RESUMED PEACE PROCESS ONLY HOPE OF ENDING MIDDLE EAST SUFFERING BELGIUM TELLS FOURTH COMMITTEE

8 November 2001
GA/SPD/224

RESUMED PEACE PROCESS ONLY HOPE OF ENDING MIDDLE EAST SUFFERING BELGIUM TELLS FOURTH COMMITTEE

08/11/2001
Press Release
GA/SPD/224


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

16th Meeting (AM)


RESUMED PEACE PROCESS ONLY HOPE OF ENDING MIDDLE EAST SUFFERING

BELGIUM TELLS FOURTH COMMITTEE


Committee Concludes Consideration of Report on Israeli Practices


A resumed peace process was the only reasonable hope of ending the sufferings of the peoples affected by the Middle East conflict, the representative of Belgium told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning, as the Committee 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.


Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, he said the Union condemned Israel’s blockade of the occupied Palestinian territories.  He also strongly condemned suicide attacks, in particular those targeted at Israeli civilians, which threatened the stability of the entire region.  The Union also condemned the Israeli Army’s reoccupation of zones under Palestinian control and considered extra-judicial killings illegal under international law and unacceptable.


Israel’s representative said the responsibility for the past year’s violence, which had cost both sides dearly in human life and resources, lay clearly with the Palestinian leadership.  It had erupted soon after Israel’s generous offers for a final status peace agreement at Camp David.  The violence was an attempt to coerce Israel into making further concessions.  It included the most repugnant kinds of terrorism, targeted at city crowds, schoolchildren and housewives, and was aggravated by official incitement through the Palestinian media and educational institutions.


Pakistan’s representative described as vicious propaganda Israel’s painting of the struggles of the people under occupation as terrorism, while it continued its activities aimed at consolidating that illegal occupation.  The occupiers were generalizing the unforgivable acts of a few individuals to cover the entire freedom struggle.  Terrorist acts could not be justified or used to malign legitimate freedom struggles, he stressed.


Yemen’s representative questioned whether it had become impossible to distinguish between the legal and the illegal, or terrorism and legitimate struggles against foreign occupation.  While terrorism at any level, whether perpetrated by individuals or groups, must be condemned by all, State terrorism was the worst form of all.


Iran’s representative said recent events had further demonstrated the necessity for an international intervention to protect Palestinian civilians from ever-increasing atrocities at the hands of Israel.  An international presence in the occupied territories might help to abate the intensification of the continuing violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention on Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, while the core issue of occupation was addressed.


Ghana’s representative said the international community had a duty to identify measures that would bridge the credibility gap between the parties to the conflict, restore confidence, and bring the parties to negotiations.  To that end, he called for actions and statements that would build rather than inflame existing tensions.  “After all, a raging inferno could hardly be doused by more fire”, he added.


The Committee also heard from the representatives of Cuba, United Arab Emirates, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Kuwait, Bahrain, Tunisia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.  Also speaking was a representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.


The representatives of Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia and Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply, as did the Observer for Palestine.


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 9 November, to take action on draft resolutions relating to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the report of the Special Committee on Israeli Practices.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to continue 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.  [For further information, see Press Release GA/SPD/223 of 7 November 2001].


Statements


YAW ODEI OSEI (Ghana) regretted that the Special Committee’s lack of access to the occupied territories limited its ability to directly observe the living conditions of the Palestinians and other Arabs.  Nevertheless, it was necessary for Israel, as the occupying Power, to uphold its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.  The international community must speak with one voice on that issue and help address any injustices in the territories.


He said that, given the heightened tensions of the past year, the international community had a duty to identify measures that would bridge the credibility gap between the parties to the conflict, restore confidence, and bring the parties to negotiations.  To that end, he urged conduct and utterances that would build, rather than inflame existing tensions.  After all, he said, a raging inferno could hardly be doused by more fire.  The way forward should be through confidence-building measures that reduced tension and encouraged flexibility and dialogue.


ORLANDO REQUEIJO (Cuba) said that, despite the international community’s efforts over the last few days, which had resulted in an agreement by the parties to meet again, the past year had seen unprecedented violence in the occupied territories.  Besides the many people killed and injured, the Palestinian economy had suffered and its very existence was in jeopardy.  Israel’s policy of blockade and closure had prevented Palestinian workers from earning their livelihood and kept families apart.  That was unacceptable.


