SECOND COMMITTEE DISCUSSES IMPACT OF ISRAELI OCCUPATION ON PALESTINIANS AND ARABS OF SYRIAN GOLAN

7 November 2002
GA/EF/3017

SECOND COMMITTEE DISCUSSES IMPACT OF ISRAELI OCCUPATION ON PALESTINIANS AND ARABS OF SYRIAN GOLAN

07/11/2002
Press ReleaseGA/EF/3017

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Second Committee

28th Meeting (PM)

SECOND COMMITTEE DISCUSSES IMPACT OF ISRAELI OCCUPATION

ON PALESTINIANS AND ARABS OF SYRIAN GOLAN

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory had severely depleted environmentally vital forests, valleys, hills and ecosystems, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said this afternoon as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) discussed the question of permanent sovereignty of Arab populations over the natural resources of the occupied Palestinian and Syrian Golan territories.

He said that Israeli forces had levelled large areas of land, destroying wells and agricultural facilities that were vital to Palestinian livelihoods.  In addition, the Palestinian economy had suffered huge losses due to Israel's imposition of severe restrictions on movement, which had led to a sharp drop in imports and exports, a 65 per cent unemployment rate and an increase to

50 per cent in the number of people living below the poverty line.

Jordan’s representative, citing World Bank statistics, said that the gross domestic product in the occupied Palestinian territory had fallen 30 per cent between 1994 and 2001.  The occupation's negative impact on natural and environmental resources had left 200,000 Palestinian inhabitants of 218 West Bank villages without access to water.  In the occupied Syrian Golan, he added, the Israeli settler population had risen 13 per cent since 1994, leaving the local Arab population with limited employment opportunities and virtually no health care or employment benefits.

Syria’s representative pointed out that the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories was a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  He added that Israel had denied access to water resources to Syrians in the Golan and prohibited them from building wells and water tanks.  Meanwhile, the occupiers were selling confiscated water to the Arab population at premium prices.

The Observer for Palestine said that Israel had razed agricultural land in the occupied territory, prohibited Palestinians from drilling water and destroyed olive harvests.  The dire social and economic effects of the occupation had pushed more than half the Palestinian population into poverty and brought the economy to a virtual standstill, he stressed.  Economic losses brought on by restrictions on movement, prolonged closures and curfews between 29 September 2000 and July 20002 totalled an estimated $11.5 billion.

Israel's representative emphasized that the Palestinian Authority had jurisdiction over natural resources under agreements between the Israeli and Palestinian sides and that interim cooperative arrangements were in place regarding shared resources pending the outcome of permanent status negotiations.  He said thousands of Palestinian students had participated in programmes offered by his country's Center for International Cooperation in the health, environment, technology, agriculture, science, education and other fields.

The Chief of the Regional Commissions, New York Office, introduced a report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people and the Arab population of the Syrian Golan.

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Egypt, Yemen, Malaysia, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Tunisia, Lebanon and Pakistan.

A senior official of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) also made a statement.

The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, when it is expected to take up an agenda item on high-level international intergovernmental consideration of financing for development.

Background

The Second Committee met this afternoon to take up an agenda item on 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 resource.

Before the Committee was a report on 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/57/63-E/2002/21).

Prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the report concludes that Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territory, delays in implementing agreements reached between that country and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and delays in reaching a final solution to all outstanding claims between the two parties continue to aggravate Palestinian living conditions.

The report notes that the Israeli military has resorted to excessive use of force, house demolitions, increasingly severe mobility restrictions and closure policies, negatively affecting the Palestinian economy and living conditions.  Internal closures have divided the West Bank and Gaza Strip into 54 isolated areas, and the strict closure policy and mobility restrictions since September 2000 have seriously impeded the ability of aid agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance.

According to the report, the primary cause of the conflict is the estimated 190 Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza housing approximately

380,000 settlers.  These settlements, as well as roads bypassing Palestinian communities, deprive the Palestinians of agricultural land, fragmenting both land and people.

The report states that there is an extensive yet comparatively smaller settlement infrastructure in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights with some

17,000 Israeli settlers in 33 settlements.  The failure of negotiations between Israel and Syria in March 2000 has led to reinvigorated settlement expansion and has continued to restrict employment opportunities and access to schools for the Arab population.

