International Community Not Lacking Standards in Middle East, but Effort to Implement Them, Fourth Committee Told in Debate on Israeli Practices

10 November 2009
GA/SPD/444

International Community Not Lacking Standards in Middle East, but Effort to Implement Them, Fourth Committee Told in Debate on Israeli Practices

10 November 2009
General Assembly
GA/SPD/444
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

24th Meeting (AM)

International Community Not Lacking Standards in Middle East, but Effort

to Implement Them, Fourth Committee Told in Debate on Israeli Practices

Impunity Must End for Soldiers Who Kill Without Distinction, Urge Speakers;

Israel Says Systematic Political Campaign Designed to Vilify Nation Fuels Conflict

What the international community faced today concerning the “crimes committed in Gaza by the Israeli regime was not a lack of standards and norms, but a need for greater effort to implement them”, Iran’s representative told the Fourth Committee as it concluded its general debate on Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

It was incumbent upon the international community to take effective measures to counter the violations and bring the criminals to justice, he said.  While commending the Special Committee for its useful missions to Egypt, Jordan and Syria, he said it was regrettable that it had not been able to gain access to the occupied territories to collect first-hand information about the situation on the ground.  However, the annual report still found Israel guilty of killing more than 1,200 Palestinians, injuring 5,300, and deploying excessive force, including with white phosphorous munitions, during a single military operation in Gaza.

“It must be really powerful to be an Israeli soldier,” asserted Lebanon’s speaker, since “there is almost nothing you can’t do”.  For the Israeli army, Palestinians did not have the right to life.  Its soldiers wrote on Gaza walls that “good Arabs are dead Arabs” and used blindfolded Palestinians as human shields.  Soldiers targeted civilians and killed without distinction between civilians and armed forces; they destroyed homes, food plants, hospitals, and sewage systems, and administratively detained Arabs -– even children -- for unlimited periods.

Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt’s representative said that Israel, throughout its more than 42-year occupation, had carried out deliberate and unlawful policies aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and nature of the Palestinian Territory, particularly via measures such as the confiscation of large areas of Palestinian land, implementation of its illegal colonial settlement policy and its illegal construction of the wall in the West Bank, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem.

He called on the Quartet (United Nations, European Union, Russian Federation, and the United States) to stop all settlement activities and to dismantle settlement outposts.  Such actions were not only flagrant violations and grave breaches of international law, but also heightened tensions, destabilized the fragile situation on the ground, and negatively affected the peace process.

Israel’s representative said that the report of the Special Committee was not -– nor had it ever been -– genuinely dedicated to advancing human rights.  Organs such as the Special Committee did not advance the goal of peace, but rather reinforced ingrained biases and deepened the kind of reflexive hostility towards Israel that had fuelled the conflict for so long.  That was part of a well‑calculated and systematic political campaign designed to vilify Israel and the right of its citizens to live in peace and security.  The Special Committee aimed to deny Israeli citizens the very rights it purported to cherish for others. 

That came as no surprise, he said, since the Special Committee, like other United Nations committees and bodies, “predetermined its conclusions and findings”.  That was precisely why Israel refused, and would continue to refuse, to cooperate with a body that “prejudged Israel’s culpability”.  That one-sided, politicized approach was well-reflected in its current report, which failed to mention the simple fact that more than 8,600 rockets had been launched from the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns and villages since 2001, the vast majority of which had been fired after Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. 

He said that the report offered an inverted narrative, accusing Israel of attacking Gaza for no reason whatsoever.  Meanwhile, the Special Committee totally ignored the current military build-up by Hamas, which endangered both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.  Just a week ago, Hamas had test-fired a missile capable of reaching most of Israel’s major population centres, and ships from Iran transported weapons -– rather than aid –- to the people of Gaza.

Despite the deliberate omissions of the report that sought to cherry pick information for politicized reasons, the past year had witnessed many positive developments in the West Bank, such as a growth of the Palestinian economy by more than 7 per cent, he said.  And despite the enormous security risks, Israel had done its utmost to find a balance between its legitimate security needs and the desire to foster growth and the foundations for peace.

