Israel’s Pursuit of Peace ‘Façade’, as Human Rights Violations, Untold Suffering, Blockade Persist Even in Life-and-Death Situations, Fourth Committee Hears
Israel’s Pursuit of Peace ‘Façade’, as Human Rights Violations, Untold Suffering, Blockade Persist Even in Life-and-Death Situations, Fourth Committee Hears
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
21st Meeting (AM)
Israel’s Pursuit of Peace ‘Façade’, as Human Rights Violations, Untold Suffering,
Blockade Persist Even in Life-and-Death Situations, Fourth Committee Hears
Reviewing Report of Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, Delegates
Say Restricting Dual-Use Items into Gaza Severely Impedes Enclave’s Reconstruction
Despite a “façade” of actively pursuing peace, Israel continued to infringe on the basic human rights of the Palestinians and inflict “untold suffering” through a blockade that prevented the flow of goods and people, even in life-and-death situations, undermining any future prospects for a peaceful settlement, delegates told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) today, as it began its annual discussion of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the occupied territories.
In its report, the Special Committee - composed of Member States Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Senegal - presents information gathered from interviews of 43 Palestinian, Israeli and Syrian witnesses in Egypt, Jordan and Syria concerning the human rights situation in the occupied territories. Since its establishment in 1968 the Committee had not received cooperation from Israel to conduct its work within the occupied territories.
The representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine said that Israel’s unlawful actions on the ground provided the starkest evidence of the contrast between its professed desire for peace and its actions, included through injuring, imprisoning, displacing and collectively punishing Palestinian civilians through the destruction of homes, property, infrastructure and land.
She said that children bore the brunt of the consequences arising from the unlawful blockade, and suffered from alarming levels of malnutrition, stunted growth, anaemia, and other diseases. That humanitarian crisis persisted, despite Israel’s claims of “easing” the blockade, which let in barely 25 per cent of needed goods and supplies. She called on the international community to take “whatever steps necessary” to break the blockade and compel Israel to immediately open border crossings for the regular, sustained movements of persons and goods.
In that vein, South Africa’s representative said that despite Israel’s allowance now of unrestricted entry for all items except a published list of “dual use” items, that easing had not positively altered the situation. Construction materials, which were mainly classified as “dual use” materials, were the most needed for the reconstruction of Gaza.
Senegal’s representative said that the mass denial of Palestinian rights by Israel had had tragic consequences, which were evident on a daily basis, and which caused untold and unacceptable human suffering and triggered reactions that kept the Middle East region in a state of tension and antagonism. As in pervious years, he said, Israel displayed an “unjustified lack of cooperation” with the Special Committee, obstructing its efforts to properly deliver on the commitments vested in it by the General Assembly. Israeli policies and practices and the culture of impunity that surrounded them, seriously hampered the advent of decent and dignified living conditions for the inhabitants living under Israeli occupation.
Also expressing concern that Israel continued to ignore the request of the Committee for full access to the occupied territories, Indonesia’s representative said that settlement issues remained the most “formidable hurdle” on the road to peace. It was regrettable, therefore, that calls by the international community for Israel to stop settlement construction continued to be ignored. Echoing the calls of several other delegations, he urged Israel to halt settlement expansion, restore freedom of movement to the Palestinians, and end the collective punishment of the people of Gaza.
Drawing the Committee’s attention to incidences of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, Venezuela’s representative said that those had included firebombing mosques, destroying olive fields, killing cattle, and attacking villagers.
Syria’s representative said that four decades had gone by and Israel continued to challenge humanitarian norms, with more than 1,000 resolutions adopted by relevant bodies since 1948. All the resolutions called for withdrawal from the occupied territories, but thus far, nobody had been able to rein in Israel’s expansionism.
That representative also lamented the refusal by the Israeli authorities to identify the locations of mines in the Syrian Golan, and its continued policy of arbitrary arrests and detentions there. He said that throughout the occupied territories, the occupying Power continued its aggressive policies, murders and oppressive practices, land confiscations, and forced displacements, and had transformed Gaza into the largest prison in the world, depriving its residents of food, fuel and other basic needs.