Also before the Committee was a letter dated 27 September 2002 from the charge d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Sudan to the Secretary-General (document A/57/458-S/2002/1125).  It transmits the text of the final communique adopted at the September 2002 Annual Coordination Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of States members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Introduction of Report

SULAFA AL-BASSAM, Chief, Regional Commissions New York Office, introduced the report, saying that the upsurge of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and occupied Syrian Golan had continued and confrontations increased in severity.  The situation was characterized by the use of heavy conventional weapons, extrajudicial killings and collective punishment of the civilian population.  Many innocent civilians had been killed in the bombing of villages or by gunfire.  The cycle of violence had extended to Israeli citizens who had been killed by suicide bomb attacks in Israel itself and by gunfire directed against settlers on bypass roads or in the proximity of settlements.

She said that the Israeli authorities had completely or partially destroyed 660 homes housing 845 families and a significant amount of agricultural land.  The creation of buffer zones for constructing bypass roads and building settlements had resulted in the sweeping of large areas of agricultural land by bulldozers.  The destruction had also included the uprooting of a vast number of fruit and olive trees, and had resulted in the demolition of wells and agricultural constructions.  Checkpoints, closures and curfews had severely impeded access to medical care, education and employment.

Severe restrictions on freedom of movement had inevitably created severe economic, social and psychological hardships, and had brought further setbacks to an already fragile economy, she said.  The percentage of Palestinians living in poverty had more than doubled and over 50 per cent of the workforce was now unemployed.

She said that some 190 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were linked to each other and to Israel by a vast system of bypass roads.  Israeli measures taken during the period under review had brought about further land degradation and water resource damage, as well as halting essential infrastructure work.  Some 200,000 Palestinians living in 218 West Bank villages had no running water and the restrictions on movement made it difficult for tankers to transport water to affected communities.  Some 36 Palestinian villages, with a total of 86,255 inhabitants, reportedly had no water supply for periods ranging from a week to two months.

In the occupied Syrian Golan, she said, employment opportunities for the Arab population continued to be extremely restricted and those fortunate enough to find work, had no access to social benefits, health insurance or unemployment compensation.

Statements

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, Observer for Palestine, said the Palestinian Authority had taken many steps to create an institutional framework for the foundation of a Palestinian State, formulating a strategic development and building plan to reverse more than 35 years of destruction committed by Israel during its military occupation.  Israel’s exploitation and destruction of Palestinian natural resources had ranged from the razing of agricultural land to policies prohibiting Palestinians from water drilling to the theft and destruction of olive harvests by illegal Israeli settlers.

The dire social and economic repercussions of the Israeli occupation, as documented by the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations, had pushed more than half the Palestinian population into poverty and brought the economy to a virtual standstill.  From 29 September 2000 to 31 July 2002, Palestinian economic losses totalled an estimated $11.5 billion due to restrictions on movement, including prolonged closures and curfews.  Such measures had severely hindered the production and distribution of goods and services, fuelling unemployment, which had reached

62.3 per cent in areas under curfew.  Poverty levels had reached 70 per cent in the Gaza Strip, according to the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

HAZEM FAHMY (Egypt) said the deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan was affecting the most valuable human resource -– life itself.  The Israeli military had continued to terrorize the local population and push them out of their lands, a situation that should not be acceptable to the international community.  It was a shame and a scandal that Israel was allowed to be above the law in continuing its occupation.

AHMED AL-HADDAD (Yemen) said that the social and economic conditions of Palestinians had worsened due to Israel's illegal occupation, as documented by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA).  Peace talks had failed due to illegal Israeli practices in Palestine and the occupied Syrian Golan.  Seizures and curfews, as well as insults at major border crossings and checkpoints, had negatively impacted the Palestinian economy and psyche.  In addition to occupying Palestinian land, Israel had gone on to destroy major infrastructure, including 68 kilometres of the main transport network and air traffic controls at the airport.  Half the Palestinian population lived in refugee camps in dire economic, social and psychological conditions and the water network was inaccessible to most of their villages, causing severe health problems. 