Countering those assertions in a right of reply, the observer for Palestine said that by accusing the United Nations and its bodies, Israel revealed its long‑standing disdain for international law and the international system as a whole.  As for accusing the reports of not advancing the goal of peace, the reports merely reflected some of the practices that were “destroying every hope for peace”.  Thus, it would be better for Israel to end its illegal and shameful practices -– and not cease to report them -- in order to advance the goal of peace.

Also speaking in the debate were the representatives of Venezuela, Bangladesh, Jordan, United Republic of Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sudan, Bahrain, and Libya.

The representative of Syria also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 19 November, to take action on all remaining draft resolutions.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its consideration of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.  (Reports before the Committee are summarized in Press Release GA/SPD/443 of 9 November.)

MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the human rights situation of the Palestinian people remained dire, as a result of Israel’s unlawful policies and practices.  Over the past year, the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continued to deteriorate, marked by tensions and instability, owing to the prolonged Israeli occupation, which had entailed innumerable, deliberate gross human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law.  The Movement was greatly concerned over the “constant deterioration” of the situation, as a result of the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Israel against the Palestinian civilian population, as well as the confiscation and destruction of Palestinian land, homes and properties, and unlawful measures of collective punishment and continued imprisonment.

He said that the Movement condemned the ongoing Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territory and all other Arab territories since 1967, and called for the immediate cessation of Israel’s illegal practices and the urgent resumption of the peace process negotiations.  Those negotiations must be based on the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, particularly the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Road Map towards the achievement of the two-State solution for peace on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.  For more than four decades, Israel had deliberately violated international law in the occupied territories, which had been gravely detrimental to the promotion of peace.

The occupying Power had been incessantly committing grave human rights violations against the Palestinian civilian population, including women and children, he said.  The report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission in the Gaza Conflict constituted an important first step in remedying those unjust actions.  Moreover, throughout its more than 42-year occupation, the occupying Power had carried out deliberate and unlawful policies aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and nature of the Palestinian Territory, particularly via measures such as the confiscation of large areas of Palestinian land, implementation of its illegal colonial settlement policy and its illegal construction of the wall in the West Bank, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem.

Since its occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel had demolished more than 24,000 Palestinian homes, he said.  Reports also confirmed that at least 1,500 new demolition orders against Palestinians in the occupied city were also in process.  These Israeli actions of enforced displacement of Palestinians to replace them with settlers were illegal and must be condemned and seriously addressed by the international community.  Extremist settlers, with the support of the Israeli Government, had also continued to perpetuate acts of provocation and incitement, in particular in East Jerusalem, and especially in and around the Al‑Haram al-Sharif compound.

He said that despite all efforts made in the context of the Middle East peace and endeavours to resume negotiations, Israel had escalated its illegal activities in the recent period and refused to comply with the will of the international community.  He called on the Quartet to stop all settlement activities and to dismantle settlement outposts, as such actions were not only flagrant violations and grave breaches of international law, but also heightened tensions, further destabilized the fragile situation on the ground, and very negatively affected the peace process.  Simultaneously, the occupying Power continued to arrest and detain thousands of Palestinian civilians, subjecting them to degrading conditions and various forms of ill-treatment, in violation of their human rights.

The Movement reiterated its condemnation of all those illegal actions by Israel, and called for their immediate cessation, he said.  It also demanded that Israel abide by all its obligations under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.  That was vital to halting the deterioration of the situation on the ground, including in terms of the enjoyment by the Palestinian people of their inalienable human rights.  It was also vital for fostering an environment conducive to the pursuit of peace.

AMIR WEISSBROD ( Israel) reaffirmed the importance that Israel placed on the preservation of human rights.  Despite the fact that his region was marred by terrorists who rejected and challenged the most fundamental human rights, Israel remained committed to upholding its sacrosanct ideals towards the preservation of all human rights.  Israeli society remained open and one where its democratic institutions, independent and highly-professional judiciary, along with a vibrant public debate, ensured that Israel held itself to the highest international standards and obligations.  Israel was proud that its commitment to justice and the sanctity of human rights was on par with the democracies that were gathered in the Committee today.

He said that the report of the Special Committee, however, was not –- nor had it ever been -– genuinely dedicated to the advancement of human rights.  Rather, it was part of a well-calculated and systematic political campaign designed to vilify Israel and the right of Israel’s citizens to live in peace and security.  As such, the Special Committee aimed to deny Israeli citizens the very rights it purported to cherish for others.  That came as no surprise, as the Special Committee, like other United Nations committees and bodies, predetermined its conclusions and findings.  That was precisely why Israel refused, and would continue to refuse, to cooperate with a body that prejudged Israel’s culpability.