The representative of Sri Lanka introduced the Special Committee’s report.
Also speaking were the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Cuba, Pakistan and Kuwait.
The Committee is scheduled to meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 8 November, to continue its debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in occupied territories.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to 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 (A/65/327). 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 (Chairperson), Malaysia and Senegal.
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 8 to 19 June 2010. In those three countries, the Committee interviewed 43 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 General 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 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 with international humanitarian and human rights law. Further, it should request the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take concrete measures, in respect of their obligations under article 1, to ensure respect for the Convention by Israel.
In addition, the Assembly should call on Israel to stop its policies of confiscating land and of expanding settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan, and ensure that Israeli forces protect Palestinian civilians and their property against settler violence. It should also call on Israel to restore freedom of movement for Palestinians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory by lifting the closure regime, and stop building roads accessible only to Israeli settlers and citizens and preventing access by Palestinians, in particular women and children, to their fields, schools, places of work, hospitals and other health-care facilities, as well as the passage of ambulances. Israel should also be called on to guarantee to prisoners and detainees a fair trial and detention conditions, in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law, and establish an independent and transparent system of accountability that ensures prompt and impartial investigations, that perpetrators are brought to justice and that victims enjoy the right to an effective remedy.
Further, Israel should urgently comply with resolution 497 (1981), which annuls the Israeli decision on the annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan, and end its occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan. Israel should implement the concluding observations and recommendations of United Nations treaty bodies and special procedures mechanisms, and the recommendations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Human Rights Council, as well as facilitate visits of separated families located in the Syrian Golan and the occupied Syrian Golan, pending a resolution to the conflict. The Committee would also have the Assembly call on the Palestinian Authority to abide by its obligations under international human rights and international humanitarian law.
The Committee also had before it 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/64/326), 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.
Also before the Committee was the 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/65/355), in which the General Assembly demands that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, and that it comply scrupulously with the provisions of the Convention. It also calls upon all High Contracting Parties to the Convention to continue to exert all efforts to ensure respect for its provisions by Israel, the occupying Power.
The Committee also had before it a report of the Secretary-General on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/65/365), which addresses the continuation of Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Arab territories and its impact on the human rights of the residents. The report recommends that Israel abide by its international legal obligations and its pre-existing commitments as stated in the Road Map to cease transferring its civilian population into settlements, immediately and completely freeze all settlement activities, including in occupied East Jerusalem, and immediately dismantle outposts erected since March 2001.
The report also says that Israel should immediately cease demolitions in Area C and adopt measures that would ensure that Palestinian planning and development needs were met. Further, Israel must adopt all necessary measures to prevent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and their property, and ensure that Israeli security forces are properly instructed to protect Palestinian civilians from settler violence. Israel must also ensure that there is no impunity for crimes committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and that redress is provided to the victims of such crimes.
Also before the Committee was a report addressing the implementation of General Assembly resolution 64/94, entitled “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/65/366). The report recommends that the Government of Israel take immediate actions to prevent further incidences of excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians. The report also says that the firing of indiscriminate rockets and mortars into southern Israel must stop, as such firings result in death, injury, damage to infrastructure and general terror among the civilian population, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.
Further, the report calls on Israel to immediately and publicly clarify the restrictions it intends to enforce on freedom of movement within Gaza and publicly issue relevant guidelines. Such restrictions should not be enforced, in the first instance, by opening live fire, and their parameters should give due consideration to the Gazan agricultural and fishing industries. Noting recent progress in this area as a result of positive measures implemented by the Government of Israel, Israeli authorities should place priority on the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) and on reopening the crossing points in line with the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
The Committee also had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/65/372), in which the General Assembly calls upon Israel, to comply with the relevant resolutions on the occupied Syrian Golan, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981), by which the Council decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect. It calls upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, as well as its other repressive measures against that population.
