NATURAL RESOURCES OF PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, SYRIAN GOLAN THREATENED UNDER ISRAELI OCCUPATION, SAY SECOND COMMITTEE SPEAKERS

21 November 2001
GA/EF/2980

NATURAL RESOURCES OF PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, SYRIAN GOLAN THREATENED UNDER ISRAELI OCCUPATION, SAY SECOND COMMITTEE SPEAKERS

21/11/2001
Press ReleaseGA/EF/2980

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

29th Meeting (AM)

NATURAL RESOURCES OF PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, SYRIAN GOLAN THREATENED

UNDER ISRAELI OCCUPATION, SAY SECOND COMMITTEE SPEAKERS

By Mutual Agreement, Says Israel, Issues Under Discussion

Belong in Direct Bilateral Negotiations, Not in Second Committee

The economic and social repercussions of Israeli occupation were discussed this morning by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) as it took up the topic of the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.

Introducing the report of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), its Executive Director Mervat Tallawy said that Israeli activities in the occupied areas contradicted the United Nations Charter and its principles and the provisions of Security Council resolutions.  The findings of the report underlined the need to discontinue collective punishment of an entire people through border closures, the withholding of resources and revenue, the destruction of homes, property and infrastructure, and the illegal establishment of settlements. 

She added that Israeli practices in the occupied territories had had a devastating effect on the living conditions of the Palestinian people, and that situation was deteriorating with each passing day.  Moreover, Israeli policy disregarded international norms and undermined the objectives set forth in international conventions and agreements.  It posed a serious threat to peace and security in the whole region

The representative of Israel said that the report before the Committee was one-sided and did not present a balanced view of the situation.  For instance, it ignored the fact that under agreements already reached between the two sides, the Palestinian Authority exercised jurisdiction over natural resources, while the interim cooperative arrangements were in place. 

The issues referred to in the report were matters that the parties had agreed would be comprehensively dealt with through direct bilateral negotiations, he said.  They had no place in the Committee.  Prejudging the outcome of

negotiations would do nothing to further the cause of peace in the region.  The Mitchell Plan was now accepted as a common document.  The first thing that must be achieved was the unconditional cessation of violence and terrorism, followed by a meaningful cooling-off period.  Israel, for its part, was ready and willing to have a total ceasefire.

The observer of Palestine said that, despite any positive developments in recent years in the peace process, Israel had persisted in its confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, justifying those illegal practices under various pretexts.  In all of their manifestations, those illegal practices were carried out to the detriment of socio-economic development.  That had seriously undermined the efforts of the international donor community in recent years to assist the Palestinian people in attaining sustainable development.

The destructive policies and practices of the occupying Power over the past year had included the uprooting of countless fruit-bearing trees on Palestinian land and the razing of entire agricultural fields, she said.  Moreover, Israel continued to steal, exploit and cause damage to the natural heritage of Palestinian lands by sabotaging ancient water cisterns.  It had also destroyed the natural environment by dumping solid and chemical waste into Palestinian villages.

It was impossible to deal with the matter without looking at a comprehensive Middle East settlement, said the representative of the Russian Federation.  The Palestinian Authority should take decisive steps against terrorists and Israel should stop the use of its army in the occupied territories and put an end to extrajudicial killings.  Dialogue at the highest level needed to be resumed and the recommendations of the Mitchell Plan should be implemented.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Qatar, Malaysia and Pakistan.

The observer of Palestine exercised her right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to take up the topic of training and research.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to consider the issue of the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.  Before the Committee is a note by the Secretary-General transmitting a report on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/56/90, E/2001/17), prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

The report states that delays in implementation of the agreements reached between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the fact that those agreements have not been fully implemented, and the delay in reaching a final status agreement intended to settle all outstanding claims between the two parties, continue to have an adverse effect on the living conditions of the Palestinian people.  Moreover, these delays and Israeli practices, particularly with regard to settlement expansion and the closure of passage routes, were among the primary causes of the outbreak of current tensions and violence, with thousands of people, including children, killed or wounded.

During its 34-year occupation, says the report, Israel has established a range of civilian and military installations through the occupied Palestinian territory.  It has established approximately 170 settlements in the West Bank with a civilian population of some 200,000.  In addition to settlement expansion and the seizure of land, water remains a critical issue for Palestinians.  Over 150 West Bank villages, home to some 215,000 Palestinians, are not connected to running water.  As a result, a number of municipalities in the West Bank have been forced to establish a rotation programme between different areas of the town, in order to distribute the little water they have.