The one-sided politicized approach of the Special Committee was well reflected in its current report, he said.  For instance, the report failed to mention the simple fact that more than 8,600 rockets had been launched from the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns and villages since 2001.  The vast majority of those rockets were fired after Israel had completely withdrawn its presence from Gaza in 2005.  Yet, when the report described “Operation Cast Lead”, it offered an inverted narrative, which accused Israel of attacking Gaza for no reason whatsoever.  Unbelievably, the eight years of Hamas rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli men, women and children -– farmers and city dwellers –- was not found to deserve the Special Committee’s attention.

In the same manner, he said, the Special Committee totally ignored the current military build-up by the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza, which endangered both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.  Just a week ago, Hamas test‑fired a missile with a range of 65 kilometres –- a range that put most of Israel’s major population centres within reach of terrorist rockets.  One further example were the ships from Iran, which passed through the Red Sea onward towards the Gaza Strip, and which transported weapons -– rather than aid –- to the people of Gaza.  Once again, on all of the aforementioned realities, the Special Committee chose silence.

Despite the deliberate omissions of the report that sought to cherry pick information for politicized reasons, the past year had witnessed many positive developments in the West Bank, he said.  Those developments had been acknowledged by the Quartet and other relevant bodies, which sought to promote peace rather than the predictable narrative of the Special Committee.  For example, the Palestinian economy grew this year by more than 7 per cent, as the removal of major checkpoints in the West Bank, as well as the extension of the hours of operation of the Allenby Bridge, allowed for the greater transfer of people and goods.  Israel had taken many other similar measures, despite the enormous security risks that those measures entailed, in an effort to do its utmost to find a balance between its legitimacy security needs and the desire to foster growth and the foundations for peace.

He said that Israel was committed to reaching a permanent peace agreement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would permit both peoples to live in peace, security and dignity.  Israel longed for a time where joint energies, Israeli and Palestinian, would be directed to productive endeavours of mutual and universal benefit.  Organs such as the Special Committee, which issued distorted reports, did not advance the goal of peace.  Quite the contrary, such reports reinforced ingrained biases and deepened the kind of reflexive hostility towards Israel that had fuelled the conflict for so long, he said.

AMIR HOSSEIN HOSSEINI ( Iran) said that the highest priority must be given to the act of illegitimate forceful and unlawful occupation of the Palestinian territories, since the occupation of Palestine and the other Arab territories was indeed the most flagrant violation of essential and inalienable human rights.  The core concern in addressing the human rights situation was putting an end to more than six decades of occupation and the provision of essential conditions for the Palestinian people to freely exercise their right to self-determination.

He said that the Special Committee’s report had found Israel guilty of killing more than 1,200 Palestinians, among them, at least 319 innocent children and 111 women, and injuring some 5,300 Palestinians including 1,600 children and 830 women during one single military operation in Gaza.   Israel had also deployed excessive force and had targeted civilians, including with white phosphorous munitions, with dangerous effects on the lives and the health of the civilian population.  He also noted with deep concern the deliberate attacks on several schools operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The crimes committed by the occupying regime during its heinous military offensive on Gaza were all clear indications that the nature and policies of the “criminal regime” had remained unchanged.  Crimes such as the blockade in Gaza and previous massacres since 1948 clearly indicated that the aggressive character of the regime remained the same, and that the regime was willingly persisting in its policy of blind repression and atrocity against the original, legal owners of the occupied territories -– the Palestinians.

Iran, while condemning the gross violation of human rights of the Palestinian peoples, believed that it was the international community who should shoulder the responsibility to counter such illegal and inhuman practices, which were clearly contrary to international law, he said.  The emphasis should be on practical steps to make human rights implementation and enforcement in the occupied territories a reality.  What was faced today was not a lack of standards and norms, but a need for greater effort to implement them.  It was incumbent upon the international community to take effective measures to counter the violations and bring the criminals to justice.

