‘Not For a Single Moment’ Has Israel Ceased Illegal Settlement Activities, Fourth Committee Told, Opening Discussion of Israeli Practices in Occupied Territories

9 November 2009
GA/SPD/443

‘Not For a Single Moment’ Has Israel Ceased Illegal Settlement Activities, Fourth Committee Told, Opening Discussion of Israeli Practices in Occupied Territories

9 November 2009
General Assembly
GA/SPD/443
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

23rd Meeting (AM)

 ‘Not For a Single Moment’ Has Israel Ceased Illegal Settlement Activities, Fourth

Committee Told, Opening Discussion of Israeli Practices in Occupied Territories

‘Terrifying Logic’ of Israeli Expansionism Dramatically Affecting Territorial

Contiguity, Social Fabric of Palestinian People, Obstructing Chances for Peace

The past year had witnessed a deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as Israel intensified its military aggression, serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, instead of pursuing peace, the observer for Palestine said today as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its annual discussion of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the occupied territories.

Opening the Fourth Committee’s general debate on the subject, she said that “not for a single moment” had Israel ceased its illegal settlement activities and its many related illegal practices aimed at advancing its attempts to de facto annex even more Palestinian land with the creation of facts on the ground altering the demographic composition, character, geographic nature and status of the Occupied Territory.  That unlawful, two-pronged Israeli policy -– centred on the subjugation and oppression of the Palestinian people in conjunction with the colonization of the Palestinian land -– had intensified in the past year. 

Stressing that “colonization and the peace process could not coexist”, she said that the continuation of that illegitimate situation threatened prospects for peace and stability.  With the Fact Finding Mission’s report and the international reaction to it, momentum was rising to end the cycle of impunity and truly pursue accountability for the perpetration of war crimes and justice for the victims, and for the international community to shoulder the individual and collective legal obligations and responsibilities in that regard.  The Palestinian side, for its part, had pledged to do so.

Expressing regret that the Special Committee –- established by the General Assembly in 1968 to investigate Israeli practices affecting Palestinian human rights in the occupied territories -– had again been unable to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan due to Israel’s “obstruction and refusal to cooperate with yet another United Nations mission”, she said that despite that, Palestine was aware that, for its report, the Special Committee had been able to carry out a mission to the region, reviewing, among other things, Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli witness testimonies on the basis of human rights standards. 

Drawing particular attention to the “drastic humanitarian impacts” on the populations living in the Gaza Strip, the Chairman of the Special Committee, Palitha Kohona (Sri Lanka) -– who introduced the report -– noted the finding that the deteriorating socio-economic and humanitarian situation in that area, as well as in other Palestinian and Arab territories under occupation, seriously affected the prospects for peace in the Palestinian territories and in the Middle East.  “Repression only constrained the right of the Palestinian peoples, as they strove for self-determination and the realization of the two-State solution,” he said.

This year’s report reiterated many concerns already expressed in previous reports, he said, adding that despite the ceasefires declared by the parties to the conflict, the situation in Gaza remained volatile.  During the Gaza war, access to humanitarian assistance was either impossible or limited.  Lack of construction materials, raw materials for commerce and industry in Gaza, shortages of fuel and long power cuts had contributed to increased unemployment and poverty in the Gaza Strip.  Additionally, more than 20 per cent of the agricultural land in Gaza had been destroyed and further areas had been contaminated.

Meanwhile, he said that the continued settlement activities and the construction of the separation wall by Israel severely constrained the freedom of movement of Palestinian citizens in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and that the human rights situation in the Occupied Syrian Golan also remained serious.  The Special Committee believed that all parties concerned had a collective responsibility to alleviate the long years of suffering of the people living under occupation, to turn sustainable peace from an illusion into a reality.

During the debate, many speakers stressed that the expansion of Israeli settlements were illegal under international law and constituted an obstacle to a lasting peace.  The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the continued settlement activities, house demolitions, and evictions in the occupied West Bank, and particularly in East Jerusalem, remained a serious concern, because a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two States if there was to be genuine peace.

Algeria’s speaker bemoaned the situation, which was deteriorating daily as a result of the Israeli policies of intimidation.  The “terrifying logic” of Israeli expansionism had taken the form of a “greed for land”, which was carried out with impunity.  Israel had systematically used force to impose its will, and it enjoyed support and the knowledge that any decision within the United Nations would be blocked, enabling it to continue its annexation of land.

Israel’s policy of fragmentation of the Occupied Territory continued to dramatically affect the territorial contiguity and social fabric of the Palestinian peoples, and was worsening an already tense situation, said Malaysia’s speaker.  Moreover, Palestinian farmers were frequently harassed by Israeli settlers.  Palestinian children and women were particularly exposed to violence, since they were frequently alone during the day.  Women were often targeted by Israeli settlers, having their property and houses vandalized while inside their homes, in attacks which often occurred in the presence of the Israeli army.

Also speaking on that subject were the representatives of Cuba, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Senegal, South Africa, Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, Morocco and Kuwait.

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 Bangladesh spoke.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 10 November, to continue its debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in occupied territories. 

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its general debate on the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  (Reports before the Committee on the subject are summarized in Press Release GA/SPD/441.)

