SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ISRAEL HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS NEEDS TO CONTINUE IMPORTANT ROLE, GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ISRAEL HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS NEEDS TO CONTINUE IMPORTANT ROLE, GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
24th Meeting (AM)
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ISRAEL HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS NEEDS TO CONTINUE
IMPORTANT ROLE, GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD
International Community Must Have ‘Sense of Outrage’ at Continued
Violation in Occupied Arab Lands; Israeli Non-Cooperation is Chided
The international community must recognize, with a “sense of outrage”, that Israeli actions against Palestinians had gone on unabated for far too long, Malaysia’s representative and member of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning, as it concluded its debate on the Special Committee’s report.
He referred to the “wilful killing of Palestinians, mass arrests, destruction of Palestinian houses, confiscation of Arab lands and other forms of collective punishment”, and said it was imperative that the Special Committee be allowed to continue its important role.
A number of speakers expressed regret that Israel had rejected visits by Special Committee members to the occupied territories.
The representative of Venezuela said Israel could not claim self-defence without the use of proportionality, as the use of force would then become aggression. There was no excuse for implementing policies of land annexation, curtailment of movement and engagement in selective killing. Israel had shielded itself behind the anachronistic use of the veto power by the United States to support its actions.
The representative of India, while welcoming Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, said he had hoped those actions would culminate in a negotiated settlement, in accordance with the Road Map and Security Council resolution obligations and that the recent Palestinian elections would have enabled the peace process. Condemning all terrorist acts and disproportionate retaliatory measures, he urged parties to exercise restraint and return to the negotiating table.
Representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Qatar and Lebanon also spoke.
The representatives of Israel, Iran and Syria spoke in right of reply, as did the Permanent Observer for Palestine.
The Fourth Committee will meet again tomorrow, Thursday 9 November, at 10 a.m. to conclude its work for the sixty-first session.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to continue its general debate on 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 background information see Press Release GA/SPD/361 of 6 November).
SONG SE IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the Palestinian people’s struggle was a just cause, as they wanted to restore their territory and exercise their right to self-determination. The question of Palestine was a regional and international one, linked directly with the achievement of peace in the Middle East. Israel continued to attack Palestine militarily and to violate the human rights of the Palestinian refugees. International measures for a fair and peaceful settlement of the question had never been implemented.
He said some countries intended to remove items of the Middle East question from the agenda of the Assembly, under the pretext of United Nations reform. Such action would not be justified, since it ran counter to the will of the international community to settle the question in accordance with the interest of the Palestinian and Arab people. The questions of Palestine and the Middle East should be settled in a fair manner and in strict accordance with international law and with the Assembly resolutions that had been adopted by Member States for decades.
AMR ELSHERBINI ( Egypt), denouncing increased military aggressions and Israeli violations of international law, said Israel’s rejection of visits by Committee members to the occupied territories was of deep concern, as that decision in turn led to the cancellation of a November 2006 regional visit.
He said it was important to address several issues in the Special Committee’s report, including the serious deterioration of human rights in the Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan, which had not been witnessed since 1968. The Committee should echo the call of the Human Rights Council for sending a fact-finding mission, led by the Special Rapporteur, and urge Israel to cease its excessive use of force. Continuous violations of Palestinian rights by the occupying Power must be stopped, and freedom of movement and religious practices must be respected. Israel’s construction of the wall in the West Bank isolated Palestinians; Egypt welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the Register of Damage.
He said the confiscation of Palestinian lands and natural resources, resulting from the settlement policy and the construction of the wall and military incursions must both be addressed. Egypt continued to reject Israeli attempts to annex the occupied Syrian Golan, saying it should withdraw from all Occupied Arab Territories, including the Syrian Golan, to the limits set in 1967. He called on the international community, including the Quartet, to ensure Israel’s implementation of its “Road Map” obligations. Egypt would continue its efforts with different parties to resume talks to achieve a two-State solution and a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
WANEED AL SHAMI ( Yemen) said the Special Committee’s report clearly reflected the unprecedented deterioration of the human resources situation in the Occupied Territories as a result of Israeli aggression and a policy of collective punishment, as well as the continued construction of the wall, the suspension of donor aid and Israel’s non-payment of tax revenues. The residents of the occupied Syrian Golan were not spared that fate either.