He reiterated the need for access to first-hand information about the situation in the occupied territories.  While commending the Special Committee for it useful missions to Egypt, Jordan and Syria, it was regrettable that it had not been able to gain access to the occupied territories.  That policy ran counter to the merit of all relevant international instruments, as well as United Nations resolutions concerning the situation of civilians in the occupied territories.  Additionally, the Golan was an integral part of Syria’s territory, and he condemned all measures taken to undermine the territorial integrity of that country.  He expressed deep concern over the grave deterioration of the human rights situation and the increase in number of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Addressing the statement made by the representative of Israel, he said that all members of the Fourth Committee were familiar with that delegation’s “tired practices” and “useless measures”.  Instead, Israel’s delegation should “simply listen attentively” to the current debate on the gross violations of the rights of the Palestinian peoples, and by so doing, would “certainly recognize” the root cause of the conflict in the Middle East region. 

MARÍA-WALESKA VIVAS-MENDOZA ( Venezuela), associating her delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, thanked the Special Committee for its excellent and meticulous research and work, despite the obstacles that the Government of Israel had placed along the way.  Her delegation welcomed the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 64/10 on the follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict.  The support given by the international community reflected a widespread sentiment within the Organization, namely, that impunity for the Government of Israel must stop.  That was the main obstacle to peace and endangered the efforts of the international community to maintain peace and security.  It also violated the principles of sovereignty.

She said that the Fourth Committee’s general debate on the subject was an appropriate opportunity to recall the systematic violation of the rights of the Palestinian people.  The extensive number of deaths and mutilation, dismantling of basic infrastructure, and imprisonment were today a painful reference to a conflict that was already 61-years-old.  For that reason, her delegation expressed its resolute support for the work of the Special Committee.  Since its establishment, the human tragedy had only grown more acute, particularly in the Gaza Strip.  The situation of the Palestinian people had reached the level of a humanitarian disaster.  The critical situation of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip was encountered daily, owing to the precarious access to goods and services.  Some 85 per cent of the population depended on food aid, thus jeopardizing the right to sufficient food.  There was also a health crisis caused by Israeli restrictions to medical supplies.

Her delegation was also deeply concerned by the lack of significant progress in the peace process, she said.  The Israeli Government had continued its systematic policy of aggression and harassment against the Palestinian people.  Israeli attacks were part of a deliberate State policy to impose a collective punishment against the people of Gaza, in flagrant violation of international law.  Israel continued to demolish homes and build settlements, in flagrant violation of the International Court of Justice and in open violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Her delegation reiterated that Israel’s impunity was the major obstacle to peace.  In closing, she paid tribute to the irrepressible spirit of the Palestinian people, who, in the midst of scarcity, showed the dignity of a national community, which was landless and in permanent exile.  The Palestinian people were an example and a source of inspiration for the peoples of the world that were fighting for a just peace and a right to self-determination.

SHARKE CHAMAN KHAN ( Bangladesh), aligning her delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed grave concern over the serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law committed by Israel during its military operations in Gaza.  This year’s report of the Special Committee illustrated a higher degree of devastation.  The operation by Israel had killed more than 1,200 Palestinians, the majority of which were civilians, including women and children.  The stark findings of the Goldstone Report depicted a similarly poignant picture.  Israel continued to impose sweeping restrictions on Palestinians’ movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  During the Gaza war, more than 1 million civilians had been trapped without the possibly of fleeing to safety.  Increasing numbers of movement and access blockades, continued construction of the separation wall on Palestinian land in deviation from the Armistice Line of 1949, and expansion of Israeli settlements were worsening the humanitarian situation.

She said that Israeli settlement polices, the use of indiscriminate and overwhelming force, the policy of collective punishment, and economic deprivation, land confiscation and restriction of movement continued unabated in blatant violation of international law, transforming the demography in the occupied territories.  She urged Israel, as the occupying Power, to comply with the obligations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and applicable international law and international humanitarian law.  She further urged it to lift its embargo against the Palestinians and immediately open all border crossings to allow for the free movement of goods, persons and humanitarian aid.