The Committee was also expected to begin its consideration of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

On that subject, the Committee had before it a note of the Secretary-General transmitting the forty-first 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/64/339).  The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories is composed of three Member States: Sri Lanka (Chairman), Malaysia and Senegal.  The report says that this year, owing to the absence of the Chairman of the Committee, the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, the Ambassador of Malaysia in New York functioned as the Acting Chair of the Special Committee. 

The report to the General Assembly reflects the substance of the information gathered during the mission of the Special Committee to Egypt, Jordan and Syria from 3 August to 13 August.  In those three countries, the Committee interviewed 33 Palestinian, Israeli and Syrian witnesses and representatives of non-governmental organizations.  The Committee also reviewed numerous relevant documents and research materials, including a written submission by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Syria.

Section V of the report provides information concerning the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories, while section VI constitutes an overview of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Syrian Arab citizens in the Occupied Syrian Golan.  Section VII presents the conclusions of the report and the recommendations of the Special Committee to the General Assembly.

Among the recommendations that the Special Committee makes in the report are that the Assembly should urge the Security Council to ensure the implementation of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and General Assembly resolution ES-10/15, in which the Assembly requested Israel to comply with its legal obligation to cease the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem; to dismantle the segments of the wall already built; to repeal all legislative and regulatory acts adopted in view of the construction of the wall; and to make reparation for the damage arising from the construction of the wall.

According to the report, the Assembly should also urge the Security Council and Member States to enforce Security Council resolution 497 (1981) and similar relevant resolutions on the status of the Occupied Territories, including the Occupied Syrian Golan, which declared the annexation of the Occupied Territories illegal.  Further, it should urge Member States to implement the recommendations of the Special Committee, and intensify diplomatic efforts, including the imposition of appropriate sanctions to enforce Israel’s compliance with relevant United Nations resolutions, particularly Security Council resolutions, and international humanitarian and human rights law.

In addition, the Assembly should call for heightened and concerted international efforts to ensure the unimpeded flow of humanitarian assistance, particularly food, medicines, and construction materials to the besieged population of Gaza.  It should also request the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take concrete measures in respect of their obligations to ensure respect for the Convention by Israel.  A meeting of the High Contracting Parties to that effect should be convened urgently, the report states.

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/64/332), states that, on 19 June, 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 provisions of resolution 63/96.  No reply had been received at the time of the report’s preparation.  Replies to similar notes verbale, sent to all Permanent Missions, were received from the Permanent Mission of Venezuela on 7 July, from the Permanent Mission of Syria on 9 July, from the Permanent Mission of Qatar on 14 July, from the Permanent Mission of Egypt on 27 July, and from the Permanent Mission of Colombia on 28 July.

Also before the Committee was 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/64/340), which gives an overview of that body’s activities and mission, 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 2008 to July 2009.

The Secretary-General’s report on the Occupied Syrian Golan (document A/64/354) notes that on 12 June, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), on behalf of the Secretary-General, addressed a note verbale to the Governments of Syria and Israel informing them of a mission by OHCHR to the Occupied Syrian Golan and to Syria on the basis of the aforementioned resolution.   Syria welcomed the mission, and between 4 and 11 July, OHCHR conducted a mission to that country to collect information for a possible substantive report on the Occupied Syrian Golan.

It further notes that allegations were raised with OHCHR that water was being rationed in a discriminatory manner between settlers and Syrian Golanis in the Occupied Syrian Golan.  In addition, several sources alleged that Israel was disposing of nuclear and toxic waste, as well as laying landmines, near Syrian Golani villages.  If confirmed, the alleged actions are contrary to international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  On 19 June, OHCHR addressed a note verbale to Israel asking the Government to give any information on steps taken or to be taken concerning the implementation of the relevant provisions of General Assembly resolution 63/99.  As in previous years, no replies had been received at the time of the preparation of the report.

The report further notes that replies to similar notes verbale, sent to all Permanent Missions, were received from the Permanent Mission of Venezuela on 7 July, the Permanent Mission of Syria on 9 July, the Permanent Mission of Qatar on 14 July, the Permanent Mission of Egypt on 24 July, and the Permanent Mission of Colombia on 28 July.

Statements on UNRWA

FAISAL AL ZAYANI ( Bahrain) expressed gratitude and appreciation for the “brotherly host countries” of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, and for Norway’s representative for his report on the activities of the working group.  Despite the reforms being carried out within UNRWA to improve services for refugees, the Agency’s financial situation was vulnerable.  That would impede its work in the suffering of Palestinian refugees, unless all efforts were mobilized to provide it with adequate financing.

He thanked the Agency’s donors, especially the major donors who always responded generously, and he expressed hope that the Agency would receive further funds to allow it to carry out its tasks and allow it to avoid carrying out any measures that would negatively impact its services.  The report before the Committee on UNRWA indicated that the Agency had used every effort to improve the quality of its services by promoting and strengthening programme management, and by simplifying the provision of support services through organizational development.  The Agency had responded to emergencies in all of its five fields of operation, combating such difficulties as high rates of malnutrition, the increasing homelessness of Palestinians, and damaged educational programmes.

Self-reliance among Palestinians was “exhausted” in the face of the economic and social deterioration, he said.  Each Palestinian refugee should enjoy the best possible levels of human development and be able to participate productively in social, economic and cultural life.  They should feel confident that there was “someone to protect his rights and defend them.”  Instead, they saw the “human crisis” resulting from the continued aggressive campaign by Israeli forces against them, through such measures as the widespread curfew in the Occupied Territory, the continued building of the separation wall in the West Bank and around Jerusalem, settlements, deforestation, and the bulldozing of land and property.