He said that the use of conventional missiles, as well as the sort that used depleted uranium, against Palestinians defending themselves with stones highlighted Israel’s massive violation of Palestinian human rights.  Israel was also violating United Nations resolutions, international law and international humanitarian law.  As in previous years, the Special Committee’s report highlighted many violations.  The reasons for Israel’s refusal to allow the Special Committee access to the occupied territories was well known.  Cuba shared fully the aspirations of the international community to find a just and sustainable Middle East peace.


He expressed the hope that peace would be the result of a final solution to the Palestinian problem, which was the cornerstone of conflict throughout the region.  Cuba welcomed recent efforts by some countries to facilitate a meeting between the President of the Palestinian Authority and the Prime Minister of Israel as a step forward.  Cuba assured the Palestinian people of its full support for their rights, including the right to East Jerusalem as their capital.


MOHAMMAD HASSAN FADAIFARD (Iran) said that by using fighter aircraft, Israel had expanded the scale of brutality against unprotected Palestinian targets.  Israel’s security apparatus had also resorted to the selective assassination of Palestinian activists and political leaders on the basis of hit lists.  Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails had been subjected to psychological pressure and physical torture.


He said that during the past year, Israel’s policy of settlement in the Palestinian territories and in the occupied Syrian Golan had been expanded.  The number of settlers had increased by thousands during the year.  Several hundred Palestinian houses had been demolished and several thousand buildings shelled.  Thousands of olive trees had been uprooted and more than 3 million square miles of cultivated land destroyed.  At the same time, armed settlers had set Palestinian properties on fire in an attempt to occupy their land.


The incursion by heavily-armed Israeli forces into Palestinian areas constituted yet another heavy-handed criminal act by a government armed to the teeth against a defenceless population, he said.  The occupation lay at the very origin of the denial of Palestinian human rights and the international community had a responsibility to end it.  Recent events had further demonstrated the necessity for an international intervention to protect defenceless Palestinian civilians from ever-increasing atrocities at the hands of the Israelis.  An international presence in the occupied territories might help to abate the intensification of the continuing violations of the Geneva Convention, while the core issue of occupation was addressed.


       HAMAD HAREB ALHABSI (United Arab Emirates) said the report of the Special Committee highlighted the gravity of the violation of the rights of the Palestinians and other Arabs of the occupied territories.  The international community could only deplore those practices, aimed at continued colonization of the territories.  The destruction of agricultural lands on borders was certainly for that purpose, as was the issuance of increased building permits for settlements.


Figures, he said, showed that the Government of Ariel Sharon allowed more settlement-building than previous governments.  The authorities in East Jerusalem had also initiated projects to build 4,000 housing units there.  That colonization process was accompanied by a brutal military campaign, along with a policy of assassination, destruction of infrastructure and severe restrictions that victimized the population on a daily basis and ran counter to international law.


He called on the international community to put pressure on Israel to stop its massive violations in the region, and for an international mechanism to protect Palestinians.  The refugee issue must also be resolved as part of a just solution.  Israel’s systematic programme of misinformation did not allow the Special Committee access to the occupied territories.  That Committee must be allowed to perform its work, until a just and lasting solution was reached.


RI KYONG IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that the Special Committee’s work was an effective mechanism to expose the acts committed by Israel in the occupied territories and to discuss measures to improve the situation.  The bloody conflict of the past year had resulted in death and devastation, which had prompted deep concern among the international community.  Nothing could justify the continued expansion of settlements, indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilian areas and organized terrorism against opposition politicians.  He regretted that the Security Council turned down the demand to deploy United Nations forces to deter Israeli attacks.


The use of force was not a panacea, he said.  Complete resolution of the Palestinian issue was the only solution, including their return to their homes, self-determination and an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.  The return of the occupied Syrian Golan must also take place.  Israel should withdraw its troops from all the territories, in accordance with relevant resolutions and the principle of land for peace.  The struggle of Palestinians and other Arabs for self-determination was just.  He hoped the Committee would address the double standard of the Security Council and create practical measures to stop the repression of the Palestinian people and other Arabs and help them achieve their rights.


IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI (Pakistan) said that while continuing the activities aimed at consolidating an illegal occupation, the occupiers painted the struggles of the people under occupation as terrorism.  That was vicious propaganda.  The occupiers were generalizing the unforgivable acts of a few individuals to cover entire freedom struggles.  Terrorist acts could not be justified or used to malign legitimate freedom struggles.


