|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
21st Meeting (AM)
PALESTINE’S OBSERVER WARNS FOURTH COMMITTEE THAT WORLD COMMUNITY’S COMPLACENCY
WILL EMBOLDEN ISRAEL TO CONTINUE TO VIOLATE HUMAN RIGHTS WITH IMPUNITY
As Report of Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Taken Up,
Israel’s Speaker Says Text Is Replete with Duplication, One-Sided Propaganda
As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) opened its discussion today of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the Occupied Territories, the observer for Palestine pointed to human rights violations by Israel, warning that, if the international community did not hold Israel accountable, it would be further emboldened to continue to act with impunity, thereby compromising the unity, contiguity and integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and shredding the Palestinian social rubric.
At the start of the meeting, the observer for Palestine expressed regret that the Special Committee tasked with investigating Israeli practice had been unable to conduct a field mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory -– as had been the case for 39 years -- owing to Israel’s lack of cooperation. For its reports, the Special Committee, established in 1968 and comprising representatives of three Member States appointed by the General Assembly President, had relied on interviews conducted in neighbouring countries.
“Through its wilful actions as an occupying Power, [Israel] singled itself out as an extraordinary violator of human rights,” the observer for Palestine said, citing examples from the Special Committee’s report on the rising number of human rights violations against the Palestinian people by Israel. The rights to self-determination, life, property, food, a livelihood, housing, education, health, development, freedom of movement and freedom of worship were all being breached.
Drawing particular attention to the situation in Gaza, the Chairman of the Special Committee, Prasad Kariyawasam ( Sri Lanka) -- who introduced the report -- noted that the situation in the Gaza Strip had deteriorated when the Israeli Cabinet declared it “hostile territory” or an “enemy entity” in September. Since then, Israeli banks had stopped dealing with Gazan banks and, in violation of international law, Israel had reduced fuel and electricity supply to Gaza. Such contravention of Israel’s obligations as the occupying Power amounted to collective punishment of almost 1.5 million inhabitants. Those actions took place alongside regular military incursions and targeted assassinations of militants, in which innocent civilians were often hurt or killed.
Meanwhile, he said that, in the West Bank, more than 500 checkpoints, roadblocks and other physical obstacles, coupled with a strict permit system, had severely restricted the right to freedom of movement. The construction of the separation wall, 80 per cent of which was being built in Occupied Territory, had also negatively affected the freedom of movement and other human rights.
He also said that settlement activity had accelerated in the West Bank, where there were 149 settlements inhabited by some 480,000 settlers. Human rights organizations had reported a sharp increase in violent attacks, including physical attacks against Palestinians and destruction of land and property, by settlers and Israeli security forces since March. West Bank land was also being covered by the elaborate network of bypass roads to service the settlers, which had the effect of breaking the West Bank into smaller parts, thus affecting the viability of a Palestinian State.
Israel’s representative, however, said he believed the report of the Special Committee was “replete with duplication bordering on plagiarism and one-sided propaganda”. It had ignored the human rights violations of Palestinians, and had barely touched on Hamas’ military takeover of Gaza. Nor had it referred to the numerous human rights violations during the intra-Palestinian fighting, which meant that Member States were not informed about wounded Palestinians being shot to death while being treated in hospitals, or of the deliberate maiming of political and military rivals amongst Palestinians.
He also said that, although Israel had completely left Gaza in 2005 and was not involved in the intra-Palestinian fighting, the report blamed Israel and referred to the situation as “a direct consequence of the Israeli occupation”. Such political and intellectual bankruptcy should not be tolerated in the United Nations system.
Nevertheless, he said that the United Nations had much to offer both Israel and the Palestinians in their renewed efforts to resolve their differences, but added that the Organization’s relevance was compromised by the continued existence of the Special Committee and other United Nations organs and mandates, whose sole purposes were anti-Israeli propaganda apparatuses. He called on Member States to reject the report of the Special Committee and end its ill-conceived and ill-managed mandate.
Also speaking on that subject were the representatives of Pakistan, Syria, Cuba, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Indonesia and Qatar.
The representatives of Syria, Palestine and Libya spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
Earlier this morning, the Fourth Committee concluded its discussion on the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), during which the representatives of Bahrain and Nigeria spoke.
Also at today’s meeting, copies of the “draft provisional guidelines: approximate dates of the consideration of the items of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) at the sixty-third session of the General Assembly” were also circulated, and the Fourth Committee approved their inclusion in an annex to its report to the plenary on item 121, “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”.
Although the Committee had planned to take action today on the draft resolution relating to mine action (A/C.4/62/L.6**), that action was postponed to its next meeting, during which it was also expected to consider the draft resolution on the question of Tokelau.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 November, to continue its debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in occupied territories.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its discussion on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and to begin its consideration of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arab peoples in occupied lands. It was also expected to take action on a draft resolution relating to mine action (document A/C.4/62/L.6**), which had been postponed to today.
Reports relating to UNRWA are summarized in Press Release GA/SPD/387 of 7 November.
