of the international legal system by continuing to deliberately engage in the violation of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, by committing systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people, including “countless acts constituting war crimes and State terrorism”.


She said that Israeli officials had made statements in the media and the United Nations about their commitment to realizing peace.  However, according to the Special Committee’s report, more than 91 persons had been killed at the hands of Israeli occupying forces during the reporting period.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had reported that since the beginning of the year, more than 750 Palestinians in the West Bank had been displaced after their homes were demolished by the Israeli occupying forces.  In the past month alone, amid serious diplomatic efforts by all concerned parties, Israel had announced the construction of nearly 6,000 more settlement units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, where its settlement expansion remained the most prevalent.  At the same time, Israel’s expansionist wall continued unabated.


On the issue of prisoners, she stated that Palestine welcomed the agreement on the release of prisoners a couple of weeks ago.  However, the Palestinian leadership continued to call for the release of the rest of the Palestinian political prisoners, totalling more than 5,000, among them, hundreds of children.  Many were subjected to physical and mental abuse, held in solitary confinement and even tortured.  The mistreatment of children warranted immediate attention by the international community.


Turning to Gaza, she stated that Israeli military attacks continued against the besieged Gaza Strip and its more than 1.5 million inhabitants.  The poverty and deprivation in Gaza was compounded by Israel’s unlawful blockade that had entered its fifth year.  The international community must be unanimous in demanding that Israel fully lift the blockade and allow for the rehabilitation of a society that had been “decimated by this vicious form of collective punishment”.


The opportunity for peace was “slipping away”, she stated, and all efforts must be exerted to advance the achievement of a final peace settlement in order to allow for the realization by the Palestinian people of their right to self‑determination and freedom in their independent State of Palestine, on the basis of the pre‑1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.


MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continued to witness a severe deterioration, which was infringing on a wide scope of rights of the Palestinian people, including, inter alia, their rights to self‑determination, to freedom of movement, to education, to property, to development, to worship and even to life.  The Movement was extremely concerned about the Israeli measures aimed at the displacement or transfer of the Palestinian civilian population from strategic areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, through illegal practices, which included the continuing aggressive settlement campaign, the construction of the wall, forced evictions, home demolitions, and the revocation of Palestinian residency rights.  Those measures were particularly severe in Occupied East Jerusalem, and the Movement called for the immediate cessation of all of those unlawful acts.


He said that it was disturbing that Israel, the occupying Power, continued to pursue such illegal practices, despite the prohibitions against such actions under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, relevant United Nations resolutions, the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, and despite the clear rejection by the international community of, among others, settlement activities.  The latter clearly constituted the main obstacle to direct negotiations and the main detriment to the two‑State solution on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders.  Moreover, the impact of those illegal measures on the Palestinian civilian population must be seriously considered and measures be taken in accordance with international law to remedy that unjust situation.


The Non‑Aligned Movement urged the international community to act to prevent a total collapse of the peace process after so many years of efforts, support for which must be on the basis of a clear foundation rooted in international law, United Nations resolutions and the international consensus for a two‑State solution based on the 4 June 1967 borders, he said.  Now more than ever, the Movement stressed the need for the international community to remain united in its demand that Israel must respect its legal obligations as an occupying Power and cease forthwith all its violations.  There was unanimous conviction that such respect was imperative for achieving the two‑State solution through a mutually agreed solution based on the agreed principles and terms of reference.  The Movement reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to a just and comprehensive solution to the Arab‑Israeli conflict, with the question of Palestine at its core, and to the immediate restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to exercise their self‑determination and sovereignty in its independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.


IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union delegation, said that recent events had shown the necessity of heeding the legitimate aspirations of people in the region, including those of Palestinians for statehood and of Israelis for security.  The Union reiterated its appeal to the parties to resume negotiations under the terms and within the timelines indicated in the Quartet Statement of 23 September and underlined the Quartet’s crucial role in facilitating the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.


The European Union, he stated, deplored the recent Israeli decisions to advance the settlements of Gilo and Givat Hamatos and accelerate construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which ran counter to the Quartet’s efforts.  All settlement activity should cease immediately and new construction plans should be abandoned.  The Union also acknowledged measures taken to ease restriction on movement in the West Bank and entry of goods into Gaza, and stressed the need for further steps to be taken in that regard.  Such steps would push back radical elements and could promote Palestinian economic development.


Welcoming the presentation of the Palestinian National Development Plan 2011‑2013 on Governance, Economy, Social Development and Infrastructure, he stressed the need for continued international support for the Palestinian State‑building process.  Regarding Gaza, the Union called for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), the full respect of international humanitarian law and for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons.  It was necessary to find a solution addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.  Concerned at the renewed exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip and the south of Israel, the Union condemned the indiscriminate targeting of civilians everywhere.


ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal) said that peoples in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were denied a normal life.  In the name of human solidarity and the code of international ethics, he expressed full support for the suffering populations in the occupied territories.  Those populations could no longer be satisfied by laments and compassion, as they remained the victims of terrible human suffering.


He said that the people of Palestine could not understand that the international community could not prevent the violations of their fundamental rights under international law, or protect their crucial and inalienable rights.  For all those reasons, the occupation of the Arab territories persisted, despite the resolutions of the United Nations.  The Security Council must undertake the necessary measures of priority and reaffirm the necessity to respect all relevant resolutions and the measures of the Fourth Geneva Convention and demand that Israel renounce all practices and acts that violated human rights under its occupation.  Denial of the inalienable right to create an independent State compromised the search for a just and lasting peace — a peace that would not be realized if the populations in the occupied territories were not allowed to exercise their rights, including through the establishment of a State with internationally recognized borders.


HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia) said that the report of the Special Committee illustrated the “flagrant violations” of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs by Israel in the territories that it had long occupied.  It was regrettable that the visit to the West Bank could not be undertaken, owing to Israel’s non‑cooperative attitude.  He hoped that it would cooperate with the Special Committee in the future.  Among his personal observations on his field mission to the Gaza Strip, he said he had observed that the blockade of that area was a “form of collective punishment” prohibited by international law, and that it virtually imprisoned its 1.5 million inhabitants.


He said he had observed that buildings and houses lay in ruins due to the unavailability of construction materials, and there was a lack of sufficient electricity and disruptions of power supply.  He had further observed that the ambiguous “buffer zone” that encroached into Palestinian land covered around 35 per cent of Gaza, and that its enforcement through the use of live fire had led to the killing and injury of numerous Palestinian civilians.  Among other observations, he said that due to the lack of schools, children in Gaza were cramped into containers that served as temporary education facilities.


Malaysia fully supported the “pertinent” recommendations of the Committee, and believed that focus should be given to several areas, he said.  Those included lifting the blockade of Gaza completely; stopping all settlement‑related activities including settlement expansion; abrogating illegal and repressive policies and practices against Palestinians living in East Jerusalem; undertaking steps that ensured the Palestinian children’s right to education; and adhering to international law and standards with regard to the treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including children and women.


Additionally, he said, the human rights situation of the occupied Syrian Golan remained a matter of international concern caused by the “deplorable” Israeli policies and practices there.  In light of the unfortunate events of Nakba Day and Naksa Day 2011, Malaysia called upon Israel to carry out a full and transparent investigation, with a view to explaining the many deaths and injuries of unarmed Syrian civilians.  Israel’s actions in the Syrian Golan demonstrated that it habitually violated international human rights and humanitarian law, and “the tragedy is that it does so with impunity”.  That must be stopped, he stressed.


HAIM ASSARAF ( Israel) said that to describe the reports of the Special Committee as “blind” would be charitable.  Year after year, the glaring omissions, findings presented out of context, and blatant distortions contained in that Committee’s reports made a mockery of the fact‑finding process and undermined the credibility of the Fourth Committee.  The major issues with the reports began with their one‑sided mandate, which made it impossible to accurately or impartially reflect on the situation on the ground.  While the reports offered harsh and wide‑ranging criticism of Israel, Hamas’s brutal repression of Palestinians in Gaza was ignored.


He said that thousands of Israelis who had been killed and widowed by acts of Palestinian terror remained unmentioned, and the continued incitement in Palestinian schools, mosques, and media was not discussed.  The report contained “pages and pages bashing Israel”, following the Special Committee’s July visit.  He said that when the Special Committee was on the ground, terrorists in Gaza fired 19 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians.  Those attacked were conveniently omitted from the report, as were the more than 9,000 rockets that had been launched in Southern Israel over the past 10 years.


Like any country, Israel had the right to defend its citizens, he said.  Just this week, attacks against Israelis had included the firing of more than 40 Grad rockets, long‑range missiles and mortars.  The acts of terror committed against Israeli peoples this year should shock and appal the Fourth Committee and all decent people.  Terrorist attacks also continued in the West Bank, such as the gruesome murder of a family in Itamar last March, when two parents and three children aged 11, 4, and 3 months had been killed in their sleep.  When Hamas was not attacking Israeli civilians, it was oppressing and endangering its own people and international organizations in Gaza.


