11 November 2013
General Assembly
GA/SPD/549

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

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

24th Meeting (AM)


Threats to Latest Middle East Peace Initiative Could Bring Process


‘Back to Square One’, Speaker Tells Fourth Committee

 


Israel Says Report of Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices

‘Saturated’ with Harsh Criticism, Silent on Rockets Launched at Israeli Towns


The optimism stemming from the latest Middle East peace initiative had become fraught with dangers that could take it “back to square one”, the Fourth Committee heard today as it concluded its consideration of 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.


By “thumbing its nose” at the United Nations resolutions that had declared its settlement policy illegal, Israel, said Morocco’s representative, was threatening the only peace prospect on the horizon.  Also provocative was the invasion of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by settlers and Israeli forces.  Similarly, Yemen’s speaker said Israel was “riding roughshod” over international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.


Even as peace talks had resumed, Lebanon’s representative said, Israel continued to approve settlements, including 1,700 units in Jerusalem on 3 November.  That was “not normal”.  Also “not normal” was the existence of 7 million Palestinian refugee whose right to return to their homeland continued to be denied by Israel.  The 441 miles of “apartheid wall” and the 193 children held in prisons and detention centres inside Israel were also “not normal”.


How long did the international community need to wait while the rift between the Palestinians and Israel widened, Jordan’s delegate asked, urging Israel to “seize and invest in current international momentum” and not miss the opportunity to develop a substantive agreement leading to a two-State solution.


Along those lines, Qatar’s representative said Israel’s military aggression undermined peace efforts and constituted a strategy to “suffocate the Palestinian community”.  The exploitation of the Palestinian natural resources must end and Israel must give up its hold on the holy sites in Jerusalem, especially the holy mosque.


Iran’s delegate said that Israel’s’ stated readiness for peace was an “ill-intended smokescreen”, behind which expansionism and criminal practices continued.  Past peace plans had failed, he said, because they did not tackle the conflict’s root causes; a permanent, durable settlement required full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people.


Countering, the representative of Israel said that his country was committed to making peace with the Palestinian people, and was ready to make “a historic compromise” for a demilitarized Palestinian State living side-by-side with the Jewish State of Israel.  The release of 26 Palestinian prisoners two weeks ago was a demonstration of that willingness.  Instead of spreading lies and hatred, it was time to seize the moment and work towards a lasting solution.


Instead, he said, the Special Committee’s report furthered “a biased and one-sided narrative of the conflict”.  Though saturated with harsh criticism of Israel, it conveniently ignored the rockets and mortars that had been launched towards Israeli towns, as well as the human rights violations by Palestinians against Palestinians.  Israel refused to cooperate with a prejudiced body, and today’s meeting was another window into the “theatre of the absurd”.


Further, many positive developments had taken place in the West Bank and Gaza over the past year, he added, with hundreds of thousands of tons of goods passed into the Gaza Strip each month.  However, the recent discovery of a tunnel from Gaza to an Israeli community, built with 500 tons of cement earmarked for construction, showed that those materials were being misused.  Israel was also strengthening economic cooperation with Palestinians by issuing work permits and improving the tax collection interface, thereby increasing the Palestinian Authority’s revenues.


Also speaking today were the representatives of Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Lesotho, Mali, Sudan, and Cuba.


Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the observer for the State of Palestine and the representatives of Israel and Lebanon.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 14 November, to conclude 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.


Statements


SONIA SUGHAYAR ( Jordan) said that Israel needed to “seize and invest in current national momentum” to move forward with the Palestinians and not miss the opportunity to develop a substantive agreement with them, leading to a two-state solution.  Jordan had exerted immense efforts to resolve that conflict and develop a better understanding between the two sides, so as to foster engagement on the issues of borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem.  Jordan condemned the assaults against Jerusalem’s holy sites, the building of more settlements and other activities undermining an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Such policies seriously threatened ongoing negotiations and risked the goal for peace.  “How long does the international community need to wait while the rift between the Palestinians and Israel is widening?” she asked.  It was the responsibility and collective duty of States around the world to provide a better future and positive environment for the current and future generations of Palestinians.