NAHIDA SOBHAN ( Bangladesh) said that her delegation, since December 2007, had been witnessing, with utter frustration, the Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, in violation of the fundamental and human rights of the Palestinian refugees.  Unabated and intensive Israeli military operations and increased settlement activities in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Lebanon had caused widespread displacement of the innocent civilian population.  Her delegation strongly condemned the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements, which encroached on Palestinian lands.  Her delegation also regretted that repeated appeals of the international community to Israel to improve the deteriorating conditions of the Palestinians had not been heeded.  Her delegation remained deeply concerned about the spiralling violence, persecution, deprivation of rights and degrading humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian refugees.

She also expressed concern about the restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of UNRWA personnel and vehicles in the Occupied Territory.  Those restrictions severely hampered UNRWA’s humanitarian activities and led to further deterioration of the Palestinians’ socio-economic and living conditions.  In order to restore regional and international security and the rights of the Palestinians, there was no alternative but to remove the blockade imposed by Israel.  She also reiterated her demand on Israel to ensure unrestricted mobility and non-interference in the activities of the Agency so that it could fulfil its mandate.

Further, she said that income generation through the creation of new jobs had been identified as the principle means to ensure the welfare of the Palestinian people.  Continued contribution towards that goal remained the focus of UNRWA’s activities.  For Bangladesh, being the birthplace of the concept of microcredit, it was gratifying to observe the success of the Agency’s microfinance and microenterprise programme and its resultant rapid growth and wide acceptance in the region, as the major tools for poverty alleviation and economic development.  She called for the programme’s further extension, with a particular focus on empowering poor Palestinian women.  Given her country’s experience in that field, it would be happy to share its expertise, particularly to fine-tune the programmes to meet the specific needs of the Palestinian people and the region as a whole.

Introduction of Report

PALITHA KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said that the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People had once again examined the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by holding meetings with witnesses, in Cairo, Amman and Damascus.  While in those three cities, the Special Committee had heard the testimonies of several witnesses from Palestinian and Israeli non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders, Government representatives, national institutions and United Nations staff.

He said it had been learned that the deteriorating socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza, as well as in other Palestinian and Arab territories under occupation, seriously affected the prospects for a viable peace in the Palestinian territories and in the Middle East.  Repression only constrained the right of the Palestinian peoples, as they strove for self-determination and the realization of the two-State solution.

This year’s report reiterated many concerns already expressed in previous reports, he said, adding that he wished to emphasize the drastic humanitarian impacts on the populations living in the Gaza Strip, following the war that began in December 2008.  It had been reported that Israel had used excessive force and white phosphorous munitions, inflicting serious injuries on the victims.  Israeli aerial attacks had destroyed and damaged more than 20,000 vital civilian infrastructures, including private homes, hospitals, schools and mosques.  However, despite the ceasefires declared by the parties to the conflict, the situation in Gaza remained volatile.

Even before the Gaza War, the majority of civilians were largely dependent on humanitarian assistance for their daily survival, he said.  During the war, access to humanitarian assistance was either impossible or limited.  Lack of construction materials, raw materials for commerce and industry in Gaza, shortages of fuel and long power cuts had contributed to increased unemployment and poverty in the Gaza Strip.  Additionally, more than 20 per cent of the agricultural land in Gaza had been destroyed and further areas had been contaminated.

Furthermore, he said, the continued settlement activities and the construction of the separation wall by Israel severely constrained the freedom of movement of Palestinian citizens in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Road barriers and other types of controls had led to high rates of school dropouts. There were also increasing incidents of “humiliation” faced by Palestinians, especially women and girls, at road checkpoints and even in their own homes during security searches.  Furthermore, the illegal construction of the separation wall continued, despite the International Court of Justices’ advisory opinion.  In the view of many Israeli and Palestinian witnesses, the route of the wall was not based on security considerations; it perpetuated and expanded settlements, restricted the area of the Palestinians State, and ensured lasting Israeli control over the areas of the West Bank.  The settlement activities and arbitrary demolition of Palestinian homes had created serious tensions and animosities between Israeli settlers and their Palestinian neighbours.

The human rights situating in the Occupied Syrian Golan too remained serious, he said.  The continued illegal imposition of Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Golan region warranted the immediate attention of the international community.  The Special Committee recommended that the General Assembly take all measures at its disposal to enable the Special Committee to fulfil its mandate, including gaining access to the Occupied Territories.  He urged the Security Council to ensure the implementation of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and General Assembly resolution ES-10/15.  The Special Committee was of the belief that all parties concerned should take action on its recommendations, which was a “collective responsibility”, to alleviate the long years of sufferings of the people living under occupation, so that sustainable peace would not be an illusion.

Statements

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for Palestine, thanked the Special Committee for its report on the critical human rights situation of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories as a result of ongoing illegal Israeli policies and practices against the civilian populations under its military occupation since 1967, for a total of more than 42 years now.  Expressing regret that the Special Committee had again been unable to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan due to Israel’s obstruction and refusal to cooperate with yet another United Nations mission, she said that Palestine was aware, however, that the Special Committee had been able to carry out a mission to the region, reviewing, inter alia, Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli witness testimonies on the basis of human rights standards.  She also regretted that two reports by the Secretary-General had not been issued earlier.