He stressed that the Special Committee continued to advance a one‑sided narrative, suggesting that settlements were the core cause of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.  That was an interesting assertion, considering that the conflict had bee raging for nearly half a century, before a single settlement had sprung up in the West Bank.  Today, the Palestinian leadership was calling for an independent Palestinian State, but insisted that its people return to the Jewish State.  It was a proposition that no one who believed in the right of Israel to exist could accept because the so‑called right of return would mean the destruction of the State of Israel.  He said Israel stood out in the region for its unique commitment to advancing human rights, while some of the countries on the Special Committee carried human rights records that were “a little bit less stellar”.  It was absurd to read condemnation and criticism of Israel’s judicial system and human rights records from countries where free expression was repressed, minorities were persecuted, and elections were a sham — countries in which a single fair trial had never once taken place.


MARIA WALESKA VIVAS MENDOZA (Venezuela), associating with the statement of the Non‑Aligned Movement, read an edited version of a letter written by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to the Secretary‑General, contained in document A/66/395‑S/2011/611.  The letter stated Venezuela’s full support of the recognition of the Palestinian State.  It also said that the great Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo was quite right when he stated, “The biblical promise of the land of Judea and Samaria to the tribes of Israel is not a notarized property contract that authorizes the eviction of those who were born and live on that land.”


Continuing to read from the letter, she said it was upsetting and painful, that the same people who had suffered one of the worst examples of genocide in history had become the executioners of the Palestinian people.  “It was upsetting and painful that the heritage of the Holocaust was the Nakba.”  And it was truly disturbing that Zionism continued to use the charge of anti‑Semitism as blackmail against those who opposed their crimes.  Anti‑Semitism was “a Western, European, scourge in which the Arabs did not participate”.  Furthermore, it was the Semite Palestine people who suffered from the ethnic cleansing practiced by the Israeli colonialist State.


Beginning in the second decade of the twentieth century, President Chavez’s letter further stated, Zionism started to develop its expansionist plans by taking advantage of the British colonial occupation of Palestine.  In 1947, “the despicable and illegal General Assembly resolution 181” recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish State, an Arab State and an area under international control ( Jerusalem and Bethlehem).  From 1948 to the present, the Zionist State had continued with its criminal strategy against the Palestinian people, with the constant support of its unconditional ally:  the United States.


The letter concluded by quoting Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “On This Earth” and stating emphatically that Palestine would live and overcome.


M. HERY SARIPUDIN (Indonesia), associating his statement with that of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said it was a matter of great regret that Israel continued to ignore the legitimate desire and request of the Special Committee for access to the occupied territories, in order that it might comply with the mandate given it  by the General Assembly.  As a consequence, each year, the Committee had to prepare its report handicapped by having had to collect information in extremely difficult circumstances and without the cooperation of Israel.  Indonesia expressed its strong support for the recommendations of the Special Committee, as contained in the reports of A/66/356 and A/66/364.  Among them, was the call on Israel to bring its policies and practices into compliance with its international legal obligations and its commitments under the Road Map, as well as the repeated calls of the international community to immediately cease the transfer of its civilian population into the Occupied Territory and to freeze all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and dismantle all illegal structures.


Furthermore, he said that Israel must end its discriminatory policies and practices against Palestinians; take all necessary measures to prevent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and their property in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; ensure that all serious allegations concerning criminal acts committed by settlers or the Israeli Defense Forces were subjected to independent, impartial, effective, thorough and prompt investigations, in accordance with international standards; and ensure that, in line with its international legal obligations, all persons were equal before the law and were entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.  Now was a sensitive period for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Israel should take advantage of it.  It would be a great tragedy if that opportunity to return to the peace process was discarded.  Indonesia would continue to support Palestine in exercising its inalienable right to an independent State and the two‑State solution, in which Israel and Palestine lived side by side in peace and security.


ABUZIED SHAMSELDIN AHMED MOHAMED (Sudan), associating with the statement of the Non‑Aligned Movement, welcomed the report of the Special Committee describing the situation in Gaza and the West Bank, documenting the blatant violation of international law and human rights.


Sudan, he said, hailed the positive developments concerning prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas and the pioneering role played by Egypt in that regard.  Sudan also supported the accession of the State of Palestine to membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  He concluded by expressing complete support for a Palestinian state with “Al‑Quds Al‑Sharif” as its capital and called on the international community to take necessary measures to protect the Palestinian people and put an end to the blockade.


BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said that Israel had refused in the past to cooperate with the visits of the Special Committee.  More than 1,000 resolutions put forward by the United Nations, its bodies and committees had asked Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.  Israel should not be given immunity.  Two States were now punishing UNESCO because it had welcomed the membership of Palestine.  That could only be a move to protect Israel against the rights of the Palestinians.  The world seemed to have entered a phase in which States did not heed the framework of international law and punishments were applied to United Nations specialized agencies, such as UNESCO.