BENJAMIN SHARONY ( Israel) said that his country was committed to making peace with the Palestinian people and had demonstrated that two weeks ago by releasing 26 Palestinian prisoners convicted of murdering Israelis.  Though that was a traumatic event for Israelis, his country had taken that step because it was willing to make painful compromises to reach an agreement.  But today’s meeting was yet another window into the “theatre of the absurd”.  The report of the Special Committee furthered a biased and one-sided narrative of the conflict and advanced a clear political agenda aimed at discrediting Israel.


The report, he added, was saturated with harsh criticism of Israel but conveniently forgot to mention the 10,000 rockets and mortars that had been launched towards his country from the Gaza Strip since 2001.  The Special Committee also chose to completely ignore the human rights violations by Palestinians against their own people, such as the persecution of the Palestinian homosexual community by the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas.  There was abundant evidence that the Committee’s conclusions were predetermined. Therefore, Israel continued to refuse to cooperate with a body that was prejudiced from the outset.


Many positive developments, however, had taken place in the West Bank and Gaza over the past year, he said, noting that, every month, trucks carrying hundreds of thousands of tons of goods passed from Israel into Gaza.  Israel also cooperated with several United Nations agencies and international organizations to advance development projects in Gaza.  A few weeks ago, Israeli Defense Forces had discovered a two-kilometre tunnel from Gaza to an Israeli community, built with 500 tons of cement that had been earmarked for peaceful construction.  Instead of using the materials to build a better future for the Palestinian people, the leadership in Gaza was committed to destroying the State of Israel.


Nevertheless, economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians was strengthening, he said, citing a new computer interface, which integrated Israeli and Palestinian customs and tax collections systems and would increase the Palestinian Authority’s revenues from direct customs collections.  In August, Israel had issued an additional 5,000 work permits to Palestinians, and it was also working to improve the movement of people and goods in Judea and Samaria. Israel also supplied those places with more than 1,400 million gallons of water per year.  None of those statistics or achievements was to be found in the Special Committee’s report.


Further, he said, it was absurd to hear some of the world’s most oppressive tyrannies lecture the Middle East’s only democracy on human rights and rule of law.  It was easier to point fingers in New York than to spend time improving human rights practices at home.  Israel was ready to make a historic compromise to realize the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian State living side-by-side with the Jewish state of Israel.  It was time to seize the moment and work towards a lasting solution, not spread lies and foster hate.


KAHLID AL-MAHMOUD ( Qatar) said that his country had always supported the Palestinians’ right to establish an independent State with holy Jerusalem as its capital.  Qatar condemned a wide range of illegal policies of the Israelis, especially the treatment of the Palestinian detainees, construction of the wall and settler violence.  It was the “strategy of the Israelis to suffocate the Palestinian community”.  He stressed the need to end the exploitation by Israel of the Palestinian natural resources as well as their settlement activities and hold on Jerusalem’s holy sites, especially the holy mosque.  Israel’s military aggression undermined efforts to help achieve a comprehensive and just solution.  Last year, the United Nations had established Palestine as an observer State, and Qatar emphasized that Israel’s continued rejection of the Palestinian State did not help the peace negotiations between the two countries.


SOUMIA BOUHAMIDI ( Morocco) said that the optimism resulting from the United States’-led peace initiative had become fraught with dangers that could take the process back to square one.  The international community must not become oblivious to the conditions of the Palestinian people.  It was not possible to talk of human rights without talking about the settlement policy that had turned the lives of thousands of Palestinians into a living nightmare.  Israel’s policy of expanding the illegitimate settlements was threatening the only peace prospect on the horizon.  Though the United Nations had declared those settlements illegal, Israel continued to “thumb its nose” at the relevant resolutions.  Jerusalem remained the number-one target of that policy, with special efforts to change its cultural heritage and demographic composition through restrictions imposed on the Palestinian population.  Morocco was especially concerned about the continued invasion of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by settlers and Israeli forces, which was a provocative and escalatory act that showed lack of respect for the peace process.


