12 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/SPD/522

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

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

21st Meeting (AM)


Israel, Expressing Disbelief, Rejects Fourth Committee Debate on Israeli Practices


as ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, ‘Blind’ to Palestinian Culpability


Report of Special Committee ‘Irrefutable Proof’ Israel

At Cross-Purposes with International Community, Says Speaker


On a day in which the Fourth Committee heard many speakers denounce Israel’s policies and activities as “shrinking the window” of opportunity for a two-State solution and describe the Occupied Palestinian Territory as the “largest prison in the world”, that delegation discredited the discussion, calling it one-sided, inflammatory rhetoric constantly disrupting the Committee’s work. 


Describing today’s debate as a “theatre of the absurd”, the representative of Israel expressed his disbelief at the myriad accusations that had been launched against Israel during consideration of the annual report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.  That body, he said, “turned a blind eye” to the culpability of Palestinians, who had launched more than 1,000 rockets and mortar shells against Israeli towns and villages in the past year.  Israeli citizens must not be denied the right to live in peace and security.


Dismissing repetitive criticism of his country’s human rights record, he defended Israel as a vibrant democracy with a highly respected judiciary system accessible to all – citizens and foreigners alike.  Many of the countries that chose to “point fingers at Israel” were the same countries that “kept their human rights activists in prison, had no free press and no independent judiciary”.


Among Israel’s significant policy changes aimed at improving the lives of Palestinians was an easing of the system through which civilian goods entered Gaza, he said, adding that despite complaints, the international community and the private sector were only using 55 per cent of existing capacity.  In sum, Israel was committed to a “permanent peace agreement” with the Palestinians, and he urged its Arab neighbours to join it in taking concrete, courageous steps towards that goal.


Prior to that statement, most speakers held that the Special Committee’s report was a “grim reminder” of the obstacles to peace, including the delegate from Indonesia, who said there was “irrefutable proof” that Israel was at cross-purposes with the international community.  He urged both parties to do the hard work necessary to advance the two-State solution, warning that it was becoming “too dangerous” not to insist that Israel “do no less and no more” than was expected of other Member States in meeting its international law obligations.


The representative of Venezuela asked the Fourth Committee to imagine a country with nuclear weapons that had illegally annexed the land of another State, repeatedly violated international law and the decisions of the United Nations, and carried out actions described as war crimes and apartheid - that imagined country was real, she said.  She condemned the settlements, separation wall, expulsions, and housing demolitions as the “twisted policy” of the Israeli regime.


An unprecedented regime of closures, said Bangladesh’s speaker, aimed at “strangulating” an entire population, and the periodic escalation of violence only led to further despair and destitution, and Israel was purposely generating “fear, fury and distress among Palestinians”.  The most serious issue remained settlement construction, which made it impossible to talk about restarting the peace process.  The settlements presented an existential threat to the viability of a future Palestinian State, and even the greatest optimists would struggle to see the shape of a viable, contiguous Palestinian State under the circumstances.


In that vein, the representative of Qatar said that promotion of settlements by the Israeli authorities demonstrated their attempt at imposing a fait accompli and the Judaization of the holy city.   Algeria’s delegate agreed that Israel’s “illegal” actions were aimed at cleansing the Occupied Palestinian Territory and altering its demographic composition and cultural character, which, he said, was why all serious efforts by international and regional parties to resume direct negotiations had failed.  The international community had before it the starkest evidence that Israel was not on the path of peace, he said.


Issues surrounding the protracted blockade of the Gaza Strip also dominated debate, with Yemen’s representative suggesting that Israel was pursuing a policy of “collective punishment” against the Palestinians.  The speaker for the United Arab Emirates said Israel was eroding Palestinian socioeconomic and cultural infrastructureand impeding reconstruction, resulting in unprecedented levels of unemployment, disease, malnutrition and psychological problems.


Also speaking were the representatives of Namibia, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, South Africa, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kuwait, and Sudan.


A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine spoke in the right of reply.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 November to continue its work.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to conclude its debate 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, for which it had before it several reports.  (For background, please see press release GA/SPD/521 of 9 November).


Statements


JEROBEAM SHAANIKA (Namibia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern that the Israeli Government had failed to respond to numerous requests by the Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, whose report highlighted several disturbing practices by Israel, including mass imprisonment of Palestinians, including children; land confiscation; housing demolitions; illegal settlement expansion; construction of the “apartheid wall”; exploitation of natural resources; restrictions on freedom of movement; and the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.  He deplored those abhorrent practices, which were affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and which contravened the noble pledge in the United Nations Charter to reaffirm “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women”.


