ISRAEL CALLS REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE ISRAELI PRACTICES IN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES ‘BIASED AND ANACHRONISTIC’, IN FOURTH COMMITTEE

6 November 2008
GA/SPD/417

ISRAEL CALLS REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE ISRAELI PRACTICES IN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES ‘BIASED AND ANACHRONISTIC’, IN FOURTH COMMITTEE

6 November 2008
General Assembly
GA/SPD/417
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fourth Committee

23rd Meeting (AM)

ISRAEL CALLS REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE ISRAELI PRACTICES

 

IN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES ‘BIASED AND ANACHRONISTIC’, IN FOURTH COMMITTEE

Says Despite Lopsided Picture Painted in Debate, Past Year Seen Most Meaningful

Israeli - Palestinian Talks Since 2000; Nine Related Draft Resolutions Introduced

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 presented a “biased and anachronistic picture” of the region, Israel’s representative told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) as it concluded its general debate on that issue.

Israel’s delegate said that by acknowledging the rights of only one side, the Special Committee’s work was utterly divorced from reality.  Further, the Fourth Committee’s three-day debate had been filled with “futile rhetoric” that had no bearing on the well-being of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, or on the advancement of peace.

Furthermore, “It is absurd that in this body, such bastions of human rights and democracy, including Sudan, North Korea, Iran and Syria lecture the open and free State of Israel,” he asserted, calling on Israel’s critics to take real, constructive measures to assist and support the Israeli and Palestinian peoples in their attempt to end their bloody, decades-long conflict.

That support might include shoring up the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with more than just words, creating confidence-building measures towards Israel, embracing both Israeli and Palestinian narratives and addressing the concerns of all sides.

Despite the lopsided picture painted in the current debate, he emphasized that the past year had witnessed the most substantial and meaningful negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians since 2000.  Indeed, both sides would, in a matter of days, brief the Quartet ( United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union) on the status of their direct peace negotiations launched in Annapolis last December.  He was encouraged by his Palestinian colleague’s statement that the Palestinian people and their leadership were fully committed to the peace process.   Israel also believed that a bilateral peace process was the only way to communicate both sides’ concerns and aspirations.

In the brief conclusion, this morning, to the three-day debate, the handful of speakers underlined the value of the Special Committee’s work.  Contradicting Israel’s assessment of that body’s report, Libya’s representative said it had been based on reliable information that had been further bolstered by non-governmental and humanitarian organizations.  She expressed hope that the occupying Power would allow investigators to visit the Occupied Territory, and strongly supported the recommendations of the report that those visits be allowed.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said –- as many speakers had over the course of the Fourth Committee’s debate –- that Israeli occupation had greatly increased the suffering of the Palestinian people, making them more desperate.  Four years after the International Court of Justice had issued its advisory opinion on the separation wall, Israel continued to build that illegal wall on the pretext of security and peace.  Yet, security did not come by building symbols of occupation; the respect of human rights and the rule of law guaranteed Israel’s stability, and Israel should abide by and implement the relevant Security Council resolutions on the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Uganda’s representative called on Israel to take immediate action to facilitate the movement of Palestinian peoples and goods, provide access to international humanitarian organizations into the territories, remove outposts, and reverse the settlement policy and activity and end land confiscations.  He also called for renewed intensification of efforts by the international community, including the Quartet, to support the Annapolis process negotiations between the two sides and the full implementation of the Road Map towards ending the occupation of the Palestinian Territory.

Following the general debate, the representative of Cuba introduced five draft resolutions on the work of the Special Committee.   Indonesia’s representative tabled four draft texts on UNRWA.

Speaking in exercise of the right to reply were the representatives of Syria, Sudan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Libya, as well as the observer for Palestine.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Friday, 7 November, to take action on all remaining draft resolutions.

Background

As the Committee continued its consideration of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arab peoples in occupied lands, it had four documents 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/63/273); the Secretary-General’s report on the 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/63/483); the Secretary-General’s report 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/63/484); and the Secretary-General’s report on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/63/482).  For more details on those reports, please see Press Release GA/SPD/415 of 4 November.

