Redoubling of Efforts to Identify Options for Middle East Peace Urged, as Fourth Committee Considers Israeli Practices in Occupied Arab Lands

GA/SPD/624
31 October 2016
Seventy-first Session, 19th Meeting (PM)

Redoubling of Efforts to Identify Options for Middle East Peace Urged, as Fourth Committee Considers Israeli Practices in Occupied Arab Lands

Special Committee’s Report Reflects ‘Painful Accuracy’, Says State of Palestine, as Israel Calls It ‘Product of Illegitimate Mandate’

With time running out for a two-State solution, the international community must redouble its efforts, after half a century, to identify concrete options for peace and end occupation in the Middle East, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today.

As the Committee opened its annual debate on Israel’s illegal practices in occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories, the Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate such practices raised concerns about expansion of illegal settlements, excessive use of force by security forces, administrative detentions, collective punishment and attacks against human rights defenders.

The current status quo is unsustainable,” said Special Committee Chair Amrith Rohan Perea (Sri Lanka), emphasizing that the situation reflected the unchanging, and in some instances worsening, realities on the ground.  Describing the continuing Israeli settlement activity as a clear violation of international law, he emphasized that it eroded the viability of a two-State solution.  Equally concerning was the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, which had often resulted in Palestinian deaths and injuries.  In the course of 2016, 83 Palestinians had been killed and 2,978 injured in the occupied West Bank, he said, citing the statistics from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHR).  Given that a significant number of those incidents had taken place in the context of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, the latter must act proportionally and with restraint, he added.

An emerging issue of concern included threats and intimidation against human rights defenders as well as non-governmental organizations working in the occupied territories, he continued, stressing that it ranged from hacking of e-mail accounts to threatening anonymous letters, and repeated arrests on spurious charges.  Expressing concern about the rising number of Palestinians arrested for posting comments on social media platforms, he urged the Government of Israel to release those detainees without delay or promptly charge them, with all judicial guarantees.

As the floor opened for the general debate, the observer for the State of Palestine noted that three generations of Palestinians had known only the misery of a demeaning life under occupation.  “Every passing day reconfirms that Israel is more interested in its colonial, expansionist agenda, rather than a just peace and security,” she said.

Syria’s representative said Israel had attempted to change the legal and political status of the Syrian Golan, systematically violated the population’s human rights and tried to impose Israeli citizenship on Syrians residing there.  Syria was also concerned about Israeli’s exploitation of the region’s natural resources and its expansion of settlements, he said.

Israel’s representative described the Special Committee’s report as the product of an illegitimate mandate, drafted by those with a predetermined and discriminatory agenda against her country.  It failed to mention Hamas, an internationally designated terror organization, and only made vague reference to Israeli casualties during the ongoing violence.

Venezuela’s representative, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned Israel’s continuing settlement construction and expansion, describing them as grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and of United Nations resolutions.  That country’s illegal colonization measures and other systematic violations – from the exploitation of natural resources to the demolition of homes and the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians – had further destabilized the situation on the ground and exacerbated high tensions.

Echoing that sentiment, Egypt’s representative said that the report painted a disturbing picture of the conditions that Palestinians and other Arabs of occupied territories had to endure.

Addressing the situation in Gaza, the observer for the European Union said militant activity and the dire humanitarian situation there fed general instability and constituted “a recipe for renewed conflict”.  While donors must honour their pledges made at the Cairo Conference, Gaza’s humanitarian needs could only be addressed by respecting the ceasefire and engaging in reconciliation, he said.

Also addressing the Committee was Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, who presented five documents relating to illegal Israeli practices in occupied Arab territories.

Other speakers included representatives of Ecuador, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Cuba and China.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, was the representative of Malaysia.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 1 November, to continue its general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.

Background

Before the Committee were:  a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the forty-eighth report 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/71/352); a report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Special Committee (document A/71/315); a report of the Secretary-General on the 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/71/321); a report of the Secretary-General on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/71/355); a report of the Secretary-General on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/71/364); and a report of the Secretary-General on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/70/392).

Introduction of Reports

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (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, presented that body’s report (document A/71/315), regretfully informing the Fourth Committee that the Government of Israel had failed to respond to a request to allow access to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  In the absence of access, the Special Committee had visited Amman, Jordan, from 2–5 May 2016, having held prior consultations with Member States in Geneva from 21–22 March.  Highlighting some of the key concerns brought to the Special Committee’s attention during the reporting period, he cited the expansion of settlements, demolition of homes, obstruction of humanitarian assistance and forcible transfer and excessive use of force by Israeli security forces.  The situation reflected the unchanging, and in some instances worsening, realities on the ground, he said.

