|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
22nd Meeting (AM)
‘If Door to Israeli‑Palestinian Peace Closes, Very Hard To Reopen’, Fourth
Committee Delegate Says, Urging Bold Decisions for Sake of All in Region
‘Netanyahu’s Noes’ — on Settlement Freeze, 1967 Borders, Negotiations on Jerusalem,
Right of Return — Means Palestinian Struggle Must Continue, Says Lebanon’s Delegate
Both parties in the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict must summon the necessary courage to take bold decisions to achieve peace for all inhabitants of the Middle East, for “if the door to peace closes, it would be very hard to reopen”, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today.
Those decisions would not be easy, but must be taken, said Uganda’s representative, as consideration continued 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. The alternative to dialogue and negotiations would be more violence, he said, expressing Uganda’s support for the two‑State solution and adherence by the parties to their Road Map obligations.
All participants to the conflict must “overcome the resentment built up over the years” in order to find the urgently needed solution, the representative of Niger urged. Despite 40 years of praiseworthy efforts on the part of the international community, the Palestinian people were still living without a State in atrocious conditions of oppression and underdevelopment.
Lebanon’s delegate said that after many years and myriad attempts at peace, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only reiterated “his resounding four ‘noes’: no freeze on settlements, no return to the 1967 borders, no negotiations over the future status of Jerusalem, and no right of return for the Palestinian refugees”. Faced with “Netanyahu’s noes”, the Palestinian people had to continue their legitimate struggle for the right to self‑determination, including by seeking membership at the United Nations as the State of Palestine.
Jordan condemned the provocative declarations in the last four weeks concerning the construction of 4,000 more settlement units, which was a violation of relevant international law and a provocation of the will and aspirations of the international community to achieve a lasting peace, its representative said, echoing the call for a two‑State solution and resolution of the core issues: “borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and water”.
Similarly, the representative of Bangladesh expressed deep concern over recent Israeli decisions on settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, urging the Israeli authorities to cease those activities. He also expressed his shock that people as young as three and as old as 90 were not spared the Israeli atrocities. The Israeli side was pursuing a policy of making the entire population “physically and psychologically weak”, he declared.
The spate of settlement activities, said Iran’s delegate, had reached an unprecedented level in a clear attempt to further colonize the Occupied Palestinian Territory and create even more illegal alterations to the demographic condition. Indeed, the “tragedy of Palestine” was a major source of anger and desperation that was felt throughout the Muslim world and lay at the heart of the Middle East conflict. The Zionist regime’s criminal acts against the Palestinians and other peoples of the region were the gravest threat now facing regional, as well as international peace and security.
Noting the efforts by the Quartet and other international regional endeavours, the representative of Algeria regretted that it had not been possible to re‑launch direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, owing, he said, to Israel’s intransigence. The Security Council, which under the United Nations Charter held sway with regard to peacekeeping and international security, must act to correct an injustice that had lasted for more than 60 years.
The representatives of Syria, Iran, and Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Yemen, Pakistan, Algeria, and South Africa.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 November, to take action on all outstanding draft texts and conclude its work for the session.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to continue 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.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba), associating his statement with that made on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said it was unacceptable that the Palestinian people should continue to suffer from the prolonged and brutal military occupation by Israel since 1967. Israel was continuing to deny the Palestinian people their fundamental human rights, including the right to self‑determination. He said that the Government and people of Cuba condemned the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory and was deeply concerned at the state of impunity surrounding Israel’s actions.
He said the international community unfortunately continued to bear witness to the worrying situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which included the worsening of violence and aggression, and had seen an increasing rate of poverty in that region. He noted with great concern that the Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices had indicated that the situation was worsening. The actions undertaken by Israel were in violation of human rights and negatively impacted the economic, social and humanitarian situation in the territory, which was exacerbated because of the illegal practices carried out by Israel. The Security Council was unjustifiably taking its time to rule on the right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination, and he called on the Council to give a positive ruling on that matter as soon as possible.
His delegation was delighted at the recent decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to admit Palestine as a full member of the organization, he said. Still, his delegation was concerned at worsening of the human rights situation, particularly in East Jerusalem. He was also concerned by the Israeli use of force against the Palestinian people, and noted the collective punishment against them in Gaza. That was an illegitimate struggle between a powerful army and a defenceless people, he said.
