Inaccessible without Israeli Permission, City Cut Off from West Bank, International Meeting on Question of Jerusalem Told

12 May 2014
GA/PAL/1296

Inaccessible without Israeli Permission, City Cut Off from West Bank, International Meeting on Question of Jerusalem Told

12 May 2014
General Assembly
GA/PAL/1296
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Inaccessible without Israeli Permission, City Cut Off from West Bank,

 

International Meeting on Question of Jerusalem Told

 

ANKARA, 12 May — The International Meeting on the Question of Jerusalem, which opened in Ankara, Turkey, earlier today, continued its discussion on the status of Jerusalem under international law this afternoon.

Mahdi F. Abdul Hadi, Chairman of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs in Jerusalem, expressed concern over the “tsunami colonization” in Palestine today, saying the city was completely cut off from the West Bank, in that it could not be reached without Israeli permission.  Israel recognized neither United Nations resolutions 242 nor 181, he said, urging the Organization to “re-invite and revisit its resolutions and its position on the question of Jerusalem, and not to just deal with the de facto realities of Israel”.

The land and society were fragmented and the question was always how to overcome this and how to stop Israel from dividing Jerusalem.  Another serious problem was that Israel had sought to develop the idea of the “holy basin”.  There was no holy basin — it was “a creation of Israel.” 

More than 27 organizations today were functioning under Israeli realpolitik.  Why did they not function under international law and what about the United Nations?  Muslim and Arab organizations had been “putting out fires here and there with no real strategy.”  The Palestine Liberation Organization today was a partner with no functions and it was time for the Organization to have a “continuous and legitimate presence in the city.” 

Political will was needed to change Israeli policies and practices aimed at fragmenting and dividing the Palestinian society.  How could Israel be made to apply the United Nations resolutions?  It was “enjoying muscles, power and control”.  The Palestinian youth of today raised one flag; they were Palestinians, would continue to be so, and called for boycotting these Israeli policies. 

Antonio Franco, former Apostolic Delegate for Jerusalem and Palestine, said it was well known that the question of Jerusalem had always been at the centre of the Holy See’s concerns and was one of the most important priorities for international action.  The reason was obvious, for Jerusalem was the holy city of the three monotheistic religions and so had a unique value not only for the region but also for the entire world.  Another basic reality was that two peoples claimed Jerusalem and each saw it as the capital of their own national State.  The Holy See, while asserting no competence in strictly political matters like territorial disputes between nations, affirmed its “right and duty to remind the parties of the obligation to resolve controversies peacefully, in accordance with the principle of justice and equity within the international legal framework,” he said.

With regard to the religious dimension of Jerusalem, the Holy See had always had a specific concern and direct interest because it considered Jerusalem unique and sacred, he said.  Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers lived there and Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers throughout the world maintained their most precious shrines in the city, making Jerusalem “a treasure for all humanity”.  For that reason, the Popes had always called for the protection of Jerusalem’s identity and had consistently called attention to the need for international commitment to protect its unique and sacred character.

He said that in order to safeguard the religious and human dimensions of Jerusalem from every political contingency, “only a special statute, internationally guaranteed”, could ensure the historical, material and religious character of the holy places, as well as ensure free access for residents and pilgrims alike, whether local or from other parts of the world.  The United Nations could be the international guarantor of that special statue.  “Jerusalem is the City of Peace and yet there is no peace there,” he pointed out, adding that it would enjoy no lasting peace until all the parties concerned learned “to acknowledge and respect its unique identity and mission”.

Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Qadi and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, said the city, in particular, as well as the question of Palestine, was an issue of concern to the “Arab and Islamic world and the whole world”.  Israel was trying to judaize the city in many ways.  Since the first days of the 1967 war and the occupation of Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, it had been demolishing and destroying many aspects of the city.  The Israelis were trying to marginalize Palestinians and stamp out their identity.  They were trying to surround the Al-Aqsa Mosque by building colonies, he said, noting that excavation work was another measure used by the Israeli authorities.  Israeli settlers had also tried to annul the religious status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which belonged to Jordan, the present Trustee for the Holy Places, wishing to replace it with an Israeli trustee.  The Guardian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque had been attacked, as had citizens attending prayers inside the mosque.  The demolition of houses was “another clear aspect of how Palestinians are being prevented from preserving their land and managing the buildings in the areas”, he continued.  They were not sheltered from Israeli attacks, which also affected the tombs of Muslims.  He called on all Islamic and Arab countries, as well as all United Nations Member States, to protect Jerusalem and its heritage.