It also had before it several draft resolutions relating to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The first of which, a proposed text on assistance to Palestine refugees (document A/C.4/63/L.11), would have the Assembly affirm the need to continue the Agency’s work, and affirm the importance of its unimpeded operation pending the resolution of the question of the Palestine refugees.  It would have the Assembly call on all donors to continue to make the most generous efforts possible to meet the Agency’s anticipated needs, particularly in light of the ongoing deterioration of the socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in the region and those mentioned in recent emergency appeals.

By further terms, it would decide to commemorate UNRWA on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of its establishment at a high-level meeting to be convened on 30 September 2009, during the General Assembly’s sixty-fourth session, and encourage the participation of Member States at the ministerial level.

A draft text on persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities (document A/C.4/63/L.12) would have the Assembly reaffirm the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.  It would endorse the efforts of the Commissioner-General of UNRWA to provide humanitarian assistance on an emergency basis, and as a temporary measure to persons in the area who are currently displaced and in serious need of continued assistance.  Further, it would have the Assembly strongly appeal to all Governments, organizations and individuals to contribute generously to the Agency and to other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations concerned.

A draft text on operations of UNRWA (document A/C.4/63/L.13) would have the Assembly reaffirm that the Agency’s functioning remains essential in all fields of operation.  It would also commend the continuing efforts of the Commissioner-General to increase the Agency’s budgetary transparency and efficiency, as reflected in the UNRWA’s programme budget for the biennium 2008-2009 and in its comprehensive, three-year organizational development plan.  It would ask the Secretary-General to support the Agency’s institutional strengthening through the provision of sufficient resources from the United Nations regular budget.

By further provisions, the Assembly would call on Israel to comply fully with the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and to abide by Articles 100, 104 and 105 of the United Nations Charter and the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, in order to ensure the safety of Agency personnel, the protection of its institutions and the safeguarding of its facilities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

It would further urge the Government of Israel to speedily compensate the Agency for damages to its property and facilities resulting from actions by the Israeli side, and to reimburse all transit charges and financial losses incurred as a result of delays and restrictions on movement and access it imposed.  It would affirm that the Agency’s functioning remain essential in all the fields of operation, and would reiterate its previous appeals to all States, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations, to continue and to augment the special allocations for grants and scholarships for higher education and vocational training centres for Palestine refugees.  It would urge these entities to increase their contributions to the Agency to ease ongoing financial constraints.

A draft text on Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues (document A/C.4/63/L.14) would have the Assembly reaffirm that the Palestine refugees were entitled to their property and to the income derived therefrom, in conformity with the principles of equity and justice.  It would also request the Secretary-General to take all appropriate steps, in consultation with the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, for the protection of Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel.  It would again call upon Israel and all parties concerned to render all facilities and assistance to the Secretary-General in the resolution’s implementation.  It would also urge the Palestinian and Israeli sides, as agreed between them, to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and revenues within the framework of the final status negotiations of the Middle East peace process.

The Committee also had before it several draft resolutions relating to 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.  The first, entitled 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/C.4/63/L.15), would have the Assembly reiterate its demand that Israel, the occupying Power, cooperate, in accordance with its obligations as a Member State of the United Nations, with the Special Committee in implementing its mandate.

By the same text, the Assembly would request the Special Committee, pending complete termination of the Israeli occupation, to continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, especially Israeli violations of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.  The Committee would also consult, as appropriate, with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to ensure that the welfare and human rights of the peoples of the occupied territories were safeguarded.

In the draft resolution on the 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/C.4/63/L.16), the Assembly would reaffirm that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967.  The text would have the Assembly demand that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Convention in the occupied Arab territories, and that it comply scrupulously with the provisions of that Convention.

All High Contracting Parties to the Convention would be called on to continue to exert all efforts to ensure respect for its provisions by Israel.  The Assembly would reiterate the need for speedy implementation of the relevant recommendations contained in the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly at its tenth emergency special session, including the resolution ES-10/15 with regard to ensuring respect for Israel, the occupying Power.