He said that Israel’s attempts to confiscate land, build barriers and expand and build new settlements undermined Israel’s claims to a serious approach to the peace process. That also applied to the Syrian Golan Heights. Israel’s attempts to impose jurisdiction on the territories were invalid and had no legal basis, and he called for the unconditional restitution of all occupied Arab territories occupied since 1967.
HAN SUNG IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), associating with the statement of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the Movement’s sixteenth Ministerial Conference, held in Bali, Indonesia in May, had underscored that the Middle East peace process, including the Palestine issue, constituted an urgent task whose solution brooked no further delay. The first task was to put an end to the military occupation and human rights violations by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to ensure the rights of the Palestinian people to their national self‑determination.
He said that as many as 130 countries had now recognized Palestine as an independent State. His country had recognized Palestine as an official State in 1988 and had since extended active support and solidarity to the Palestinian people in their struggle to establish an independent State. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea strongly urged Israel to immediately withdraw its troops from the occupied Syrian Golan, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.
WALEED AL‑SAIYANI ( Yemen) said that the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories pointed to inhuman practices carried out by the Israeli authority against Palestinians and other Arabs, which endangered human rights and the economic and social situations in those territories. Israel defied international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, not to mention General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. Israel was continuing to build the separation wall, and also to build colonies in the Occupied Territory, including in East Jerusalem, without any regard for international law.
He said Israel was also continuing its policy of aggression against the Palestinian people, causing death, hunger, land confiscation, and the transformation of Gaza into an open‑air prison. Israel continued to attack Gaza on a daily basis, which had created a disastrous humanitarian situation. Israel was blocking the transfer of construction materials and basic foodstuffs into Gaza. The situation in the West Bank was no different.
He called upon the General Assembly and the Security Council to shoulder their responsibility and find a solution to the Arab‑Israeli conflict. He supported the right of the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable human rights and create an independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. He condemned Israel’s colonization activities and called on it to cease and withdraw its armed forces from all occupied Arab territories. He called on the international community to exert pressure on the Israeli Government to cease human rights violations, find a peaceful solution to the conflict, and implement United Nations resolutions.
AMMAR DUMOUR (Jordan), associating with the statement of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the arbitrary Israeli measures that violated human rights were not in line with its obligations as the occupying power under international law and international humanitarian law. Jordan called upon Israel to stop all forms of violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in addition to its unilateral measures, including forced displacement, deportation, restrictions on the movement of people and goods, the confiscation of land and property, and daily arrests of Palestinians, as well as cessation of all forms of excavations and digging of tunnels under and around the holy Islamic and Christian sites. Jordan also wished to emphasize the importance of Israel’s compliance 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.
He said that the achievement of a two‑State solution and resolution of all the main final status issues — borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and water — was the only way to ensure a lasting peace. Jordan, therefore, rejected and condemned the provocative declarations in the last four weeks regarding the construction of 4,000 more settlement units, which was a violation of relevant international law and a provocation of the will and aspirations of the international community to achieve a lasting peace.
GONI ELHADJI ISSA (Niger), associating his statement with that made on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that important resolutions had been adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council in the quest for a peaceful settlement of the thorny matter at hand. General Assembly resolution 43/177 adopted in December 1988 had split Palestine, and there was a common thread running through the texts that called for a peaceful settlement in conformity with international law, for the benefit of peace and security in the entire region. Niger had always favoured that peaceful track, and was, along with other Member States, a member of the Al‑Quds Committee for Palestine.
He said that Palestinians must be given the opportunity to live a decent life within the borders of a Palestine as defined in 1967. It was unacceptable that, despite 40 years of praiseworthy efforts on the part of the international community to bring the two parties towards a peaceful settlement, the Palestinian peoples were still living without a State in atrocious conditions of oppression and underdevelopment. All participants to the conflict must overcome the resentment built up over the years in order to find the urgently needed solution. Niger, like the overwhelming majority of the international community, supported the creation of an independent viable State for the Palestinian people in the Middle East, where all could live together in harmony.
