Palestinians to Upgrade Status at United Nations against ‘Complex and Wrenching Backdrop’, Secretary-General Says on International Day of Solidarity

29 November 2012
GA/PAL/1250

Palestinians to Upgrade Status at United Nations against ‘Complex and Wrenching Backdrop’, Secretary-General Says on International Day of Solidarity

29 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/PAL/1250
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on the Inalienable Rights

of the Palestinian People

347th Meeting (AM)

Palestinians to Upgrade Status at United Nations against ‘Complex and Wrenching

Backdrop’, Secretary-General Says on International Day of Solidarity

Vision Set Out in 1947 Tragically Unfulfilled, as Hope Withers

For Lives of ‘Dignity and Calm’, Palestinian Rights Committee Told

Sharing the deep “global frustration” that the two-State solution seemed ever more distant, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People today that the cost of the continued stalemate rose with each passing day, serving as the “complex and wrenching backdrop” – historic and present-day – against which the Palestinians had decided to seek non-Member Observer State status in the General Assembly.

Speaking in commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Mr. Ban said that this date – 29 November – had great meaning for both sides, and took on even greater significance with the imminent General Assembly vote.  During his recent trip to the Middle East following the escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel, Palestinians and Israelis had spoken to him about the horror of living in fear of the next attack, and of their despair at seemingly receding prospects for lives of dignity and calm.

Although the vision set out in 1947 remained “tragically unfulfilled”, Israelis and Palestinians must “break out of a zero-sum mentality” and embrace a peaceful path forward, he said.  What was needed now was political will and courage, and leaders must show “a sense of historic responsibility and vision”.  Final status issues could be resolved only through direct negotiations, he said, calling on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to “breathe new life” into the peace process, which was now on “life support”.

Sympathizing with the deep feelings of injustice on behalf of the Palestinians, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić of Serbia nevertheless cautioned that focusing exclusively on that aspect would not “close the book" on an era of enmity in the Middle East, and that such bitter, self-perpetuating division would only seed more and more vengeance.

“The horrors of the past inevitably shape who we are,” he said, however “unless we are able to tame and uneventfully overcome them, the future is not likely to be any different”.  Quoting a classic poem, he added, “May the savage works of war be stilled to rest”, so that one day soon “the State of Israel could live in peace and security, and the State of Palestine could take its dignified and rightful place in the world family of nations”.

Reading a statement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, Riad Malki said that the time had come for Member States to uphold the principles to which they had repeatedly committed, to stand firm for peace and the rule of law, and for “right over might”. 

It was time to find the political will to support the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, he said, calling for the realization of the two-State solution that included an independent, sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by- side with Israel in peace and security on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.

Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, Palitha Kohona of Sri Lanka said that peace in the Middle East had remained elusive for far too long and it was a sad commentary on humanity that it had failed in that pressing task.

The continued demolition of homes and the resultant displacement of Palestinians, the blockade of Gaza and the consequent reliance on illegal smuggling simply to survive amounted to “a strategy to either force the Palestinians off their land or to so severely marginalize them as to establish and maintain a system of permanent occupation”.

Reading a statement from the League’s Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, Ahmed Fathalla, Permanent Observer, reiterated the Arab States’ full support for the Palestinian position, but added that “in view of Israel’s continued settlement-building policies, it is no longer useful or acceptable to continue conducting fruitless negotiations”.  In recent years, the United Nations role in finding a genuine, effective solution had been “eclipsed”, and the Assembly should adopt the resolution to upgrade Palestine’s status “as soon as possible”. 

Drawing the meeting to a close, Permanent Observer of Palestine Riyad Mansour said the Palestinian people, through their struggle and steadfastness in resisting occupation, and with the help of the international community, would prevail through the recognition of the State of Palestine in the United Nations.

The event today would be remembered by the Palestinian people as part of addressing the injustice that had been inflicted upon them, he said.  However, they also knew that this was “only the beginning of another stage”.  He stressed that the Palestinians would not go away, vanish, or leave their land.  They would stay in their homeland, Palestine, and the new enhanced status would open the doors for them to defend themselves better, legally and diplomatically. 

“The Palestinian people are courageous and proud, and, together with their supporters, will be victorious,” he said.  Thanking the members of the Committee, the Chair and others, he said that when Palestine succeeded in accomplishing the objective of ending the occupation and celebrating independence, “there will be statues of you in our towns”.

Committee Chair Abdou Salam Diallo and Security Council President Hardeep Singh Puri addressed the meeting.