Regarding the item on Israeli practices that affect the human rights of Arab peoples in occupied lands, the Committee had before it a note of the Secretary-General transmitting the thirty-ninth report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/62/360). The report gives an overview of the Special Committee’s mission to Egypt, Jordan and Syria from 21 July to 4 August, during which it met with 37 witnesses representing Palestinian non-governmental organizations and individuals from Syria. It also provides information on the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories, reviews Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Syrian Arab citizens in the Syrian Golan and presents the Special Committee’s conclusions and recommendations to the General Assembly.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/62/330), which gives an overview of that body’s meetings, as well as the activities of the Department of Public Information on the issue and the Special Committee’s work during the period from August 2006 to July 2007.
Another report of the Secretary-General, on Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (document A/62/332), states that, on 14 May, the Secretary-General addressed a note verbale to the Government of Israel, requesting information on steps taken or envisaged concerning the implementation of the relevant resolution. No reply has been received to that request. Replies to a similar note verbale sent to all permanent missions were received from the Permanent Mission of Cuba on 10 July; the Permanent Mission of Japan on 27 July; and the Permanent Mission of Argentina on 3 August.
According to the Secretary-General’s report on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Occupied Syrian Golan (document A/62/333), Israel has also not replied to his note verbale, dated 14 May, in which he requested information on steps taken or envisaged concerning the implementation of Assembly resolution 61/118.
The report noted that, in response to a similar note verbale sent on 14 May to all permanent missions, he had received a response from the Permanent Mission of Cuba dated 10 July, which said that the separation wall construction constituted “one of the most serious violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949”. He also received a response from the Permanent Mission of Argentina dated 3 August, which calls for “the freezing of all settlement activities and other associated measures related to this matter”.
According to the Secretary-General’s report on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/62/334), the Secretary-General addressed a note verbale dated 14 May to the Government of Israel, requesting information on any steps it has or envisages taking concerning the relevant provisions of General Assembly resolution 61/119. No reply had been received at the time of the report’s preparation. The report notes that, in response to a note verbale sent on 14 May and addressed to all permanent missions requesting the same information, he received a response from the Permanent Mission of Japan dated 27 July, which said the Government of Japan had decided to extend emergency grant aid to several United Nations agencies to improve the humanitarian situation of the Palestinians.
The Secretary-General’s report on the Occupied Syrian Golan (document A/62/331) notes that Israel had not replied to a similar note verbale, also dated 14 May, regarding implementation of Assembly resolution 61/120.
Finally, the Committee had before it a draft resolution on assistance in mine action (document A/C.4/62/L.6**), by which the General Assembly, deeply alarmed by the number of mines that continue to be laid each year as well as the presence of a decreasing, but still very large number of, and area of square kilometres infested by, mines and explosive remnants of war as a result of armed conflicts, would urge all States and the United Nations entities involved in mine action to assist countries affected by mines and explosive remnants of war to establish national mine-action capacities and to support national programmes, among other forms of assistance.
Statements on United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Near East
FAISAL AL-ZAYANI ( Bahrain) began by expressing appreciation to host countries Jordan, Syria and Lebanon for welcoming Palestinian refugees in their lands. Israel’s system of curfews and other restrictions to movement had had the effect of limiting UNRWA’s work, and such limitations went against previously agreed accords between the Agency and Israel. In addition, those curfews had contributed to rising poverty in the Occupied Territory, which was regrettable, given that 2007 the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty had ended last year. Israel had contributed to the deterioration of the Palestinian economy by dividing its land into pockets, separated by colonies and the illegal separation wall around Jerusalem and the West Bank.
He reaffirmed the importance of measures to support the Agency’s programmes, especially in the face of the Israeli hostilities against Lebanon and its threats to cut water and electricity in the Gaza Strip. Bahrain extended its full support to UNRWA, on which many Palestinian refugees relied to meet their needs in education, health and other areas. Though it was created as a temporary Agency, it had continued to play a humanitarian role for several decades, despite limited resources. The working group on the financing of the Agency had expressed concern about its budget shortfall, and the international community should act to help consolidate UNRWA’s budget.
While it was true that the refugee issue was a humanitarian problem, he said that the underlying political issues should not be ignored. The international community should put an end to the Palestinian crisis, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, including the resolution calling for “land for peace”.
FELIX ANI ANIOKOYE ( Nigeria) voiced deep concern about the deteriorating political, social and economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza. Those conditions posed serious challenges and obstacles to the work of the Agency, in efforts to render needed assistance to the refugees. He regretted that restrictive measures, including the closure of the Erez and Rafah crossings, had made it more difficult for the Agency to deliver emergency relief and other services, and called for unrestricted access to the refugees by UNRWA. He called on the United Nations and donor countries to increase their financial and material contributions to the Agency, in order to enable it to upgrade its facilities scattered over Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza.
He then commended those countries that had continued to host Palestinian refugees, despite their own internal social and economic problems, and limited resources, and he urged them not to “relent in their efforts”. Meanwhile, UNRWA was commended for embarking on an organizational development plan, which would improve the way it addressed current and future challenges.
The Palestinian question was at the core of the Middle East problem, and it must be resolved if lasting peace was to be achieved in the region, he said. It was imperative that political leaders on both sides, as well as the international community, redouble their efforts to address the issue. Towards that goal, Nigeria looked forward to the upcoming Annapolis, Maryland, peace meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, to be hosted by the United States, and which the United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the Quartet representatives ( United States, Russian Federation, European Union, and the United Nations Secretary-General) had been working hard to arrange.