MOHAMED SARWAT SELIM ( Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Special Committee had clearly documented that the situation of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territory remained dire.  Egypt was alarmed by the report’s outline of violations committed by the occupying Power, which acted “above the law” in its pattern of illegal operations against the Palestinians.  Egypt deplored the conditions of the Palestinians and demanded that Israel abide by the Committee’s recommendations, including the end of the Gaza blockade, the cessation of its disregard of Palestinians’ rights and an end to the violations in the Syrian Golan, especially the exploitation of its natural resources.  The occupying Power must implement the Special Committee’s resolutions, as its unlawful actions constituted an infraction of international law.  Egypt also demanded that Israel adhere to the Security Council resolution 497 (1981) and completely withdraw from the Syrian Golan.


CAROLINE ZIADE ( Lebanon) said it was “not normal” that 7 million out of 12 million Palestinians were refugees inside Palestine and host countries, including Lebanon, while Israel continued to defy their right to return to their homeland.  It was not normal that, while talks had resumed, Israelis continued to approve settlements, including 1,700 units in Jerusalem on 3 November.  It was not normal that 441 miles of “apartheid wall” had been constructed, that more than 7,000 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces and that 25,000 Palestinians houses had been demolished in the West Bank.  It was not normal that, as of June, 193 children, including 41 below the age of 16, were held in prisons and detention centres inside Israel in blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Even those who said that Israel was not “physically present” in Gaza could not deny that it was controlling every aspect of Palestinian life.  The numbers spoke for themselves: 70 per cent of the Palestinian population depended on international aid and 90 per cent on water unfit for human consumption.  Lebanon recognized the value of the Secretary-General’s 30 October statement, in which he deplored the announced plans for additional Israeli settlements in the West Bank, stating that it was “contrary to international law” and constituted an “obstacle to peace”.


MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI ( Iran) listed Israeli policies, which he said violated the fundamental human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people, and noted the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza.  He reiterated his condemnation of Israel’s continued illegal settlement activities, which he said were grave breaches of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He believed Israeli Stated readiness for peace was an “ill-intended smokescreen”, behind which expansionism and criminal practices continued.  The fundamental problem to be solved was the illegal occupation of Palestinian and Arab territory.  Past peace plans had failed because they did not tackle the conflict’s root causes; a permanent, durable settlement required full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people.


WALEED AL-SAIYANI ( Yemen) said that the report of the Special Committee proved how the Israeli Government’s inhumane practices had led to the deterioration of the human rights and socio-economic situations of the Palestinians.  Israel was “riding roughshod” over international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. Israel’s policy of aggression continued in prisons, with injustices aimed at Palestinian detainees and through the embargo imposed on Gaza.  Yemen supported the legitimate Palestinian cause of the establishment of an independent State with Al-Quds as its capital.  Israel must withdraw from all occupied Arab territories and the international community must pressure the Israeli Government to end its blatant violations of international law.


WILLIAM ISHAYA ODISHO (Iraq), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement,  urged the Special Committee, in accordance with its mandate, to continue its work under strenuous conditions and to present its reports.  Clearly, Israel, because of its refusal to comply with the Committee, maintained its cover-up of its activities, including its plunder of resources in the Syrian Golan, the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the violations of Palestinian human rights.  Israel’s other policies, especially the building of the wall, detentions without impunity or trial, including of migrant children, and its control of the Syrian Golan since 1981 aimed to “contain the State of Palestine”.  The efforts of the United Nations, the Security Council and the Special Committee were “null and void” until Israel heeded international law and discontinued its illegal practices within the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


IMAD TAGURI ( Libya) said that Israel was blatantly continuing its settlement policies and had solicited tenders for more settlements in clear violation of international law. Libya condemned that policy, which impeded all efforts for peace in the region and hindered the establishment of a Palestinian State.  The administrative detention of Palestinians was now an established practice of the Israeli authorities, and included minors, who were mistreated.  The destruction of religious sites and the demolition of houses by the Israeli occupation authorities also continued, especially in East Jerusalem where Israel was pursuing a policy of Judaization.