He condemned Israel’s aggression and State terrorism as shown, he said, in the massacres in Gaza some days ago. He called on the international community and the United Nations, with the Security Council at the forefront, to shoulder its responsibility and put an end to the aggression against the Palestinian people. The policy of escalation would only lead to more killing and aggression.
He said the Palestinian people were subjected to inhuman violations of their human resources, killings and destruction under the nose of the international community that did not lift a finger to stop it. He reaffirmed that a just, comprehensive and lasting peace could not be established until Israel withdrew to pre-1967 borders, and until an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, was established. He called on the international community to consider the Arab request to revive the peace process; it was important for Israel, the occupying Power, to abide by its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention. He said he supported the Special Committee’s recommendations, including that the Council should impose sanctions against Israel.
AHMED GEBREEL ( Libya) said he regretted the international community’s inability to deal with Israeli terrorism and its violation of international law over the last two years. The total area of land confiscated by Israel had reached nearly 39,051 hectares. Israel claimed it was a democracy, yet it continued to build the wall, despite resolutions and the ruling of the International Court of Justice. He urged the rapid creation of a special record of damages as result of those measures, and said Israel should provide compensation.
He said the establishment of the wall had damaged all aspects of Palestinian life. The number of detainees held by Israel numbered more than 10,000, in 30 prisons; among those were 4,000 children. Why had the international community not condemned Israel’s continuous massacres, from which no woman, child or elderly person had been free, he asked.
He said he questioned why States had not threatened sanctions against those who committed crimes in Lebanon. Were they deliberately ignoring Israeli practices?
He said the international community should take steps to find innovative means to account for all aspects of the Palestinian question, and urged an immediate halt to all settlement activities and the building of the wall. He said Israeli withdrawal from Gaza did not negate that area’s status as an Occupied Territory.
The situation in the Occupied Syrian Golan was no less tragic, he said, since Israel was attempting to exploit the resources of the area. He appealed to the international community to heed the call of the Human Rights Council to send a fact-finding mission to the occupied Palestinian Territory, and said the Security Council should consider imposing sanctions against Israel, if it continued to violate its international obligations.
FAISAL EBRAHIM AL-ZAYAMI ( Bahrain) said the Special Committee’s report provided a wealth of information on the troubled situation in the Occupied Territories, and was alarming in the way it showed the deterioration of the situation there. It reflected the atmosphere of tension resulting from the increasingly oppressive practices of the Israeli forces. He said that, while a resolution of the Human Rights Council had called upon Israel to abide by the rules of international humanitarian and human rights law, to release detained Palestinian officials, and to end the occupation, attacks on Gaza had become more vicious. Israel had used fighter jets as well as Apache helicopters, tanks and heavy artillery units; that aggression was new proof of Israel’s intention to scuttle the peace process.
He said United Nations resolutions had established that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, including Jerusalem, were illegal. Israel was called upon to closely abide by its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Despite United Nations resolutions and the opinion of the International Court of Justice, Israel continued to build the separation Wall. In the occupied Syrian Golan, Israel continued to build settlements and confiscate lands and was trying to erase Arab culture. That was contrary to resolutions stipulating that Israel’s decision to impose its laws on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without legal impact. Israel’s actions, he said, were a blatant violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions.
He said a comprehensive peace required implementation of United Nations resolutions and the provisions of the Madrid Conference, as well as application of the principle of land-for-peace and implementation of the provisions of the Road Map and the Arab peace initiative, including establishment of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
FAISAL ABDULLAH HAMAD AL-HENZAB ( Qatar) said the level of anger in the Middle East had reached a level that had not been seen since the establishment of the Special Committee and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had indicated a crisis. Steps should be taken to encourage a solution.
The report highlighted that Israeli policies had led to the deprivation of the most basic human rights, including that of self-determination, freedom of movement, health, freedom of expression and attainment of a decent standard of living. Living standards had declined and the humanitarian situation had become severe. Moreover, increased violence against Palestinians had been a form of collective punishment for exercising their right to democratically elect the Hamas Government. He said there had been the destruction of public and private property and cruel and insulting treatment of detainees in Israeli prisons that countered international law and relevant provisions of the Geneva Conventions.
On the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said Israel was attempting to change the urban character and legal status of that area. Israel should change its policies to show its goodwill in the peace process and compliance with resolutions. The role of information and its dissemination by the Special Committee, he said, and information on the Question of Palestine on the United Nations website, was useful. He welcomed the regular coverage by United Nations radio of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as coverage in the United Nations Chronicle.