Presentation of Report
Presenting 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 (document A/62/360), Special Committee Chairman PRASAD KARIYAWASAM (Sri Lanka) noted that the occupation of the territories covered under the Special Committee’s mandate -– the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan -– had continued for four decades. For 39 years, Israel had denied the Special Committee access to those territories. The Special Committee, therefore, had made use of a wide variety of sources to assess the human rights situation there. It had also travelled to Egypt, Jordan and Syria from 21 July to 4 August and had met with various people, including 37 witnesses with first-hand information about the situation in those territories.
He said the report covered, among other things, the crucial issues of self-determination, the right to life, the right to freedom of movement, the separation wall, settlements and settler violence, the rights to health and education, the right to liberty and security of person and the situation of human rights in the Occupied Syrian Golan.
The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination appeared more elusive than ever, as a result of violations by Israel of a whole range of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Territory, he said. The human rights situation had also not improved in the Occupied Syrian Golan. Particularly striking, given the political dialogue scheduled for the end of this month, was the glaring discrepancy between rhetoric and the deteriorating human rights situation on the ground.
Although the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been envisaged as a single territorial unit under the Oslo accords, he said they were now more divided than ever due to the blockade of Gaza and Israel’s continued control over its territorial waters and airspace. Gaza had also been subjected to economic sanctions by Israel and by some in the international community, and it was now surviving on emergency humanitarian assistance. The situation had further deteriorated when the Israeli Cabinet declared it “hostile territory” or an “enemy entity” in September. Since then, Israeli banks had stopped dealing with Gazan banks and, in violation of international law, Israel had reduced fuel and electricity supply to Gaza. Such contravention of Israel’s obligations as the occupying Power amounted to collective punishment of almost 1.5 million inhabitants.
Regular military incursions by land forces, which had resulted in deaths, injuries and the destruction of property, had compounded the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, he said. Targeted assassinations of militants, in which innocent civilians were often hurt or killed, had continued unabated. Seriously ill Palestinian patients from Gaza had increasingly been denied access to hospitals in Israel and were restricted from travel.
In the West Bank, the human rights situation had also deteriorated, he continued. Inhabitants there were subjected to severe restrictions of their right to freedom of movement due to more than 500 checkpoints, roadblocks and other physical obstacles, and a strict permit system. The construction of the separation wall, 80 per cent of which was being built in Occupied Territory, also negatively affected the freedom of movement and other human rights. Stressing that recent extensions in the south would have the separation wall encompass 13 per cent of the West Bank, he noted that the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequence of the wall’s construction had gone unheeded.
Last week, the Israeli non-governmental organization, Peace Now, had issued a report that settlement activity had accelerated in the West Bank, where there were 149 settlements inhabited by some 480,000 settlers. Other Israeli human rights organizations had reported a sharp increase in violent attacks, including physical attacks against Palestinians and destruction of land and property, by settlers and Israeli security forces since March. West Bank land was also being taken by the elaborate network of bypass roads. Thus, the West Bank was increasingly being fragmented into ever smaller parts, affecting the viability of a Palestinian State.
He said that the West Bank’s cities and towns were also being subjected to regular and repeated military incursions and arrest, and search operations had increased. Targeted assassinations continued, and some 11,000 Palestinian prisoners -- 400 of which were children –- had been detained in Israel, and a Palestinian prisoner was killed in a riot in one of those prisons in October.
In the Syrian Golan, the human rights situation had not improved either, he said. According to reports, the number of Israeli settlers in that area had increased, settlements had expanded and “arbitrary practices” had affected people, land and livestock. Syrian citizens were reportedly denied access to water resources and had been exposed to the dangers of landmines. Syrian workers faced problems of unemployment and job insecurity, and many were under-employed. Some 15 citizens from the Occupied Syrian Golan were in Israeli prisons. The Special Committee had also been informed that there was a chronic shortage of health centres and clinics in the five Occupied Arab villages.
The international community, acting through the United Nations, should take determined and urgent measures to remedy the current situation of human rights in the Occupied Arab Territories, he said. A peaceful, just and lasting solution would lead to the end of the occupation and enjoyment of human rights by all the inhabitants of those territories and would also enable the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination in a viable Palestinian State.
Statements on Israeli Practices Affecting Human Rights of
Arabs in Occupied Territories
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, said the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was a man-made disaster caused by Israel’s 40-year illegal colonial occupation of that Territory. Furthermore, while Israel had clear obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention towards civilians under its occupation, its declaration of Gaza as a “hostile” or “enemy” entity was being used to absolve itself of the legal obligations by which it was bound as an occupying Power, and to thus justify its illegal punitive measures against the besieged Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Such arguments should be completely rejected and condemned by the international community, while calling on Israel to respect international law.
She expressed regret that the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories had been unable to conduct a field mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, owing to Israel’s lack of cooperation. “It is necessary to point out that Israel is not being singled out, but rather that it has, through its wilful actions as an occupying Power, singled itself out as an extraordinary violator of human rights,” she said.