She said that, as noted in the report, the past year had witnessed the deterioration of the situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, on all fronts.  There had been a brutal Israeli military aggression against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip, resulting in serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, amounting to war crimes.  That was the conclusion of the Human Rights Council’s Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, led by Justice Richard Goldstone, which had produced the so-called “Goldstone Report”, as well as by other independent investigations, including the Secretary-General’s Board of Inquiry and the Arab League’s Independent Fact Finding Committee on Gaza.  That military aggression was carried out against a civilian population already debilitated from the collective punishment, imprisonment and deprivation imposed upon them by the more than two-year Israeli blockade of Gaza.

At the same time, she said, the world had witnessed Israel’s continued pursuit of its unlawful colonization campaign in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in and around East Jerusalem.  Not for a single moment had Israel ceased its illegal settlement activities and the many other related illegal practices aimed at advancing its attempts to de facto annex even more Palestinian land with the creation of facts on the ground altering the demographic composition, character, geographic nature and status of the Territory.  That unlawful two-pronged Israeli policy -– centred on the subjugation and oppression of the Palestinian people in conjunction with the colonization of the Palestinian land -– had not only continued, but had intensified in the past year.  The policy entailed gross human rights violations -– including the rights to self-determination, life, security, property, food, health care, education, livelihood, an adequate standard of living, movement and worship.

Such illegal Israeli practices had caused socio-economic devastation, fragmented the unity, contiguity and integrity of the Palestinian Territory, and fuelled the cycles of violence over the years, she continued.  Moreover, Israel’s flagrant disrespect for international law and the international community’s calls for compliance with legal obligations had impeded efforts to resume the peace process -– based on relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, the Arab Peace initiative, and the Quartet Road Map -– and caused the further deterioration and destabilization of the situation on the ground.

Tragically for the Palestinian people, instead of pursuing peace, successive Israeli Governments had systematically pursued policies in absolute contravention of all rules and norms of international law, she said.  All of that had traumatized and terrorized generation after generation, inflicting harm, humiliation and hardship on the entire population.  Those serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law had once again been documented by the Special Committee.

Moreover, Israel had deliberately obstructed any reconstruction in Gaza through the continued imposition of its unlawful blockade of the entire population in Gaza, which continued to live in misery in the rubble of their homes and communities, she said.  Combined with the destruction of factories, businesses and fishing boats, the blockade had exacerbated the already high levels of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity, with UNRWA estimating that there were now at least 300,000 persons living in abject poverty, owing to that manmade disaster.  The blockade must be immediately lifted to allow for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

As concluded by the Goldstone mission after surveying the reality of the situation on the ground, all phases of the Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip had been planned as “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability”, she said.  In sum, the Goldstone investigation had found that Israel, the occupying Power, had committed serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, amounting to war crimes against the Palestinian people.

She added that Israel had committed those crimes before the eyes of the international community, no doubt emboldened by the fact that it had never been truly held accountable for its transgressions against the Palestinian people under its occupation.  That culture of impunity had been fostered by the failure to uphold the rule of law and ensure its respect in all circumstances.  That had not only deepened the injustice and suffering endured by the Palestinian people, but had undermined the credibility of international law and the international system as a whole.

With the Goldstone report and the international reaction to it, including the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution on 5 November to follow-up the report and the recommendations therein, momentum was rising to end the cycle of impunity and truly pursue accountability for the perpetration of war crimes and justice for the victims, she said.  The international community must shoulder the individual and collective legal obligations and responsibilities in that regard.  The Palestinian side, for its part, had pledged to do so.

Regrettably, the situation in the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, also remained volatile, she said.  Israel continued its military raids and arrest operations in the West Bank, adding to the nearly 11,000 imprisoned Palestinians, including children, women and elected officials, the majority under degrading, inhumane conditions, subjected to physical and psychological ill-treatment, coercion and even torture.  Of particular concern remained Israel’s settlement colonization campaign throughout the Territory, which was being carried out in grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I.  The situation was most severe in and around East Jerusalem, where Israel continued pursuing measures aimed at the “quiet transfer” or de-population of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants and at ensuring a Jewish majority in the city.  Settler violence had also intensified recently, with violent, extremist Israeli settlers continuing to harass, intimidate and terrorize Palestinian civilians, violating their rights to life, liberty and pursuit of person, and destroying Palestinian properties and crops.

In addition, she said, Israel continued to impose hundreds of checkpoints –- many of them linked to the settlements and the wall -– and to restrict the movement of persons and goods into and out of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in collective punishment of the civilian population.  Combined, the settlements, wall, bypass roads, checkpoints and other Israeli military installations, were occupying huge swaths of Palestinian land, including areas with water and natural resources, which were being exploited.  The continuation of that illegitimate situation threatened prospects for peace and stability.

Colonization and the peace process could not coexist, she stressed.

It might truly be possible to break the obscene cycle of impunity by the occupier and persecution of the occupied, she continued.  The calls for responsible action, accountability and justice were intense and must be heeded.  That was imperative for halting Israel’s violations and ensuring its compliance with international law.  It was also necessary for creating the appropriate conditions advancing the cause of peace towards ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and establishing the independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, where the Palestinian people could finally realize their human rights, including those of self-determination.  As affirmed in the Goldstone report, “The [Permanent Observer] Mission is of the view that ending the occupation is a prerequisite for the return of a dignified life for Palestinians, as well as development and a peaceful solution to the conflict.”