Not only does waste produced by Israeli settlements located in the occupied Palestinian territory continue to degrade the area’s water resources, the report states, but Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territory remain insensitive to environmental considerations, thereby compromising the Palestinian population’s quality of life.  The condition of the water in the River Jordan has deteriorated dramatically owing to wastes coming from Israeli settlements which affected the river’s fish and led to the loss of an important source of water life.

A report of November 2000 noted the domino effect of Israeli curfews on the environment, the report states.  For example, medical waste produced in the hospitals is not being disposed of properly.  Transportation means to central dumping facilities are being cut off and local autoclaving units are overwhelmed and often inoperable.  In the Gaza Strip, numerous solid-waste piles accumulated and collection efforts were interrupted owing to the continued closure of transportation routes.

In regard to forests, the report adds, about 80 per cent of the deforestation of land in the occupied Palestinian territory is attributable to the Israeli occupation:  78 per cent to settlements, two per cent to military bases and one per cent to bypass roads.  Moreover, the Israeli military and Jewish settlers have uprooted more than half a million fruit trees on privately owned land.  As of 9 November 2000, 4,495 olive trees had been cut down by Israeli forces.

On economic issues, the report states that the loss of employment in Israel plus mobility restrictions and border closures have resulted in an average unemployment rate of 38 per cent (more than 250,000 persons) as compared with 11 per cent (71,000 persons) in the first nine months of 2000.  Owing to the high dependency ratio, unemployment now directly affects the incomes of about 900,000 Palestinians, or 29 per cent of the population.  The report adds that the direct economic losses arising from movement restrictions are estimated at 50 per cent of Gross Domestic Product for the four-month period from October 2000 to January 2001, and 75 per cent of wage income earned by Palestinian workers in Israel.  The total loss is estimated at $1,150.7 million, equal to 20 per cent of the projected GDP for the year 2000 (assuming no border closures).

Since the beginning of the crisis, the report adds, there has been a 50 per cent increase in the number of people living below the poverty line, estimated by the World Bank at $2.10 per person per day in consumption expenditures.  The number of poor people has increased from about 650,000 to 1 million.  The poverty rate has increased from 21 per cent to 32 per cent.  Thus, the occupation and the ensuing crisis have had deleterious effects on the welfare and quality of life of the Palestinian people.

In regard to the Syrian Golan Heights, the employment opportunities for the Arab population there continue to be restricted, since the movement of the Arab population between the Golan and Syria remains problematic.  The employment available to the Syrian population in the Golan is limited to unskilled and semi-skilled daily wage labour.  In most instances, these workers have no access to social benefits or health insurance, and job security is precarious, with no provision for unemployment compensation.  Over and above these concerns, substantial wage differentials prevail, to the detriment of the Syrian Arab population of the Golan.

Introduction of reports

MERVAT TALLAWY, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCWA, introduced the report on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation.  She said the report covered the period from April 2000 to March 2001.  However, it should be noted that the situation had deteriorated further in recent months.  In its resolution 1322 of 7 October 2000, the Security Council expressed its deep concern over the tragic events that had led to numerous deaths and injuries, mostly among Palestinians, since 28 September 2000.

In considering the report, she said, the Committee might wish to bear in mind the basic principles of international law and jurisprudence related to self-determination and the occupation of territory by force.  In that regard, the Fourth Geneva Convention related to the protection of civilian persons in time of war stipulated that the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

Palestinians were faced with the growing problem of pollution from Israeli settlements, she said.  Various waste products, including industrial wastes, were dumped on Palestinian land, which contaminated water resources and had a devastating effect on public health.  There was a severe water shortage owning to Israel’s control over the supply of water.  Moreover, several ongoing projects dealing with the treatment of wastes had been put on hold indefinitely.

Israeli activities in the occupied areas contradicted the United Nations Charter and its principles and the provisions of Security Council resolutions, she said.  The report underlined the necessity of discontinuing collective punishment of an entire people through border closures, the withholding of resources and revenue, and the destruction of homes, property, infrastructure and illegal establishment of settlements.  Israeli practices in the occupied territories had had a devastating effect on the living conditions of the Palestinian people, and that situation was deteriorating with each passing day.  Moreover, the policy disregarded international norms and undermined the objectives set forth in the international conventions and agreements.

