SPEAKERS CONDEMN ISRAEL’S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION IN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES, CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL DISENGAGEMENT FORCE, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONTINUES DEBATE

6 November 2003
GA/SPD/277

SPEAKERS CONDEMN ISRAEL’S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION IN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES, CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL DISENGAGEMENT FORCE, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONTINUES DEBATE

06/11/2003
Press Release
GA/SPD/277


Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

20th Meeting (AM)


SPEAKERS CONDEMN ISRAEL’S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION IN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES, CALL


FOR INTERNATIONAL DISENGAGEMENT FORCE, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE CONTINUES DEBATE


Speakers condemned Israel’s violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people under its occupation, with several recommending the dispatch of international forces to the region, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning continued its debate on Israeli practices.


The representative of Pakistan said that, despite international legal frameworks safeguarding the rights of the occupied people and the United Nations resolutions adopted with their express consent, the occupying power in Palestine had refused to comply with its legal obligations.  For it to be credible, international law should not be seen as a tool in the hands of the powerful, and should be enforced indiscriminately and without conditions, particularly in cases where innocent lives were in danger due to State-sponsored heavy-handedness, he added.


The representative of Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union, strongly condemned terrorism, in particular the vicious attacks against Israeli citizens.  Such attacks were not only morally indefensible, but also damaged the interests of the Palestinian people, he added.  He also stressed the Union’s demand that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the occupied territory, as it undermined Palestinian’s trust in the “Road Map” and appeared to prejudge final borders of a future Palestinian State.  Continuing settlement activity threatened the basis for the realization of the two-State solution, as laid out in the Road Map, he added.


The representative of Israel said he saw no point in debating the contents of the Special Committee’s report, which he described as irrelevant at best and counterproductive at worst.  The report was not only dishonest and false, but also undermined the very prospects of a peaceful settlement under which such important issues as human rights were best resolved.  It was uncritical of aggression and terror and blind to compromise and accommodation, and could only provide Palestinian extremists with an incentive to eschew negotiations and pursue the path of violence.  In that context, he urged delegates to vote in favour of peace by voting against the Special Committee’s report and the resolutions associated with it. 


The Moroccan representative said the Road Map had given the world a glimmer of hope that had turned into a hail of bullets.  She said violence could not stop violence and military might and occupation could not crush the will of the Palestinian people.  The international community and world public opinion were awaiting a courageous move to stop the current cycle of violence, she added.


Stressing the need to achieve a fair and lasting solution to the conflict, several delegates called for international forces to be deployed in the region.  The representative of Senegal said he favoured the deployment of an international disengagement force that would provide security for civilians and establish a truce, so that both parties could return to the negotiating table.


The representative of the Permanent Observer Mission for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said that, during the tenth Islamic Summit Conference held in Malaysia last month, the OIC had urged the Security Council to endorse the Road Map for the Middle East and stressed the need to dispatch international disengagement forces between Palestinians and Israelis to guarantee stability and calm in the region, and to monitor the implementation of commitments by both sides.


At the end of the general debate, and following a proposal by the representative of Italy on behalf of the European Union, the Committee decided to postpone action on the draft resolutions on the operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and Israeli Practices.  The representatives of the United States and Australia supported the proposal, as did the Permanent Observer for Palestine.


Also speaking today, were the representatives of Malaysia, Cuba, Kuwait, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Bahrain.


Speaking in the exercise of the right of reply, were the representatives of the Permanent Observer for Palestine and Lebanon.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Tuesday, 11 November, when it is expected to take action on the draft resolutions.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to continue its discussion on Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.  [For background, see Press Release GA/SPD/276 of 5 November 2003.]


Statements


ZAHID HAMID (Pakistan) said that, despite international legal frameworks safeguarding the rights of the occupied people, and the United Nations resolutions adopted with their express consent, the occupying powers both in Palestine and in Jammu and Kashmir had refused to comply with their legal obligations.  For it to be credible, international law should not be seen as a tool in the hands of the powerful and should be enforced indiscriminately and without conditions, particularly in cases where innocent lives are in danger due to State-sponsored heavy-handedness, he added.


He said Israel should no longer ignore the United Nations.  The Fourth Committee should request the Security Council to take effective measures to ensure that Israel fulfilled its legal obligations, including allowing the United Nations to conduct unhindered monitoring operations in the occupied territories.  Israel, he continued, should also be called on to immediately halt all human rights violations against Palestinians, including the construction of the separation wall in the occupied territories.


RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) said it was deeply disappointing that Israel had continued to refuse to cooperate with the Special Committee in the fulfilment of its mandate.  The Government of Israel had not only prevented the Special Committee from observing the situation on the ground, but also deprived itself of the opportunity to express to the Committee its views on the matter.


He noted that the Special Committee’s report proved that its mandate must be continued until the violations of the human rights of the Palestinians and other Arabs living in the occupied territories ceased and the Israeli occupation ended.  The international community, he added, should stand united in addressing the blatant violations committed by Israel.


ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said his delegation had listened aghast to the statement of one delegation that its objective was the elimination of the Special Committee, when that body was needed now more than ever.  In the past year, there had been an escalation of violence without precedent in the occupied Palestinian territories.  The numerous efforts of the international community had not borne fruit, as Israel had not cooperated or complied with the numerous resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly.  The use, or threat of use, of the veto on any draft aimed at a fair and equitable solution had paralysed the Council. 


He said the aggressive actions of the Israeli army had intensified in the last year, resulting in much greater losses of life among the Palestinians.  Moreover, damage to the economy of the Palestinian Authority had threatened its very existence.  Today, some 60 per cent of the Palestinians lived below the poverty line.  In the occupied territories, the most modern military equipment was being used against the Palestinian people.  An unequal battle was being waged between a well-equipped army and a civilian population.


The report provided detailed information on Israeli efforts to continue the building of settlements in the occupied areas, he said, as well as acts of aggression against women and children, the separation of families and destruction of homes and properties.  In recent months, a new element had been added, namely the construction of a separation wall through occupied Palestinian territory, which represented an attempt to break up the territorial integrity of Palestine.  Since 1968, Israel had prevented the Special Committee from having access to the occupied territories, and he lamented that traditional lack of cooperation.  To achieve a fair and lasting peace, a final solution to the Palestinian problem had to be found, as it was a cornerstone of the problem in the region. 


MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. AL-OTAIBI (Kuwait) said it was regrettable that the Israeli occupation forces continued their inhuman practices against the Palestinians and that those actions were being exercised before the entire world without moral or political deterrent.


He said that, at a time when we the world had reaffirmed the importance of the efforts of the international community, the Israeli Government had continued its intransigent policies, with total disregard for all United Nations resolutions, as well as its agreements with the Palestinian Authority.  Kuwait, he said, reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian people to establish an independent State, with Jerusalem as its capital, and supported all negotiations, based on the understanding that the only way to end the conflict was through dialogue.


RI SONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said Israeli expansion continued, while the democratic rights and freedom of the Arab people, including the Palestinian people, were being ruthlessly trampled in the occupied Arab territories.  Recent Israeli actions, such as the building of the wall and a military attack into the Syrian territory in the name of a “war on terrorism”, were proof of that and constituted a wanton violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Realizing the legitimate right and demands of the Palestinian and other Arab people to restore the right to self-determination was fundamental for solving the Middle East issue.


He said the unilateral construction of a wall, the expansion of settlements and indiscriminate armed attacks should be stopped immediately.  Concerned States should help direct the parties, to enable them to find a solution through negotiation, and should refrain from any moves to protect and instigate illegal actions.  Israeli forces should withdraw, thereby ensuring a fair and comprehensive peace in the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan, in accordance with United Nations resolutions and the principle of “land for peace”. 


SAADIA EL ALAOUI (Morocco) said the Road Map had given the world a glimmer of hope, but that had turned into a hail of bullets.  The storming of cities, targeted assassination and use of excessive force against civilians living in the Palestinian occupied territories continued, while the human rights situation in the Syrian Golan also continued to deteriorate.  Large tracts of land in the Golan were being expropriated and turned into Jewish settlements, and the Arab people living there were prohibited from using water resources, which had been rerouted to Jewish settlements.


She noted that the separation wall penetrated deep into the West Bank, isolating whole cities and preventing access to water resources, thus causing great damage to arable land and depriving thousands of Palestinians of their livelihoods.  The wall, she added, was an annexation of Palestinian land.