TAHIR HUSSAIN ANDRABI ( Pakistan) said that the Special Committee’s Report had documented the state of human rights of the Palestinians and other Arab peoples in the occupied territories. The situation was characterized by violation of the Palestinian people’s rights to self‑determination, freedom of movement, education, commerce, and religion. The Special Committee had also detected an alarmingly high level of impunity enjoyed by the occupation forces. The brunt of that impunity was especially felt by the vulnerable segments of the society like women, children, and refugees, and ending it was important for building an environment of trust and confidence. Palestinian heritage was also being destroyed by changing the status of age‑old cemeteries, mosques and churches. Pakistan called on the Israeli authorities to meet their international obligations and cease all settlement activity.
He said that denial of the Palestinian’s right to self‑determination was at the heart of the Arab‑Israeli conflict. The application of the United Nations membership was an expression of the inalienable right to self‑determination, and Pakistan supported Palestine in that endeavour. For lasting peace in the Middle East, progress on Syria‑Israel and Lebanon‑Israel tracks was also necessary. Living conditions in the occupied Syrian Golan had been affected by inequitable water distribution, discrimination against local workers and high rates of taxation. Israel must withdraw completely from Lebanese land and the Syrian Golan in compliance with relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. Pakistan wanted peace for all inhabitants of the Middle East, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or nationality.
MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI ( Iran) said that the prolonged Middle East conflict, suffering and hardship were the direct result of the Israeli regime’s continuing flagrant violation of international law, disregard for all relevant United Nations resolutions, and denial of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, in persistent defiance of the international community. The illegal Israeli‑imposed blockade of the Gaza strip, which had been steadily tightening since 2007, had had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation there. While condemning that blockade, he said his delegation believed that it was an aggressive and savage action that breached all international laws and norms and constituted a crime against humanity.
He said that, by approving the construction of more settlement units in occupied Jerusalem, the Israeli regime had intensified its illegal and destructive settlement campaign. That spate of settlement activities had recently reached an unprecedented level in a clear attempt to further colonize the Occupied Palestinian Territory and create even more illegal alterations to the demographic condition. The tragedy of Palestine was a major source of anger and desperation that was felt throughout the Muslim world and lay at the heart of the Middle East conflict. Iran, along with much of the international community, including the States of the Non‑Aligned Movement, had been a proponent of a fair and just policy regarding Palestine, based on the right of Palestinian peoples to self‑determination and to defy the illegitimate occupying Power. The Zionist regime’s criminal acts against the Palestinians and other peoples of the region were the gravest threat now facing regional, as well as international peace and security.
A.K. ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating with the statement of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the Palestinian people had been subjected to occupation, humiliation, incursions, demolitions, collective punishments, indiscriminate arrests and killings for several decades. Bangladesh was deeply concerned over the recent reports regarding Israeli decisions on settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. There was no pretext that could justify the breach of international humanitarian law and human rights standards. Bangladesh urged the Israeli authorities to cease the settlement activities.
Endorsing the findings and recommendations of the report of the Special Committee, he urged Israel to lift its embargo against Palestinians and immediately allow free movement of goods, persons and humanitarian aid throughout the Occupied Territory. His delegation was shocked to note that children as young as three years old and persons as old as 90 were not spared from Israeli atrocities. It was obvious that the Israeli side was pursuing a policy of making the entire population “physically and psychologically weak”.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria), associating his statement with that made on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said Israel continued its wide‑scale violations of human rights. The report of the Special Committee said that human rights in the territories and the freedom of movement and expression were flouted daily. It was particularly alarming that Israel continued in total impunity in the occupied territories to confiscate land, expand settlements, and restrict freedom of movement. The situation in the Gaza Strip remained serious. The largely poor territory continued to suffer from the blockade, which restricted humanitarian access. Israel also refused to allow the export of merchandise from Gaza and prevented young Palestinians from visiting their families in the West Bank and Jerusalem, or from attending university.