AHMED AL-HADDAD (Yemen) said the situation of the Palestinian people was very grave.  The Israeli authorities continued to destroy civilian infrastructure and violate human rights.  Many people this year, including old people and women, had been killed by the Israeli army.  Settlements in the West Bank and in the Golan were illegitimate and illegal under international law.  One aspect of the deterioration of the lives of Palestinians was the closures of Palestinian territory.   Those closures hindered movement within the West Bank and Gaza.  There had also been a closure of movement between the West Bank and Gaza.  That hurt students the hardest, because they could not attend schools in the West Bank.  It also hindered economic activity because no products could be transported between the two areas.

In addition, he noted that Israeli control over water resources had been maintained and there were more than 150 Palestinian villages that had no drinking water resources.  Waste was being pumped from sewers that polluted water reservoirs as well as the river Jordan.  In the occupied Golan, thousands of hectares of natural reserves were destroyed by Israel.  The population of the Syrian Golan was subject to work restrictions.  All Security Council resolutions in regard to the Middle East conflict must be enforced, and the people of the occupied territories must be able to enjoy all their social and economic and human rights.

ABDULLAH AHMED SAEED AL DHANHANI (United Arab Emirates) said that repeated appeals, as well as United Nations resolutions asking Israeli to bring a halt to its occupying activities, had gone unheeded.  Israel continued to pursue a policy of colonization and occupation.  For the last 13 months the mass media had shown the world pictures of Israeli aggression and the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people.  Arab inhabitants had been driven from their homes to make room for outsiders from all corners of the earth.  Israeli violations and illegal actions were not confined to repressive practices.  There was clearly a deliberate colonialist design to confiscate more and more land.

That policy jeopardized the Palestinian community, particularly in Al-Quds, he said.  Moreover, water resources were being polluted.  Armed settlers were at the same time destroying fruit orchards and spilling industrial wastes in the occupied territories.  That had contributed to spreading dangerous disease throughout the area.  Those actions were clearly in violation of international law and should be stopped.  The Security Council should rise to the occasion and put an end to the flagrant violation of the rights of Palestinian people.

WALID A. AL-HADID (Jordan) said the General Assembly had reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan to their natural resources, and had requested Israel not to exploit those resources.  It had also reaffirmed the right of Palestinians to claim restitution if those resources were damaged.  Further, the Assembly reaffirmed that the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories were illegal and constituted an impediment to peace.  Over the years Israel had established some 170 settlements with a population of around 200,000, which had negative economic and social impacts.  The geographical distribution of those settlements restricted the growth of Palestinian communities and damaged the environment, including the quality of water available to the Palestinian territories.

Also, he said, due to the incentives given to Israeli industries, many of them had established their operations in the occupied territories and dumped their harmful wastes in Palestinian lands, further affecting their water resources.  Israeli occupation impeded economic growth, and the flow of investments had been slowed by political uncertainties over the Territories.  Also, Israel worked to impede trade and economic relations between Palestinians and neighbouring Arab countries.  He called for ending all illegal settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.  Continuation of settlement activity not only impeded the peace process but was also a flagrant violation of international law and Security Council resolutions.  Peace and settlement building were mutually exclusive.

SAMI ZEIDAN (Lebanon) said that the operation and survival of a Palestinian State depended on various factors –- health services, infrastructure, economy, trade, industry, telecommunications, transportation and agriculture.  However, under Israeli occupation, efforts to that end had been ridiculed and shunned.  Under Israeli occupation, Palestinians were confronted with a policy that aimed at freezing any economic development and preventing independent economic growth.  Sadly, the Palestinian economy today was an “economy under siege” -- and the world stood watching.

The deterioration of the situation and the flagrant violation of the human rights of Palestinians since 28 September 2000 had exceeded all limits.  Once again, like every year, there was not a single human right that had not been violated by Israel.  Israel had reimposed its policy of closure, isolating towns and cities in a form of collective punishment against the Palestinians and their institutions.  Why?  To destroy everything on which the life of the Palestinians was based.  The same could be said of southern Lebanon, where workers and employers continued to pay dearly for the consequences of military occupation, in social as well as economic terms.