Wasfi Kailani, Director of the Hashemite Fund for the restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, Amman, said Jerusalem’s legal situation was that of an occupied city, and all the relevant resolutions and decisions were well-known and well-documented.  The situation was that Jerusalem was suffering judaization, cantonization and division of specific neighbourhoods, as well as an attempt to divide the mosque itself.  Concerning house demolitions, he said that in the last five months of 2014, about 234 houses had been demolished.  Al-Aqsa Mosque was suddenly full of soldiers who restricted access.  The mosque was the most targeted place in Jerusalem today, he said.

Going back to pre-1967 and the legal status of the Western Wall, he said it used to be three metres wide by 22 metres long.  Today it was some 90 metres by 100 metres long and had been expanded day after day.  There had been a legal case from 1929 to 1933 by the British Commission, which had concluded that the Western Wall area was owned by and part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  On the threat of dividing the mosque, he said that members of the Knesset encouraged Israeli extremists every other day to break into and try to pray inside Al-Aqsa, thereby changing the status of the holy site, he said, adding that those were some of the realities of life in Jerusalem.  “There is no example in different parts of the world of what Jerusalem is really suffering.”

Sakir Özkan Torunlar, former Ambassador of Turkey to the State of Palestine, said he had lived in Jerusalem and witnessed almost all the illegal aspects of the occupation.  Despite tens of resolutions adopted by the international community, occupation continued with “all the dark stains on the Palestinians.”  According to Article 9 of the 1994 agreement, the special role of Jordan was recognized.  There was no awareness as to what extent Israel allowed Jordan to display this special role.  The question was whether the occupier sincerely wanted a two-State solution or not.  “I really doubt it.”

The post-1945 world order had witnessed solutions to conflicts if they were between two States, he said.  In the case of Jerusalem, almost all mediation between the two sides had failed, and the occupying Power had increased its presence on the ground.  However, the flag of the State of Palestine now flew outside UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) headquarters in Paris, and there was a huge opportunity for Palestinians to advance their case with international legal and political instruments to resist the occupation.

In the brief ensuing discussion, speakers noted that many speeches had been made about Israel’s many activities in Jerusalem.  There was more than a war; there were settlements, checkpoints and an inhuman life.  “It is worse than a war,” one speaker said.  Support was not enough, and practical solutions were needed.  Another speaker noted that there were those who were only heard in meetings.  Reports were received from rapporteurs as well as from United Nations special representatives and envoys, but it would have been preferable to see a delegation demonstrating for the cause, standing behind the presentation of a report, organizing meetings to visit various capitals in order to appeal to humanity and humanitarian feelings.  “Let’s try and do more, especially in this year of solidarity,” he said.  One speaker also noted the agreement reached during the Meeting on the importance of visiting Jerusalem, asking why such meetings could not be convened in that city.

Mr. Abdul Hadi said there were many layers to the current crisis and that many contradicting narratives had been put on the table.  It was important not to fall into the trap of the Jewish Zionist narrative shaking or distorting history and the facts, he emphasized.  Success in establishing public awareness of the facts, figures and accurate information would restore the question of Jerusalem to the world’s conscience, he said, calling upon the United Nations to be “visible and present”.

Mr. Kailani said that the plenary had focused on a traumatic aspect of Jerusalem.  All the presentations had been very sad, and that was the truth on the ground.  However, that did not necessarily mean no good efforts were being made on the ground by different parties.  There was a need to find and suggest certain solutions, he said, stressing that it was the job of United Nations Member States to exert pressure, mainly on the Security Council.

Also speaking today was a Palestinian journalism student from Gaza as well as representatives of Namibia and the State of Palestine.

The International Meeting will resume at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 13 May, to continue its discussion on the situation in Jerusalem.

Plenary I

SAMIR BAKR, Permanent Observer, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, chaired the afternoon session.

MAHDI F. ABDUL HADI, Chairman, Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, Jerusalem, expressed concern about the “tsunami colonization” in Palestine today.  Looking at today’s situation of cantons in the West Bank, only 17 per cent of the land was in Palestinian hands.  What could be done to overcome these cantons and allow “functioning of life, breaking the wall and separation and isolation?”  Jerusalem was completely cut off from the West Bank, in that it could not be reached without Israeli permission.  It was not enough to just say “this is Israel’s doing”.  The question was whether United Nations resolutions 242 or 181 would be implemented.  Neither were recognized or implemented by Israel today.  The United Nations was invited to re-invite and revisit its resolutions and its position on the question of Jerusalem, and not to just deal with the de facto realities of Israel.  The land and society were fragmented, he said, asking how Israel could be stopped from dividing Jerusalem.  Another serious problem was that Israel had sought to develop the idea of the “holy basin”.  There was no such thing, he said, describing the notion it as “a creation of Israel”.