Also speaking were Mohammad Khazaee ( Iran) on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Roble Olhaye ( Djibouti) on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Tete Antonio on behalf of the African Union Commission.

Roger Waters, musician and civil society representative, also delivered remarks.

Background

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met today to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Statements

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal), speaking as Chair of the Committee, said that the Quartet Road Map had predicted that the two-State solution would be in effect by 2005 at the latest.  However, nothing of significance had emerged from those deadlines, in which great hopes had been placed.  In the meantime, settlements, which had initially numbered just a few dozen, now accommodated half a million inhabitants, leaving less and less room for a future Palestinian State.  Palestinians felt cheated; they were tired of unkept promises, dulled by soothing speeches and weary of awaiting their own hour.  The Palestinians needed their own State, here and now.  They had been patient, and international diplomacy had almost reached the decisive step that would change their lives.  In the meantime, the public institutions that the Palestinians had built with the help of the international community were disintegrating for lack of funding.

Regarding the admission of Palestine as a non-member Observer State to the United Nations, no one could dispute the legitimacy of that step, he said.  The right of Palestinians to self-determination, independence and national sovereignty in their own State was undeniable, and the General Assembly had confirmed that year after year by an overwhelming majority.  He invited Member States to consider the new request by the Palestinians, and asked them to show solidarity by voting in favour of the four draft resolutions to be submitted to the General Assembly this afternoon under the Question of Palestine.  The Palestinian Rights Committee would remain mobilized in favour of a definitive settlement of the conflict based on a two-State solution that was just and durable, and allowed Israel and Palestine to live peacefully side-by-side in peace and security.

Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, recalling that 65 years ago the General Assembly had adopted resolution 181 proposing the partition of the mandate territory into two States, said that the vision of a two-State solution remained “tragically unfulfilled”.  During his recent trip to the Middle East following the escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel, he saw yet again the “disastrous consequences” of the absence of a permanent resolution to the conflict.  Palestinians and Israelis had spoken to him about the horror of living in fear of the next attack and the next disruption of their normal lives, and of their despair at seemingly receding prospects for lives of dignity and calm.  The Middle East was changing rapidly and profoundly, he said, and it was more urgent than ever for the international community to intensify efforts towards peace.

This date – 29 November – had great meaning for both sides, he said, adding that this year, it took on added significance with the Palestinian decision to seek Non-Member Observer State status through a vote in the General Assembly.  The outlines of an end to the conflict were clearly laid out in Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Road Map and existing agreements between the parties.  He also stressed the importance of the 2002 Arab Peace initiative.  What was needed now was political will and courage, and leaders must show “a sense of historic responsibility and vision”.  Israelis and Palestinians must “break out of a zero-sum mentality” and embrace a peaceful path forward.  Young people in particular should be given reason to look to the future with expectation, not with resignation at the certainty of the prolonged conflict.

Final status issues could be resolved only through direct negotiations, he said, as violence only bred more hatred and bitterness.  Much work lay ahead to create the conditions for the resumption of such negotiations and to preserve the viability of the two-State solution.  In that respect, it was crucial to sustain the ceasefire concluded last week, which ended the devastating violence in Gaza and southern Israel; he repeated his condemnation of rocket fire from Gaza, as there was no justification for indiscriminate attacks against civilian targets.

He said that the issues that had been pending since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1860 almost three years ago must no longer be deferred:  ending the closures, preventing the illicit trafficking of arms and achieving intra-Palestinian reconciliation.  Palestinian unity that supported a negotiated two-State solution was essential.  It was equally important to preserve the commendable achievements of the Palestinian Authority’s State-building efforts.  Calling for a cessation of settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he said that unilateral actions on the ground would not be accepted by the international community or be allowed to prejudice the outcome of negotiations.

Continuing, he said he shared the deep, “global frustration” that the two-State solution seemed ever more distant.  The cost of the continued stalemate rose with each passing day.  That was the “complex and wrenching backdrop” – historic and present-day – against which, the Palestinians had decided to seek non-Member Observer State status.  That was a matter for Member States to decide, and it was important for all concerned to approach it responsibly and constructively.  Efforts should be focused on preserving the commendable achievements of the Palestinian Authority on the ground, and on re-launching negotiations.  The priority of the United Nations was to do the painstaking work of realizing the just and lasting peace for which generations of Palestinians and Israelis had longed – a peace that ended the occupation that began in 1967 and ensured that an independent, viable and sovereign State of Palestine lived side-by-side with a secure State of Israel.