She said that, even during periods of active peace efforts, Israel had chosen to oppress and subjugate the Palestinian civilian population under its military occupation and to pursue its expansionist aims. As a result, the human rights violations against the Palestinian people had continued to mount, as stated in the Special Committee’s report. The rights to self-determination, life, property, food, a livelihood, housing, education, health, development, freedom of movement and freedom of worship were all being breached by the occupying Power. The cumulative impact of four decades of such violations under the illegitimate occupation had been the shredding of Palestinian society, the devastation of families and the fragmentation of the unity, contiguity and integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
In many cases, Israel’s actions amounted to war crimes against the Palestinian people, she added. Such actions included the killing and injuring of civilians, including children, women and elderly, by use of all means of military weaponry and excessive and indiscriminate force against civilians, civilian areas and objects. As reported by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, who undertook a mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territory in April, more than 14,000 Israeli artillery shells had been fired in 2006 into Gaza and 573 air strikes had been launched, resulting in high loss of Palestinian life. Since 2000, nearly 4,800 Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli occupying forces, at least 1,000 of them children. Thousands had been injured, many of them suffering permanent disability and disfigurement.
She said that the perpetration of extrajudicial killings and targeted assassinations by missile strikes on cars, dropping of bombs on homes and undercover unit operations had also resulted in extensive loss of civilian life and general destruction. Civilians, including children, were being used as human shields during such military incursions, raids and forced home searches. Meanwhile, acts of terror perpetrated by Israeli military forces or by armed settlers caused widespread fear and trauma among civilians.
The arbitrary detention and imprisonment of thousands of Palestinian civilians, now reaching about 11,000 people, including at least 400 children, 116 women and 40 elected officials, had brought the total number of Palestinians arrested or detained since 1967 to 700,000, she said. Prisoners were subjected to physical and mental ill-treatment, abuse, degradation and torture, particularly during forced interrogations. Such treatment of Palestinian prisoners had been reported on by United Nations bodies and human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and even by Israeli human rights organizations such as B’tselem and Hamoked. In addition to denial of due process, prisoners and detainees were denied family visits, medical care and food.
In the meantime, more than 140 Israeli settlements had been constructed on huge tracts of confiscated land, and more than 100 settlement outposts had been established, she said. Such settlements continued to be constructed, particularly in and around Occupied East Jerusalem and in the Jordan Valley. Moreover, as reported by the World Bank in May, about 450 miles of major West Bank roads had been constructed by Israel for use only by non-Palestinians, and which basically served the settlements by connecting them to each other and to Israel. The number of settlers brought to the West Bank since the Israel’s disengagement in 2005 was the equivalent of two Gazas. Many of them were armed and fanatical, routinely engaged in acts of violence, harassment, intimidation and terror against the Palestinian civilian population, including school children. The situation was particularly disturbing in Al-Khalil ( Hebron).
As for the wall being built in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated permit regime, she said that was an attempt to, de facto, annex more land and entrench the settlements. As noted in the Special Committee’s report, it was estimated that the wall would take in more than 80 per cent of the settlers in some 73 settlements. Further, the wall would enclose more than 50,000 Palestinians in at least 15 communities in walled enclaves, isolating them from the rest of the West Bank and separating them from their farmlands, schools, workplaces and medical centres. They would need to acquire “long-term” or “permanent resident” permits from the occupying Power to reside in their own homes. Civilian land and property were continuously being confiscated, with at least 18,000 Palestinian homes having been demolished by Israel since 1967, according to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions.
She noted that Israel had also destroyed agricultural fields and orchards; businesses; civilian infrastructure such as water, electricity and sanitation networks, roads and bridges; cultural, social and national institutions; and places of worship.
Israel operated 550 military checkpoints and roadblocks, she said, which had a “disastrous impact” on Palestinian economic and social life and humanitarian conditions. As concluded by the World Bank in its recent reports, the prolonged closure of Gaza’s border crossings could lead to the irreversible economic collapse of Gaza, and the movement restrictions imposed by Israel on the West Bank are obstructing Palestinian access to more than 50 per cent of the land in the West Bank. As a result of the checkpoints and roadblocks, the Territory had been dissected into at least three segments -- north, central and south -- which was further fragmented into 10 small cantons or Bantustans.
In the Gaza Strip, she said such closures and restrictions amounted to the imprisonment of the entire civilian population under looming threats of the cutting off of essential supplies. There, it was estimated that at least 90 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line. Sick persons, including children and the elderly, requiring treatment that was unavailable in the Occupied Territory were prevented from travelling abroad for care. The International Committee for the Red Cross also reported a shortage of essential medical supplies, while a joint United Nations agency report concluded that nearly 50 per cent of the Palestinian population did not have enough food to meet their needs. Overall, 1.8 million Palestinians were dependent on food aid, of which 1.1 million were in the Gaza Strip. The violation of the right to food had caused malnutrition and anaemia to spread among the population, particularly among children, 1 in 10 of whom were stunted. The constant threats by Israel to tighten the siege on Gaza would undoubtedly result in further obstruction of access to humanitarian personnel and aid.