She said violence could not stop violence and military might and occupation could not crush the will of the Palestinian people.  The international community and world public opinion were awaiting a courageous move to stop the current cycle of violence.  Morocco was ready to participate in the establishment of peace on the basis of a Palestinian State, the restoration of the remaining occupied territories to Syria and Lebanon and ensuring security to all states in the region, including Israel.


MOHAMED ALI SALEH ALNAJAR (Yemen) said the reports reflected frightening facts regarding the situation of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, especially the fact that over 50 per cent of the workforce was unemployed and about 60 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line.  It was not strange that Israel had prevented the Special Committee from visiting the occupied territories.  The international community was accustomed to Israel’s disregard of its resolutions and international legitimacy, including the recent resolution, which called for Israel to halt the separation wall.  That wall killed any hope of establishing a Palestinian State. 


The tragedy of the Palestinian people was rooted in a horrific, unprecedented occupation supported by the tools of modern warfare, he said.  If history were the best teacher, the history of resistance against occupation had numerous lessons.  He regretted that Israel had not seized the opportunities for peace and had refused the Palestinian hand that repeatedly extended an olive branch for peace.  He condemned the policy that was changing the nature of the occupied Syrian Golan and the legal status of the land by imposing administrative and legal jurisdiction on the territories.  Bloodshed would only led to more violence, and war would never lead to a permanent settlement of the conflict. 


HAYTHAM H. AL-MALKI (Saudi Arabia) said he was concerned about the continued deterioration of the security, social and economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.  Israel’s refusal to allow members of the Special Committee access to the territories made it absolutely clear to the international community that it was not serious in its search for peace.


He also highlighted the inhumane practices exercised by Israel in the Syrian Golan, such as the confiscation of properties and other racist measures aimed at erasing the cultural identity and changing the demographic balance in the area.  He called for an immediate end of the construction of the “racist wall” and for the international community to put an end to Israel’s violations of all international agreements and United Nations resolutions.


MARCO CARNELOS (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, expressed the strongest concern over the upsurge of violence in the Middle East, in particular in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.  The two parties must exert maximum restraint, stop the violence and respect their obligations to make progress towards full implementation of the Road Map.  The Union condemned, in the strongest possible terms, all acts of violence, terrorism and destruction in the region.  The cessation of violence and a lasting settlement between the parties was an indispensable prerequisite for improving the human rights situation in the occupied territories.  He urged both parties to end violent acts, including suicide bombings, and work towards a peaceful solution, as laid out in the Road Map.


The European Union strongly condemned terrorism, in particular the vicious attacks against Israeli citizens, he said.  Such attacks were not only morally indefensible, but also damaged the interests of the Palestinian people.  The authors of such acts were enemies of peace, and he called on all States to stop harbouring and supporting groups and individuals that used terror to advance their goals.


While understanding Israel’s security preoccupation and recognizing its legitimate right to self-defence, any measures to combat terrorism must be carried out in full respect of the principles and rules of international law, he said.  Only a negotiated settlement of the conflict, leading to the end of occupation and the creation of a viable Palestinian State, would bring the security that Israel was entitled to.  He called on the Israeli Government to exert maximum efforts to:  avoid civilian casualties; refrain from excessive and indiscriminate use of force against civilians; abstain from measures constituting collective punishment; halt extrajudicial killings; and act in full respect of international law. 


The Union was gravely concerned by the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian cities, as well as severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of persons and goods, he said.  He called on Israel to lift the blockade on the occupied territories.  Israel must undertake an expeditious withdrawal of occupying forces from Palestinian cities and return to positions held prior to 28 September 2000.  He called on Israel to take immediate steps to ensure full, safe and unfettered access by international and humanitarian personnel to the occupied territories.


Continuing, he said the Union demanded that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the occupied territory, as it undermined Palestinian’s trust in the Road Map and appeared to prejudge final borders of a future Palestinian State.  The Union also called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including the planned expansion of existing settlements.  He was also deeply concerned by the Government’s recent decision to expand settlements, including in and around East Jerusalem.  Continuing settlement activity threatened the basis for the realization of the two-State solution, as laid out in the Road Map.