Towards that goal, he called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to “breathe new life” into the peace process, which was now on “life support”.  He urged the international community to help them forge a credible political path that would realize the legitimate aspirations of both sides.  On this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, he counted on all involved to work together to “translate solidarity into positive action for peace”.

VUK JEREMIĆ ( Serbia), General Assembly President, said it was a privilege to observe the International Day on this historic date.  Given his own ancestors’ legacy, it was an emotional occasion for him personally.  “We are with you,” he told the Palestinians.  Close to 70 years after the adoption of resolution 181 in 1947, a two-State solution had not yet come to pass.  Millions of Palestinians still lived in poverty in the myriad camps scattered throughout the Middle East.  The deeply held view was that that was one of the world’s most fundamental wrongs.  An essential tenet of the United Nations Charter was to create a workable international system that asserted the pre-eminence of justice, pledging not only equal rights to all nations but ensuring their equal dignity as well.  Throughout his term in office, he said he had called on Member States to work together so that the current session could be recorded in history as one of peace.

He said he knew how deeply the feelings of injustice ran, and how rightly felt they were, but focusing exclusively on that aspect would not “close the book" on an era of enmity in the Middle East.  Such bitter, self-perpetuating division would only seed more and more vengeance.  “The horrors of the past inevitably shaped who we are”, he said, adding that “unless we are able to tame and uneventfully overcome them, the future is not likely to be any different”.

The courage to reach out across the divide could be found to heal the wounds and allow the region to finally prosper in peace and security.  In recent weeks, the international community had witnessed a new wave of strife in Gaza.  He commended the efforts by Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others.  The suffering in “the holy land” must come to an end.

In just a few hours, the General Assembly would consider a resolution to renew the mandates of the Palestinian Rights Committee and the respective Secretariat units, and also take up for the first time a resolution to accord to Palestine the status of a non-Member Observer State in the United Nations.  That would be an historic date, and as a result of that voting, it would be crucial for the Palestinians and Israelis to transform the current situation into an opportunity to return to the negotiating table.  Actively supported by those how would bring them closer, the goal must be to achieve at a long last what was envisioned in 1947:  a just and comprehensive settlement and a two-State solution.  Quoting a classic poem, he said, “May the savage works of war be stilled to rest throughout all seas and lands”, so that one day soon the State of Israel could live in peace and security, and the State of Palestine could take its dignified and rightful place in the world family of nations.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India), speaking as President of the Security Council, said that the Council remained committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on the vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, lived side-by-side in peace within secure and recognized borders.  It also remained committed to seeking a comprehensive resolution of other Arab-Israeli issues and, in that regard, recalled its previous resolutions and noted the importance of the Arab Peace initiative.  Recent developments in the region throughout the year remained prominent on the Council’s agenda and in the context of recent hostilities affecting the Gaza Strip and Israel, the Council had held a private meeting on 14 November.  Further, the application of Palestine for membership to the United Nations remained before the Council, following the adoption of the report by its Standing Committee on Admission of New Members in November 2011.  The Council had also discussed early this year an invitation extended on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership for the Council to visit the region.

Over the course of the year, he said, Council members had expressed concern at, and many condemned, the steady expansion of Israeli settlements, calling them illegal under international law or illegitimate.  Despite several commendable bilateral and multilateral initiatives that led to some notable developments, the Council regretted that direct talks between the parties had not resumed.  Council members continued to view the situation in Gaza with concern and repeated their calls for full implementation of Security Council resolutions 1850 and 1860, and, in that context, they stressed the need for improving the flow of goods, people, and humanitarian assistance, while ending the smuggling of weapons, throughout Gaza.  The Council continued to support the ceasefire agreement in Gaza.  It also welcomed the reconfirmation by the most recent Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in September that the institutions of the Palestinian Authority were above the threshold of a functioning State, and stressed the need for continued strengthening of those institutions.  In that, it remained cognizant of the importance of continuing financial support to the Palestinian Authority.

The momentous changes across the region had emphasized even further the urgency of realizing a peace agreement that would end the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said.  The Council hoped that urgent efforts would be made, based on the relevant resolutions, Madrid principles including land for peace, the Road Map and the agreements previously reached between the parties, towards a solution that resulted in an end to the occupation and the emergence of an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State.  The Council urged the parties to work constructively with the Quartet, which had a key role in re-launching negotiations, and stressed that unilateral action by either party would not be recognized by the international community.  Final settlement of all core issues could only be achieved through direct negotiations.  Council members reiterated their support for an agreed, just and fair solution to the refugee issue.  They also commended the efforts of humanitarian organizations on the ground, particularly those of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and encouraged all members of the international community to provide the Agency with financial support.