ANN MÅWE (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Union remained committed to a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, on the basis of international law, the relevant United NationsSecurity Council resolutions, the terms of reference of the Madrid conference, including land for peace, the Road Map, the agreements previously reached by the parties, and the Arab Peace Initiative.  The Union remained equally committed to the two‑State solution with an independent, democratic contiguous and viable Palestinian State, living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel.  The continued settlement activities, house demolitions, and evictions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem remained a serious concern.  Of particular concerned was the development in East Jerusalem, for if there was to be genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two States.

She urged the Government of Israel to immediately end settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem, and including so-called “natural growth”, and to dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001.  The Union reiterated that the settlements were illegal under international law and constituted an obstacle to peace.  The Union would not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, other than those agreed by both parties.  She recalled the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the building of the separation barrier in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and reiterated the request that Israel halt construction and dismantle the separation barrier on occupied land, the lines of which did not correspond to the 1949 Armistice Demarcation, which ran contrary to international law.  She called for the progressive removal of Israeli restrictions on movement and access, in order to improve the situation on the ground and living conditions in the West Bank, and to revitalize the Palestinian economy.

Palestinian prisoners should be released in greater numbers, with priority being given to minors, she said.  The Union was also concerned about the practice of administrative detention by Israel.  That raised serious concerns regarding the respect for human rights of persons deprived of their liberty.

The European Union had deeply deplored the loss of life during the Gaza conflict in the beginning of the year, she said, reiterating the importance of the Geneva Convention, which formed “the heart of international humanitarian law.”  A durable solution to the Gaza crisis had to be achieved through the full implementation of United NationsSecurity Council resolution 1860 (2009).  The Union remained gravely concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza.  Reconstruction and economy recovery must be allowed, and she called for an immediate and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid into and out of Gaza, in line with international humanitarian law, as well as that of commercial goods.

She said that regional peace was of fundamental interest for the European Union, and thus that body was ready to work with the parties to the conflict, as well as the United States and other Quartet members and regional parties, to achieve that goal.

REBECA HERNÁNDEZ TOLEDANO ( Cuba) expressed her delegation’s support for the statement to be made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.  She also reiterated her delegation’s full support for the work of the Special Committee and for the request made by the General Assembly in resolution 63/95 calling for the Special Committee to continue its work until an end was put to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and that of other Arab territories occupied since 1967.

She said that the international community continued to bear witness to the alarming situation and unprecedented escalation of violence in Arab territories.  Her delegation noted with extreme concern the ever-increasing number of poor people and the number who could not have their daily needs met.  Currently, 65.8 per cent of the population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and 80 per cent in the Gaza Strip were poor.  In the Gaza Strip, the majority depended on food aid to survive, and almost 50 per cent were unemployed.  Efforts made by the international community had been unfruitful.  Israeli authorities, in frank disdain of international law and open disregard of resolutions, continued with their policies of aggression in the region.

The Security Council remained unable to address the matter and to find a solution to the conflict, she said, pointing to the common use or threat of use of the veto by a permanent member.  Moreover, the Israeli settlement activities demonstrated a lack of commitment and cooperation from the Israeli Government, and defiance of the General Assembly.  Her delegation was concerned about the indiscriminate and aggressive use of force by Israel, and its other illegal policies and practices.  The United Nations Fact Finding Mission and resulting Goldstone report showed vivid and stark evidence of violations of rights by Israel.  Her delegation was deeply concerned over the impunity with which Israel had acted and continued to act.  Israel continued with its policy of closures, and its unjust and inhumane policies towards inhabitants in the Gaza Strip.  It also maintained intense settlement activities, which included confiscation of large swaths of land, and continued to build the separation wall.

Her delegation reaffirmed that all Israeli actions seeking to alter the physical and demographic State of the Occupied Syrian Golan, and aimed at imposing its jurisdiction there, were null and void, she said.  The Palestinian people had the inalienable right to establish an independent and sovereign State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  In addition, her delegation demanded the return of all territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

MOHAMMED ABDULLAH AL HADHRAMI ( Yemen) said 20,000 Palestinian families had found themselves homeless as a result of last year’s war of aggression by the Israeli forces, which was “erroneously” waged under the mantle of “self defence”. Pre-meditated direct bombing, using the most deadly kinds of weapons, including the bombing of schools, hospitals and infrastructure in a region known for its high population density, could not really be considered self-defence.  The occupying Power had launched this “barbaric machine of war”, which had displaced so many people, all falsely on the grounds of “self-defence”.

He said that the Goldstone report, which had just recently been adopted by the General Assembly, was professional and thorough.  Highlighting some of its conclusions, he said that Palestinians had the right to resist the abuse of their right to self-determination and their right to life.  The report concluded that the military attack was unprecedented in terms of its extent and intensity, and its “barbarity”, and that there would be long-term consequences.  The report showed quite clearly that Israel had targeted civilians and their property, and said that the Israeli military attack on Gaza had very serious repercussions.