The Union, he said, reaffirmed the strategic importance of the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace.  He reiterated the Union’s call on the Authority to take visible efforts to fight terrorism, prevent terrorist attacks and dismantle terrorist networks.  Its capacity to detain and prosecute terrorists must be restored and implemented.  The Palestinian Authority must unequivocally denounce terrorism and stop all incitement.  The Palestinians must continue efforts to reform the Palestinian Authority, including the consolidation of the security forces under the control of the Prime Minister, to strengthen good governance, transparency, the devolution of power and the credibility of the Authority as a partner in the peace process.  The Union requested all Palestinian organizations to immediately declare a ceasefire without conditions.


OUSMANE CAMARA (Senegal) said Israel’s only aim was to destroy the economy of the territories and undermine all development efforts.  He called for Israel to fully comply with humanitarian stipulations of the Geneva Convention and to put an end to physical punishment and reprisals against people’s properties in the occupied territories.


He said it was the international community’s historical duty to denounce and fight Israeli actions, which undermined attempts at a peaceful resolution of the conflict.  The current stalling in the peace process indicated that the time had come for the international community to be more robust in its search for peace in the region.  In that context, he reiterated that Senegal favoured the deployment of an international disengagement force that would provide security for civilians and establish a truce, so that both parties could return to the negotiating table.


ARYE MEKEL (Israel) said the Special Committee, since its establishment, had done little more than produce hostile propaganda against the State of Israel.  The inherent bias of the Special Committee was evident in both its title and mandate, which presupposed that Israel’s actions violated the human rights of the Palestinians.  Furthermore, the Committee’s title and mandate precluded the possibility that others had acted to affect Palestinian human rights, including other States in the region that had acted to prolong the conflict and aggravate the suffering of the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian leadership, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, which preferred to incite terrorism, rather than denounce it as immoral and illegal.  Today, the Palestinians endured the effects of leaders who had chosen the path of violence over the path of negotiation.


He saw no point in debating the contents of the Special Committee’s report, he said.  Irrelevant at best and counterproductive at worst, the report was not only dishonest and false, but also undermined the very prospects of a peaceful settlement under which such important issues as human rights were best resolved.  It was uncritical of aggression and terror and blind to compromise and accommodation, and could only provide Palestinian extremists with an incentive to eschew negotiations and pursue the path of violence.


An anti-peace document, the report was antithetical to the historical imperatives of the United Nations, and a gross misuse of time and resources, he said.  The Special Committee expended an inordinate percentage of the Organization’s limited resources on a narrow political agenda.  In the 2004-2005 proposed programme budget, the Special Committee had requested some $248,300 to cover three meetings in Geneva, a visit to the region and operating costs for participating in the Fourth Committee’s debates.  The United Nations Human Rights Commission, however, which fulfilled a global human rights mandate, had requested a budget of just $211,600, including an annual six-week meeting in Geneva and the operating costs of numerous working groups.


Sixteen United Nations staff members had accompanied the Special Committee on a three-week field mission.  That oversized entourage of 16 staffers accompanying three diplomats, included 10 interpreters.  Still, it seemed that the Committee’s inherent bias and its failure to recognize the true cause of suffering had been lost in translation, despite that large number of interpreters.  Israel had nothing against the members of the Special Committee.  The problem lay primarily in the prescribed mandate itself, which ensured that the Committee would do little other than produce a report that was highly critical of Israel, while ignoring all the actions of the Palestinians and other parties that were responsible for instability and unrest in the region. 


Israel had no conflict with the Palestinian people, he stressed.  They were neighbours and he wished them well.  Israel also had nothing against the people of Syria or Lebanon.  It was eager to engage in negotiations on all outstanding issues between the parties.  Such a process was the only possible way of achieving a lasting settlement, based on mutual recognition and compromise.  He urged delegates to vote in favour of peace by voting against the Special Committee’s report and the resolutions associated with it.  The best thing to do was to abolish the existence of the counterproductive Special Committee, he said.


ABDULHAMID O. YAHYA (Libya) said the authorities of the Israeli occupation had continued all forms of aggression toward the Palestinian people, taking advantage of the 11 September events in order to implement the dream of totally eliminating the Palestinian people.  There was no doubt that a “certain kind of genocide” was being conducted against the Palestinian people, in order to confiscate their land and establish a purely Jewish State.  It was totally clear that the separation wall removed any hope of achieving a peaceful solution to the Palestinian question in the future.