SHATRUGHAN SINHA ( India) said he welcomed implementation of Israel’s disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. India had originally hoped those actions would culminate in a negotiated settlement in accordance with Road Map and Security Council resolutions, and also that the elections in the Palestinian National Authority would enable resumption of the peace process. However, international reluctance to deal with the newly-elected Palestinian Government led to suspension of international assistance and Israel’s non-payment of taxes to the Authority.
He said India’s support for the Palestinian cause remained central to its foreign policy. Condemning all terrorist acts and disproportionate retaliatory measures, he said he urged the parties to exercise restraint and return to the negotiating table. He regretted that members of the Committee had been unable to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territory or the Syrian Golan; the Special Committee’s report would have benefited from a site visit.
He said he was concerned that the increased sense of desolation among people in the region had led them to question the role of the United Nations in the current crisis. Given that circumstance, India had launched modest efforts to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in Palestine, including a $3 million pledge of donor assistance to the Palestinian National Authority. He urged the adoption of measures to improve security and economic conditions in accordance with the Road Map and reaffirmed India’s commitment to a negotiated two-State solution for a viable, sovereign Palestinian State.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said that, as a member of the Special Committee, he shared the disappointment expressed by others over the persistent refusal of Israel’s Government to cooperate with the Committee. Israel had deprived itself of an opportunity to express directly to the Special Committee its views on the questions being investigated. That attitude demonstrated that Israel intended to continue to prevent the international community from having full knowledge of the actual humanitarian and human-resources situation of those living in the Occupied Territories.
He said the ongoing construction of the separation wall undermined the humanitarian and human-rights situation of those living under Israeli occupation and negatively impacted the social fabric of Palestinian communities. “The Wall is the most visible sign of the transformation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory into a vast open-air prison, something which is unprecedented in our modern history,” he added.
He said, the international community must recognize with “a sense of outrage” that the wilful killing of Palestinians, mass arrests, destruction of Palestinian houses, confiscation of Arab lands and other forms of collective punishment, as well as Jewish settlement policies and activities, had gone on unabated for far too long. It was imperative that the “independent and indispensable” Special Committee be allowed to continue with its important mandate until such time when the human rights violations committed by Israel had ceased and, equally important, when the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan had ended.
JAVIER GOMEZ GONZALEZ ( Venezuela) said anger in territories, illegally occupied by Israel, had been exacerbated to levels not seen since the Special Committee’s mandate had been established. He said Israel’s violent actions could not be justified and it could not claim self-defence while there was no proportionality. The use of force then became aggression.
Further, there was no excuse for implementing policies of land annexation, curtailment of movement and engagement in selective killing. He said self defence could not justify the suffering and death of the defenceless. He asserted that Israel had demonstrated its impunity with support from the United States and that country’s anachronistic use of the veto power. Israel had shielded itself behind that power to support its actions while people continued to die in the Occupied Territories.
Since there was no pretext for the invasion of one State by another, he continued, the international community must continue to adopt measures to alleviate suffering of defenceless people and pressure Israel to see reason. Without interference by the United States, the question of Palestine would have been answered and the end of suffering seen long ago.
CAROLINE ZIADE ( Lebanon) said that, although Israel claimed to wage a war against terrorism, it was wrong for it to continue to occupy Palestinian territories, to kill Palestinian children and displace them, to close checkpoints, to continue to build a separation wall and to continue the Israeli practices that had been rejected by experts. The only right way to show commitment to the mandate of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security was for Israel to cooperate with the Special Committee, so that it could continue its mission.
She said, Israel had occupied the Syrian Golan since 1967 and continued to displace a half-million of its citizens and establish settlements. It imposed Israeli nationality on those who had remained, and had imposed its laws on the territory despite United Nations resolutions, which deemed that action null and void. The Lebanese people were also suffering from the Israeli practices, the last chapter of which had occurred last summer.
She said the work of the Special Committee was based on a clear mandate, supported by the General Assembly. That mandate had existed for a while now, and the Israeli practices and lack of cooperation continued. The people of the region should enjoy peace, stability and prosperity and should be able to look forward to a better future. A comprehensive and just peace should be based on the Arab peace initiative and the relevant international resolutions.