She also spoke against the obstruction of access to education and to places of religious worship, including the holy cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Restrictions on movement, including the imposition of age restrictions, particularly on males, had severely impacted the right to worship. Furthermore, the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on residence in Occupied East Jerusalem was an attempt to alter the city’s demographic composition, character and status and advance its Judaization. In addition to residence restrictions, which had resulted in thousands of Palestinian residency permits being revoked, the process of Judaization had been furthered by the construction of illegal settlements and the wall, as well as the demolition of homes in East Jerusalem, which had the effect of isolating the city from the rest of the West Bank, and impairing its socio-economic life.
If Israel was not held accountable for those human rights violations and crimes, it would only be further emboldened to continue acting with impunity, she said. The international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, should exert all effort to uphold its own responsibilities with regard to those questions.
FARUKH AMIL ( Pakistan) endorsed the findings and recommendations of the Special Committee. Its report had once again presented a grave picture of the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, and pointed to a deterioration of the human rights situation across the spectrum of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in the Occupied Syrian Golan due to the occupation. The Special Committee’s findings were corroborated by a number of United Nations reports, especially by the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNRWA and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Pakistan was deeply concerned over the continuing plight of the Palestinian population, and the cycle of violence and continuing military aggression was condemnable. He denounced the loss of innocent civilian life on both sides.
He said that the continuing illegal construction of the separation wall, the expansion of settlements and bypass roads, restrictions to free access and movement of Palestinian populations and goods through closures, checkpoints and roadblocks were human rights violations. They also triggered other human rights violations and hardships, and the damages resulting from those and other aspects of the occupation should be compensated, in accordance with international law. Deterioration of the socio-economic and humanitarian situation had a particularly devastating impact on women and children. Pakistan was also concerned over the continuing extra-judicial killings, abductions and disappearances, arbitrary and illegal detention and torture and inhumane treatment of the detainees in Israeli prisons. He called on all sides to shun violence and respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.
Saying the situation in the Gaza Strip was of particular concern to his country, he emphasized that the illegal declaration by Israel of Gaza as an “enemy entity” and the imposition of further restrictions, including steps to cut essential supplies of electricity, fuel and other goods, would lead to a further worsening of the human rights and the humanitarian situation there. The siege of Gaza should be brought to an immediate end.
Stressing that the question of Palestine was at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said that a just and final settlement was imperative. The current discussion underlined the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine and the need for a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the conflict in its entirety. An end to the occupation of all the Arab Territories was a necessary prerequisite and sine qua non for peace. In the pursuit of peaceful and durable solutions, use of force and unilateral actions were futile. The only way forward was through dialogue and negotiations. An end to Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the people of the Occupied Territories was also important for building an environment of trust and confidence for dialogue. Thus, Israel in particular, should end the circle of violence and hostilities. Inter-Palestinian harmony was also essential. Pakistan supported serious and constructive engagement by the international community aimed at seeking a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue, and welcomed the current efforts being exerted towards that goal.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) expressed satisfaction for the reports of the Special Committee, saying those drew international attention to the brutality of the Israeli “war machine” and its racist targeting of civilians, particularly women, children and infants. Its latest aggression underlined Israel’s mocking of the international community’s efforts to bring peace to the region. That latest aggression continued a series of hostilities against the peoples of the regions for decades. The fact that Israel had not allowed the Special Committee to visit the Occupied Territories was a clear sign that Israel was not interested in bringing peace and justice to the region, and reaffirmed its fear of the Special Committee’s legal and humanitarian mandate.
Noting that the report called upon Israel to put an end to its occupation, he underlined that numerous resolutions of the Security Council and other United Nations bodies had reaffirmed that Israel had no legal claim to the Syrian Golan. The Council had recently reiterated the illegality of Israel’s imposition of nationality on the people of the Syrian Golan and called on it to put an end to its repressive measures against them. Despite that, Israel continued to confiscate land, expanding its illegal holding of lands in the Syrian Golan. In fact, Israeli settlements had expanded to 45; the largest of which had 18,000 settlers and had been established on the ruins of a Syrian town destroyed in 1967. The occupying authorities had also recently informed Syrian gypsies in the town that they had to vacate their land. The fact that Israel had not complied with international legitimacy was recently confirmed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who said he would not give up the Syrian Golan while he was still alive.
Israel had continued to use the natural resources of the Syrian Golan in a violation of international law and of numerous Security Council resolutions, he said. It had not only tried to deprive Arab Syrian citizens of using their natural resources, but was distributing them to illegal Israeli settlements. That was a “deliberate pouring of oil on a fire”, and Israel should expect a response. Noting that Syrian farmers were suffering because of Israeli policies, including exorbitant taxes, he said that those farmers had nothing left after paying those taxes. Israel’s occupying forces had also detained many citizens of the Syrian Golan for a long time because the Syrians rejected the occupation and the imposition of Israeli nationality. Syria had transmitted that information to various United Nations bodies so that pressure could be put on Israelis to release the detainees.