Also before the Committee was a letter dated 15 October from the Permanent Representative of the Syria to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, (document A/65/520), regarding the situation in the Middle East.
Statement by the General Assembly President
JOSEPH DEISS, President of the General Assembly, said he was pleased to have the opportunity to visit the Fourth Committee, however briefly, as it was not often that the General Assembly President visited or assisted the main Committees. Turning to the substance of the Fourth Committee’s work, he said he was pleased to note the progress made on its efforts. He was aware that the issues under consideration spanned several diverse and complex issues. He was confident that all members had contributed in a constructive manner to ensure the timely conclusion of the Committee’s work. He noted that widespread consensus had been found in this year’s session around the need for cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, for example, as well as on peacekeeping, which demonstrated the great commitment to an issue so vital to the Organization.
He said it was really an important priority of the General Assembly presidency to bring to the world the workings of the General Assembly and of its committees, and he considered it to be one of his main duties, as the Committees’ efforts played an integral part in strengthening public support for the role and work of the Organization.
The complex issue relating to the situation in the Middle East, which was under consideration today in the Fourth Committee, demanded further dedication, flexibility and cooperation, he said, adding that the work of the Fourth Committee on that difficult topic was very important. He hoped that Members States would continue to work together in a constructive and positive spirit to support the ongoing efforts to foster a just and lasting peace in that region.
Introduction to the Report
PALITHA T.B. KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) presented the forty-second report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. The report examined the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan between September 2009 and August 2010, as mandated by General Assembly resolution 64/91. The report was a summary of the information gathered during the Committee’s mission to Egypt, Jordan and Syria in June 2010. The Special Committee appreciated the cooperation of representatives of the Governments of those countries.
Since the Committee’s establishment, the representative said, the Government of Israel had not accommodated its repeated requests to visit the occupied territories. While on mission, the Committee had interviewed 43 Palestinian, Israeli and Syrian witnesses and representatives of non-governmental organizations, as well as representatives of Government, and regional and intergovernmental organizations. The testimonies had attested to a failure to address the longstanding pattern of serious human rights violations. Israel continued to fail to protect the population of the occupied territories and to meet its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. The report noted that the policies and practices emanating from the occupation were a key source of the violations. Indeed, the current regime continued to infringe on a broad range of rights, including rights to health, education, an adequate standard of living, work and family life. The high proportion of occupied population lived in poverty and large numbers were totally dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Several issues were of pressing concern, he said. One was the need to address the issue of the Palestinian right to self-determination, which was undermined by the ongoing confiscation of land, settlement expansion, the construction of the wall and efforts to remove traces of Palestinian heritage. Information received by the Committee demonstrated that settlement building had continued in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank during the 10-month partial moratorium on settlement construction. The partial settlement freeze was ended on 26 September. In late October, media reports suggested that Israeli settlers had begun building new homes at an extraordinary pace, almost 600 in three weeks, more than four times faster than in the last two years.
Besides illegal settlements, he said that the report noted that the construction of the wall continued. The Committee heard that, over the past year, organizers and prominent activists of the weekly demonstrations against the wall had been increasingly targeted. The report further outlines Israel’s policy of forced evictions and home demolitions in the West Bank, notably in East Jerusalem and Area C. Policies on settlement expansion, settler violence, home demolitions and forced evictions, the wall, and the revocation of residency rights have caused significant forced displacement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Turning to the Gaza Strip, he was disturbed to have to raise the issue of the blockade again. In June, that policy, tantamount to collective punishment, entered its fourth year. It violated the economic and social rights of Gaza’s residents, and the almost total ban on exports and restriction on movement remained in place.
He said that the report also highlighted witness testimonies and serious concern for the ongoing loss of life in conflict-related violence across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, most notably in the so-called buffer zone, the no-go military area in Gaza along the perimeter fence with Israel. As a means of ensuring a cessation of those violations, the Special Committee believed the issue of accountability assumed critical importance. He noted the rise in the number of attacks by settlers against Palestinian civilians and their property in 2010.