By a draft resolution on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/C.4/63/L.17), the Assembly would call on Israel to comply strictly with its obligations under international law with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Expressing grave concern about the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements in and around Occupied East Jerusalem -- including Israel’s so-called E-1 plan, aimed at connecting its illegal settlements around and further isolating Occupied East Jerusalem, and in the Jordan Valley, as well as the continuing unlawful construction of the wall outside the Occupied Palestinian Territory –- and also gravely concerned about the rising incidents of violence by illegal armed Israeli settlers, the Assembly would reiterate its demand for the immediate and complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

By further terms, the Assembly would demand that Israel, the occupying Power, comply with its legal obligations, as mentioned in the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice [The Court found that the construction by Israel of a wall inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and its associated regime, is contrary to international law].

By a draft resolution on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/C.4/63/L.18), the Assembly would reiterate that all measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, that violated the relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and were contrary to the relevant Security Council resolutions, were illegal and had no validity.  It would demand that Israel comply fully with the Fourth Geneva Convention’s provisions and immediately cease all measures and actions taken in violation and in breach of the Convention, including all its settlement activities and the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.

The Assembly would condemn all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction, especially the excessive use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.  It would also express grave concern at the firing of rockets against Israeli civilian areas resulting in loss of life and injury.

Also by the text, the Assembly would note the Israeli withdrawal from within the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank, and the dismantling of settlements there as a step towards implementing the Road Map, while also calling upon Israel to comply strictly with its obligations under international and humanitarian law with respect to the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

The Assembly would further demand that Israel cease all practices and actions that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people, cease its restrictions on movement, and implement the Agreement of Movement and Access and the Agreed Principles for the Rafah Crossing.  It would also urge Member States to continue to provide emergency assistance to the Palestinian people, to alleviate the financial crisis and dire socioeconomic and humanitarian situation they faced, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

Emphasizing the need to preserve Palestinian institutions and infrastructure, and the promotion of Palestinian civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, it would demand that Israel comply with its obligations under international law, as mentioned in the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and in General Assembly resolutions ES-10/15 and ES-10/13, and cease construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, dismantle it, repeal or render ineffective all legislative and regulatory acts relating to it, and make reparations for all damages caused by its construction.

Also by the text, the Assembly would stress the need for respect for the unity and territorial contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and for guarantees for the freedom of movement of persons and goods.

By a draft on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/C.4/63/L.19), the Assembly would call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply with the relevant resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981), in which the Council, among other things, had decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect.

The Assembly would also call on Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and, in particular, to desist from the establishment of settlements.  The Assembly would further call on Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, and from its repressive measures against the population of the occupied Syrian Golan.  It would call once again on Member States not to recognize any of the legislative or administrative measures and actions referred to above.

General Debate

YOUSEF S.M. ALGAHRAH ( Saudi Arabia) said that decades of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories had made the lives of the Palestinian people more desperate.  Indeed, in the face of so much human suffering -- including murder, environmental degradation and the violations of their human rights -- they had become hopeless.  The Israeli war machine worked as it wished, increasing the suffering of the Palestinians so much that they required humanitarian aid.   Israel was violating international law, but the international community lacked political will to establish peace.  The West Bank had witnessed a great and rapid increase in Israeli settlements.  Half of the water resources in that area were used by those settlements, making it impossible to have a viable and contiguous Palestinian State.

He stressed thatfour years after the International Court of Justice had issued its advisory opinion on the separation wall, the occupying authority continued to build that illegal wall on the pretext of security and peace.  Yet, that justification was merely an attempt to “hoodwink” people.  In fact, Israel was attempting to control more of Jerusalem.  Security did not come by building symbols of occupation; the respect of human rights and the rule of law guaranteed Israel’s stability.   Israel should abide by and implement the relative Security Council resolutions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  He further underlined the provisions included in Security Council resolution 497 (1981), regarding the illegality of Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan and the need for it to withdraw from that area.  Further, Saudi Arabia condemned Israeli practices regarding the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as all of its efforts to “Judaize” Jerusalem.

ENTISAR MOHAMED ETOMZINI ( Libya) said the report painted a very dark and discouraging picture of the situation, not only due to the hardship of the Palestinian people, but also due to the blatant inability of the international community to deal with the Palestinian tragedy.  The report was based on reliable information that had been further bolstered by non-governmental and humanitarian organizations.  The strength of those agencies in evaluating the effects of the occupation was not in doubt, but the occupying forces tried to conceal the facts and misinform the world about the reality of the situation.  When those facts were uncovered, the authorities often accused the investigators of impartiality and anti-Semitism.