He said that the international community could not continue to ignore the scandalous defiance of international law by Israel, and should act to ensure the release of the illegally detained population. Moreover, conditions in the Syrian Golan, which had been illegally annexed and where the peoples continued to suffer unacceptable living conditions, were deteriorating day by day. Those practices by Israel were a source of serious concern, and confirmed significant doubts about Israel’s real intentions to resolve the crisis. The settlement of the conflict would occur by ending the occupation and ensuring the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the occupied Arab territories, the cessation of all colonization operations, and the dismantling of existing settlements. His delegation noted the efforts by the Quartet, as well as of international endeavours in the region, and regretted that it had not been possible to re‑launch direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, given Israel’s intransigence. The Security Council, which under the Charter held sway with regard to peacekeeping and international security, must act to correct an injustice that had lasted for over 60 years.
ARTHUR KAFEERO ( Uganda) said that the peace process in the Middle East was deadlocked with tension and violence on the rise. Uganda called on both parties to resume negotiations and summon the necessary courage to take bold decisions. Those would not be easy but had to be taken. The alternative to dialogue and negotiations would be more violence. He cautioned that “if the door to peace closed, it would be very hard to reopen”. Uganda supported the two‑State solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security. If any progress was to be made, all parties must work hard to demonstrate their adherence to the obligations they agreed to under the Road Map.
He said that Uganda was deeply concerned about recent approvals for the construction of new settlement units by Israel and, once again, called for a complete freeze on all settlement activity. His country also called on Israel to lift the Gaza blockade, which was unsustainable and counterproductive and had severe humanitarian consequences for the civilian population there. Noting with concern the persistent shortfalls at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), both for its regular programmes and for its reconstruction efforts, Uganda called for further support from the international community to fill the financing gap. He concluded by encouraging Israel and Palestine to take practical steps to start direct negotiations.
MANSOUR ABDALLAH (Lebanon), associating his statement with that of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that 20 years after the Madrid Peace conference, 18 years after the Oslo Interim Accords, and eight years after the Road Map, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could only reiterate “his resounding four ‘noes’ — no freeze on settlements, no return to the 1967 borders, no negotiations over the future status of Jerusalem, and no right of return for the Palestinian refugees”. Faced with “Netanyahu’s noes”, the Palestinian people had to continue their legitimate struggle for the right to self‑determination, through, among other ways, seeking membership for the State of Palestine at the United Nations. The admission application should be considered solely on the basis of its objective merits and should not be subjected to the outcome of negotiations between Palestinian and Israelis.
He added that settlement building was certainly not a “trivial issue”, as Mr. Netanyahu claimed, but a unilateral action that undermined the two‑State solution. In addition to evictions and house demolitions, residency revocations, land confiscations, and building of the infamous apartheid wall, settlement building was part of a campaign that was “eating up” Palestinian land and aiming to change the identity and legal status of East Jerusalem. It was clear today that the Israeli Government chose settlements and the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip over peace. Lebanon stressed the invalidity of any action by Israel aimed at changing the legal, material, and demographic status in the occupied Syrian Golan. Palestine was an occupied State, and the Palestinians were a people whose rights were violated on a daily basis. It would remain the duty of the international community to help put an end to that occupation and to those violations.
MAGEN GOVENDER ( South Africa), associating his statement with that made on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Special Committee had carried out its tasks professionally, despite hardships. Only strict adherence to international humanitarian law and international human rights law would change the status quo of the Palestinian peoples. The General Assembly received factual reports annually that the present practices and policies impinged daily on the human rights of the Palestinian peoples. The international community had heard millions calling for basic human rights throughout the Arab world, and those calls had not gone unheeded. The will of the people was being recognized and populations were being presented with the opportunity to realize their aspirations.
He said Israel had obligations under the international human rights treaties to which it was party, including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. Attempts by the Special Committee’s Special Rapporteur to carry out the mandates had yet again met with resistance by the Israeli Government. The Palestinian people endured crippling actions on a daily basis, the foremost of which was the blockade on Gaza. They were denied proper access to food and mental and physical health needs. The United Nations Charter provided for the right of self‑defence for States under attack, but the ordinary populations of Palestine were being made to pay the price for actions for which they were not responsible.