ABDULAZIZ ALJARALLAH ( Kuwait) said the Committee’s report “clearly and candidly” outlined Israel’s human rights violations in the occupied territories and, as a result, the Middle East community continued to suffer from insecurity.  The report outlined some of those abuses, including Israel’s arrest of Palestinians and the disregard of their rights, the systematic construction of the settlements, building of the wall and the confiscation of Palestinian farmland.  Kuwait called on Israel to cease its violent acts against the Palestinians and hold the violators accountable for those acts.  Kuwait demanded the restoration of the Palestinian peoples’ full rights, the release of the detainees and an investigation of their conditions be conducted.  Also crucial was that the Gaza blockade be lifted and that Security Council resolution 497 (1981) be upheld.  Until Israel abided by the Special Committee’s recommendations and allowed the Palestinians to establish its State with Al-Quds as its capital, the international community’s efforts to achieve “just and lasting” peace in the Middle East would be continuously compromised.


ABDULLA AL KAABI ( United Arab Emirates) said that the report of the Special Committee clearly reflected the magnitude of Israel’s violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people.  Despite the lack of cooperation by the Israeli Government, testimonies by witnesses and media reports had demonstrated the many unacceptable infringements and injustices perpetrated by Israel.  The report indicated an increase in the number of demolitions of Palestinian structures, including homes.  Israel was also exploiting the natural resources of the Syrian Golan, including its water resources, and had prevented the population from reuniting with their families while leaving thousands of mines in that area. The United Arab Emirates reaffirming the international community’s basic responsibilities to protect the Occupied Palestinian People and hoped that the General Assembly would strengthen the mandate of the Special Committee.


MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said Israeli practices continued “unabated”, with provocative declarations, obstructive policies and settlement construction, adversely affecting Palestinian State institutions.  Israeli policies jeopardized the viability of a two-State solution, and he urged the international community to act against their “flagrant breach of the norms of international law, international resolutions and the fundamental tenets of the peace process”.  He condemned attacks on Palestinians and efforts to Judaize Jerusalem by altering its Islamic sites and demography.  He urged the international community to support Palestinian State institutions, which faced a severe financial crisis, and called for a definitive decision to fully lift the Gaza blockade.  There was reason for hope in the General Assembly resolution of 29 November 2012, which gave Palestine “non-Member observer State” status at the United Nations, and in resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.  The international community should support those talks, which should lead to a comprehensive final settlement.


KELEBONE A. MAOPE (Lesotho), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his delegation was highly concerned about the high number of Palestinian prisoners, including children under the age of 12, who remained in Israel’s detention facilities under poor conditions.  Some of the children in detention had been illegally abducted from their homes by Israeli law enforcement agencies in total disregard of the Geneva Convention.  In detention were 500 prisoners who were subjected to abuses, including denial of family visits, solitary confinement and negligent medical treatment.  The “occupying Power” must ensure sufficient hygiene and public health standards, as well as provision of food and medical care to the population under occupation, including prisoners.  Further stressing that the conflict between Israel and Palestine must end, he urged negotiations based on respect of the sovereign equality and recognition of rights and legitimate fears of all parties and called on the international community to encourage a resolution of differences through peaceful dialogue.