She expressed hope that the occupying Power would allow investigators to visit the Occupied Territory, and strongly supported the recommendations of the report that those visits be allowed.  There was not sufficient time to look at all the various aspects of the Israeli occupation, but the report painted a very comprehensive picture.  The continued siege and collective punishment, as well as inhibiting the work of United Nations and non-governmental organizations was unacceptable.  Checkpoints had also been maintained, and some 10,000 Palestinians had been detained, including 300 children.  Expansion of settlements had continued, and the West Bank was now dotted with settlements, hindering the territory’s ability to become a viable State.

It should also be recalled, she said, that Syrian prisoners in the Golan were living in deplorable conditions.  Those and other violations were counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the resolutions of the General Assembly, the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, the resolutions of the Security Council and others.  Changes must be sought in the way that the United Nations sought to end the occupation.  The rights of the Palestinians must be supported, to create their own independent and viable State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

AMIR WEISSBROD (Israel), noting that both Israelis and Palestinians would, in a few days, brief the Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union) about the status of their direct peace negotiations launched in Annapolis a year ago, said this year had witnessed the most substantial and meaningful negotiations since 2000.  He was encouraged by his Palestinian colleague’s statement that the Palestinian people and their leadership were fully committed to the peace process.   Israel shared the sentiment that a bilateral peace process was the only way to communicate mutual concerns and the legitimate aspirations of both sides.

Yet, even as the parties prepared to brief the Quartet, the Fourth Committee had been busy again with the Special Committee’s report, he said.  It was incontrovertible that “all these hours and days of futile rhetoric” had no bearing whatsoever on the well-being of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, or on the advancement of peace.

Emphasizing that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians should reflect the aspiration of both parties, he said a thorough and studious reading of the report revealed barely two sentences regarding the well-being and security of Israeli civilians.  Hardly mentioned were the 1,150 Qassam rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, during the past year, against Israeli civilians or the more than 1,000 mortar shells launched from the Gaza Strip against Israeli farmers.  Innocent civilians had been injured and murdered by those attacks, which had continued over the past three years, despite Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, but the report neglected to mention that fact or describe Hamas’ brutal behaviour towards its own and foreign journalists.

He said Israel was proud of its efforts to uphold the founding principles of the United Nations, but did not consider itself beyond criticism.  It was a pluralistic society that engaged in ongoing introspection in all aspects of Government, civil society and the media.  The press was free and was not monitored or censored.  Further, Israel was open to a discussion of human rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  In any given year, it was evaluated by different States, United Nations and intergovernmental bodies, and non-governmental organizations.

It was, he asserted, “absurd that in this body, such bastions of human rights and democracy, including Sudan, North Korea, Iran and Syria lecture the open and free State of Israel.”  He encouraged his colleagues from those countries to ask themselves what they really knew about their own human rights records in places such as El-Hama, Tadmor, El-Maza prison, Evin Prison block 209, or the gulags of North Korea.

Despite its security concerns, Israel sought the most effective way to balance between protecting the lives of its citizens without disrupting the lives of the Palestinian people, he said.  It had, this year, taken many confidence-building measures to improve the economic and social well-being of Palestinians by releasing 200 Palestinian prisoners in August, and removing 111 roadblocks and four central checkpoints in the West Bank.  With the Palestinian Authority, it had launched a pilot project in Jenin to reinforce Palestinian police control and promote economic development.  It had also facilitated the entrance of Palestinian police forces into the area around Hebron in the last few days.  In the first half of 2008, the movement of goods in the West Bank had risen by 66 per cent, and Israel had increased the number of Palestinians granted work permits in Israel.  It was also promoting several Palestinian industrial parks.  In September, more than 2,000 trucks carrying food supplies, diesel fuel and other supplies had entered Gaza.