He said Palestine remained one of two places in the world where innocent people continued to suffer under foreign occupation.  Illegal occupation anywhere was always based on violence and bloodshed and illegal activities against the occupied peoples was only a symptom of a deeper malaise.  What lay at the root was the occupation itself.  Every innocent life lost was a reminder of the need to address the root cause.


Although the peace process had been derailed, the will to put it back on track must not be lost, he stressed.  What was required was political will, rather than political expediency; complete, rather than selective implementation of Security Council resolutions; and concerted action, rather than empty debate.  All struggles were rooted in the will of the people and that will always prevailed.  No amount of force could suppress the determination of a people to free themselves from foreign occupation.  If the history of the struggle for freedom throughout the world was any guide, ultimately it was the will of the people that prevailed.  There could be no lasting security without lasting peace, which must be predicated on justice and international law.


JOHAN THANI ABDULLAH (Brunei Darussalam) said that the Special Committee’s task was an important one, made more difficult by Israel’s continued refusal to allow access to the occupied territories.  There had been no progress at all since last year’s discussion of the issue.  The fundamental human rights of the Palestinian and other Arab populations in the occupied territories continued to be violated. 


The suffering of those populations had gone unabated for far too long, he said, harming innocent women, children and the elderly.  He called on Israeli authorities to cease their illegal practices, implement all relevant United Nations resolutions and provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He also urged them to respect the Oslo agreements and resume negotiations based on recommendations of the Mitchell Report.  He reiterated Brunei Darussalam's full solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom.

TALAL AL-HAJERI (Kuwait) said it was unfortunate that the current Israeli Government had followed the course of its predecessors in disregarding international law and United Nations resolutions.  It had also continued to violate its bilateral agreements with the Palestinian Authority, including through the construction and expansion of illegal settlements.


He said the illegal practices of Israeli settlers and the occupation forces had also continued.  They included detentions, firing on innocent civilians, closures and targeted assassinations.  Those actions were being carried out in full view of the whole world.  The Israeli Government’s insistence on rebuilding Solomon’s Temple under the Al-Aqsa Mosque was a desecration and a violation of religious rights.


While Kuwait appreciated the efforts of the international community and those of some neutral countries, those efforts had failed to deter the Israeli Government.  It continued its arrogant disregard for Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and rode roughshod over all the accords it had signed with the Palestinian Authority, including the Oslo agreement, the Wye River agreement and the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.


FAISAL AL-ZAYANI (Bahrain) paid tribute to the detailed reports of the Special Committee, which testified to the decline of the enjoyment of human rights in the territories and the increase of repression on the part of Israel.  Settlement activities and exploitation of resources had also increased, and relevant international agreements had been ignored, including those that rendered null and void measures adopted by Israel to annex parts of the territories.


The Israeli authorities had continued to escalate their brutal practices, including killing, torture, demolition of property, restrictions, withholding tax revenues and others.  Within the framework of the Millennium Declaration, peace in the Middle East required adherence to all United Nations resolutions, other agreements reached and the principle of land for peace.  Such peace would not come until the occupation, which in itself was a violation of human rights, came to an end.


GERARD COCKX (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, reiterated the call on both parties to implement as swiftly as possible, without preliminary conditions, the recommendations of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Plan.  A resumed peace process was the one and only reasonable hope of ending a conflict that, if it continued, could only compound the sufferings of the peoples affected.


Noting that the dramatic economic and humanitarian situation was exacerbated by Israel’s blockade of the occupied Palestinian territories, he said the European Union condemned such practices.  It also condemned restrictions on the free movement of persons and goods, on humanitarian aid supplies and on the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).


He strongly condemned suicide attacks, in particular those targeted at Israeli civilians.  Nothing could justify such attacks and the Union warned against the wrongs of terrorism, which threatened the stability of the entire region.  The Union also condemned the Israeli army’s reoccupation of zones under the control of the Palestinian Authority.  Moreover, it considered extra-judicial killings illegal under international law and unacceptable.


Reiterating the Union’s opposition to the closure of Orient House and other Palestinian institutions of East Jerusalem, he said unilateral acts could do nothing to alter the international community’s long-standing position on the status of the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.  All construction or expansion of settlements in the occupied territories prejudiced the outcome of negotiations between the parties and were contrary to international law.  Moreover, the policy would not serve the cause of a just and lasting peace.  It must to stop immediately.


He called for the creation of an impartial surveillance mechanism, in agreement with the parties, which could help them to overcome their differences and the obstacles they were encountering in their reconciliation efforts.  The Union remained ready to contribute to such a mechanism.


NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) expressed gratitude to the Special Committee for its detailed report and important role.  The debate on Israeli practices this year took place during the escalation of a brutal campaign that had taken many lives.  The report highlighted Israel’s violations of human rights in the occupied territories, which ran counter to international conventions and United Nations resolutions.  Israel was confiscating lands to enlarge settlements and build roads for the exclusive use of settlers, among other practices.  It was demolishing Arab properties and groves and implementing extreme restrictions.


The situation, he said, was catastrophic, leading to despair on the part of the population.  It was time for the international community to work in earnest to achieve the withdrawal of Israel from areas it had reoccupied and to protect the human rights of the population of the occupied territories.  A just and lasting solution for the region must also be found, one that included an independent Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of the Syrian Golan.


ABDULAZIZ KAID (Yemen) said the Israeli practices in all occupied territories were clear violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and contravened Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  Had it become impossible to distinguish between legal and illegal, or terrorism and the legitimate struggle against foreign occupation? he asked.


Where were the human rights and human dignity of the Palestinians? he asked.  The images seen on television represented the law of the jungle and proved the arrogance and vindictiveness that were the hallmark of Israel’s attitude.  What was the true nature of Israel’s search for peace?  It seemed to have three approaches:  military force against Palestinian civilians combined with closure and blockades, talks and meetings; and the assassination of political leaders.


Confronting the Israeli policy of terrorism must be the responsibility of the whole world, he stressed.  While terrorism by individuals and groups at whatever level must be condemned by all, State terrorism was the worst form of all.  How many Palestinians had been killed since Ariel Sharon’s visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif?  That provocative action revealed his bloodthirsty mindset, previously demonstrated during the 1982 massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon.

MOSHE BENZIONI (Israel) said that the Special Committee was an example of the natural tendency for complex subjects to stagnate in large and complex organizations.  Though he did not doubt the good intentions of the members of the Special Committee, it was inherently flawed, producing, over the years, blatantly one-sided, partisan reports that resulted in greater hostility, counterproductive to peace.  After 33 years, such a negative entity should be given a well-deserved retirement.


The past year was disastrous for both Israel and the Palestinians, he said, with violence and incitement launched by the Palestinian Authority and defence measures taken by Israel.  That violence cost both sides dearly in human life and resources and continued, despite Israeli attempts at calming the situation.  The responsibility lay clearly with the Palestinian leadership.  The violence erupted soon after Israel’s generous offers for a final status peace agreement, made at Camp David, and was an attempt to coerce Israel into making further concessions.


Since then, he continued, there had been a revival of the most repugnant kinds of terrorism, including drive-by shootings targeted at city crowds, schoolchildren and housewives.  The situation had been aggravated by the incitement of the official Palestinian media and educational institutions.  The Special Committee report included no information on the factors that would make the present conflict understandable.


He, therefore, urged delegates to vote against the report, not only because it was dishonest, but because it also undermined the prospects for a peaceful settlement, to which Israel remained committed.  Such reports encouraged Palestinian extremists to pursue the path of violence.  Such Israel-bashing had made no positive contribution to peace and had no benefit for the Palestinian people.  Only the renunciation of violence and the pursuit of peaceful bilateral negotiations would accomplish that.


AHMAD AL- MANNAI (Qatar) said the violations by Israel continued unabated, despite the illegal character of the occupation and the international consensus against it.  Israel’s violations of international law, international humanitarian law and the relevant United Nations resolutions were an extension of its violations of human rights in the occupied territories.


Israel had continue to confiscate land and monopolize water resources, he said.  The Palestinian people were exercising their legitimate right to resist the occupation and to oppose the policies of blockade and targeted assassination, as well as the disproportionate use of military force against civilians.  The tragic events of 11 September must not prevent the international community from helping the Palestinians.  The world must resist Israel’s attempts to exploit the new tensions to escalate their actions.


He said the Special Committee’s report made it clear that Israel’s policy of closure and blockade was designed to compel the people of the occupied territories to leave their towns.  The same was true of the feverish pace of settlement construction and expansion, and the confiscation of new lands for bypass roads.  All those were part of Israel’s efforts to change the demographic character of the territories.  The changing of the demographic character and legal status of East Jerusalem was part of that objective.