DIANGUINA DIT YAYA DOUCOURE ( Mali), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the report was complete and accurate in its record of Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.  The seriousness of those acts had impeded worldwide efforts to establish peace in the Middle East for “six decades now”.  Mali supported any approaches to put in place an end to the abuse of the detainees, settlement construction in the West Bank, the Gaza blockade, and occupation of the Syrian Golan.  “The time has come,” he said, for Israel to uphold the Palestinians’ right to sovereignty and enact Security Council resolution 497 (1981), establishing the democratic and territorial rights of the people of the Syrian Golan.  Israel’s swift lifting of the Gaza blockade giving Palestinians the ability to work, attain an education and achieve socio-economic development would establish trust and a framework for peace.  The immediate task was to return Palestine to its condition that existed before the 1967 war, thus establishing security in the region.


ABUZIED SHAMSELDIN (Sudan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the report of the Special Committee had classified all the violations of human rights and international law perpetrated by the Israeli authorities, among which were killings, arbitrary detentions, home demolitions, and settlement construction.  In addition to contravening international law and resolutions, those violations also jeopardized the two-State solution and created adverse social and political conditions in the Palestinian Territory.  The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip made the enclave an intolerable place to live. It was time to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory, and Sudan supported every step towards a comprehensive and lasting peace that would eventually lead an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.


REBECA HERNANDEZ TOLEDANO (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Special Committee’s conclusions confirmed no support by Israel for implementation of United Nations resolutions towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict.  The 5,000 detainees held in 22 prisons in Israel and Palestine, the 197 children arrested by the Israelis as of June, the 312 settler attacks on Palestinians, and the 492 Palestinians displaced with the support of the Israeli armed forces affirmed its efforts to control Palestine.  Only an end to the occupation, the liberation of the impoverished people in Gaza, and the cessation of provocative Israeli military activities would support the international community’s efforts to launch positive negotiations.  The Security Council, however, remained powerless because one of its members maintained its threat of veto.  Israel continued to seek to impose its Government on the Palestinians, which confirmed its violations of international law, State agreements and United Nations resolutions.  Cuba recommended recognition of Palestinian sovereignty and the return of Palestinian lands as the only way to a just and lasting peace.


Right of Reply


Speaking in exercise of right of reply, the observer of the State of Palestine said that the report of the Special Committee was neither biased nor one-sided.  Its examination was clearly within the framework of international law and there was no distortion of truth or discrediting of Israel.  The Committee had reported facts regarding the systematic and egregious violations of rights by Israel, some of which amounted to war crimes.  Yet, Israel continued to justify those violations by attacking those who spoke out against them.


The Israeli delegate, she added, during his statement today, had not referred to or recognized the root of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict even once – the occupation of Palestinian lands since 1967 and the subjugation of the Palestinian people.  No amount of “easing restrictions” would resolve that conflict.  “Lessening the crime while still committing the crime” was flawed logic.  Only ending the occupation would enable the Palestinian people to truly know the dignity and peace they had been denied for decades.  Among Israel’s many “empty and offensive pretexts” was today’s statement that ending the occupation was a compromise.


The international community’s position was clear and was reflected in the statements before the Fourth Committee and Security Council, as well as the principled support in the General Assembly.  That was the clear answer to Israel’s caustic arguments.


Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said that a number of delegations were spreading lies and accusations, trying to trample on the democratic process of the Fourth Committee as they did “back home”.  Their efforts would be better spent providing liberty to the women and minorities they oppressed in their own countries, rather than wasting the Committee’s valuable time.  Especially remarkable was the audacity of Lebanese delegate, given the corruption and violence in her country.  The representative of Lebanon must take a look at the refugee camps in her country where Palestinians were consistently discriminated against.


Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Lebanon said that her country had never politicized the discussion or deviated from it.  Since Israeli practices was the topic of the day, her delegation had limited itself to the reports submitted by the Secretary—General.  Lebanon was a founding member of the United Nations and a host country to thousands of Palestinians who had fled because of Israeli occupation and violence.  That was demonstrated by facts submitted, not only to this Committee, but to various other United Nations bodies.


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