RIAD MALKI Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, reading a statement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said his delegation was humbled by the historic support for the Palestinian people on this historic day, which was more important than ever in this decisive moment.  The time had come for Member States to uphold the principles to which they had committed repeatedly, to stand firm for peace and the rule of law, and “right over might”.  It was time to find the political will to act resolutely in line with the longstanding positions in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and for a peaceful, just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the conflict, for which there was no military solution.

His delegation was grateful for the strong resolutions adopted in the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and other organs and bodies of the United Nations, he said.  Those were firmly rooted in international law and had safeguarded the rights of Palestinians over the decades.  They had addressed all facets of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including such core issues as the Palestinian refugees, the right to self-determination, the status of Jerusalem, the illegal Israeli settlement campaign and the unjust blockade of Gaza.

Recalling the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned mandate territory into the two States of Israel and Palestine, he said it remained incumbent upon the United Nations and the international community to uphold that covenant.  That resolution called for both States to be given sympathetic consideration for membership in the United Nations, and that Israel’s admission be accompanied by two conditions, namely commitment to the terms of the partition and the establishment of a Palestinian State, as well as to resolution 194 (1948), which, inter alia, called for the return of Palestine refugees to their homes and provision of their just compensation.

He called urgently on the international community to ensure Israel’s compliance with its legal obligations and relevant resolutions and international commitments.  Israel could not be permitted to act as a “State above the law without consequence”.  It was time for the realization of the two-State solution that included an independent, sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by- side with Israel in peace and security on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.  That would usher in an era of genuine peace and coexistence between the peoples and the region.

Commending those who helped to broker the recent ceasefire, he said the Palestinian leadership continued to act with utmost responsibility to serve its people and uphold its legal obligations.  It had consistently acted in good will for the sake of peace, and had expressed its readiness for many years to reach a solution to the conflict.  For that reason, his delegation had embarked on the multilateral, peaceful, political initiative that would be considered by the General Assembly this afternoon.  The preference remained for full membership in the United Nations, which was the Palestinians’ legitimate, legal and historic right, and he hoped that one day soon the Security Council would positively recommend that application to the General Assembly.  On this International Day, he affirmed that the Palestinian people would continue to cling to their land.

PALITHA KOHONA (Sri Lanka), Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said peace in the Middle East had remained elusive for far too long and it was a sad commentary on humanity that it had failed in that pressing task.  The Special Committee was seriously disturbed by the situation in the Occupied Territory.  During his visit to the region in July, he held that the situation on the ground, especially in Gaza, was unsustainable and that renewed violence was likely unless measures were taken immediately to ameliorate the conditions.

He said that recent events supported the Committee’s conclusions.  The continued demolition of homes and the resultant displacement of Palestinians, the blockade of Gaza and the consequent reliance on illegal smuggling simply to survive, led to one deeply troubling conclusion that those practices amounted to “a strategy to either force the Palestinians off their land or to so severely marginalize them as to establish and maintain a system of permanent occupation”.  The Committee called on Israel, consistent with its international law obligations, to adopt its recommendations.  It similarly called on Palestinian armed groups to comply with international humanitarian law and cease indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars into Israel.  While the suspension of hostilities last week was welcome, he was conscious of the continuing tense situation in Gaza.  He urged the international community not to lose sight of the overarching goal of two States living side-by-side in peace and security.

He then read a statement by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which stated that the International Day was a reminder to the international community that Palestinians were still denied their right to self-determination, independence and sovereignty, and dispossessed from much of their land.  The statement called for the peace process to overcome its current impasse.  Sri Lanka supported Palestine’s application for admission as a full member of the United Nations, it said.

MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran), reading a message from Iran’s President, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Movement had historically raised its voice in numerous international forums to support the Palestinian people in their just claim for a sovereign and independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The Movement’s Heads of State and Government had met at their summit in August, where they reiterated their grave concern at the suffering of the Palestinians under the prolonged and brutal Israeli military occupation.  Likewise, they rejected the ongoing deprivation of the Palestinians’ inalienable rights, including their right to self-determination and the refugees’ return.

