Israel Conducting Sophisticated ‘Ethnic Cleansing’, Says Permanent Observer
A two-State solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict would remain elusive until Jerusalem’s future was resolved, two journalists said in a briefing to the Palestinian Rights Committee heard today.
The city of Jerusalem was central to the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations, and what happened there would affect how the conflict was viewed around the world, they told the Committee, formally known as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
Ziad Abuzayyad and Hillel Schenker, co-editors of the Palestine-Israel Journal, described everyday life in Jerusalem as a challenge, marked by high unemployment and an exodus of young people leaving to seek work elsewhere. Many city residents believed the international community had a critical role to play in resolving the conflict, Mr. Schenker said.
Israel was undermining the possibility of a two-State solution through its actions in East Jerusalem, including pushing Arabs out of the city, despite having initially granted them permanent residency, Mr. Abuzayyad said. More than 14,000 Palestinians had lost their residency in Jerusalem since 1967, while the number of Jewish residents had increased. In order to further reduce the Arab presence, Israel had also built “separation walls”, made the acquisition of building permits extremely difficult — even after one’s home was demolished — and designated certain roads for the exclusive use of Jewish motorists.
Mr. Abuzayyad described how Jewish settlements surrounded small clusters of Arab homes, and how the latter families were harassed until they left altogether. To maintain the possibility of a two-State solution, no further settlements should be permitted, he said, emphasizing that Israel must restore the civil and political rights of Arabs in East Jerusalem. There was also a need to deconstruct the wall around the city so as to allow free access.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, agreed with many of the points made by the two editors, stressing that the international community must make it clear to Israel that there would be consequences for continuing with its actions. It was the collective responsibility of the entire global community to consider practical steps to address Israel’s actions, particularly in and around East Jerusalem, which constituted a sophisticated type of ethnic cleansing, he said. There was a limit to the amount of suffering the Palestinian people could endure.
He went on to update the Committee on recent developments in the region, saying that, with the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People under way, it was time to identify concrete ways in which to bring about a just solution to the conflict that would facilitate the establishment of an independent State of Palestine. If Israel was not ready to move in that direction, the world must be ready to do whatever was necessary, he said. Recalling that Israel had reneged on an agreement to release a fourth batch of political prisoners just last month, he said.
That had led the State of Palestine to pursue its legal right to join certain international conventions and treaties, he continued. It had taken immediate action following Israel’s violation of the prisoner release agreement and, barring any new developments, would sign up on 2 May. He emphasized, however, that the State of Palestine remained willing to continue negotiations in good faith between now and that date, but if Israel retaliated, it would take additional steps to fulfil its legal rights. “We are still extending our hand in a positive way to those who are ready and willing to negotiate with us,” he said.
Committee Chair Abdou Salam Diallo (Senegal) provided updates on events since the last meeting, recalling that President Mahmoud Abbas of the State of Palestine had met with President Barack Obama of the United States in Washington, D.C., on 17 March. On the same day, the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority had launched the Strategic Humanitarian Response Plan 2014-2016 for the State of Palestine, which would require $390 million to implement 151 projects. On 19-20 March, Israel had announced plans for 186 new settlement units in East Jerusalem and 2,269 in the West Bank, he said.
At the outset, Committee Rapporteur Christopher Grima (Malta) briefed members on the United Nations International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, held in Quito, Ecuador, on 25 and 26 March. Representatives from 28 Governments, an intergovernmental organization, four United Nations-system entities and 12 civil society organizations had attended, he said, adding that 16 panellists, including two Israeli and two Palestinians, had also participated. The Meeting had been followed by the United Nations Meeting on Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, held on 27 March.
He said that, in a message readout during the Meeting’s opening session, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said he remained deeply troubled by Israel’s rapidly expanding illegal settlement activity, which risked rendering a two-State solution impossible. He had also expressed concern over Al-Haram Al-Sharif, including the recent Knesset debate on a bill to impose “Israeli sovereignty” over the religious site, warning that such an action might be perceived as serious incitement in the wider region.
During the Meeting’s first plenary session, he continued, panellists had discussed political efforts to break the status quo, as well as the impact of settlement expansion on prospects for achieving a two-State solution. The second plenary had discussed support from Latin American and Caribbean countries for a comprehensive settlement of the question of Palestine, while the final plenary had examined the role of non-governmental organizations in the region.
Thanking Latin America and Caribbean countries for their support, he said they must be ready to adopt laws that would demonstrate their rejection of products originating from Israeli settlements, emphasizing that support must now go beyond mere political recognition.
The Committee then approved the provisional programme for the International Meeting on the Question of Jerusalem, to be convened in Ankara the following month, jointly with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Government of Turkey.
Turkey’s representative said his delegation would soon be able to announce the exact dates for the Meeting.
As the meeting concluded, Mr. Diallo ( Senegal) reiterated an earlier appeal to members and observers to set up committees for the purpose of spearheading national solidarity activities as the International Year unfolded.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ecuador and Indonesia.