NADYA RASHEED, observer of Palestine, said that despite any positive developments in recent years in the peace process, Israel had persisted in its confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, justifying those illegal practices under various pretexts.  In all of their manifestations, those illegal practices were carried out to the detriment of the socio-economic development of the Palestinian people and the Arab population of the Syrian Golan.  Such policies had also severely impeded Palestinian efforts for sustainable development.  That had seriously undermined the efforts of the international donor community in recent years to assist the Palestinian people in attaining sustainable socio-economic development.

As such, she continued, the impact of those illegal Israeli practices should be of even greater concern for the international community.  Further, the continuation of such practices undermined what remained of the peace process and the Palestinian and Israeli agreements reached.  For all of the above reasons, those practices by the occupying Power must cease.

The destructive policies and practices of the occupying Power over the past year had included the uprooting of countless fruit-bearing trees on Palestinian land and the razing of entire agricultural fields, she said.  Settlement expansion, land confiscation, the demolition of homes and the issue of water all remained critical issues facing the Palestinian population.  Since 1967, Israel had not altered its policies concerning water in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.  Israel drew more than 80 per cent of the water produced from the West Bank hills and permitted Palestinians to draw less than 20 per cent of their own water resources. 

Moreover, she continued, Israel continued to steal, exploit and damage the natural heritage and environment of the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan, by sabotaging ancient water cisterns and destroying the natural environment by dumping solid and chemical waste into Palestinian villages.  Also, waste produced by Israeli settlements located in the occupied Palestinian territory continued to degrade the area’s limited water resources.

DANIEL MEGIDDO (Israel) pointed out that the report before the Committee was one-sided and did not present a balanced view of the situation.  For instance, it ignored the fact that under agreements already reached between the two sides, the Palestinian Authority exercised jurisdiction over natural resources, while the interim cooperative arrangements were in place with respect to many shared resources, pending the outcome of permanent status negotiations.

Such negotiations, he continued, would need to take into account the fact that the geographical proximity between the parties would require a cooperative and realistic approach, beyond rigid concepts of sovereignty and mitigated by principles of international environmental law.  Indeed, the issues referred to in the report were matters which the parties had agreed would be comprehensively dealt with through direct bilateral negotiations.  They had no place in the Committee.  Prejudging the outcome of negotiations would do nothing to further the cause of peace in the region.

He said that what was now accepted as a common document was the Mitchell Plan.  The first thing that must be achieved was the unconditional cessation of violence and terrorism, followed by a meaningful cooling-off period.  Once that was attained, the parties could commence with confidence-building measures and move to political negotiations.  Israel, for its part, was ready and willing to have a total ceasefire.

EVGENY STANISLAVOV (Russian Federation) said the conditions of the Palestinian people had continued to deteriorate.  Delays in implementation of agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority only furthered that deterioration.  The constant increase in the number of Palestinians living below the poverty level was compounded by the occupation.  It was impossible to deal with those matters without looking at a comprehensive Middle East settlement.  Reports from the region showed that the situation continued to be very tense and very dangerous.  Terrible terrorist attacks had been followed by reprisals, creating a cycle of violence.

The Russian Federation called upon the Palestinian Authority to take decisive steps against terrorists, he said.  It also called on the Israeli authorities to stop the use of its army in the occupied territories and put an end to extra-judicial killings.  His country had taken steps to bring an end to the violence in the region -- a matter that was at the centre of his Government’s attention.  Dialogue at the highest level needed to be resumed, and the recommendations of the Mitchell Commission should be implemented.

HAZEM FAHMY (Egypt) said that contrary to any statements made by Israel to hide its true intentions, its occupation and colonialist practices continued.  Israel continued its policy of expanding settlements in occupied territories, thus further damaging the environment and violating the rights of the Palestinian people.  Despite United Nations resolutions to the effect that the settlements were illegal, the occupation authorities had not ceased their activity.  But their actions did not stop at settlements:  they also polluted the environment, plundered waters and stifled economic activity.  There had also been attempts to undermine the education opportunities of the Palestinian people and the Arab population of the Syrian Golan.

The culture of international community life and the concept of good governance had been discussed in great detail in the United Nations, he said.  Many countries had offered glamorous concepts, such as human security and the protection of human rights, but those did not seem to apply to the case of the Palestinian people living under occupation.  He called upon all States favouring the promotion of human rights to emerge from their shameful inactivity in regard to violations of Palestinian rights.  Those States should not apply double standards; they should human rights themes in a subjective way.

HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) said the latest report gave new examples of the suffering of the Palestinians and the other Arabs in the occupied territories under the continuing Israeli occupation.  While the international community persisted, through General Assembly and Economic and Social Council resolutions, in reaffirming the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to their natural resources, Israel continued to flout international law and relevant resolutions.  It did so by establishing settlements, confiscating Arab lands and expelling Arabs from those lands.

The Israeli Prime Minister had said that Israeli settlements in the Golan reflected one of the greatest successes in the history of Zionism, he said.  In saying so, he was acting in defiance of Security Council resolutions which stipulated that Israeli practices in establishing settlements in the occupied territories was illegal, and constituted an obstacle to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  Israel continued to impose its will by force, and made a virtue out of practicing terrorism.  Its Prime Minister did not shrink from asserting a policy of intimidation and murder.  Israeli policies were an attempt to change the demographic facts on the ground while unjustly exploiting the natural resources of the Occupied Territories.

HAMAD AL-DOSARI (Qatar) said the report demonstrated the negative impact Israeli occupation was having on the Palestinian people and on the occupied territories.  Israel continued its policy of collective punishment, attacking religious sites, confiscating natural resources, including water and land, and ignoring the rights of the Palestinians.  An intensification of settlement activity could be seen in the occupied areas, including in Al-Quds Al-Sharif.  The occupation presented a major obstacle to the Palestinian Authority’s ability to exercise sovereignty over the lands entrusted to it.

Those practices, he said, stood in the way of bringing genuine peace to the region.  Israel imposed severe restrictions and kept the population from deriving any positive use from their resources.  Israel was also responsible for polluting and degrading the environment.  All of that constituted violations of recognized human rights.  An end must be put to the occupation, and the Palestinians must be able to exercise their right to self-determination.  He appealed to the United Nations to do what it must to guarantee the right of Palestinians to exercise their rights over their natural resources.

GANESON SIVAGURUNATHAN (Malaysia) said it was clear that during its 34-year occupation, Israel had established a range of civilian and military installations throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.  Those settlement sites had been built by civilian and military bodies representing the Government of Israel, as well as by Israeli civilians empowered by Israel to undertake such activity.  That was in clear violation of the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council and the principle of land for peace, as well as the agreements reached between the two parties.

He called on Israel, the occupying Power, not to exploit, to cause loss or depletion of or to endanger the natural resources of the Palestinian occupied territory and the Syrian Golan.  He continued to recognize the right of those peoples to claim restitution for such illegal activities.  Only the implementation of all international resolutions on the Palestinian issue could guarantee lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.  His delegation hoped to see a future environment that would bring development and opportunities in a peaceful and stable Middle East.

MOHAMMAD HASSAN (Pakistan) said that the continuing Israeli occupation and frequent border closures of Palestinian-controlled territory had severely impacted on the economic and social development of the Palestinians.  There were four major aspects of that occupation.  First, the geographic distribution of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories had severely restricted the growth of Palestinian communities.  All applications by Palestinians for building permits had been rejected, but expansion of Israeli settlements had not stopped.

Secondly, the settlements posed threats to the environment, he said.  The inhabitants of those settlements dumped their waste, especially industrial waste, into Palestinian lands.  Contamination of water resources was having a negative impact on public health.  Thirdly, Palestinians were not being allowed to live on their land and enjoy their natural resources.  Fourthly, the macroeconomic impact of Israeli occupation was quite severe.  It had inhibited investment and economic growth.  Political uncertainty aggravated by the recent violence about the future permanent status, and the still-weak legal and institutional environment constituted continuing obstacles to investment in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Right of Reply

Ms. RASHEED, observer of Palestine, said it was not only the report before the Committee that reflected the impact of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinians.  Other reports, including those of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, had also outlined the plight of the Palestinians.  The Israeli representative had restated the Israeli myth that it had made a most generous offer at Camp David in offering the Palestinians all of their land.  That myth had been confirmed by the officials present at Camp David. 

On the question of violence and terror, the Palestinians had made clear their unwavering commitment to the peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question, she said.  It was Israel that had pursued a policy of terror, in addition to the confiscation and destruction of Palestinian lands.  The Israeli Government had built 17 new settlements despite international condemnation.  Hence, Israel was indulging in double talk. 

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For information media. Not an official record.