In relation to the Syrian Golan, the report outlined violations relating to illegal settlements, to the inequitable distribution of water resources, access to essential services and to limited local employment opportunities, he said. In order to address the pattern of persistent infractions of human rights standards, the Special Committee reminded that Israel, with its responsibility as the occupying Power, to respect international humanitarian and human rights law. It further called on the General Assembly to ensure that Israel took concrete measures to fulfil that responsibility.
He said the General Assembly might wish to consider all means to enable the Special Committee to fulfil its responsibilities, as mandated, including with regard to access to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. The Committee recommended that the Government of Israel should cease its policies of confiscating land and of expanding settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan, which were contrary to international law. Israel needed to end the collective punishment of the people of Gaza and establish a just, independent and transparent system of accountability that ensured prompt and impartial investigations, brought perpetrators to justice and enabled victims to enjoy the right to an effective remedy. It was the hope of the Special Committee that its recommendations would be implemented by all parties concerned and that the long-deprived rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs in the occupied territories would become a reality.
NADYA RASHEED, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, said that Israel’s “façade” of actively pursuing peace was in contrast to its actions, which undermine any future prospects for a peaceful settlement. Israel’s unlawful actions on the ground provided the starkest evidence of that contrast and included injuring, imprisoning, displacing and collectively punishing Palestinian civilians through the destruction of homes and property, infrastructure and land.
Highlighting the most egregious practices and policies, she said that in the occupied Gaza Strip, the Palestinian civilian population continued to be victimized and collectively punished, in violation of article 33 of the Geneva Convention. Children continued to bear the brunt of the consequences arising from the unlawful blockade and suffered from alarming levels of malnutrition, stunted growth, anaemia, and other diseases. That humanitarian crisis persisted despite Israel’s claims of “easing” the blockade, which let in barely 25 per cent of needed good and supplies. The so-called ease did not include measures to address the almost total ban on the movement of people, even in life-and-death situations. She called on the international community to take whatever steps were necessary to break the blockade and to compel Israel to immediately open border crossings for the regular, sustained movements of persons and goods.
While the humanitarian crisis in Gaza since 2008 required the urgent attention of the international community, due attention must also be given to the grave situation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which remained volatile, she said. Concerning ongoing settlement activity, Israel’s intransigence and refusal to comply with its legal obligations and the Road Map to cease all such activities including through “natural growth” was the most glaring reason for the lack of tangible progress in the proximity talks this year.
The many violations of international law and human rights by Israel should make it clear that Israel was not on the same path to peace, and called into question its legitimacy as a partner for peace, she said. A complete cessation of all settlement activities and human rights violations was clearly required to both stem the human suffering caused by the occupation and to create a more stable, conducive environment to salvage the peace process and achieve the goal of a two-State solution, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, as well as the realization by the Palestinian people of their human rights and the long-awaited fulfilment of their national aspirations to live as a free, secure, dignified self-reliant people in their independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.
EVY DEMAN (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the re-launching of the negotiation process between Israel and the Palestinian side, which had took place in Washington on 2 September, had given rise to hope from all sides of the international community. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, had stated on 3 September that the parties must engage in the process with determination to overcome the obstacles and work fast on the final status issues to meet the diplomatic Quartet’s call for a negotiated settlement within one year. Similar calls had been heard from many other actors in the international community, and the importance of creating mutual trust and confidence between the parties was underlined many times, not least by the European Union. The Middle East Quartet had stated unequivocally that both parties needed to promote an environment conducive to progress, including by refraining from provocative actions.
She said that heeding the calls required parties to uphold and implement commitments made. The European Union reiterated that settlements, including East Jerusalem, the separation barrier where built on occupied land, the demolition of homes and evictions are illegal under international law. Those actions constituted an obstacle to peace and threatened to make a two-State solution impossible. The European Union called for a complete stop to all violence, including rocket fire and all attacks against civilians. At the same time, the Union welcomed recent measures taken to ease restrictions on movement in the West Bank and entry of goods into Gaza, and stressed the need for further steps to be taken in that regard. Such steps would improve living conditions and could promote Palestinian economic development. The Union reminded Israel and all other parties of their obligation to respect the human rights of the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territory. Regarding Gaza, in particular, the Union called for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 19860 (2009), the full respect of international humanitarian law and for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods, and persons to and from Gaza.