While Israel tried to show that its military actions were a self-defensive response to the launching of missiles, the report rejected that argument, saying that Israel’s aggressions were, to some extent, directed against the civilian population of Gaza.  The repeated failure to distinguish between combatants and civilians was not an unintentional error, but the result of clear instructions given to the soldiers, as some soldiers had borne witness to.  The destruction of sewer systems, food processing factories, cement factories, and homes was a clear and methodical policy, since those targets were not a direct military threat. Instead, Israel wanted to make Palestinians’ lives more intolerable.  The suffering of the Palestinian people would not end until the international community shouldered its responsibilities and put an end to the Israeli occupation of all Palestinian and Arab Territory, including the Occupied Syrian Golan.

MONA AL-KAHTANI ( United Arab Emirates) said that Israel followed a methodology of media blockade, through which the authorities covered up their crimes and grave violations against the Palestinian and Arab population.  That included preventing the members of the Special Committee from entering the Occupied Territories.  Israel’s actions had exceeded the limits of reasonableness and had led the Special Committee to carry out annually, since its establishment, meetings with witnesses and affected individuals in the neighbouring States, in order to find out the truth about Israeli practices and its violations of basic human rights principles.  The present report presented, in numbers and very clear evidence, the state of affairs and the inhumane realities suffered by the Arab population in the Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan.

She said that Israel continued its widespread and aggressive campaign, not even satisfied with aggression and military intervention, nor merely killing and the random and haphazard arrest of civilians, nor with the destruction of homes and the targeting of social and economic structures, the destruction of farms, the threat of natural resources, nor limiting the freedom of worship.  Israel had extended its activities recently to subjecting the Palestinian people to daily punishment, and continued military incursions into Palestinian Territory, enforcing a blockade on entry points to Palestinian cities and villages, thus depriving the population of the basic necessities of life, including relief supplies and medicines, fuel, and so on.  That action had intensified the suffering, socially, economically and humanely.  It had also inflicted great losses on the Palestinian economy.  Now, 80 per cent of the population in Gaza and 45 per cent of the families in the West Bank lived below the poverty level.  Palestinian communities were also suffering numerous social and health problems, such as the spread of diseases.

All of those actions were in addition to Israel’s aggression against United Nations facilities in the Palestinian Territory, and undermined humanitarian international efforts.  Those actions constituted a deliberate and outrageous disregard for the will of the international community.  Her delegation strongly denounced those practices, and viewed them as war crimes and crimes against humanity, as deduced by the Fact Finding Mission.

She called on the international community to pressure Israel to force it to stop its aggression and policy of collective punishment and blockade on Gaza.  Israel must immediately open all borders and crossing points to humanitarian support, especially medical supplies and treatment.  The international community must also call upon Israel to withdraw completely from all of the Palestinian and Arab Territories, occupied since 1967, and must immediately comply with the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  It must also implement the International Court of Justice advisory opinion, which called for an immediate halt to construction of the wall.  She also called on the international community to carry out several immediate and effective measures, as indicated in the Special Committee’s report.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) aligning his delegation with the statement to be made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the situation in the Middle East deteriorated every day as a result of the Israeli policies of intimidation. The Middle East, which had been a place of tolerance among faiths and peoples, was now a place of conflict.  The occupying regime had elevated aggression to an institutionalized policy, which had become the only policy governing its relations with States in the region.  Oppression against the Palestinian peoples occurred in broad daylight, as part of a campaign of annexation of land and “Judaization”.  The Israeli repression went along with a virtual genocide campaign, of which the recent campaign against Gaza was an edifying example.

He said that although Israel faced international rejection of its practices, it continued to show disdain, arrogance and defiance.  In recent years, Muslim holy places in Jerusalem had suffered many desecrations by Israel.  Those intolerable efforts to “Judaize” the city constituted the crossing of a new threshold and a new challenge to the authority of the Security Council and the international community as a whole.  His delegation wished to convey the “deep sense of outrage and revulsion” of the people and Government of Algeria over those most serious violations.  The “terrifying logic” of Israeli expansionism had taken the form of a “greed for land”, which was carried out with impunity.  Israel was pursuing a policy of aggression, domination and intimidation, and had systematically used force to impose its will.  It enjoyed support and the knowledge that any decision within the United Nations would be blocked so that it could continue its annexation of land.

BABACAR CARLOS MBAYE ( Senegal) expressed the full support of his delegation for the recommendations in the report of the Fact Finding Mission.  The State of Israel had stepped up its controls along the border of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and had, among other things, intensified its restrictions of food aid. In addition, rebuilding had still not begun in Gaza.  His delegation feared that such a particularly difficult situation would become an unprecedented humanitarian disaster if nothing was done to end it immediately.  In the West Bank, settlements were still being expanded, and hundreds of new homes had been built, while the occupying Authority continued to approve other similar projects.  As for the Occupied Syrian Golan, Israel continued to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration, which had negative consequences for the fundamental freedoms and human rights of the people there.

He said that the people in the occupied territories were understandably frustrated, and were waiting for an immediate end to the Israeli occupation and a life of some dignity.  Despite the completely unjustifiable lack of cooperation on the part of Israeli occupiers, the Special Committee had been able to collect sufficient evidence and actual proof about the situation, and they had described how the Palestinian people and other Arabs in the occupied territories were still living.  The United Nations must take the necessary steps to lead Israel to abide scrupulously by the principles of international law.  His delegation called on the State of Israel to look into its own history, and to look into the spirit of its own great people, in order to put an end to the suffering inflicted every day on the people of the occupied territories and enable them to recover the highest aspiration of a person.  In addition, his delegation called for a restart of negotiations.  Israel should cooperate with the Special Committee and allow it to visit the occupied territories, and he urged the international community, and particularly the Security Council, to ensure there was actual implementation of the recommendations made by the Special Committee.