In the long term, the greatest danger felt by people in the region was Israel’s burial of its nuclear waste, he said. That burial was not subjected to outside monitoring. Syria had raised that issue with special agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization. Echoing Syria’s President, he said his country was in a hurry to bring about peace and was not ready to give up its land. Thus, Syria rejected Israel’s claims to the land. Above all else, Israel had violated the ban on imposing collective punishment on people under occupation. Bombing of buildings and restrictions on movement and goods and resources were grave manifestations of that collective punishment, and those actions took the region back to the time of Nazism and fascism in Europe. Israel’s decision to cut water and electricity supplies was a war crime. It should, therefore, face a just punishment and the imposition of sanctions by the Security Council. The Security Council should urge Israel to implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on ceasing construction of the separation wall.
REBECA HERNANDEZ TOLEDANO ( Cuba) said it was lamentable that the Government of Israel had not allowed the Special Committee to visit the Occupied Territories during the last 39 years. Cuba fully supported the work of the Special Committee and its effort to bring about the end of the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan. The illegal settlements were entirely unacceptable. The human rights violations were also completely unacceptable. Israel continued to restrict the movement of Palestinian people and forced them to leave their land. It also continued to build the separation wall, an act which was a flagrant challenge to the International Court of Justice and a clear violation of the General Assembly’s resolutions.
She said that the principle, core risk to the national inalienable rights of the Palestinian people was the illegal colonial occupation and the construction of the separation wall. The continuation of both would prevent a settlement of the conflict. The damage that had been caused by the separation wall was noted in the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, and reparations should be paid. The Palestinian people had the right to establish a State, and the lands occupied by Israel should be returned to the Palestinian people.
GERSHON KEDAR ( Israel) said it was ironic that the Committee would spend three days debating the report of the “misnamed” Special Committee, for the work of that Committee was “superfluous” and “replete with duplication bordering on plagiarism and one-sided propaganda”. It was no wonder that barely one half of the entire membership supported the renewal of the Special Committee’s mandate. Its lack of relevance had been recognized as “charades” by at least some. As the former Secretary-General had said in a speech on 12 December 2006, there had been a proliferation of special committees, sessions and Secretariat divisions and units, but whether they had any effect on Israel’s policies was questionable. The former Secretary-General had said that perhaps those bodies had served to strengthen the belief among many of Israel’s supporters that the United Nations was too one-sided to be allowed a significant role in the Middle East peace process.
He said that, when the resolution relating to the question was passed later in the week, the Palestinian representative should not suffer the delusion that the Palestinian people were receiving real support or even empathy. The resolution was little more than “lip service”. Israel’s legitimate security policies could not be changed by those resolutions; indeed, all those who supported peace should be concerned by such one-sided resolutions that blindly and routinely supported one party to the conflict. They poisoned the atmosphere, created false hopes and encouraged unrealistic demands. Such was the context under which the Fourth Committee was conducting its discussion today, and its discussion on any resolutions that might emerge as a result.
Israel was willing to cooperate with all legitimate human rights organs, bodies and rapporteurs whose mandates did not pre-determine the results of their investigations, he said. Israel had received and cooperated with rapporteurs concerning housing, “arbitrary killings”, displaced persons and health. It had also cooperated with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Special Committee, however, was “a relic from a bygone era”, whose existence could not be justified morally, intellectually or politically. Its real agenda was not to help the Palestinians, but to harm Israel.
He added that, in principle and in practice, the Committee allowed itself to ignore reality and flagrantly refrained from dealing with human rights violations of Palestinians, which was a taboo subject because it contradicted the Committee’s raison d’etre. Also, the Hamas military takeover of Gaza had been dealt with in the report in two sentences. In addition, the Committee did not refer to the numerous cruel and vindictive human rights violations during the intra-Palestinian fighting, which meant that Member States were not informed about wounded Palestinians being shot to death while being treated in hospitals, or Palestinians being thrown to their deaths from high-rise buildings in Gaza. Nor were they told of the numerous and deliberate maiming of political and military rivals and their families, often by being shot in the knees. Negative statements about Palestinians were “beyond the pale” for the Special Committee for one reason –- that Israel could honestly not be blamed.
Yet the Special Committee had still managed to concoct a fanciful connection, he said. Although Israel had completely left Gaza in 2005 and was not involved in the intra-Palestinian fighting, the report blamed Israel and referred to the situation as “a direct consequence of the Israeli occupation”. Such political and intellectual bankruptcy should not be tolerated in the United Nations system.
Although the Special Committee claimed its report reflected the substance of the information that had been gathered, it was replete with lies, false claims and uncorroborated accusations, and patently ignored any information that did not fit its one-sided ideological agenda, he said. Thus, while Israel’s anti-terror measures were widely covered, it never mentioned Palestinian terrorism against Israel despite that information being widely known. Worse still, an earlier report of the Special Committee (document A/61/500) issued after last year’s general debate in the Fourth Committee, included accusations that could only be described as tantamount to the worst type of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories common in the Middle Ages. It included an allegation that “drugs and prostitution were allowed, if not encouraged, in the Occupied Syrian Golan” to infect clients with HIV. Insinuating deliberate malpractice, it also reported that a sick child had died in the hospital after receiving such an injection.
The parallels between such baseless claims and insinuations about Jews poisoning the wells of non-Jews and killing non-Jewish children for religious purposes were clear to all, he said. Those modern-day blood libels were outrageous and disgraceful from any source, but much more so when they came from an organ of the United Nations. His country found consolation in the fact that, because the Special Committee was such a marginal and even trivial body, it was unlikely that many people outside this room had ever heard of it, much less had or would read its reports.