He said that Israel believed the Special Committee’s work was utterly divorced from reality; its report portrayed a biased and anachronistic picture of the situation in the region, where the rights of only one side were acknowledged.  He called on Israel’s greatest critics to take real, constructive measures to assist and support the Israeli and Palestinian peoples in their attempt to end their bloody, decades-long conflict, and stressed that the Special Committee’s work did not constitute such a measure.  Rather than futile rhetoric, certain countries should conduct their own soul-searching about constructive ways to help the Palestinian people, which could include supporting UNRWA with more than just words, creating confidence-building measures towards Israel, embracing both Israeli and Palestinian narratives and addressing all sides’ concerns.  For its part, Israel would do its utmost to advance the peace process and reach a comprehensive peace.

FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) called on Israel to take immediate action to facilitate the movement of Palestinian peoples and goods, provide access to international humanitarian organizations into the territories, remove outposts, and reverse the settlement policy and activity and end land confiscations.  He reiterated his delegation’s support and solidarity with the Palestinian people, and supported the resumption of direct negotiations between the leaders of Palestine and Israel and the establishment through peaceful negotiations of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine, living side by side with the State of Israel.

He called for renewed intensification of efforts by the international community, including the Quartet, to support the Annapolis process negotiations between the two sides and the full implementation of the Road Map towards ending the occupation of the Palestinian Territory.   Uganda abhorred and condemned all acts of terrorism, as violence and terror would not help the quest for a just and lasting Middle East peace.  A just and durable solution could only be achieved through negotiations between the parties and the support of the international community.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia), introducing four resolutions relating to the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said six decades after the Palestine refugee problem was created, it was more important than ever to reaffirm the commitment to the principles and provisions contained within the resolutions aimed at alleviating the plight of the Palestinian refugees, in the context of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine as a whole.

He said that the four draft resolutions addressed the core issues regarding the Palestinian refugees and the work of UNRWA in providing essential services and assistance.  In the texts, the General Assembly annually reaffirmed the rights of the Palestinian refugees, as well as of Palestinians displaced in the 1967 hostilities, and detailed UNRWA’s work and operations.  For nearly 60 years, that Agency had provided vital education, health, social, relief and emergency services, even under constant financial constraints and harsh circumstances, especially in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Those circumstances had not only detrimentally affected the socioeconomic conditions, safety and welfare of the Palestine refugees, but had also affected the Agency’s work and staff.

In light of the fact that the situation of the refugees had not changed, and in some cases had worsened, the draft resolutions largely reflected the same texts as those adopted under the same item last year, with the exception of certain amendments to reflect recent developments and some technical modifications.  The first text on assistance to Palestine refugees (document A/C.4/63/L.11), reaffirms fundamental principles regarding Palestine refugees and UNRWA.  The draft affirmed the imperative of resolving the Palestine problem for the achievement of justice and lasting peace in the region, and acknowledges the role played by UNRWA in ameliorating their plight.

In its operative portion, the draft affirmed the necessity of continuing UNRWA’s work and called on all donors to make the most generous efforts possible to meet the Agency’s anticipated needs, including its emergency appeals.  The new additions to the draft resolution were the decisions to commemorate UNRWA’s work on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of its establishment at a high-level meeting in the General Assembly next year, and to admit Ireland and Finland to the UNRWA Advisory Commission.

A draft text on persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities (document A/C.4/63/L.12) reaffirmed the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.  It also expressed deep concern that the mechanism agreed by the parties in the Declaration of Principles on the return of displaced persons had not been complied with, and stressed the need for an accelerated return of the displaced.  It also called for humanitarian assistance to the displaced Palestinians.

A draft text on operations of the UNRWA (document A/C.4/63/L.13) addressed the main aspects of the Agency’s daily operations and the challenges faced in fulfilling its mandate.  In its preambular portion, the draft referred to the continuing needs of the Palestinian refugees in all fields of operation and conveys grave concern about the increased suffering of the Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories, particularly the Gaza Strip.  It also expressed grave concern about the safety of staff and damage to the UNRWA facilities, deploring the killing of 19 Agency staff members by the Israeli occupying forces since September 2000.

In its operative portion, the Assembly would reaffirm that the functioning of UNRWA remained essential in all fields of operation, and would express appreciation to the Commissioner-General and staff of the Agency for their tireless efforts, particularly in light of the difficult conditions throughout the past year.  It would call on Israel to comply fully with the provisions of the Geneva Convention, and to abide by the Charter and the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations.