ADI KHAIR (Jordan), expressing support for the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his delegation also supported the recommendations contained in the report of the Special Committee, which should continue its work until the Israeli occupation ended.  He called on Israel to cooperate with the Special Committee and to comply with its recommendations.  The report stressed the extent of Israeli violations of the rights of the Palestinian people and described their tragic impact in the occupied territories.  Moreover, the report clearly stated that the current situation in the Gaza Strip had become a real tragedy, particularly with the ongoing blockades.  Gaza had been turned into “a huge prison”.  All United Nations experts had stressed the urgent need to end the blockade and to allow the import of medical supplies, food, agricultural imports and construction materials.  His delegation also called for an end to the blockade and for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, as the people there were suffering and did not have what they needed to live a normal life.

He said that for the peace process to be credible, there must be an immediate halt to such practices, which were contrary to international law and international humanitarian law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention.  In order to make progress, there must be a change in the reality of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territory.  That was possible only if all of the completely unjustified checkpoints were removed.  The Special Committee had based itself on the Charter, and had cited statistics to show that Israel was continuing settlements in the West Bank and also promoted natural growth.  Moreover, Israeli actions, such as detention and the demolition of houses, were contrary to international law. 

Continuing, he said that the settlements also interfered with the freedom of movement of Palestinians and disrupted their water supplies.  Settlements and peace were not compatible, as the settlement activities meant that a Palestinian entity could not be established in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Indeed, the settlement activities were a direct threat to any prospect for peace in the region as a whole.  Also, ongoing construction of the separation wall was contrary to international law and threatened family life.  It disrupted the very social fabric of Palestinian society and displaced thousands of Palestinians.  Peace could not be achieved without a two-State solution.

MAJDI RAMADAN ( Lebanon) aligned his delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.  He said that for the Israeli army, Palestinians did not have the right to life, as its soldiers wrote on Gaza walls that “good Arabs are dead Arabs”.  Israelis thus considered it acceptable to use blindfolded Palestinians as human shields in Gaza, to evict Palestinians in East Jerusalem from their homes, or even demolish those homes.

“It must be really powerful to be an Israeli soldier”, he said, since “there is almost nothing you can’t do”.  He said soldiers were able to target civilians and kill without distinction between civilians and armed forces.  Israeli soldiers could destroy homes, food plants, hospitals, and sewage systems, and administratively detain Arabs for unlimited periods, even children, such as the 2‑year-old, Fahid Lu-ay Shuqeir, who had been born outside the occupied Golan while his parents were studying in their homeland of Syria.

He called for a just and lasting solution of the Middle East conflict based on the relevant Security Council resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, the principle of land-for-peace, the right of the Palestinian refugees to return, and the Arab Peace Initiative.   Lebanon condemned the continued Israeli blockade on Gaza, which had intensified during and after the latest war on Gaza, and further demanded that Israel end it unlawful closure and blockade of Gaza, open all crossing points, and end its campaign of settler colonization.

DORA MSECHU (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning her delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated support for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of international law, relevant Security Council resolutions, the terms of reference of the Madrid conference, the Road Map, and the Arab Peace Initiative.  Her delegation equally supported a two-State solution, with an independent Palestinian State, living side-by-side in peace and security with the State of Israel. 

She was concerned about the situation in the Occupied Palestine Territory, including East Jerusalem, as a result of the continuing unlawful activities by Israel, the occupying Power.  Those activities included the expansion of settlement activities, house demolitions and forced evictions from the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  She urged the Israeli authorities to address those concerns, in order to create space and much-needed flexibility by both sides to permit the resumption of the stalled peace negotiations.  Her delegation supported the current initiatives by the United States Administration to prevail over both sides to return to the negotiating table.

The issue of expanding settlement activities and the construction of the wall were major stumbling blocks to the peace process, she said.  Her delegation also deplored the excessive and indiscriminate use of force against the civilian population, and urged the Israeli Government to lift the embargo on Palestinians and open the border crossings to allow for the free movement of goods and persons and, most importantly, of humanitarian aid. 

She said that her delegation equally supported the right of Israeli citizens to live in peace.  In that way, the foundations of two States living side-by-side in peace would begin to take form.  She called on the international community, particularly the Security Council, to uphold its responsibilities and to take necessary action to ensure the resumption of the peace process, in accordance with all legal obligations and commitments under the Quartet Road Map.