He said that notwithstanding the Special Committee’s malicious attempts to de-legitimize Israel, the United Nations potentially had much to offer both Israel and the Palestinians in their renewed efforts to resolve their differences. Its potentially heightened relevance, however, was mitigated by the continued existence of the Special Committee and other United Nations organs and mandates, whose sole purposes were anti-Israeli propaganda apparatuses. He called on Member States to reject the report of the Special Committee and end its ill-conceived and ill-managed mandate.
ABDULLAH AL HAMULI ( United Arab Emirates) said Israel seemed to have a policy of covering up serious humanitarian crimes against Palestinians. It had forbidden the Special Committee from investigating its practices in the Occupied Territories, in accordance with relevant General Assembly resolutions, leaving the Committee to interview witnesses in neighbouring States.
He said that Israel violated all international norms and human rights agreements as part of its destructive programme to plunder the region’s natural resources. Having not found it enough to have become a State in 1948, Israel proceeded to take over Palestinian villages and towns, conduct assassinations and throw Palestinians in prison, including children and women. It had also bulldozed land and uprooted trees, stopped the movement of goods and people, barred access to workplaces, and isolated the Gaza Strip through the closure of checkpoints. It deprived people of emergency assistance and foodstuffs, as well as enough electricity to run hospitals. It had also destroyed the economy by spreading unemployment, leading many people to descend below the poverty line. In turn, those people were increasingly suffering from disease and malnutrition.
He condemned those violations of human rights, as well as Israel’s actions to “cover up its colonial policies” of overtaking Palestinian lands and water resources. He noted that the international community was silent regarding Israel’s efforts to establish a pedestrian zone in front of the Al-Aqsa-Mosque for the exclusive use of Israelis. Israel was also building roads to serve its settlers, and had extended its separation wall around Jerusalem by an additional 200 kilometres, despite the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion, which had found the wall’s construction illegal. He called on the international community to bring an end to such practices, since they violated a host of agreements, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Geneva Convention in terms of protection of civilians, the Hague Convention and others.
He voiced support for the United Nations Register of Damage Caused by the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and called on the General Assembly to allow the Special Committee to continue monitoring the situation, so as to help bring about a just and permanent settlement of the question of Palestine.
YASER A. AZIZ MOHAMED ( Iraq) emphasized that the Special Committee had been called on to investigate Israeli practices in the Occupied Palestinian lands until the conflict was resolved. Yet, Israel had not allowed the Special Committee access to do its work. Instead, Israel had adopted a policy of obscurantism. Iraq condemned Israel’s human rights violations, including its restriction of movement, the construction of the separation wall and of settlements in the occupied lands. It continued to occupy the Syrian Golan and to impose Israeli law there. Iraq reaffirmed the work of international concerned parties in the region, as well as the fact that Israel, as the occupying Power, needed to respect international and humanitarian law.
He urged the international community to adopt suitable measures to ensure that Israel respected international law, and he reiterated his delegation’s support for the Palestinian people and their right to establish a viable State with East Jerusalem as its capital. Turning to Iraq’s own situation, he clarified that Iraq and its people were victims of terrorist mafias and militants, who attacked its citizens indiscriminately. His Government was doing all it could to mitigate the danger posed by those terrorist groups.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said that, despite last year’s condemnation by the General Assembly in resolution A/61/119 of all Israeli settlement activities, the construction of the wall, and the excessive and indiscriminate use of force against the civilian population, Israel had continued to disregard its obligations under international law. That was both regrettable and condemnable. The construction of the wall –- and its associated restriction of movement, unemployment, closures and seizure of land -- continued to destroy Palestinian culture and livelihood. That created an unprecedented degree of human suffering and insecurity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the report of the Special Committee credibly reflected their daily plight.
Stressing that the situation could not continue, he said that, without visible improvement in the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians on the ground, optimism for peace would turn into disillusionment, and fuel the hatred that extremists were using to their advantage. The first step forward was for Israel to honour its obligations under relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice to dismantle the wall and abide by the Geneva Convention on civilian protection. Secondly, Israel should withdraw its forces from all the Occupied Palestinian Territory and that of Syria, and allow the Palestinian refugees to return to their land. The land-for-peace formula was believed by the international community to be the cardinal prerequisite for peace in the Middle East. Thirdly, both sides should renounce violence since continued violence only invited more.
He noted with pleasure the efforts by the parties and the Quartet to further the peace process in the region. Regular meetings between Palestinians and Israelis were of utmost importance to building confidence in preparation for the summit in Annapolis, Maryland. The proposed Annapolis event could become the door to peace in the region. Still, obstacles would arise, and the response to those obstacles would determine how zealous both sides were for the fruits of peace. In that regard, it was crucial for the Palestinians to close ranks and solve their internal problems. Both sides should accept the present historic responsibility and refuse to be discouraged about achieving a two-State solution. Also, both sides should avoid any utterances or actions capable of endangering negotiations or expectations. In that regard, he urged Israel to comply fully and in good faith with the relevant resolutions and recommendations of the Special Committee.