A draft text on Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues (document A/C.4/63/L.14) recalled resolution 194 (III) and all subsequent resolutions on the question, and recalled, also, the principle that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her property.  It reaffirmed that the Palestine refugees were entitled to their property and to the income derived from that property.  The draft requested the Secretary-General to take all appropriate steps for the protection of Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel.  Finally, it urged the two sides to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and revenues within the framework of the final status negotiations of the Middle East peace process.

He expressed the co-sponsors’ strong hope that if consensus was not possible on the four texts, the Committee members would adopt them with the largest possible support, reflecting the international community’s firm and continuing support for the important humanitarian work of UNRWA and for the Palestinian refugees, until a just and lasting solution was achieved.

Introducing the five draft resolutions submitted under agenda item 30, REBECA HERNÁNDEZ TOLEDANO ( Cuba) said that the situation of the civilian population in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian Golan territories continued to deteriorate, due to human rights violations committed by Israel.  Illegal Israeli practices and policies had infringed upon and violated virtually all Palestinian human rights and brought severe social, economic and humanitarian consequences.  The issue must remain one of the priority matters on the Committee’s agenda, and Member States must uphold the requirement of the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian law.  Member States must firmly call upon Israel to cease its human rights violations and fulfil its legal obligations.

She said that the following five draft resolutions conveyed the seriousness of the situation and were a clear call for the cessation of Israel’s illegal activities.  In the first draft resolution, entitledWork 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/C.4/63/L.15), the preamble conveyed the General Assembly’s hope that the Israeli occupation would be brought to an early and complete end.  It demanded Israeli cooperation with the Special Committee, and requested that the Special Committee continue its investigation and that it be supplied with the necessary resources and staff.

The second draft resolution 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/C.4/63/L.16) reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories and reiterated the need for the speedy implementation of the special recommendations.

The third draft resolution Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/C.4/63/L.17) recalled the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and, also, focused on the serious and dangerous issues of illegal Israeli settlements.  Bearing in mind the detrimental impact of the Israeli settlement policies, grave concern would be expressed by the Assembly that those activities violated international humanitarian law.  In the operative portion of the draft, it reaffirmed the long-held position that the occupied territories were illegal, and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development.  The draft called for immediate cessation of all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan.  It reiterated the call for the prevention of all acts of violence and harassment by Israeli settlers against the Palestinian people and their properties.

Draft resolution Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/C.4/63/L.18) focused on the policies and practices of Israel, the occupying Power, that violated the human rights of the Palestinian people, and also reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and relevant resolutions of the Human Rights Council, Security Council and international humanitarian law.  It expressed deep concern regarding the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, including prolonged closings in and out of the Gaza Strip.  The Assembly reiterated that all actions and practices taken by Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention were illegal and had no validity.  It demanded that Israel cease all actions that violated the human rights of the Palestinian people, and demanded that it immediately cease settlement activities and construction of the wall, as these had detrimentally impacted Palestinian human rights, and stressed, in this connection, the need to maintain the contiguity of Palestinian territories.

She said that in the last draft resolution, occupied Syrian Golan (document A/C.4/63/L.19), no amendments had been made over the text adopted last year or in previous years since 1982, with the exception of updating certain dates and figures.  It enjoyed broad support, and was an energetic message against foreign occupation and the acquisition by force of territories.  Furthermore, the Security Council resolution 497 (1981) declared Israel’s decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights null and void.  Due to ongoing illegal Israeli practices and human rights violations, Member States gave their firm and broad support to these draft resolutions.

Rights of Reply

The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he regretted taking the floor but was forced to refute the assertions of the occupying authority.   Israel’s speaker had claimed that Israel was a democratic State, yet he forgot that this State had not respected the rights of the Palestinian people when they democratically elected their Government.   Israel continued to discriminate against a people simply for choosing to exercise their democratic right.  He must know that his Government wanted to impose its will on the peoples of the region.  His “democratic” Government had in fact imprisoned many Palestinian representatives, as well as ministers and members of parliament.  He did not need to mention the assassination of Palestinian leaders, wherever they might be.  The “hollow statements” made by Israel’s representative would not change the fact that Israel regularly and systematically trampled the rights of Palestinian people under its occupation.