In the occupied Syrian Golan, he said, Israel was intent on building more settlements, a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer and migration of Israelis to the occupied areas.  Syrian Arabs in the occupied Syrian Golan were subjected to employment discrimination, with lower wages than other workers, and had no health care benefits.  Arabs were routinely relegated to menial jobs and denied work, which was given to foreign workers.  That trend had fuelled unemployment among Arabs in the Syrian Golan, he added.

CHEAH SAM KIP (Malaysia) said that Israel’s indiscriminate and excessive use of force and heavy weaponry, extra-judicial killings, destruction of homes and infrastructure, severe mobility restrictions and closure policies had aggravated the rapidly deteriorating living conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory.  The situation had caused enormous hardship and misery to the Palestinian people and adversely affected their economic and social well-being, denying them any possibility of development.

He reminded Israel that the General Assembly had reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, and called on Israel not to exploit or endanger those natural resources.  It had also recognized the right of those peoples to claim restitution if their natural resources were damaged.

Israel had been unjustly exploiting the natural resources of the occupied territories and had negatively affected the environment, he said.  That had led to land degradation and water resource damage and essential infrastructure work supported by the international aid community to improve the Palestinian environment had ground to a halt.  Israel’s obstructive activities had also resulted in water pollution sand a severe water crisis.

Mr. AL-SULAITI (Bahrain) said that Israel’s continued occupation was a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thwarted the region’s ability to achieve international peace, a goal shared by all Arab States.  Israeli forces, continuing their flagrant human rights violations, had drained the occupied Arab areas of natural resources and continued to implement settlement policies, destroying Palestinian homes and razing land.  Curfews and closures had seriously weakened education, while restrictions on water resources and industrial chemical waste were poisoning the population and causing serious health problems.

Moreover, he said, Israel’s policy of giving jobs to foreign workers rather than Arabs, and relegating Arabs to menial jobs had fuelled unemployment in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan.  He called on Israel to implement Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and withdraw its forces and settlers to the pre-1967 borders.  Bahrain also called for the creation of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

SAEED BIN HAMMAD AL TUNAIJI (United Arab Emirates) said Israeli occupying forces had levelled large areas of agricultural lands in the occupied Palestinian territory to establish settlements and buffer zones around the bypass roads.  That had resulted in the loss of more than a million fruit and olive trees as well as the demolition of wells and agricultural constructions, which were vital to Palestinian livelihoods.  The closure policy had divided the West Bank and Gaza Strip into 54 isolated areas.  Severe mobility restrictions and check points had caused huge losses to the Palestinian economy, leading to serious decline in Palestinian imports and exports.  The result was an upsurge in unemployment to

65 per cent, and an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line to 50 per cent.

Even after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, Israel had continued to control water resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, following arbitrary policies and measures that severely harmed the agricultural sector, he said.  Those measures, which included restrictions on the construction of wells and prevented access to Palestinian agricultural lands, had aggravated the agricultural crisis, which already suffered from siege and closure.  In continued violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Security Council resolutions, Israel had pursued an expansionist policy, establishing more settlements and bypass roads and destroying Palestinian natural resources, leading to the loss of important forests, valleys, hills and ecosystems.

Mr. AL-MANNAI (Qatar) said the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan was the main obstacle to peace in the entire Middle East region and a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  As revealed in the ESCWA report, curfews, border closings, and restrictions on movement had severely crippled the Palestinian economy and limited the production and distribution of goods and services.

Israel had destroyed Palestinian homes, crops, essential transport and sewage infrastructure, hospitals and schools, he said, as well as cutting off media and humanitarian access to the territories.  Half the Palestinian population had been pushed into poverty, he said.

The Israeli's expansion of settlements and discriminatory employment practices in the Syrian Golan had fuelled overcrowding of Syrian villages and unemployment.  He called on Member States to increase financial and humanitarian support to the Palestinians, full Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories, and the creation of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

SABAH AHMAD (Iraq) said that Israel’s occupation, its confiscation of land and use of energy resources had severely affected the Palestinian economy.  The General Assembly had recognized the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority over their natural resources, but the plundering of the occupied Palestinian territory and of the Syrian Golan continued.  Israel had not complied with General Assembly resolutions or even responded to calls from friends to end the occupation.  It had violated humanitarian law in flouting international conventions regarding the treatment of occupied people and the occupation continued to threaten international peace and security.