He called on all Member States to act before threats of those sort could endanger the very foundation of the United Nations.  Israel failed to comply with its commitments under international law and human rights.  It also continued in its frantic campaigns to build houses and settlements, and continued its policy of terrorism against the Syrian citizens of the Golan Heights.  The occupation authorities had started to dismantle the Syrian Golan lands, and to split it from the homeland of Syria by building an apartheid separation wall, creating a new security situation that would impact all future negotiations on the occupied Golan Heights.


HAMAD ALSALOUM ( Kuwait) said that the report of the Special Committee stated clearly that Israel had violated international law and the principles of universal human rights against the Palestinian inhabitants and others in the Arab occupied territories.  Kuwait welcomed and renewed its support for the application by Palestine for full membership in the United Nations; that was a step forward to achieve a permanent, comprehensive and just solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian dispute.


Welcoming the fact that Palestine had received full membership in UNESCO, he congratulated his “Palestinian brothers on this historic victory of the Palestinian right”.  He called on the international community and, in particular, the Security Council, to shoulder its responsibilities in accordance with the United Nations Charter to reach a solution to the Arab‑Israeli conflict, which represented “the worst and dangerous threat to peace and security in the Middle East”.  The expansionist campaign of settlements was an obstacle to peace; those aggressive policies aimed to change the demographic and social situation in the occupied territories.  The latest Israeli decision to build 2,000 new units in occupied East Jerusalem was a new Israeli defiance of the international community.


Further, Kuwait called for an end to the criminal Israeli acts which violated all customs, treaties and international covenants, he said.  It also insisted on the provision of the necessary protection to the unarmed Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Welcoming the release of some of the Palestinian prisoners and detainees, he called for the release of those remaining, and meanwhile favoured sending an international committee to investigate the situation in the jails and prisons of the Israeli occupation.


JEROBEAM SHAANIKA (Namibia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, contradicted the United Nations Charter and eroded the very rights the United Nations believed to be fundamental.  It was important to speak out, as long as Israel’s practices continued.  He called expansion and construction of illegal settlements and the erection of walls of annexation an impediment to peace.  The Government’s decision to perpetuate settlement activities amounted to contempt for international law, he said, adding that settlement activity in East Jerusalem was “nothing but an attempt to alter the legal status of the city and its physical, demographic and cultural character”.  He called on Israel to stop the provocative activities, which were illegal under international law.


He underlined Namibia’s rejection of such illegal actions, reminding Israel of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, a fundamental principle of which Israel was in grave breach.  He called for resolve from the international community to compel Israel to end its occupation, as well as the Gaza blockade, which he deemed a “gross collective punishment of the Palestinian people”, and “morally unjustifiable and unacceptable by any human standard”.  Accepting that Israel was duly entitled to adequate security, he said the only way to guarantee that security was through the creation of a Palestinian State, existing side by side with Israel, inside internationally recognized borders.  He welcomed Palestine’s admission to UNESCO, and hoped that step sent “a clear and loud message” to the Security Council as it considered Palestine’s application for admission as a full member of the United Nations.


ABDULKHALEQ AL‑YAFEI ( United Arab Emirates) said that the report of the Special Committee revealed acts and statistics that reflected that the humanitarian situation was difficult and deteriorating.  The Palestinians and Arabs in the Golan Heights were still suffering, owing to the practices of the Israeli occupying authorities, which had confiscated more than 17,000 dunums of the Palestinians territories and destroyed more than 893 Palestinian households.  They had built 9,204 settlements in the West Bank between August 2010 to June 2011.


The report noted that there were plans to build numerous settlements in the West Bank in the near future, he stated.  The separation wall isolated about 10 per cent of the population in the West Bank.  Israel had also confiscated additional Palestinian goods, including sources of water, houses and institutions in parts of the West Bank.  The statistics in the report stipulated that roughly 50 per cent of the Israeli settlers occupied 40 per cent of the West Bank territories, and 30 per cent of those settlements were built on the private property of Palestinians.  That not only threatened reconstruction efforts for an independent Palestinian State, but destabilized the region.  The Israeli authorities did not seem to know anything about the acts of violence and provocation against the Palestinians by settlers in those areas.  The Palestinians in East Jerusalem lived in deplorable conditions.


He said that poverty and illnesses had increased among the Palestinian peoples, particularly among the women and children, who suffered especially from Israeli violence.  For years, they had been unable to benefit from the necessary protection or appropriate health care, and did not have access to education, as was required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  He reiterated the condemnation of all Israeli violations committed in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories, and an immediate cessation by Israel of the construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  He also noted Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the Special Committee.


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For information media • not an official record