He said his country believed that the expansion and construction of illegal settlements and erection of walls of annexation were meant to change the facts on the ground.  Those activities included settlement activity in and around East Jerusalem, which was “nothing but an attempt to alter the legal status of the city” and its physical, demographic and cultural character.  Calling on Israel to stop its “inhumane actions”, and underlining his delegation’s “total rejection” of them, he reminded the occupying Power of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, a fundamental principle being breached by Israel.  He called on the international community to demonstrate its resolve and compel Israel to end its occupation and abide by its legal obligations, adding that international humanitarian law must not be applied selectively.


RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was abysmal.  Israel, the occupying Power, persisted with its oppressive policies, affecting the most vulnerable groups, among them, children, who suffered severe effects.  The report stated that from 500 to 700 Palestinian children were detained by the occupation forces each year and subjected to treatment that was not only in violation of all international human rights laws and practices, but was also unethical and immoral. 


Further, he said, Israel’s illegal settlement policy, coupled with the demolition of Palestinian structures, displacement and evictions were shrinking the window for a two-State solution.  The report rightly noted that Israel’s occupation seemed “cost free”, as the international community provided the basic needs for the victims.  The strategy of the occupation forces seemed clear:  “force the Palestinian people off their own land or marginalize them to maintain a system of permanent oppression”.  How could any political process be expected to resume in such circumstances, he asked, pointing out that any political settlement required a good faith commitment from both sides.  In its absence, the situation could only deteriorate.  Pakistan was a staunch supporter of the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian State, on the basis of pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital, and of the Palestinian Authority’s initiative to be accorded “ Observer State” status in the United Nations.


MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI ( Iran) strongly condemned the illegal Israeli practices aimed at the displacement or transfer of the Palestinian civil population from strategic areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, through the ongoing aggressive settlement campaign, construction of the wall, forced evictions, housing demolitions, and the revocation of Palestinian residency rights.  The prolonged Middle East conflict and suffering were the direct result of the Israeli regime’s continuing flagrant violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.


He said that the Gaza blockade continued to have a devastating impact on the people of that enclave.  At the same time, by approving the construction of more settlement units in occupied Jerusalem, the Israeli regime had intensified its illegal and destructive settlement campaign.  Peace in the Middle East could not be achieved through promotion of a discriminatory policy of blind support for the Israeli regime’s State terrorism, occupation, torture, annihilation, intimidation and aggression, he concluded.


MONZER FATHI SELIM ( Egypt) expressed alarm at the findings in the report and the long-standing pattern of systematic violations committed by Israel, the occupying Power.  The report sent a clear message that Israel was acting “above the law”, especially with regard as concerned children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which demonstrated a clear pattern of repeated violations.  The deteriorated human rights situation in Gaza similarly was inflicting deep suffering on the Palestinian civilian population.


He said his country fully supported steps taken by the Palestinian leadership to achieve the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.  His delegation expected the General Assembly to adopt the draft resolution, circulated last week, to upgrade the status of Palestine to a "non-Member Observer State", as a first step towards reaching full membership.  That resolution would confirm that the United Nations was applying the principles of justice without any politicization or double standards.


ALI MOHAMED ABDULLAH ALMAKHADI (Yemen), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, stated that for almost four decades, Israel, the occupying Power, had flouted the rules of international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention and the resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council.  By expanding settlements, building the separation wall, and closing down access points, Israel was pursuing a policy of collective punishment against the Palestinians.  “ Palestine was the largest prison in the world,” he said, with its people deprived of their basic needs of food, water, and electricity, and that the Gaza blockade was having an extraordinarily negative impact on freedom of movement.


He said that the Security Council must “discharge its mandate” and support the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.   Yemen condemned Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights and its use of the area’s natural resources.  Calling for an end to settlements, he stressed that Israel must withdraw from all occupied territory and immediately implement the Special Committee’s conclusions and recommendations.  


ARLINE DIAZ MENDOZA(Venezuela), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, asked the Fourth Committee to imagine a country with nuclear weapons that had illegally annexed the land of another State, repeatedly violated international law and the decisions of the United Nations, and had carried out actions described as war crimes and apartheid – that imagined country was real.   Israel operated in an atmosphere of total impunity, and its human rights abuses had become increasingly perverse over the years, violating the most basic rights and impeding a just and lasting peace.