Further, he said, the Bedouin community had been victimized for more than 60 years, and their traditional pastoral way of life was under constant threat by the Israeli Authority’s actions. The Israeli Government had a fundamental obligation under international law to protect the populations living under occupation. The ongoing attacks and killings by the settler community had been captured on video and appeared on social networks sites, and yet settler impunity was allowed to prevail. While a permanent solution was of course the most desirable result, Israel meanwhile should cooperate with the Special Committee to assist it in carrying out its mandated tasks.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria said that the statements made by Israel concerning respect for human rights in Syria were but a failed attempts in the continuous initiatives by Israel to dissipate public international opinion and divert attention from the crimes committed daily by the occupying Israeli Authorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and continued to prevent peace activists and United Nations personnel from accessing the Occupied Territory and carrying out their mandate.
He said the representative of the occupying Power had always described the Special Committee as “politicized”, but, since so many delegations mirrored those sentiments, including States considered friends of Israel, he asked whether Israel was not accusing the entire United Nations of being “politicized” in that regard.
Regretfully, he said, Israel had not implemented any of the resolutions put to it by the General Assembly or the Security Council. His delegation believed that the representative of the occupying Power did not want to see the reality of the violations of human rights carried out daily by Israel and documented by the United Nations and its bodies, including the daily killing of innocents — women, children and the elderly. That representative had not listened to the fact that Israel was demolishing homes from over the heads of their inhabitants, or to the damage done by the “racial wall” in Palestine and the wall currently being built in the occupied Syrian Golan.
He said that the representative of the Israeli occupying Authority did not wish to listen to all the facts put forth by delegations. While that Authority claimed to be the only democracy in the region to respect human rights, he asked how it was that such a democracy could occupy the land of others and build settlements, and coercively detain more than 10,000 Palestinians, simply for opposing the occupation.
The Syrian Government, he said, was attempting to fulfil the needs of its people through the recent declaration of a series of reforms designed to make a full transformation in the interest of the population. At the same time, some were trying to utilize the demands to achieve goals that were at loggerheads with the interests of the Syrian peoples. Those same actors had also committed terrorism, and assassinated civilians and military personnel.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Iran said that the Fourth Committee had heard baseless allegations against Iran, and his delegation wished to place on record that it was yet another preposterous and well‑worn practice to distract the international community’s attention from the criminal policies and abhorrent atrocities committed in the region by the Israeli occupying Power, including the heinous crime against the people of Palestine. There were scarcely any human rights that were not violated by that regime, which had no respect for the fundamental human rights and principles on which the international community functioned. It was high time, therefore, for the international community to counter the Israeli regime for turning the Palestinian Territory into a humanitarian disaster area.
Israel’s representative, also exercising his right of reply, said that his delegation had listened very carefully to the rights of reply and all statements made, and wished to make one comment as a right of reply to Syria and Iran. He said that for 43 years the Committee had invested resources in a committee to investigate the practices of the only stable democracy in the region. Meanwhile, people were being slaughtered in the streets of Syria, women were stoned to death in Iran, and across the Middle East, people were calling for the right to freedom. He thus wished to place the rights of reply of the previous speakers in context.
Speaking in a further right of reply, the representative of Syria said attempts had been made to misrepresent the situation in Syria, in order to deflect public attention. Given the daily accumulation of facts, proof and evidence regarding the terrorist Zionist approach by Israel, he said that human history had not experienced such racist and bloody terrorism on equal with that which was practiced by Israel against Arab citizens and against the occupied Arab territories.
He said that the representative of the Israeli occupying Power had said that his country was the only democratic country in the region that respected human rights and democracy, however, he forgot to touch on the matter of the destruction of schools in Gaza and children deprived of medication. He had also forgotten to mention that Syrian families could not visit family members in Syria, and that they were deprived of water. The Israeli representative had also failed to talk about the separating wall in the Syrian Golan, as well as the very long list of crimes that violated human rights, which, were they to be compiled in one document, would surely be the largest volume in the world.
Also speaking again in right of reply, the representative of Iran said that Israeli officials, instead of answering to the world’s public opinion on their crimes and atrocities, including crimes against humanity, had instead made inflammatory and baseless remarks against other countries. By blocking any actions against to halt its inhuman policies, supporters of the Israeli Power had given it a “blank check” to freely violate all internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian and other peoples of the region. The United Nations should live up to its responsibilities in supporting the Palestinians and relieving them of long‑time suffering from the occupation.
* *** *For information media • not an official record