He said it was unfortunate that despite United Nations efforts, Israel, the occupying Power, continued to reject the relevant resolutions, as if it was above the law.  It was regrettable that Israel had persisted with policies that were prejudicial to negotiations on the core issues, namely the status of Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, borders, security and water.  Those policies had exacerbated conditions on the ground, undermined confidence and obstructed the resumption of the peace process.  Israel’s illegal campaign was aimed at altering the demographic composition, legal status, character and geographic nature of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, so as to facilitate de facto annexation of more Palestinian land.

Israel, he said, also continued to commit other violations, including the imposition of collective punishment.  The situation was most dire in the Gaza Strip, where about 1.7 million Palestinians remained imprisoned by the Israeli blockade imposed by land, air and sea.  The Movement strongly condemned the recent Israeli military campaign in Gaza, which reportedly resulted in the killing of more than 160 Palestinians, including women and children, and in the wounding of about 1,200 others.

The Movement, he continued, called for urgent action and practical measures by the international community, in particular by the Security Council, to compel the occupying Power to cease completely its illegal and destructive settlement campaign, and to abide by all of its obligations under international law.  Further, it stressed the importance of according Observer State status to Palestine, which it hoped would contribute to salvaging the prospects for peace.

KADRA AHMED HASSAN spoke on behalf of Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Djibouti and Chairman of the thirty-ninth Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Conference.  It was unfortunate, he said, that the prospects for peace and justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, were challenged by the colonial and discriminatory policies and illegal practices of Israel, the occupying Power.  Israel was continuing to illegally build settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  It was constructing the apartheid wall, restricting Palestinian’s access to worship places, escalating acts of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians, denying free movement of people and goods, and ever more confiscating Palestinian homes and land.  Such daily violations of international law had become daily practices, which were systematically undermining the prospects for a two-State solution. 

Recalling Palestine’s accession to full membership of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last year, he said that that achievement had illustrated concrete and positive support for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.  Similarly, positive assessment of the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund about the implementation of the Palestinian National Authority’s 2009 plan for constructing the institutions of an independent Palestinian State within a two-year period was yet another strong indication of Palestine’s readiness for statehood.  “A permanent peace between Israel and Palestine is a sine-qua-non for both peoples to focus their energies and resources on developing their societies in peace, harmony and co-existence,” he said.

TETE ANTONIO, Permanent Representative of the African Union, said that achievement of a just, viable and lasting solution was “not an event, but a process”, and, accordingly, African leaders at their July summit had reaffirmed their full support for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in accordance with international law and all relevant resolutions.  The African Union had called upon Member States, especially those in the Security Council, to support Palestinian efforts to obtain full membership to the United Nations for the State of Palestine based on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Its leaders meanwhile had expressed concern over the continued suspension of contributions to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which was unwarranted punishment of the Palestinian people, particularly innocent children.

He said that the Palestinian issue remained inscribed in the agenda of the African Union summits, to which the Presidents of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority had always been invited.  Regrettably, while there was authentic international consensus around the Palestinian question and the demand for the creation of an independent Palestinian State, that consensus had yet to bear fruit.  Indeed, efforts by the international community had been thwarted since the beginning of the peace process in 1991.  Moreover, those had been imperfect or incomplete -- from the Oslo Accords to the 2007 Agreement, which, for the first time, formalized recourse to a two-State solution.  In addition, the international community regularly bore witness powerlessly to events that escalated tensions.  Bearing in mind the complexity of the conflict, the current situation was nonetheless untenable and served no party’s interests.

Noting that the General Assembly this afternoon would consider the status of Palestine in the United Nations, he said that while African leaders lent their support to that effort, they had underscored at their July summit that United Nations membership was a right to be enjoyed by all sovereign States, and in this case, was part of the peace process.  The overwhelming show of solidarity today must translate into tangible results on the ground, in the region, and, at the United Nations.

NABIL ELARABY, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, in a statement read out by Ahmed Fathalla, Permanent Observer of the League, said that despite the international consensus on a two-State solution, Israel continued to violate United Nations resolutions and human rights instruments, build Jewish settlements and protect the settlers, and attack Palestinian civilians and their property.  More than 4,000 prisoners, including women and children, were detained in Israeli jails; some for more than 25 years.  Such conduct illustrated the racism of Israel and its settlers, which was creating new facts on the ground that threatened the two-State solution.  Israel continued its unilateral, illegal action aimed at “Judaizing” East Jerusalem and the surrounding area, altering its demographic composition and rewriting its history.  The United Nations and relevant bodies had a responsibility to protect Palestinians and their property and to do everything possible to support the Palestinians’ sacred, legitimate right to self-determination as an independent State. 