She said that the Gaza blockade had not been eased as promised, which meant that basic goods could not be imported, and that food, water, health, education, and work were all impacted by constrained freedom of movement.  Particularly disturbing was the impact on the social texture of a Palestinian State and on children in Gaza.  She was also concerned about the settlement activity in the West Bank and the impediments to the freedom of movement there, which prevented many people from accessing their own land, attending religious services, or getting health care.  The settlement policy, the wall, expulsions, and housing demolitions were part of the overall “twisted policy” condemned by her delegation.  She called on the international community to require Israel to comply with the decisions of the United Nations and the Security Council and to abide by international humanitarian law.


MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Special Committee had once again provided the starkest evidence that Israel, the occupying Power, was not on the path of peace.  On a daily basis, Israel, the occupying Power, continued in its policy of deprivation, degradation, and systematic and deliberate human rights violations, including killing, injuring, imprisoning, displacing and collectively punishing the Palestinian civilians.  In addition to its inhumane blockade of Gaza, it continued to launch military attacks against the enclave, with abject disregard for human life and the safety of civilians in that densely populated territory.


He said it was disturbing that Israel, the occupying Power, continued its unlawful campaigns of arrest and detention of thousands of Palestinian civilians, including children and women, disregarding the many calls of the international community for their immediate release.  He also strongly condemned the illegal settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem.  It was regrettable that all serious efforts exerted so far by international and regional parties to resume direct negotiations had failed mainly due to the lack of clear parameters and to Israel’s continued illegal actions aimed at cleansing the Occupied Palestinian Territory of its indigenous Palestinian population and altering its demographic composition and cultural character.  He urged the resumption of direct negotiations and urged the international community to compel Israel to abide by its obligations.


HAJER ALBAYRAQ ( United Arab Emirates) expressed gratitude for the unstinting efforts of the Special Committee and resolute support for Palestine’s quest for justice.  It was worrying that Israel, the occupying Power, had sought to prevent Committee members from entering the Territory, thereby preventing them from fulfilling their mandate.  But Israel’s crimes had been recorded by eyewitnesses, which determined clearly that Israel was carrying out premeditated acts of aggression, arbitrarily detaining civilians, including women and children, continuing to seize lands, and destroying homes.


She added that Israel was targeting Palestinian socioeconomic and cultural infrastructure by targeting public buildings and places of worship.   Israel also continued to impede projects adopted by the Palestinian authorities and prevent reconstruction efforts, which the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were seeking to launch in the Territory.  As a result, unemployment had reached unprecedented levels, and disease was spreading along with malnutrition and psychological problems.  The United Arab Emirates was concerned with the international community’s silence in the face of those illegal practices.  The occupying Power must refrain from activities that flouted its own commitments made under the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians.


AHMAD ARIEF ADNAN (Indonesia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep regret that Israel had continued to ignore the request of the Special Committee for access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  He agreed with the Committee’s report that Israeli policies and practices amounted to a strategy to either force Palestinians off their land or to severely marginalize them, and discredited the claim of the Government of Israel that it was committed to the principle of two States living side by side in peace and security.  Both parties, with the encouragement of the international community, must work hard and cooperate, in order to make progress.  He deeply regretted that the report provides “irrefutable proof” that Israel was working at cross-purposes to the international community.


He said his delegation fully supported the Special Committee’s recommendations, and, in particular, called on the General Assembly to adopt measures to address Israel’s long track record of non-cooperation with the United Nations.  It was not too much to ask Israel to simply meet its obligations in regard to international law and established standards, and it was becoming “too dangerous” not to insist that it do “no less and no more” than what was expected of other Member States.  He called on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza, to allow visits between Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and elsewhere in Syria, and to work towards the two-State solution.  Success in practice required a comprehensive solution, which embraced such relevant political tracks as Israel with Syria and Lebanon.  The Special Committee’s report was a “grim reminder” of the far distance yet to be travelled to peace, the reason for which was clear:  Israeli failure to invest in that process and an ultimate solution.


DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that it was unfortunate that the Special Committee had yet to secure cooperation from Israel in carrying out its mandate.  Israeli authorities served in a law enforcement capacity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and were obliged to protect the human rights of people living there.  The Gaza blockade had been declared illegal, yet it continued.  The ongoing provocative actions of the occupying Power, such as forced displacement, the extension of the separation wall, and ongoing settler violence, presented no possibility for peace.


He said that the vision of the Oslo accords had not materialized, 19 years year later.  The Bedouin community and their traditional pastoral way of life were under serious threat from the Israeli occupation.   South Africa supported all recommendations in the report but regretted that they did not also address the question of impunity.   South Africa believed in a two-State solution with the establishment of a viable Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.