Continuing, he said that if the report of the Special Committee was inaccurate, as the Israeli delegation claimed, why did Israeli forces prevent the Special Committee from accessing the occupied territories to enable it to asses the on-the-ground situation for itself?  The latest manifestation of Israeli violations was the desecration of Muslim and Christian tombs in Jerusalem.  The occupying forces had also, recently, knocked down five houses near Hebron on the pretext that they could represent a permanent settlement there.  In the face of that growing body of proof, it was only possible to conclude that “Zionist terrorism” was today at its strongest -- and it was an intellectual, racist and bloody terrorism.

The observer for Palestine, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said her delegation did not believe that the current debate was absurd or total rhetoric.  The consideration of this issue stemmed from the abiding responsibility of the international community to address the question of Palestine in all its aspects.  What was being discussed here was not Israel’s status as a free and democratic State, as the Israeli delegation indicated.  Rather, what was being discussed was Israel’s occupation, which denied the rights of the people of Palestine.   Israel’s continued belittling of United Nations efforts to address the issue was offensive.  Should the Palestinian people abandon their hopes that the international community would continue to uphold the United Nations Charter and support their expression of their rights?

She welcomed the statement that Israel was not adverse to the peace process.  Yet, the report of the Special Committee had accurately conveyed the disturbing and bitter reality of life under the Israeli occupation, and if Israel did not truly recognize its violations and crimes, how could it ever stop them?  She asked if Israel thought it could really talk of peace, while at the same time violating the rights of the Palestinian population.  Its actions damaged the credibility of the peace process.  Indeed, they were illogical, irresponsible, unethical and totally contrary to what was needed to make peace.

The representative of Sudan said he did not see any reason why Israel should have mentioned the human rights situation in his country.  He was surprised by this reference, given the deterioration of the human rights situation in the occupied territories -- a fact that was confirmed in the Special Committee’s report.  Indeed, in its statement yesterday, the Sudanese delegation had only mentioned the facts presented in that report.  If all of Israel’s violations of international law not included in that report were mentioned, several years would be required to review it.  Quoting a proverb, he said, “You don’t speak of rope in the house of someone who is executed by hanging.”  That was also true here, he stressed, and urged Israel’s representative to respect the United Nations.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that it was a well-known fact that the Palestinian people had been deprived of everything, including their human rights, their properties and houses.   Israel had transformed the Gaza Strip into an open prison.  Thousands of innocent people were being detained in Israeli prisons.  While he could not mention all of Israel’s human rights violations against the Arab peoples, mentioning his own country in relation to human rights violations was totally irrelevant.  Indeed, Israel had no right to criticize another country.

Also speaking in right of reply, AMIR HOSSEIN HOSSEINI ( Iran) said that Israel had raised unfounded allegations against others to distract from its own practices.  The Palestinian people had exercised legitimate and just resistance against the Israeli Government’s aggression, which had brought instability to the region for several decades.   Palestine and other territories occupied by this regime indicated that it had violated many international laws and norms, and had acted in complete defiance.  There were few human rights that had not been violated by the Israeli regime, which had no respect for the basic values of the civilized world or the fundamental human rights principles of the international community.

He said that the Israeli regime was the source and cause of all terrorist activities in the region and for the whole world, and it had no right to point to the practices of others.  The futile attempts of the regime to raise questions of the human rights violations of other States was only a tired and ineffective attempt to distract from its own violations, including killing, kidnapping and other atrocious policies, and it should not portray itself as a warrior of human rights and democracy.  A solution would arrive only when the right of the Palestinian people was fully exercised by the establishment of a fully independent and sovereign State.

AHMED H.M. GEBREEL (Libya), also exercising his right of reply, said the Committee had, as usual, listened to the criticism by the Israeli delegation of its work, but he “was not right in what he said”, and his comments were “very far from the truth”.  The Committee was powerless, because it could not in fact translate its words into actions.  This was not due only to the structure of the Committee, but applied to the structure of the United Nations as a whole, which needed to be reformed so that the Organization became more just, equitable and democratic.  Also, to enable the Organization to actually implement its decisions, its principles should be applied to all countries, without exception.  Until that became a reality, the Committee should continue its deliberations to send a clear message of support to Palestinian society, which endured the occupation -- a message that expressed a clear rejection of Israeli practices.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.