BASO SANGQU (South Africa), aligning his delegation with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated full support for the work of the Special Committee.  The situation of Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories should be understood in the context of the ongoing Israeli military occupation, which dated back to 1967, and the associated denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.  The report once again showed that the illegal Israeli practices associated with the military, socio-economic and humanitarian disaster in the occupied Arab territories had not only continued, but had intensified.

He said that South Africa condemned the acts of aggression, as well as the gross and systematic violations of human rights in the Gaza Strip.  While the military incursion must come to an end, the consequences for the people of Gaza must also not be forgotten.   Israel bore full responsibility for compensating the Palestinian people, and the international community must also take the lead in efforts to rebuild Gaza.  He reiterated his delegation’s strong belief that the full implementation of the Special Committee’s report would contribute greatly towards ensuring accountability.

He also reiterated the call for Israel to immediately cease the building and expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and the continued demolition of Palestinian houses there and in East Jerusalem.  All of those actions were serious violations of international law and severely damaged the social and economic structures of the West Bank and Gaza.  They also increased unemployment and poverty, as well as reliance on humanitarian assistance.  Sadly, the economic hardships in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had intensified, owing to the border control regime and other trade-related obstacles.

The vision of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians based on the two-State solution, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, was the only sustainable solution.  South Africa looked forward to the day when Israel complied with its international obligations and fully cooperated with the Special Committee.

TAHIR HUSSAIN ANDRABI ( Pakistan) said that the Special Committee’s report, over the years, had become a compendium of human rights abuse faced by the people of Palestine and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, including Syrian Golan, at the hands of occupation forces.  This year, as well, a serious deterioration of the human rights situation had been reported.  Such findings were corroborated, not only by a number of United Nations reports, especially those of the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNRWA, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), but also those reported by independent international media.  The consequences of high-handed policies to maintain illegal occupation were disastrous on two counts:  firstly, their direct effect on the situation on the ground in terms of effects on lives and livelihoods; and secondly, their negative impact on the broader peace process, which was the only light at the end of a long tunnel of conflict and violence.

He said that the worsening humanitarian situation in the occupied territories was a matter of serious concern for his delegation.  Settlement activity and construction of the separation wall were against the Road Map and the commitments made by Israel on a number of occasions.  Those actions, in fact, triggered a whole range of human rights violations and hardships for the people of the occupied territories, including a denial of the right to life, liberty, property, freedom of movement, adequate standard of living, work, education and health.  They also deprived them of their scarce water resources.  The right to self-determination was a fundamental human right, whose denial and violation was at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  He agreed with the Special Committee that failure to realize that right would compromise the possibility for full respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of the Palestinian people.

An end to Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the peoples in the occupied territories was important for building an environment of trust and confidence, he said.  That trust and confidence, together with the active engagement of the international community, was the only way forward for the peace process and progress towards a two-State solution, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.

TARIQ ALI FARAJ AL-ANSARI (Qatar), associating his delegation with the statement to be made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the military occupation did not provide security for Israel, but was instead the worst violation of human rights against unarmed and oppressed people under the pretext of combating violence and terrorism.  That pretext was false and baseless, because the right to fight for liberation from foreign occupation was a legitimate right, which could not be equated with military aggression.

He welcomed the findings of the Special Committee as well as those of the Goldstone Fact Finding Mission, but said those were not enough; the international community had identified the issues, such as the wall’s construction and the dumping of toxic waste.  What was crucial was for the international community to act to stop those aggressions.  That was the particular responsibility of the five permanent members of the Security Council, specifically those States that had a historical responsibility for the Middle East issue.  Statements in support of the Palestinian peoples must be turned into action on the ground.

Among the most dangerous of Israel’s practices were attempts to “prejudice” the Islamic and Christian holy sites, he said.  Those harmful policies impeded opportunities for establishing lasting and comprehensive peace, and must be denounced and condemned.  Additionally, there were serious shortcomings in Israeli legislation, since those actions were not criminalized, even though they incited hatred and could be considered one of the “root causes of terrorism”.

Israel’s insistence on its illegal practices against the Palestinian and Arab peoples under occupation did not conform to the behaviour of the civilized world, he said.  With those practices, Israel had distanced itself from the family of nations, and squandered the opportunity to establish relations with the peace-loving nations of the Middle East.  If Israel’s leaders had foresight, they would realize that ending the occupation would provide a secure future, economically and socially, for the people of the entire region, including the Israeli people.

BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said that the report drew attention, for the fortieth consecutive year, to Israeli practices and to Israel’s deliberate and systematic destruction of the legal character of the Occupied Syrian Golan, as well as to the fact that it benefited from a culture of impunity and continued to have a mentality of being above the law.  That was despite the international community’s condemnation of such practices.  Israel paid no heed to international legitimacy or to ethical or humanitarian law, and it had persisted for decades in denying those rights and resolutions.  That was all in addition to its continuous refusal to receive the Special Committee or to permit it to visit the Occupied Arab Territories.  Furthermore, Israel did not cooperate with the international community to establish a just and comprehensive peace in the region.