He said an historic opportunity had been given to the General Assembly to succeed where the Security Council had failed in maintaining peace and security.  Israel’s occupation had resulted in displacement, closures, the destruction of houses and a serious deterioration of the economic and social situation that had severely affected women, the elderly and children.  International law clearly stipulated the responsibility of States to uphold compliance with the Geneva Convention, which meant they were bound to pressure Israel into ending the occupation and abiding by the relevant Security Council resolutions.

WALID AL-HADID (Jordan), lauding the ESCWA report's description of Israel’s illegal occupation as a major impediment, a threat and obstruction to development and progress in the region, said that restrictions on access to water and agricultural resources, curfews and restrictions on the movement of goods continued to deprive the Palestinian people of security and prevent the creation of an independent Palestinian State.  Israel had set up checkpoints, destroyed the Palestinian international airport’s radar systems and runway, destroyed the Gaza port and several roads linking Palestinian cities.

Frequent curfews and restrictions on movement had thwarted the ability of Palestinians to immunize children against major diseases and to keep schools open.  The subsequent negative impact on the economy had caused poverty to double since the present crisis began.  Citing World Bank statistics, he said that gross domestic product growth had fallen 30 per cent between 1994 and 2001.

The occupation had left 200,000 Palestinians in 218 West Bank villages without access to the water system, he said, noting that the average water consumption of Palestinians in the occupied areas was 60 litres -- half the minimum amount needed -- versus an average of 350 litres for Israeli settlers.  In the occupied Syrian Golan, the Israeli settler population had risen 13 per cent since 1994, while the Syrians had limited employment opportunities and virtually no health care or employment benefits.  He called upon the international community to commit more financial resources to improving the lot of the Palestinian people and ensuring full Israeli withdrawal and the creation of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr. AL-DORAEE (Kuwait) said that Israel’s occupying force had destroyed houses, agriculture, land, industrial facilities and infrastructure.  They had imposed closures and curfews and barricaded the people from neighbouring countries.  The occupation had increased unemployment and forced two-thirds of the Palestinian people to live below the poverty line.  Israel had rejected the fact-finding mission sent by the Security Council to investigate the tragic situation under which the Palestinian people were living.  That was clear proof of the brutal practices of the occupying Power.

He described Israel’s claim to be acting in self-defence as a mockery of human values and international norms.  It had rejected many United Nations resolutions, challenged the international community and placed itself above the law.  The occupation had established more than 140 settlements, in which more than 2,000 Israel settlers now lived.  It had stopped the flow of investments, which had led to suffering and depravation in the occupied territories.  The occupation had also resulted in a deterioration of the environment and degradation of natural resources.  For example, the occupiers had dumped industrial waste in the Jordan River and on the West Bank, which had led to a deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinian people.

AMOS NADAI (Israel) said that since the launch of the peace process, his country attached particular importance to joint efforts to improve the living conditions of both Israelis and Palestinians through control over natural resources, water rights, development of industry, poverty eradication and sustainable development.  Thousands of Palestinian students had participated in programmes offered by the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Cooperation in such areas as health, environment, technology, agriculture, science and education.

Unfortunately, the new millennium had not brought improvements to the situation in the region, he said.  The Palestinian Authority and some Arab nations had continued their political campaign against Israel in every international arena, contradicting the principle of direct negotiations.  The report before the Committee must be viewed in that context, he said, adding that it failed to mention that under agreements between the parties, the Palestinian Authority exercised jurisdiction over natural resources, while interim cooperative arrangements were in place with respect to shared resources pending the outcome of permanent status negotiations.

MOHAMED FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia) said the international community was witnessing a war in the Middle East that was bringing the situation daily to the brink of an explosion.  Continued occupation over several decades and delays in the implementation of agreements reached between the Israeli and Palestinian sides were the direct cause of aggravations to the Palestinian people.  About

190 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as several others in the Syrian Golan Heights, had been illegally established and had led to the blocking of roads, expulsions, extrajudicial killings and taxes on ambulances and medical personnel.  Some 660 houses had been completely or partially destroyed, the Gaza airport and port had been destroyed and thousands of olive trees had been uprooted.