GHAZI JOMAA ( Tunisia) said that the Special Committee had expressed deep concern that the situation would lead to a deterioration of the rights of the Palestinian peoples.  He referred specifically to the construction of the wall and restriction of movement, and the continued blockade of Gaza.  The ongoing constraints of basic rights –- to life, health care, education, employment and movement, and the violation of the principle and resolutions of international legality, prompted the international community to move urgently to put an end to the suffering of the “brotherly Palestinian people”.

He said that the various illegal practices of the Israeli peoples were “a big problem”, and he called on the international community and the important partners to force Israel to respect its commitments, especially those related to the Road Map, the relevant international resolutions, and the repeated appeals by the Quartet, among others.  He also called for an immediate halt to settlement construction.  Those settlements posed a grave threat to the rights of the Palestinians, as well as to any hope of resuming the peace process as a whole.

Tunisia had always put the Palestinian question at the head of its priorities, and supported its peoples in their tragic situation, he said, calling on the international community and the executive bodies to immediately interfere to put an end to the aggressive practices and settlement policy of Israel.  Humanitarian assistance should be provided, without restriction, to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, who had lived under a blockade for many years.  Tunisia supported the peace options and insisted on their international legitimacy.  It sought a breakthrough in the current stalemate, in order that an end be put to the suffering of the Palestinian people.  That implied a final solution to all the aspects of the crisis, through the restoration of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian peoples.

BENEDICT LUKWIYA (Uganda), aligning his delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated his country’s full support for the work of the Special Committee.  The report elaborated the grim humanitarian situation in the Occupied Territory.  The humanitarian tragedy was appalling, and Uganda deplored the emotional toll brought on the people of Gaza and the occupied West Bank.  His delegation called on Israel to take immediate steps to facilitate the movement of the Palestinian people, and of goods and international humanitarian organizations into the occupied territories.  It called, in particular, for an end to the blockade and a freeze of all settlement activity, including natural growth, as well as an end to land confiscations.  Those actions undermined the very spirit and credibility of the peace process.

He reiterated his delegation’s support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people.  It also fully 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, existing side-by-side with the State of Israel.  Uganda called for renewed intensification of efforts by the international community, including the Quartet, to support negotiations between the two sides and the full implementation of the Road Map, towards ending the occupation.  The Special Committee’s report was a reminder of a conflict in the Middle East that had gone on for too long.  A just and durable solution was urgent, now more than ever before, he concluded.

CHOL MIN KIM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that although a series of measures aimed at resolving the Middle East issue had been taken at the international level, those had not been translated into action.  That was due to the improper attempts of countries such as the United States, which tolerated and even fostered the Israeli occupation and violation of human rights of the Arab territories.  Even today, Israel continued its brutal military campaigns, construction of the separation wall and territorial blockade.  Those constituted obvious “state terrorism” and crimes against humanity, which were flagrant violations of the United Nations Charter and grave breaches of international law, as well as “naked provocation” against the Middle East peace process.

He said it was the firm commitment of the Member States of the Non-Aligned Movement to fully contribute to the immediate and just settlement of the Palestinian issue by their collective efforts.  In order to resolve the Middle East issue, it was most important to put an end to the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories, including Palestine.  Towards that objective, it was necessary to take, without delay, just and comprehensive measures aimed at realizing the inalienable right of the Palestinians, including the right to self-determination, leading to the founding of an independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and resolving the core issues, including borders, safety, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, water and prisoners.

He reiterated his delegation’s full support for and solidarity with the Palestinian peoples in their just struggle to restore their legitimate national rights, including the right of founding an independent State, as well as those of the Arab peoples, in their efforts for fair solutions in the Middle East.

KHALID MOHAMMED OSMAN SIDAHMED MOHAMMED ALI (Sudan), expressing support for the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Special Committee’s report indicated very clearly the continuation of the illegal and inhumane Israeli practices, which violated the rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, and the Syrians in the occupied Golan.  The report under review spoke of some of the tragic aspects of the war launched by Israel against Gaza, which had led to loss of life and destruction of homes, hospitals, schools and mosques.  All crossing points between Israel and Gaza were still closed, except in emergencies.  In addition, the Palestinians suffered from the continuation of the building of the separation wall, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.  Palestinians, including children, were also detained, in addition to suffering attacks by settlers.