RI KWANG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that despite the international community’s continued efforts and concern, Israel persisted in its human rights violations against Palestinians and other Arab people.  As already indicated in the Special Committee’s report, Palestine was turning into a “huge living hell”, owing to Israel’s ceaseless barbaric terrorism, air raids, cruel treatment of prisoners, killing of civilians, and blockade of Gaza.  While settlement construction was continuing as part of the permanent occupation of the Arab territories, Israeli settlers were committing various kinds of violence and terrorist acts against Palestinian people, particularly women and children.


He said that all of those actions were based on Israel’s policy of regional hegemony, racism and territorial ambition, as well as the United States policy of double standards, as it encouraged Israel and openly opposed an independent State of Palestine and its United Nations membership.  Israel’s criminal acts were becoming ever more serious, requiring the international community to bring about a peaceful and fair solution at the earliest possible date.  He said that recent pronouncements by the Non-Aligned Movement clearly showed the need to resolve the issues as soon as possible, as one of the most urgent tasks facing the international community.  Resolution of the Palestine-Israeli issue should be on the basis of the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied territories and due compensation for material and mental damages inflicted on the Arab people, including Palestinians.  The principle of impartiality should be ensured in the negotiations.  His country would continue to support the just cause of the Palestinian people for realizing their right to self-determination.


FAHAD ALFADHLI ( Kuwait) commended the Special Committee for its efforts to produce its report under difficult conditions.   Israel’s actions had led to the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and had increased Palestinians’ suffering.  Severe restrictions on movement affected health and education, and the excessive use of force by Israeli Defense Forces and border police was of grave concern, as it had led to the deaths of Palestinians, including children.  The campaign to expand settlements impeded peace.


He said that Israel’s continued flouting of international law and all relevant resolutions demonstrated its lack of keenness to reach a solution.  Rather, its aggressive expansionist policy sought to entrench the occupation and change the demographic nature of the land.  Israeli forces had even violated sacred holy sites of both Christians and Muslims.  He called on the international community to put an end to Israeli criminal activities and on Israel to release all political prisoners.  He denounced the continued inhumane, illegal blockade of Gaza, and reiterated the call for Israel to withdraw from the Syrian Golan Heights and occupied Lebanese territories.  In closing, he reiterated his delegation’s support for Palestine’s full membership in the United Nations, which would constitute a step forward towards a just and lasting peace.


MOHAMMED ABUZEID ( Sudan), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the report showed the further deterioration of the situation since last year.  Indeed, the two-State solution was “almost vanishing”.  Human rights violations included murder, attacks by settlers, arbitrary detentions, housing demolitions, exploitation of resources and infrastructure, construction of the separation wall, and the annexation of Palestinian lands.


As a result, he warned, the economy was about to collapse and unemployment had reached very high levels.   Sudan supported the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state and of refugees’ return.  It was high time for the international community to put an end to the continued violations by Israel of various resolutions and laws, as well as of basic human rights.


MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN ( Bangladesh) said that the Special Committee’s report reflected, once again, the appalling human rights and humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and he regretted that the repeated appeals of the international community to improve the deteriorating conditions remained unheeded.  The Palestinian people continued to suffer due to Israeli blockades, closures, confiscation of land, housing demolitions, and the illegal separation wall, which divided and isolated communities, destroyed livelihoods, and denied hundreds of thousands access to their jobs, families, markets, schools and hospitals.   Gaza’s borders had been subjected to an unprecedented regime of closures aimed at “strangulating” an entire population.  Periodic escalation of violence only led to further despair and destitution, and Israel was purposely generating “fear, fury and distress among Palestinians”.


He said that the most serious issue remained the settlement construction.  It was impossible to talk about restarting the peace process while that continued unabated, as settlements presented an existential threat to the viability of a future Palestinian State; the greatest optimists would struggle to see the shape of a viable, contiguous Palestinian State under the circumstances.  If Israel did not withdraw, completely and unconditionally, from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and other occupied Arab lands, the hope of peace and prosperity in the Middle East would remain as elusive as ever.


MARIAM AL-GHANEM (Qatar) stated that Qatar was deeply concerned about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory and the persistence of the Israeli authorities in the implementation of settlement policies throughout, including in East Jerusalem, in order to impose a fait accompli and the Judaization of the holy city.  That had been reflected in the decision last December to demolish the Mughrabi Gate.  Among the most dangerous practices perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians were its attempts to prejudice the Islamic holy sites, through the desecration of the Haram al-Sharif and its leniency with extremist settlers, who attacked those sites and assaulted worshippers.