Right of Reply
The representative of Israel, in right of reply, said his country had left Gaza in order to give the Palestinian people an opportunity to develop their own lives. Unfortunately, terrorist activities, including the relentless firing of rockets into populated Israeli areas, had not ceased. In the course of battle, including that which occurred this morning, people had died and Israel regretted the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun. Israel had offered care for the wounded and begun an investigation into the matter. Firing in Gaza would be halted until the facts that had led to those tragic events were discovered.
The Permanent Observer for Palestine said that, one day after Israeli occupying forces had pulled out of Beit Hanoun in Gaza, Israeli tanks in the early hours of this morning had deliberately shelled civilian houses in that city, killing 18 civilians, 16 of them from the same family. Eight children and six women had been killed and over 45 people had been wounded. Israeli occupation forces had destroyed more than 50 homes, and damaged more than 400 others, as well as public utilities. Although Israel expressed regret for that massacre, it remained a brutal massacre.
He said there was no justification for bombarding civilian homes; those actions constituted war crimes for which Israel must be held accountable. Israel was violating international law, as well as international humanitarian and international human-rights laws, and had committed war crimes with impunity. The silence of the international community had encouraged Israel, the occupying Power, to commit those war crimes as well as State terrorism. Israel had shown total disrespect for the lives of innocent civilians. The international community must act now to put an end to Israeli crimes. The only solution was to end occupation and aggression.
The representative of Iran, in his right of reply, said he expressed his deepest condolences to the Palestinian people and the international community, especially to the Fourth Committee. After three days of debate on Israeli practices, he said, we heard today that innocent people, including a whole family, were killed by Israeli forces. The representative of Israel, referring to that case, had made a simple apology. At the end of the Committee’s debate on Israeli practices, the representative of Iran continued, Israel had wanted to show the Fourth Committee that its regime would go its own way; that was the common practice of that regime and its attitude towards international opinion. Israel had continued to go its own way and to create violence.
The representative of Syria said that, what the Israeli delegate described as an incident, was a continued approach taken by Israel. Its occupation forces had killed 19 Palestinians, including seven children and four women. Those victims were called terrorists by Israel. What prompted Israel to commit the new massacre -- at the time when Israeli practices were being discussed in the Fourth Committee -- was its well known belligerence. That massacre reaffirmed the necessity to adopt a collective measure that would bring Israel into international accountability.
The representative of Israel said he was being lectured again by Iran and Syria, the best experts on terrorism in the whole world. Iran and Syria had armed Hizbollah, so that it could use its methods of terrorism. Leaders of Hamas stayed in Damascus. Orders were given to the Islamic Jihad and Hizbollah not to abide by the provisions of the Road Map. It was strange that, instead of stopping their terrorism, Israel was being lectured by them. The Observer for Palestine had not made any mention of Hamas, or of the firing of Qassam rockets against Israel. Since the engagement, more than 1,000 Qassam rockets had been fired. He announced that this morning’s tragic incident would be investigated.
The representative of Iran, in his second right of reply, said he was sure the Fourth Committee would agree that the representative of the “dark Israeli background” of conspiracy, killing and violence, in violation of all international law, should not talk about human rights and democracy. He said Israel could not take an anti-terrorism attitude, as that regime had created a real holocaust, especially in Palestine.
He said that tragedy had forced millions of Palestinians to take refuge; the rest were being tortured and killed daily by Israel. That holocaust had taken place since the inception of the Israeli regime. He said he was certain the Committee would have noticed that statements by most delegations had referred to the Israeli regime a terrorist regime. That had been a good indication of international opinion; the name of Israel was equal to terrorism and the term terrorism referred to the Government of Israel.
The representative of Syria said the region had not known terrorism before “the establishment of the Zionist entity”. The Israeli presence in Syria was a matter related to the question of Palestinian refugees and of occupation; Hamas did not need its officers in Damascus in order to continue its legitimate resistance to occupation.
The Permanent Observer for Palestine reminded the Israeli representative that Israel was the only country in the United Nations that was called an occupying Power. It was committing war crimes and State terrorism. As for the Israeli captives, he said that some 10,000 Palestinian prisoners were being held in Israeli jails, including women and children. As for the Qassam rockets, he reminded the Israeli delegate of the excessive and indiscriminate use of force Israel was using against the civilian Palestinian population. He hoped that one day, the Israeli representative would realize that what was happening was due to occupation and aggression. On that day, peace could be established.
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