He said that the report also cited additional rights violations, such as the right to food, housing, water, work, health and education, as well as the right to live.  Despite the fact that hundreds of resolutions had been issued by the United Nations calling on Israel to end its occupation, the report concluded that the settlers in the Golan were increasing and that there was an increase in the use of the Syrian Golan’s resources.  That was in addition to the violation of the civil rights of the Syrian Arabs, including detention.  Moreover, Israel still prevented United Nations committees and agencies from reaching the Syrian Golan.  His delegation supported the findings and recommendations in the report.  It also supported the steadfastness of the Palestinian people, and their right to establish an independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  His delegation called on Israel to fully withdraw from the occupied territories.

FAISAL AL ZAYANI ( Bahrain) said that in light of the relentless attacks committed against the Palestinian people, it seemed that the Israeli occupier took pleasure in destroying homes and public and private property, and in violating the rights to life and freedom.  The Human Rights Council had condemned the human rights violations in East Jerusalem and had demanded that Israel immediately end the excavation under the Al-Aqsa mosque and its surroundings.  The destruction of homes was not justified by any security concern, but was an essential tool used by Israel to control the West Bank.  That was in violation of the rights of the Palestinians, and the building of Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, was condemned internationally, as an international law violation.

He said that the most recent events in the occupied territories and the increasing settlements represented another aspect of the gradual loss of the Palestinian land and territory.  The very existence of settlers contributed to the fragmentation of Palestinian lands; it would isolate the lands and separate them from each other.  The serious effects on the Palestinian economy, and the consequences stemming from that, were in danger of becoming the status quo, with unemployment and poverty remaining widespread among the Palestinian population.  The Israeli policy of closures was the main reason for the poverty and the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, where the poverty rate was increasing significantly.  The report of the Economic and Social Council said that the disruption of homes and the confiscation of Arab lands, as well as the displacement of Palestinians, had “simply worsened the situation”.

There was no doubt about who was responsible for intensifying the suffering of the Palestinian people, he said.  The violence of settlers and the continued construction of the separation wall were in flagrant violation of the consultative opinion of the International Court of Justice.  The Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip was “a new chapter” in the journey of Palestinian suffering.  Indeed, the Goldstone Report listed a set of violations, which it deemed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

AHMED H. M. GEBREEL ( Libya) said that the Israeli occupation had caused Palestinian suffering since 1948.  That was also the main cause of instability in the Middle East.  Ongoing Israeli practices and violations were inhumane and illegal.  Those actions were the result of occupation.  As the last speaker on the subject in the present debate, he supported everything that had been said by previous delegations, which had detailed all of the violations by Israel.  He would not repeat them, as that would take hours.

He had one question for Israel, however, and that was regarding whether there was any law or international treaty that had not yet been violated in the occupied territories.  He did not really expect an answer, because the answer was well known.  On the contrary, he wished to address all members, so that they could take steps and send a message to Israel that its practices were no longer acceptable.  There had been a whole series of international reports condemning those practices, including reports by Desmond Tutu, the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Secretary-General and, recently, the so-called “Goldstone Report”.  Although there were some who tried to deny what was happening to the Palestinian people, and to deny that they were suffering from the occupation and from a blockade, it was necessary to support the Palestinian people who were resisting occupation, in order to try to ensure that they could exercise their inalienable rights.

Rights of Reply

Speaking in Right of Reply, the representative of Syria said that the allegations of the representative of the “occupation Authority” regarding Israel’s respect of human rights was “nonsense”, and had no basis; it was a “hollow allegation” that ran counter to all United Nations reports, the least of which was the Goldstone Report.  That report recorded the war crimes and crimes against humanity by the occupying forces against the people in Gaza.  If Israel really respected human rights and had nothing to hide, he asked why it denied the Special Committee the opportunity to reach the occupied territories.  The allegations ran counter to the “racist writings” in Israel, including for example, those of two Rabbis in Israel who yesterday had issued a statement, which allowed for the killing of Palestinian children and babies.  “How could this conform to respect for human rights?” he asked. 