He said it was necessary to implement reforms in the General Assembly regarding the enforcement and implementation of its resolutions. If it wanted peace and security, Israel had no option but to withdraw from the occupied territories.  He called on the international community and the Security Council to pressure Israel into putting an end to its practices in the occupied Arab territories, to implement all international resolutions on the issue and to withdraw from the territories.


FAISAL AL-ZAYANI (Bahrain) said Israeli acts of aggression constituted a flagrant violation of human rights, particularly the right to life, which was consecrated in many international conventions.  The Special Committee’s report was replete with many Israeli practices that affected human rights, including Israel’s settlement policy, which had assumed a new level with the construction of the separation wall.  The length of that wall would be some 650 kilometres, penetrating deep into parts of the West Bank.  The portions of the wall already constructed separated villages and towns from the West Bank.  The majority of witnesses before the Special Committee had made clear that the major problem facing Palestinians and other Arabs was the continued military occupation by the Israeli forces of their homeland.


One of the matters raised by the Special Committee was the unprecedented demolition of homes and properties, he said.  The Committee had also said that Israeli authorities had put in place an elaborate system of administrative measures that affected all aspects of the Palestinians and Syrians in the occupied territories.  The laws were framed in such a way that they vested officials with a considerable degree of authority and latitude over the lives of the people concerned.  On the policy of closures, he said that policy had lead to, among other things, the sharp downturn in the Palestinian economy and reduced access to services.


On the occupied Syrian Golan, Israeli practices were multifaceted, he said.  The occupation power had attempted to entrench its occupation in contravention of numerous United Nations resolutions.  The occupied Syrian Golan was witnessing an expansion of the settlements.  The occupying power’s practices were major obstacles on the path to peace.  Peace was a strategic choice.  The suffering of the Palestinian people would never end, as long as the Israeli settlement policy continued.  Occupation was, in itself, a violation of human rights.


YUSSEF F. KANAAN, of the Permanent Observer Mission for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said Israel had reached unprecedented depths of disregard and suppression of human rights, and continued, in full view of the world’s spotlight, to pursue its policy of excessive and indiscriminate use of force against innocent Palestinian civilians.


During the tenth Islamic Summit Conference held in Malaysia last month, the OIC had urged the Security Council to endorse the Road Map for the Middle East, as published, and to set up an implementation mechanism within a well-defined time frame, he continued.  It had also stressed the need to dispatch international disengagement forces between Palestinians and Israelis to guarantee stability and calm in the region, and to monitor the implementation of commitments by the two sides.


Right of Reply

The representative of the Permanent Observer for Palestine said that the comments made by the representative of Israel regarding the Special Committee revealed Israel’s total contempt for its work and for the rule of international law.  The reason for the Special Committee’s existence was the occupation of Palestinian territories and the systematic violation of the human rights of its population, she added.


She said it was extremely difficult to understand calls for the elimination of the Special Committee.  A stateless community calling on the international community to uphold international law should not be criticized and belittled for doing so, while Israel encouraged others to adopt its illegal position, rather than abide by international law.  Regarding the Israeli comments on the waste of United Nations resources, she called on Israel to consider how much would have been saved if Israel complied with United Nations resolutions.


The representative of Lebanon asked delegations to reject Israel’s comments on the work of the Special Committee.  He regretted the fact that Israel had left the room after having made his statement.  He had accused the Committee of not being neutral.  Not one of the Committee’s members, which came from Sri Lanka, Senegal and Malaysia, was directly concerned with the conflict.  How could any group be more neutral?  There was a right and wrong, an occupation and a people being treated unjustly. 


Regarding the Israeli representative’s stated concern for the Organization’s resources, if Israel were keen on the Organization’s resources, it would only have to stop its inhumane practices.  If that happened, the Committee’s work would no longer be needed.  The Israeli delegate had said he had nothing against the Palestinians.  Israel had nothing against them, yet it had had been occupying their territory since 1967.  Israel had no problem with the Palestinians, while it was importing immigrants from around the world.  Now, Israel was constructing a wall.  F-16 jets and Apache warships bombed civilians, and yet, Israel had no problem with the Palestinians.


Israel had occupied the Golan since 1967, yet it had no problem with the Syrians, he said.  They were doing everything possible to Judaize the Golan.  Lebanon wanted to live as neighbours with Israel in peace, and wanted to establish normal relations with it, with the condition that Israel withdraw from the occupied lands. 


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For information media. Not an official record.