In conclusion, she said that the European Union would continue to work with its partners within the Quartet and with other actors of the international community to contribute to a comprehensive settlement. It would also continue to provide political or financial support to that effect.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) expressed his concern that Israel continued to ignore the request of the Committee for full access to the occupied territories to enable it to fulfil the Assembly’s mandate. Since the last report of the Special Committee, the humanitarian, political and economic conditions had continued to worsen. Indonesia “deplored” Israel’s efforts to evict the Palestinian population from strategic areas of the Occupied Territory, in contravention of its obligations under international law. Indonesia also shared concerns of the Special Committee regarding Israel’s policies of collective punishment, through the blockade on Gaza and restriction of movement caused by the construction of the wall and gate. Furthermore, Israel was infringing on the human rights of the Syrian Arab citizens in the Syrian Golan, where it reportedly diverted water from Mas’adah Lake and stripped it of its vegetation, he said.
Despite the recent peace talks, he said the settlement issues remained the most formidable hurdle on the road to peace, and it was regrettable that calls by the international community for Israel to stop settlement construction continued to be ignored. His delegation expressed strong support for the recommendations of the Special Committee, including access to the occupied territories and sanctions to enforce Israel’s compliance with United Nations resolutions. Furthermore, he called on Israel to halt settlement expansion, restore freedom of movement to the Palestinians, end the collective punishment of the people of Gaza, and withdraw its forces from all of the occupied territories, and allow refugees to return to their land. In closing, he said Indonesia had “joined the chorus” of members of international community that implored Israel to respect international humanitarian law as the “only avenue” to peace in the Middle East.
REBECA HERNANDEZ TOLEDANO ( Cuba ) noted the conditions in the occupied territories, and said the majority of people living there depended on food assistance to survive, and 40 per cent were unemployed. Other difficulties in the territories included an interruption of education due to attacks; the Israeli blockade, which had devastating effects; delay in delivery of construction materials and, thus, in the building of schools. Israel openly disregarded relevant resolutions and continued with its aggressive policies in the region. The Security Council, which aimed at finding an impartial solution, remained unable to address the situation with effect, despite the customary adoption of resolutions.
She said Cuba condemned the prolonged military occupation and was concerned over the degree of impunity with which Israelis acted. Israeli practices affected the human rights of the people living under occupation. The reports of the Secretary-General before the Committee described a lack of commitment by Israel. That had resulted in a constant deterioration of the situation and the inhumane treatment of the Palestinians.
Regarding the flotilla incident in May, Cuba called for the Israelis to lift the blockade, she said. The use of the most modern military technology by the Israelis was uneven to say the least, when compared to that of the Palestinians. There were flagrant violations of the rights of the Palestinian people. Israel continued with its closure policies and settlement construction, which put into doubt Israel’s commitment. Cuba reaffirmed that all measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, had as their goal the altering of the physical, legal and institutional structure of the occupied territories. All of those measures and actions, including the expansion of settlements, were violations of international law, agreements and United Nations Charter. She called for a withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan, and stressed that the Palestinians had an inalienable right to establish a State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
BABACAR CARLOS MBAYE ( Senegal) said one of the major goals pursued by the United Nations in the sphere of the promotion of human rights was enabling all human beings to enjoy maximum freedom and dignity. For that to become a reality in the Middle East, the enjoyment of the Palestinian peoples and other Arabs in the occupied territories of their fundamental human rights must be guaranteed. The mass denial of rights resulting from the long Israeli political occupation had had tragic consequences, which were evident on a daily basis. That denial had been the cause of untold and unacceptable human suffering, and triggered reactions that kept the Middle East region in a state of tension and antagonism. It was incumbent on the international community to do its utmost to put an end to the Israeli occupation, which was, itself, a violation of human rights. That was also a prerequisite for those people to thrive, in mental, physical and spiritual terms. Israel must comply with the human rights declarations and the Geneva Convention. The history of the people in that friendly country - Israel – made it evident that they were able to heed such an appeal, and thus, finally, move in the direction that the international community wanted them to take.