He said that the excessive use of force, which included aerial bombing and the use of helicopter gunships, had resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians.  The occupation was a systematic act of aggression against the Palestinian people, which was pushing them into ever-deeper despair.  The Israeli Government had rejected United Nations resolutions as well as any resumption of the peace process.  Clearly, it had become urgent for the international community, particularly the Security Council, to end a grave situation that was conducive neither to peace nor security in the region.  The Palestinians must be allowed to exercise their right to freedom and dignity with their own sovereign State, he stressed.

MAJDI RAMADAN (Lebanon) noted that more than 920 Palestinians had been killed and about 827 houses completely or partially demolished by the Israel military between September 2000 and January 2002.  Over the past year, Israel had violated human rights, breached international conventions protecting people under occupation and continued its refusal to implement several Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

Israel had systematically destroyed the Palestinian economy and institutions built in the last decade, mainly with the help of the European Union and some Arab countries, he said.  Closures, curfews and checkpoints were the three main elements of the organized Israeli policy to destroy the Palestinian economy and divide the West Bank and the Gaza Strip into more than 54 isolated zones.  The closure policy had incurred more than $3 billion in losses to the Palestinian economy and had raised unemployment to 50 per cent.

He said Israel had reduced Arab farming lands in the occupied lands from 14,000 acres in 1966 to 8,400 acres in 1987, confiscated large tracts of land and prevented irrigation.  Confiscations had been carried out under the pretext of security and the Arab population had been prevented from digging artificial wells.  The real reason behind that was to divert those water resources to Israeli settlements.  The depletion of Arab resources in the occupied Syrian Golan had forced those people to abandon their agricultural work for unskilled daily labour.

SHAHID HUSAIN, Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the ESCWA report was shocking and dismaying in its description of Israel’s use of heavy conventional weapons against the Palestinian resistance, its extrajudicial killings and collective punishment of Palestinian civilians, unrestrained use of tanks, helicopters, fighter jets and sophisticated missiles against lightly armed as well as unarmed Palestinians.  Between September 2000 and January 2001, Israeli forces had killed 558 Palestinians in the West Bank, and 364 in Gaza.

In the Syrian Golan, Israel had confined 17,000 Syrians to four villages and closed the Syrian-Lebanese border, while importing the same number of Israelis into 33 newly constructed settlements, he said.  Employment opportunities for Syrians were abysmal and confined mainly to unskilled and semi-skilled labour and Syrian workers were denied social benefits and health insurance.

He said the Conference was keeping a serious watch on the economic and social conditions in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, and that in June, it reaffirmed its commitment to extend economic, technical, material and moral support, including preferential tariff rates and tax breaks for Palestinian exports.  He called upon the international community to pressure Israel for the release of tax and tariff revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority.

ABDOU AL-MOULA NAKKARI (Syria) said that in recent Economic and Social Council meetings, his delegation had detailed the daily suffering of people in the occupied Syrian Golan and the continuing deterioration of the local economy.  In addition, Israel had resorted to extrajudicial executions and the use of missiles, fighter jets, ships, tank fire and all forms of arbitrary force to murder Arabs.  The ESCWA report also pointed to the large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, incarceration of civilians and psychological torture.

The expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories was a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, he said.  The report also revealed the devastating environmental impact caused by the destruction of Palestinian crops, vineyards, trees and water supply.  Israel had denied Syrians access to water resources in the Golan and prohibited them from building wells and water tanks, while selling confiscated water to the Arab population at premium prices.

Citing an Amnesty International report released a few days ago, he said Israeli forces had committed war crimes in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin during its invasion from April to June.  Syria urged the international community

to condemn Israel’s violations of Syrian and Palestinian human rights and to support the full withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories.

MANSOOR KAHN (Pakistan) said that Israel’s relentless occupation and denial of Palestinian rights had continued to cause serious social, economic and environmental problems for the Palestinians.  The deterioration in the security situation had led to increased feelings of hopelessness among the people, while the increase in Israeli settlements deprived them of valuable agricultural land and resources needed for their survival.

Outlying villages had no access to drinking water and land was being degraded by the felling of trees and building of roads, he said.  Almost 50 per cent of the Palestinian people were living below the poverty line, the gross national product in the Palestinian territory had declined severely and the flow of investments had decreased.  He supported the struggle of the Palestinian people, including their inalienable right to self-determination.

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For information media. Not an official record.