FAISAL SBDULLA HAMAD A. AL-HENZAB ( Qatar) said that the occupation in itself was a violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people. The time had come to put an end to the occupation to achieve a just, lasting settlement, and he hoped that the peace conference would instil some optimism. His delegation would display the necessary political will to make it a success.
He said that the use of excessive force without discrimination by Israel affected children and women, first and foremost. Land and property were also destroyed, and civilians were displaced. The setting up of 500 checkpoints in the West Bank was also a problem. Israel had placed Gaza under siege and had carried out searches, affecting the inviolability of the Al-Quds mosque, possibly affecting the mosque’s very foundations. The massive and arbitrary establishment of colonial settlements in the West bank and East Jerusalem must be put to an end. Israel also continued to build the separation wall in violation of United Nations resolutions and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion. The Special Rapporteur on combating terrorism had expressed concern on the impact of the separation wall, including on the right to human dignity. He expressed appreciation for the reports on the damages caused by the separation wall, and suggested that such an assessment should be expanded to other areas.
Turning to the Occupied Syrian Golan, he called on Israel to respect the recent Security Council resolution. He also praised the efforts of the Department of Public Information to disseminate information about the Special Committee’s activities and expressed hope that the Special Committee’s work would continue.
Rights of Reply
The representative of Syria , speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Israeli representative had accused the United Nations and its Special Committee of being anti-Semitic, which was illogical, considering that the concept of the State of Israel had emerged from the United Nations in the first place. Also, he noted that the same speaker had said that the Special Committee and the resolutions adopted as a result of its work over the past 39 years were a mere formality. He wondered if the speaker also thought of the inception of Israel by the United Nations as mere words.
He noted that the Israeli delegate had said that his country received many special rapporteurs with a mandate to investigate various practices in Occupied Arab Territories. Yet, it had not allowed the Special Committee to proceed with its investigations. He wondered why that was the case, if Israel was truly innocent of the accusations directed at it, as the delegate had claimed.
In addition, Israel had established more than 500 military checkpoints in an area of no more than 500 square kilometres, which was roughly the size of Manhattan, he said, adding that it was difficult to imagine leading a normal life in Manhattan under the presence of 500 military checkpoints.
He said that the Israeli Prime Minister had today declared that he would continue the peace process if it was agreed that Israel would be a State for Jews only. That statement meant that Israel would have to expel more than a million Palestinians that stayed in Israeli land after 1948. Such an action, in turn, would seem to indicate that the Israelis viewed the agreement underlying its very founding as “mere words”.
He said that Israel would not be content to simply occupy the Syrian Golan, for example. In fact, it was practising what the Nazis had practised during the Second World War, when Germany annexed parts of the Czech State and Poland, which had been enough to cause a global war. The Israeli representative should not believe for a moment that illegal Israeli practices would go without international attention. Indeed, the Fourth Committee would devote three days to the report of the Special Committee, as planned.
The representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine pointed out that the Israeli delegate had tried to distort the context of the discussion by ignoring Israel’s crimes and attacking the Special Committee. In contrast, the statement she herself had made at the start of the meeting had delivered an accurate picture of life under the occupation. Indeed, she questioned how Israel could ever cease its human rights violations and unlawful practices against the Palestine people, or indeed to make amends for them, if it could not even admit to having committed those crimes. It did not seem possible for Israel to pursue peace while simultaneously breaking the law.
She said it was only realistic for the United Nations to ask its members to respect international laws that upheld human rights. In turn, the Palestinian people could not abandon hopes that the United Nations would uphold its responsibility towards Palestine, after having agreed to the partition 60 years ago.
In addition, she recalled that the Israeli delegate had said that his country’s security policies could not be changed by United Nations resolutions. That was disturbing, coming from a Member State that was required to uphold the agreements passed by the Organization. Israel was behaving like a rogue State in violating international laws and norms, ignoring its existence as an occupier. Surely it could not justify the systematic violation of human rights, including war crimes against children.
Regarding his comments on the internal affairs of Palestine, she said that they were attempts to exploit the Palestinian people’s tragedies and problems, and were indicative of Israel’s “mal-intent”. The people of Palestine would do their utmost to restore national unity and move closer towards its national aspirations. She rejected the occupying Power’s intention to meddle in Palestine’s internal affairs, saying that Palestine did not meddle in Israel’s affairs. Of primary concern today was Israel’s actions, as an occupying Power, towards civilians. In that regard, Israel should focus on complying with international law and upholding its obligations as an occupying Power, as it worked towards achieving a peaceful settlement.
The representative of Libya expressed astonishment at the comments made by the Israeli delegate and its lack of respect for the other members. Noting that the Israeli delegate had described the Special Committee’s work as trivial, he said that the inability of the Special Committee to fulfil its mandate had been the result of Israel’s lack of cooperation. Indeed, Israel had flouted its work –- a fact that the international community should recognize.
He also said that the tragic events in the Gaza Strip, to which the Israeli representative had alluded, could not be seen outside of the occupation. Rather, they were the result of Israeli plans to isolate, fragment and weaken the Palestinian people. Those events were, in fact, a problem of occupation.
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