He said that Israel continued to occupy the Syrian Golan, in defiance of hundreds of United Nations resolutions.  Israel persisted in such policies as the destruction of Syrian villages, replacing them with illegal settlements.  The report reiterated the chain of crimes committed by the Israeli occupation authorities, such as seizing the properties of Syrians in the Golan Heights, plundering their natural wealth and infrastructure, stealing water and diverting it to the settlements, pressuring the Syrian residents who had remained in the Golan, controlling their means of livelihood, bulldozing their land, and imposing exorbitant taxes, among other things.  Also, Israel refused to specify the mine sites in the territories.  There were approximately 2 million mines, which threatened the lives of farmers and other Syrian residents in the Occupied Golan.

Moreover, Israel had buried nuclear waste in some areas of the Occupied Golan, which demonstrated that it was indifferent to the health, environmental and agricultural safety of the Occupied Golan, as well as to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  His delegation called on the international community to bring pressure upon Israel to stop buying such waste, and to abide by international instruments as well as relevant International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decisions.  Furthermore, he said that all laws had been enacted to apply to everyone; hence, the credibility of the United Nations was at stake, and Israel had to fulfil its responsibilities and bring Israeli criminals to justice.

AMINE CHABI (Morocco), associating his statement with that to be made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that aggressions against civilians and the confiscation of land had “dastardly” and extremely serious consequences for the people of the Gaza Strip.  Suffering had increased, following the destruction of houses and public institutions, and Israel’s continued construction of the separation wall was in violation of international humanitarian law.  He condemned the “racial segregation” pursued by Israel, as that had terrible repercussions for the Palestinians, cutting them off from their villages and dividing them into small, isolated areas, forcing thousands to leave their lands.

He said that the Palestinians were experiencing difficult political situations as well, as there was a freezing of activities of the Palestinian Authority, making it impossible to meet vital needs in health and education.  Many Palestinians were tortured in detention centres established by Israel.  The Occupied Syrian Golan was also the site of serious human rights violations, and had been a theatre of serious violations against the Arab inhabitants of that region.  The “clamping down of the vise” of the Israeli Government on the population of that area, including taxes against the inhabitants, confiscation of lands and the exploitation of the natural resources, had greatly hurt the population.  Human rights violations continued, as did the violations of international conventions, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.

KHALAF BU DHHAIR (Kuwait) said that the Special Committee’s present report, as well as its previous ones, indicated clearly and unequivocally the continuation of the oppressive Israeli practices against the Palestinian population and others in the occupied Arab territories.  Those practices ran counter to international humanitarian law and to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and had led to the deterioration of the situation of human rights in those territories, thus increasing the suffering and complicating economic and social living conditions.  Since the middle of the last century, the Middle East crisis, with the question of Palestine at its core, remained at a standstill.  The Palestinian people were still suffering, their human rights violated and their lands occupied, and Security Council resolutions remained frozen. 

He said that despite all the fast-paced international efforts exerted to revive the peace process, the Israeli Government -- instead of taking serious confidence-building measures -- continued its inhumane practices, represented by an excessive use of its military machine against the unarmed Palestinian people, its intentional destruction of homes and infrastructure institutions of the Palestinian Authority, its closure of border crossing points, and its limitation of the freedom of movement and transportation of persons and goods.

Israel always claimed that it acted to guarantee human rights and respect for international laws and conventions, he said, calling on the international community, represented by the Security Council, to assume its responsibilities to stop the practices of the Israel Government by activating and implementing its own resolutions.  The international community should also take immediate measures to protect the civilian population and guarantee that such brutal practices, which led to the further deterioration of the living conditions of the Palestinian people, did not occur.  In addition, he called for the immediate and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Syrian Golan and for the Israeli Government to commit itself to implement the recommendations of the Special Committee and to cooperate with it.

HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been severely aggravated by the Israeli military operations of December 2008 and January 2009.  Israel’s policy of fragmentation of the Occupied Territory continued to dramatically affect the territorial contiguity and social fabric of the Palestinian peoples and was in violation of international law.  The expansion of illegal settlements had also worsened an already tense situation and negatively affected all Palestinians.

He said that Palestinian farmers were frequently harassed by physical attacks or threats by Israeli settlers.  Palestinian children and women were particularly exposed to violence, since they often appeared as the most vulnerable and were frequently alone during the day.  Women were often targeted by Israeli settlers, having their property and houses vandalized while inside their homes, being hit by rocks, fired at, beaten or verbally abused.  Those attacks frequently occurred in the presence of the Israeli army, which did not prevent or stop them.

Furthermore, Israeli authorities continued to demolish Palestinian houses, and the high number of checkpoints, road blocks and other obstacles severely violated the Palestinian’s right to freedom of movement, he said.  The right to an adequate standard of living, education, health and work were also impeded by years of Israeli blockades and military operations in Gaza.  Israel also continued to detain Palestinians, including children, under the administrative detention regime in “incommunicado” conditions for prolonged periods of time.

He said that the dehumanisation of the Palestinian peoples and other Arabs in the occupied territories was counterproductive to the aim of achieving the two‑State solution, where peoples of two contiguous States lived together in peace.  He urged that the recommendations contained in the report of the Special Committee be fully implemented and that no efforts be spared to pursue its goals.

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