He said that the Committee had lately heard the representative of “the occupation” flouting the will of the international community, as was usually expressed annually through widespread support –- near-unanimous support -- of the report of the Special Committee and the extension of that body’s mandate.  It seemed that the representative of the “occupation Authority” did not know how to read history.  If Israel had suffered from rockets since 2001, the suffering of the Palestinian people had begun in 1967 when the occupation started, which made all the actions of the Palestinians that followed a “just reaction” and a legal and legitimate one, according to international law.  Additionally, Hamas had been established in 1987 -- 20 years after the occupation and the commencement of the suffering of the Palestinian peoples.  Lastly, it was strange that the representative of the “occupation Power” had not said one word about the crazy campaigns of settlement that “ate up” the territories, especially the lands of East Jerusalem.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the observer for Palestine said he wished to clarify some of the false remarks and comments that had been made in the Israeli statement.  While Israel might be as the Israeli delegate had described for its Jewish citizens, it held the record of being the “single most” nation that violated other people’s human rights, international law and international resolutions.  The so-called democratic institutions of Israel, which were, according to the Israeli delegate’s statement, “independent and highly professional”, had denied, for the past 60 years, more than 2.5 million refugees the right to return to their homelands and had not even  recognized their existence.  The State that “holds itself to the highest international standards” denied its Arab citizens so many rights that were given to the Jewish citizens, and did not recognize scores of villages where its own citizens resided because those villages were Palestinian.

He said that human rights organizations inside Israel had shown time and again that Israel had turned impunity into an institution, where Israeli occupation soldiers and armed settlers “get away with murder” on a regular basis because their victims were Palestinian, he said.  He wondered how one could call the State of Israel a democracy, when the laws and institutions had “set discrimination in stone”, when 20 per cent of the population continued to suffer discrimination and sometimes abuse while being denied their existence under the officially-advocated policy of calling Israel a Jewish State.

Israel wanted to deny the Palestinians the right to resort to international institutions, which had been created by the civilized world to resolve differences and to remedy international law violations, he said.  It did so in order to have a free hand to carry out its abuses with impunity and in the absence of accountability.  Israel now stood alone in carrying out those policies, as even its closest allies documented, he said, referring to a United States State Department report regarding intolerance.

By accusing the international system of the United Nations and its bodies, Israel revealed its long-standing disdain for international law and the international system as a whole, he continued.  Questioning the integrity of the Fourth Committee, or of any other United Nations committee, was unacceptable, but not surprising, because it came from a Member State that had yet to accept a single report produced by United Nations or any other independent organization.

He said that the Special Committee’s report, unlike what had been said, was comprehensive and discussed at length relevant developments on the Israeli and Palestinian side.  As for accusing the reports that documented the grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law of not advancing the goal of peace, the reports merely reflected some of the Israeli illegal occupation practices that were destroying every hope for peace, he said.  Thus, it would be better for Israel to end its illegal and shameful practices -– and not cease to report them -- in order to help advance the goal of peace.

As for the issue of Gaza and withdrawal, he said that repeating something did not turn it into a fact.  Israel’s exit of Gaza did not constitute an end to its occupation or to the obligation Israel had as an occupying Power towards the Gazan population.  Instead of fulfilling its obligations as an occupying Power, Israel chose to add another layer of gross violation of international law to its already robust record, by imposing an inhumane siege and waging a criminal war on the entire population of the Gaza Strip, he said.

As for the so-called “security needs” of the Israeli occupying Power -– the last standing occupying Power –- it was surprising to see that the issue was used one more time to justify war crimes and gross violations of international law, when such attempts had failed in the past and had been refuted by all international and independent reports, and also by Israeli non-governmental organizations.  Additionally, it was counter-intuitive to accept that argument, given Israeli actions on the ground. 

He concluded by stressing that Palestine would continue to “knock on the doors” of the United Nations and all of its bodies until Israel, the occupying Power, ended its illegal and brutal practices towards the Palestinian people and their land, and until 42 years of occupation were brought to an end and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people were fulfilled.

Following that, Fourth Committee Vice-Chairman, RIDAS PETKUS ( Lithuania), said that delegations were still negotiating on the draft resolutions to be submitted under the agenda items concerning the work of UNRWA and the report of the Special Committee.  The Committee would take action on those draft resolutions, as well as on a draft resolution regarding international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space (document A/C.4/64/L.2/Rev.1) and one on the tentative programme of work for the sixty-fifth session in 2010 (document A/C.4/64/L.10), during the Committee’s next and final meeting, which was scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, 19 November.

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