AHMED AL-HARTHY (Saudi Arabia) expressed appreciation for the Special Committee in exposing the inhumane practices of the Israeli occupation forces, which flouted all humanitarian accords and conventions.  It was no wonder that Israel had not allowed access to the territories despite repeated requests.  Israeli, arrogantly, did not heed United Nations resolutions, allowing the use of heavy weapons against civilian populations and extra-juridical killings.


Israel was not thinking of peace, he said, when it imposed measures that were meant to consolidate its control, such as expanding settlements in the territories, Judaizing areas in Jerusalem and elsewhere and allowing heavily armed settlers to terrorize Palestinians.  All such practices ran counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He supported a just peace along the principle of land for peace, requiring Israeli withdrawal from all occupied land and an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.  Until that was achieved, the continued work of the Special Committee was necessary.


YUSSEF F. KANAAN, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said Israel’s wide-scale military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory was intended to explode the situation and to prevent the continuation of the peace process.  Israel’s exploitation of the tragic events of 11 September -- by intensifying its bloody campaign -- was aimed at, among other things, suppressing the positive developments on the international level with regard to support for a Palestinian State.


He said that, in accelerating the deliberate Judaization of Jerusalem and changing its legal status and demographic character, Israel had seized and occupied Orient House and other Palestinian institutions on 10 August 2001.  That illegal action, violating the letter and spirit of the bilateral agreements signed as part of the peace process, must be reversed.


The OIC had repeatedly called on the Security Council to shoulder its primary responsibility to end the present violence and provide protection for the Palestinian people living under occupation.  It was regrettable that the Council had turned a blind eye and remained silent regarding Israel’s repressive and illegal actions, and had failed to act in order to prevent further bloodshed and destruction.


He reaffirmed support for the just Palestinian struggle to end the Israeli occupation and realize their inalienable national rights.  The OIC also reaffirmed support for the Lebanese Government’s insistence on full Israeli withdrawal from the Shaba’a Farms and the release of Lebanese citizens in Israeli jails.  The OIC also reaffirmed that Israel’s policy of annexation and construction of illegal settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan were a grave violation of international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention and related United Nations resolutions.


Right of Reply


ABDUL MUNIM AL-KADHE (Iraq), in exercise of the right of reply regarding statements made by Israel and Kuwait, said that the Zionist Entity was the one that did not respect rights and could not be recognized by international law in any way.  The Special Committee had made no progress since it was originally set up, because that entity had continued to violate all resolutions of international organizations.


The Special Committee was not biased; it was just and fair that the Special Committee stood up for the underdog and condemned the inhumane practices directed against the victims of the occupation.  Populations had the right to liberate their territories.  That selfish entity, replied with State terrorism.  Its representative did not even attempt to react to the contents of the report, resorting instead to unfounded allegations.


Replying also to a remark made by Kuwait, he said that that country had drawn a false parallel between the Gulf War and the practices of the Zionist entity, which rendered Kuwait’s statement null and void and undermined the Palestinian cause.


FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for Palestine, asked how the Special Committee could be an anachronism when Israel daily continued to violate Palestinian human rights?  Palestine reiterated that it was the occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land that was a glaring anachronism and that must end immediately.  Only when the occupation ceased would the Special Committee’s work be fulfilled.


She said countless other committees, as well as bodies outside the United Nations, had detailed the human rights violations.  It was, therefore, pointless to question the Special Committee’s work.  History had shown that resistance to repression was the most basic and natural human response.  She drew attention to Switzerland’s announcement yesterday of its intention to reconvene the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention on 5 December.  That announcement reflected international concern at the grave situation in the field.


Mr. AL-HAJERI (Kuwait), responding to Iraq, reread what he had said in his statement to show that he had said nothing about the Gulf War and did not support Israeli aggression in any way.  He reiterated that Kuwait was the victim of occupation and, therefore, sympathized with the Palestinians, who were also under an occupying Power.  Iraq did occupy Kuwait and there was no other way of phrasing it.


RANI ISMAIL HADI BIN ALI (Malaysia), responding to the statement of Israel, said that if there was, indeed, extra-terrestrial life looking at the situation, as posited by Israel, it very well might understand the root causes of the conflict and draw the same conclusions as most of the international community.


Mr. BENZIONI (Israel) said some delegations had exploited the meeting to criticize the State of Israel.  The Palestinian people were not the enemy of Israel.  Violence and terrorism were the enemy.  Once the Palestinian Authority arrested those responsible, Israel would be prepared to resume peace negotiations.  Israel remained committed to the peace process through negotiations based on the Mitchell Report and the Tenet document.


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For information media. Not an official record.