More than 27 organizations today were functioning under Israeli realpolitik, he continued.  Why did they not function under international law, and what about the United Nations?  Muslim and Arab organizations had been “putting out fires” with no real strategy.  They came with different positions towards Palestinians but none of them without Israel’s approval, he noted.  The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) today, after Oslo, was a partner with no functions.  It was time for it to have a continuous and legitimate presence in the city.  Palestinian civil society was crushed by the culture of fear and division.  Political will was needed to change Israeli policies and practices aimed at fragmenting and dividing Palestinian society.  How could Israel be made to apply United Nations resolutions when it enjoyed power and control? he asked.

ANTONIO FRANCO, former Apostolic Delegate for Jerusalem and Palestine, said the question of Jerusalem, as was well known, had always been at the centre of the Holy See’s concerns and was one of its most important international priorities.  The reason was obvious, for Jerusalem was the holy city of the three monotheistic religions and so had a unique value not only for the region but also for the entire world, mainly because it enshrined their most important holy sites.  Another basic reality was that two peoples claimed the city as their own and wanted it as their capital.  That second aspect was of a more political nature, although it had many and delicate moral aspects, he said.  The Holy See, while asserting no competence in strictly political matters, like territorial disputes between nations, affirmed its “right and duty to remind the parties of the obligation to resolve controversies peacefully, in accordance with the principle of justice and equity within the international legal framework,” he said.

With regard to the religious dimension of Jerusalem, he said the Holy See had always had a specific direct interest as it considered Jerusalem as unique and sacred.  Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers lived there and Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers throughout the world maintained the most precious shrines in the city, making Jerusalem a treasure for all humanity.  For this reason, the Popes had always called for the protection of the identity of Jerusalem and consistently drawn attention to the need for international commitment to protect its unique and sacred character.  The Holy See wished to preserve the uniqueness of the city’s most sacred parts, the holy places, so that in the future, neither of the parties to the conflict could claim them exclusively for themselves because “they are part of the patrimony which belongs to the whole world”.

For the Holy See, the holy places were not museums or monuments for tourists, he stressed, but places where believers lived with their culture and charitable institutions, among others, and had to be safeguarded in their sacredness in perpetuity.  To safeguard Jerusalem’s religious and human dimensions from every political contingency, “only a special statute, internationally guaranteed”, could ensure the historical, material and religious character of the holy places, as well as free access to them for residents and pilgrims alike, whether local or from other parts of the world.  The United Nations could be the international guarantor of such a special statute.  “Jerusalem is the city of peace and yet there is no peace there,” the Archbishop pointed out.  It was thought that there would be no lasting peace in Jerusalem until all the parties concerned learned “to acknowledge and respect its unique identity and mission”.  In 15 days, Pope Francis would visit Jerusalem with a message of hope, and he would support and encourage the efforts being made to bring about peace and reconciliation.

MUHAMMAD AHMAD HUSSEIN, Qadi and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, said that Jerusalem, in particular, was an issue that concerned the “Arab and Islamic world and the whole world”.  Israel was trying to judaize the city in many ways.  Since the first days of the 1967 war and the occupation of Palestinian territory including the city of Jerusalem, Israel had been demolishing and destroying many aspects of the city.  The Israelis were trying to marginalize the Palestinians and stamp out their identity.  It was trying to surround the Al-Aqsa Mosque by building colonies.  Excavation work was another measure used by the Israeli authorities.

He said Israeli settlers had tried to annul the religious status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which belonged to Jordan, the present Trustee for the Holy Places, and wished to replace it with an Israeli Trustee.  The Guardian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque was attacked and citizens that came to pray inside the Mosque were attacked.  The demolition of houses was “another clear aspect of how the Palestinians are being prevented from preserving their land and managing the buildings in the areas.”  Palestinians were also not sheltered from Israeli attacks which also affected the tombs of Muslims.  He called upon all Islamic and Arab countries, as well as all Member States of the United Nations, to protect the city and its heritage.