As in pervious years, he said, the Special Committee had not received the cooperation from Israel needed to properly deliver on the commitments vested in it by the General Assembly. Despite the unjustified lack of cooperation, the Committee still collected relevant information, from which it appeared, as described in the report, that numerous human rights and humanitarian law violations remained systematic. One of the most troubling violations was the continued denial to the Palestinian people of their inalienable permanent and absolute right to self-determination to establish am independent and territorially contiguous State. The denial of that right compromised the enjoyment of the Palestinian people’s fundamental rights. Israeli policies and practices linked to the occupation, as well as the culture of impunity that surrounded them, seriously hampered the advent of decent and dignified living conditions for the inhabitants living under Israeli occupation. He called for suitable measures to be taken to ensure scrupulous respect for the rules of international law in the occupied territories, by supporting the struggle against impunity, saying that that did not contradict efforts towards a peaceful settlement. In closing, he expressed the ardent, unwavering wish to see a solution finally become a reality.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said that more than four decades had gone by and Israel continued to challenge humanitarian norms, with more than 1,000 resolutions adopted by relevant bodies since 1948. All the resolutions called for withdrawal from the occupied territories, but nobody had been able to rein in Israel’s expansionism. Israel always operated with impunity and showed disdain for the resolutions, including the resolution that created the Special Committee. The report underscored once again the systematic violations of human rights by Israel, it lack of protection to the population, and continued violation of international law. In addition, the report reaffirmed the crimes of the occupying Israeli authorities, committed through expansion of their territory. He recalled the statement of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Syrian Golan would remain with Israel forever. It had also underscored the efforts of the Israeli Government to consolidate the territories.
He said that Israeli authorities also continued to refuse to identify the mine locations in the Syrian Golan, and also continued its policy there of arbitrary arrests and detentions, and subjecting prisoners there to unlawful treatment. Syria called for more humane conditions for Syrian citizens in prison and the reversal of unfair rulings. The occupying Power continued aggressive policies, and murders and oppressive practices, as well as land confiscations, and forced displacements. It had also transformed Gaza into the largest prison in the world, depriving its residents of food, fuel and other basic needs. All of those unlawful actions were intended to return the victims to the Middle Ages. Halting them was a matter of United Nations credibility; the war criminals must be brought to international justice. Syria had long hoped for lasting peace in the broadest terms that included a restoration of borders to 1967 lines and the establishing of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) said that this year’s report of the Special Committee painted a bleak portrait of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and other occupied Arab territories. The situation had not only continued unabated but had actually worsened. He called upon Israel to cooperate with the Committee by providing access to the occupied territories and to intensify efforts to cease the arrests, detentions, excessive use of force and restrictions of movement of the Palestinian people. The March Human Rights Council’s reaffirmation of the “inalienable, permanent and unqualified rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination” was a clear indictment of the Israeli authorities and call to stop their illegal occupation of Palestine.
In that regard, he said, despite Israel’s November 2009 partial imposition of a moratorium on settlement construction, South Africa remained concerned about the ongoing confiscation of land, settlement expansion, and the construction of the wall, which undermined the right to self-determination and completely defied international law. Israel’s continued infringement on the range of rights, including the rights to health, education, adequate living standards, work, and family lives, was of great concern. Also, despite Israel’s allowance of unrestricted entry of all items through the blockade except a published list of military “dual use” items, it had not positively altered the situation, as construction materials, which were mainly classified as “dual use” items, were the most needed for Gaza’s reconstruction. The blockade had adversely affected the economic life of Palestinians as their export activities were seriously curtailed.