Her country, she said, emphasized that the continued military occupation was the main cause of the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  It also constituted the worst human rights violation perpetrated by the Israeli authorities against an unarmed people, under the pretext of combating violence and terrorism.  Qatar reaffirmed that there was no room for establishing normal relations between Arab States and Israel as long as the latter did not comply with international legitimacy and did not respect the principle of land for peace, which remained the foundation upon which negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities were built, since the Madrid conference in 1991.


ISRAEL NITZAN (Israel), calling today’s debate a “theatre of the absurd”, said that while a million and a half Israelis were undergoing ongoing rocket and mortar attacks, this Committee chose to focus on a one-sided report that deliberately turned a blind eye to the truth.  His country held human rights in the highest possible regard, and, as a vibrant democracy, had an independent, professional and highly respected judicial system that was accessible to all – citizens and foreigners.  It was unfortunate that the Special Committee’s report did not seek to advance human rights, but rather furthered a narrative aimed at discrediting Israel and denying the right of its citizens to live in peace and security.  It did not mention, for example, the fact that more than 1,000 rockets and mortar shells had been launched from the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns and villages in the past year.  It also failed to mention Hamas’ known and cynical practice of placing its military installations near and inside civilian buildings, including close to United Nations facilities, as well as the commission of hundreds of terrorist attacks in the West Bank against Israeli civilians.


In sum, he said, the Special Committee chose to ignore all reports on Palestinian violence against Israelis.  It also completely ignored human rights violations by Palestinians towards other Palestinians, such as Hamas’ and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s persecution of the Palestinian homosexual community, its failure to protect Christians’ freedom of religion, and women’s rights.  As it was clear that the Special Committee’s work predetermined its findings and conclusions, Israel would continue to refuse to cooperate with it.  Many positive developments in the West Bank and Gaza over the past year had been acknowledged by other bodies, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.


For example, he noted, since June 2010, the Israeli Government had made significant policy changes to liberalize the system through which civilian goods entered Gaza, but the international community and the private sector in Gaza were only using 55 per cent of existing capacity to transfer goods.   Israel also was engaged with several United Nations agencies, international organizations and partner countries to further development projects in Gaza, despite the control of the enclave by the Hamas terror regime.  There were only 13 remaining road blocks in the West Bank, which were constantly open unless there were specific security threats.   Israel had also made efforts to support the Palestinian Authority’s economic stability, reduce Palestinian unemployment, and supply additional electricity to the West Bank.


It was absurd, he said, to hear condemnation and criticism of Israel’s judiciary system and human rights record from countries that imprisoned their human rights activists, and where there was no free press or independent judiciary.  One had only to read the reports of international human rights organizations regarding Arab and many other countries that so passionately criticized Israel to understand that they chose to “point fingers at Israel” because it was easier than attempting to improve human rights practices at home.


Concluding, he said that Israel was committed to reaching a “permanent peace agreement” with the Palestinians, which would permit their two peoples to live in peace, security and dignity.  He called on his Arab neighbours to join Israel in taking concrete, courageous steps to pursue the path of peace, and challenged them to prove their commitment to the protection of human rights and human beings, regardless of their creed, race or nationality.  Calling for an end to the cycle of inflammatory rhetoric, which was constantly disrupting the work of the Fourth Committee, he expressed his hope that scarce resources would be used for their intended purpose – “to improve the lives of people, rather than to destroy them”.  He hoped that the Palestinians would rejoin Israel in direct negotiations without delay or preconditions.


Right of Reply


Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine stated that the fact that Israel had referred to the current debate as “a theatre of absurd” should be rejected.  The Special Committee was mandated by the international community to investigate the practices of the occupying Power.  What was being discussed here was not Israel as “a vibrant democracy”, but Israel as an occupying Power of more than 45 years of illegal practices that violated the human rights of Palestinians.  Also, it seemed that the representative of Israel did not read the report, as it had indeed mentioned the rockets.


She said that if Israel believed that Palestine would stop coming to the United Nations to discuss those issues, it was mistaken.  “Does Israel think it can talk of peace while committing the violations it does?”  Just today, 500 settlements had been announced, which came on the heels of a declaration on Friday of 1,200 more.  Those announcements belied the campaign of false statements about the good being done for the Palestinian people.   Israel must cease its violations of basic human rights principles before peace and security prevailed for both sides.


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For information media • not an official record