He said that Israel continued to commit aggressions, such as its recent attack on and continued brutal blockade of Gaza.  Its racist policies, which were similar to apartheid in South Africa, adversely impacted the lives of the more than 1.5 million Palestinians and their descendants, and were part of efforts to transfer and displace Palestinians and to deny the refugees their right to return home.  Israel’s unilateral actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were null and void and had no legal standing pursuant to Security Council resolution 252 (1968).  The international community - particularly the Council, influential Quartet members, notably the United States - must shoulder their responsibility and end Israel’s strategy to evade and stall efforts to achieve peace and to start earnest negotiations towards that goal. 

He reiterated the Arab States full support for the Palestinian position, but added that “in view of Israel’s continued settlement-building policies, it is no longer useful or acceptable to continue conducting fruitless negotiations”.  The Israeli Government “bears full responsibility” for the collapse of negotiations and the subsequent grave consequences.  In recent years, the United Nations role in finding a genuine, effective solution had been eclipsed.  The Assembly should adopt a resolution upgrading Palestine’s status to Observer State, until the Council recommended its admission to full United Nations membership, which it must do as soon as possible.  Israel could not continue to control Palestinian people’s destiny; it must heed history and ongoing developments in the Arab region.

Stressing the Palestinian people’s steadfastness, strength of purpose and ability to prevail over challenges, he said that they had withstood the recent Israeli aggression against Gaza, despite suffering many casualties and infrastructure damage.  Palestine’s resistance had been rewarded with a truce brokered by Egypt on 21 November, but he warned of the precariousness of the situation owing to the Israeli war machine’s brutal attacks on civilians in Gaza.  The focus must be on ending the occupation and lifting the Gaza blockade.  A visit to the enclave on 20 November by the Secretary General and Foreign Affairs Minister of the League and the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Turkey had confirmed the extent of material damage there due to Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment.  He called on the international community to give all forms of aid to the Palestinians. 

ROGER WATERS, musician and civil society representative, speaking on behalf of the fourth Russell Tribunal on Palestine, said the Tribunal had been created to shed light on the predicament of a beleaguered people, and to seek accountability for violations of international law as well as the lack of United Nations resolve in preventing the Palestinian people from achieving their inalienable rights.  Hearing from expert witnesses, the Tribunal had concluded that Israel had committed international crimes including apartheid, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment of a civilian population.

Concerning the argument of “who was responsible” for the hostilities, he said that when “it” started, and how history was understood, depended on when one started the clock.  “If we start the clock at a moment when rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel on a certain afternoon, that is one history,” he said.  “If we start the clock earlier that morning, when a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he played soccer on a Gaza field, history starts to look a little different.”  Israel and its allies would contend that Gaza was no longer occupied, but Israel still controlled Gaza’s airspace, coastal waters, borders, land, economy and lives.  Thus, Gaza was still occupied.

Today, he said, was a momentous occasion, begun 13 months ago, when more than 132 Member States had recognized Palestine as a State, with more appearing every day.  He lamented the loss of activists’ lives, such as Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and James Miller, who had paid the ultimate price because the international community – Governments and the United Nations - had failed to protect the vulnerable Palestinian population living under prolonged occupation.  He urged delegations to seize the historic moment and support the vote to enhance the Palestinian observer Statehood status as a step towards full membership.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said that the powerful message of solidarity expressed today was a significant signal of the remarkable and historic event that would take place in the afternoon.  Then, the Palestinian people, through their struggle and steadfastness in resisting occupation, and with the help of the international community, would prevail through the recognition of the State of Palestine in the United Nations.  Bestowing upon it the status of a non-Member Observer State would enable a two-State solution to be “legislated”, and allow for negotiations.  One State was occupying the land of another State, in violation of international law, but Palestine would one day succeed in putting an end to the occupation and celebrate its independence.

He said that the event today would be remembered by the Palestinian people as part of addressing the injustice that had been inflicted upon them, but they also knew, in itself, that was only the beginning of another stage.  The Territory’s brave people would be encouraged and their resolve strengthened by the massive show of support.  The Palestinians would not go away, vanish, or leave their land.  They would stay in their homeland, Palestine.  The new enhanced status opened the doors for them to defend themselves better, legally and diplomatically.  The Palestinian people were courageous and proud, and, together with their supporters, would be victorious.  This afternoon would be a glorious celebration.  Thanking the members of the Committee, the Chair and others, he said that when Palestine succeeded in accomplishing the objective of ending the occupation and celebrating independence, “there will be statues of you in our towns”.

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