He called on the United Nations, in particular, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, to “up the proverbial ante” in terms of addressing the question of human rights by implementing all international legal instruments, including the relevant United Nations resolutions and conventions. He reiterated the call for the creation of a Palestinian State co-existing peacefully alongside Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
ASAD MAJEED KHAN ( Pakistan), noting that the report of the Special Committee was based on field visits and interviews with direct witnesses, said it reflected a common undercurrent of systemic human rights violations. He noted, in particular, settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which were major provocations and violated international law, vitiated the atmosphere conducive for negotiations, and muted the voices of peace and compassion. The most disquieting aspect was the ongoing effort to remove traces of Palestinian heritage by altering the status of centuries-old cemeteries, mosques and churches. That was endemic in East Jerusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem, and was being done to create new housing space or commission other buildings. East Jerusalem witnessed renewed settlement activity in certain neighbourhoods, and regrettably, violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian neighbours was a corollary of settlement activity. He called upon Israel to meet its international obligations.
He said that the second area of concern was the obstructed freedom of movement and the restrictions on the flow of commerce at a myriad of checkpoints, along with roadblocks and military siege. That generated unemployment and strangulated the local economy, particularly in Gaza. Similarly, the illegal separation wall gave permanence to a policy of blockade. The wall restricted access of Palestinian families to farms, water, health care and education. Another area of concern was deteriorating living conditions in the occupied Syrian Golan, caused by inequitable water distribution, discrimination against local workers and high rates of taxation. Those measures were in direct contravention of Security Council resolution 497 (1981). The right to self-determination of the Palestinian peoples was a fundamental human right, and its denial was at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
MARIA WALESKA VIVAS MENDOZA ( Venezuela) said that new initiatives had been added to “dynamite” the peace process in the Middle East, and the Committee had shown that violations of human rights were part of a long history of impunity, which hindered the right of the Palestinians to the right to self-determination, and undermined the principle of sovereign equality. Palestinians had a right to justice and a right to East Jerusalem as their capital. With consternation, she observed the blockade, which severely restricted access of the inhabitants to free circulation, food, jobs, creating a humanitarian crisis. She was also concerned about the deliberate territorial fragmentation and moves to alter the territory. In frank contravention, the Israelis continued building settlements. She noted the restrictions to the freedom of movement and the roadblocks, among others, including the lack of access to school and places of worship. The Israelis continued reconstruction of the “shameful” wall, which was in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Other incidents by Israeli settlers against Palestinians included firebombing mosques, destruction of olive fields, killing of cattle, and attacks on villagers. The expansion of settlements was violating basic human rights. She called for an end to confiscation of Palestinian lands.
FALAH HAIF ALHAJRAF ( Kuwait) called upon the international community, in particular, the Security Council, to assume its Charter-based responsibilities to find a solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict, considered to be the gravest threat to international peace and security in the Middle East region. Kuwait welcomed the efforts of the United States in support of the direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine, and called on the Israeli Government to stop the settlement activity and to refrain from placing obstacles that undermined negotiations. Kuwait denounced the continuation of the illegal siege on Gaza, and the May attack on the “Freedom Flotilla” in international waters.
He said that the Middle East crisis had been at an impasse since the mid- 1990’s, during which time the Palestinian people had continued to suffer. Despite recent efforts to revitalize the peace process, Israel continued to use military force to destruct their homes and the infrastructure of national institutions. Further, Israel continued expand its settlements, limit freedom of movement of the population and apply a policy of collective punishment. Kuwait renewed its steadfast support for the establishment of a Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital. Further, he called on the international community, represented by the Security Council, to halt the practices of the Israeli Government, through activation and implementation of its resolutions, as well as to adopt measures to protect the civilian population and ensure that such brutal practices, which further deteriorated the living conditions of the Palestinian people, were not repeated. It also urged the immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan, and demanded that Israel commit to implementing the recommendations of the Special Committee and cooperate with it. Kuwait appealed to the international community to pressure Israel to put an end to its “gross violations” of international humanitarian law inside the occupied territory and commit to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
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