WASFI KAILANI, Director, Hashemite Fund for the restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, Amman, said the legal situation of Jerusalem was that of an occupied city, with all resolutions and decisions well-known and well-documented.  The situation of the holy sites and their surroundings, namely Jerusalem, was that Jerusalem was suffering a judaization process, division, cantonization and division of specific neighbourhoods as well as an attempt to divide the Mosque itself.  Speaking of house demolitions, in these last five months of 2014, about 234 houses had been demolished.  Al-Aqsa Mosque was suddenly full of soldiers which captured all its sides and which restricted access to it.  The Mosque was the most targeted place in Jerusalem today.

There were around 20 tunnels around the Mosque, he said, adding that it was pretty certain that they penetrated its walls.  Nobody today had surveillance or could know where these tunnels ended.  The Moroccan neighbourhood used to have about four schools and about three mosques, and prestigious families lived there.  It had been completely destroyed in 1967, but the demolition of what remained of its gateway had begun in 2004.  Going back to pre-1967 days and the legal status of the Western Wall, he said it used to be three metres wide by 22 metres long.  Yet it was now some 90 metres by 100 metres long, and had been expanded day after day.  There had been a legal case during 1929 to 1933 by the British Commission, which had concluded that the Western Wall area was owned by and part of Al-Aqsa Mosque.  On the threat of dividing the Mosque, he said members of the Knesset encouraged Israeli extremists every other day to break into Al-Aqsa and try to pray, changing the status of such holy sites.  Those were just some of the realities, and “there is no example in different parts of the world of what Jerusalem is really suffering,” he said.

SAKIR ÖZKAN TORUNLAR, former Ambassador of Turkey to the State of Palestine, said he had lived in Jerusalem and witnessed almost all of the illegal aspects of the occupation.  Despite tens of resolutions adopted by the international community, occupation continued with “all the dark stains on the Palestinians.”  Tens of stories were heard from Palestinian Jerusalemites.  According to Article 9 of the 1994 agreement, the special role of Jordan was recognized.  There was no awareness as to what extent Israel allowed Jordan to display this special role.  The question was whether the occupier sincerely wanted a two-State solution or not.  “I really doubt it,” he said.

The post-1945 world order had witnessed solutions to conflicts if they were between two States, he said.  In this case, almost all the mediation had been experienced between the two sides and all had failed.  The occupying Power increased its presence on the ground.  The flag of the State of Palestine was now flying outside the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters in Paris.  Most members of the international community had welcomed the decision of President Mahmoud Abbas to accede to 15 international conventions.  There was a huge opportunity for Palestinians to advance their case with international legal and political instruments to resist the occupation.

Discussion

A Palestinian journalism student from Gaza said many speeches had been made about Israel’s many activities in Jerusalem.  More than a war was going on in Palestine; there were settlements, checkpoints and an inhuman life lived daily.  It was worse than a war, she said.  Problems in Jerusalem were often highlighted, but there was a need for plans and solutions, she said, stressing that mere support was not enough.

Mr. HADI, Chairman, Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, Jerusalem, said there were many layers to the current crisis or situation or issues in Israel and Palestine, as well as many contradicting narratives on the table.  It was important not to fall into the trap of the Jewish Zionist narrative shaking or distorting history and the facts.  Success in establishing public awareness of the facts, figures and accurate information would restore the question of Jerusalem to the world’s conscience, he said, calling upon the United Nations to be “visible and present”.

The representative of Namibia said there were those who only heard about the plight of the Palestinians from meetings, through the reports of rapporteurs, United Nations special representatives and envoys.  However, many of those people did not really understand what was happening in Palestine as they did not live it, he said, adding that he would like to see meetings supported by a delegation of Palestinian supporters, illustrating the Palestinian cause and tragedy and standing behind the presentation of a report.  He also advised Palestinians to organize meetings and visits to capitals around the world, in order to appeal to humanity.  “Let’s try and do more, especially in this year of solidarity,” he said.

A representative of the State of Palestine said everybody was in agreement about the importance of Jerusalem and visiting the city.  Why could such a meeting not be convened in Jerusalem next year? he asked

Mr. KAILANI, Director, Hashemite Fund for the restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, Amman, said the plenary had focused on a traumatic aspect of Jerusalem and a serious situation.  All the presentations had been very sad, yet that was the truth on the ground.  However, that did not necessarily mean there were no good efforts being made on the ground by different parties.  There was a need to find and suggest certain solutions.  There was a need for pressure, mainly by the Security Council, and that was the job of United Nations Member States.

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