Regarding the Israel’s continuing settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the occupied Syrian Golan, he said it was a clear violation of international law.  Israeli practices included State-sanctioned land seizures, retroactive legalization of outposts, demolition of Palestinian homes, denial of building permits, restrictions on movement and lack of accountability for settler violence.  Illegal settlement construction and related activities remained at the core of human rights violations in the occupied territories, he said, emphasizing that such activities eroded the viability of a two-State solution.  Excessive use of force by Israeli security forces had often resulted in Palestinian deaths and injuries, he said.  Citing statistics from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), he said that in the course of 2016, 83 Palestinians had been killed and 2,978 injured in the occupied West Bank.  While many of those incidents had involved attacks perpetrated by young Palestinians, a significant number had taken place in the context of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.  In that regard, the Committee called upon the Israeli Government to ensure that its security forces acted proportionally and with restraint.  It was also critical that Israel conduct prompt and transparent investigations of alleged excessive use of force.

An emerging issue of particular concern involved threats and intimidation directed at human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations working in the occupied territories, he continued.  Those actions involved hacking e-mail accounts, sending threatening anonymous letters and phone calls, repeated arrests on spurious charges, intimidation and death threats.  The report also raised concern about the narrowing separation of powers between the judiciary and executive branches in Israel, which had implications for the independence of court decisions, he said, emphasizing that the situation of Palestinian detainees, including women and children, remained a serious concern for the Special Committee.  The latest statistics showed that 7,000 Palestinians, including 340 children under 18 years old, were held in Israeli custody.  The Special Committee was particularly concerned about the rising number of Palestinians arrested for having posted comments on Facebook and other social media platforms, he said, warning that such restrictions would limit freedom of expression and opinion.  He urged Israel to release without delay Palestinians held in administrative detention without charge or trial, or promptly charge them, with all judicial guarantees.

He said the Special Committee’s report also covered the situation in Gaza, where Israel’s land closures and naval blockade had entered their tenth year.  Two years after the escalation of hostilities, donors’ pledges for reconstruction had yet to be fulfilled and an estimated 85,000 people remained displaced.  In addition, daily power outages and the lack of electricity continued to affect every aspect of life, from the refrigeration of food to hospital services.  Unemployment stood at 38.4 per cent, with women and youth accounting for a staggering 60 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively, of the jobless.  “The current status quo is unsustainable,” he said, adding that Israel’s pursuit of settlement expansion, its practice of administrative detention and collective punishment, its attacks against human rights defenders and its lack of accountability would only hasten the escalation of conflict.  “As time runs out for a two-State solution, the international community must redouble its efforts, after half a century, to identify concrete options for peace and bring an end to the occupation,” he said in conclusion.

ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, introduced five documents, starting with the Secretary-General’s report (document A/71/355) for the year ending May 2016, which covered settlement-related activities in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.  He said it contained an important in-depth case study of the situation created by Israeli settlements in Hebron over many years, demonstrating how multiple and systematic human rights violations had created an environment that had forced many Palestinian families to leave the H2 area in what may amount to forcible transfers.  The report also examined a number of concerning issues, such as unlawful killings, including possible extrajudicial executions carried out by Israeli security forces, he said.  It went on to examine the particularly disastrous impact of living in Hebron’s H2 area on children as a result of the occupying Power’s failure to ensure their well-being.  The Secretary-General’s conclusion was that the adverse impact of settlements within the Old City of Hebron on Palestinian security and living standards was striking.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (document A/71/364), he said it covered the upsurge in violence beginning in late September 2015.  The scale of deaths and injuries had made that the most deadly period for Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since the end of the second intifada, he noted.  The report highlighted the lack of accountability for violations of human rights and humanitarian law by Israeli forces, concluding that continued impunity only fed the cycle of violence.  It focused particularly on the excessive use of force, recommending that Israel adhere to international standards in that respect.  It stressed that the blockade of Gaza, entering its tenth year, continued to undermine basic human rights and to exacerbate poverty.  Three other reports included one outlining activities undertaken by the Special Committee and the Secretariat, including the Department of Public Information (document A/71/315), and another summarizing responses received to a request for information about steps taken in implementation of General Assembly resolution 70/88 (document A/71/321).  Responses had been received from Brazil, Cuba, Syria and the State of Palestine, he said.  A third report was a compilation of responses received from Member States to a request for information on steps taken concerning implementation of General Assembly resolution 70/91, he said, noting that responses had been received from Syria, Qatar and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Interactive Dialogue

The Chair then opened the floor for an interactive dialogue.

The observer for the State of Palestine said the reports just presented, as well as others issued by United Nations entities, portrayed with painful accuracy the situation in Palestine due to the occupying Power’s actions.  She said her question concerned corporations and their obligations with respect to international law.  Noting that the reports focused heavily on the obligations of third parties in the face of Israel’s violations, she said corporations had linked their businesses to such practices by enabling and profiting from illegal settlements, despite international principles calling for businesses not to profit from such conflict situations.  She sought the Special Committee’s views on the steps those businesses should take.

The representative of Egypt noted the accelerated construction of settlements as Palestinians continued to suffer as a result, and asked how their socioeconomic opportunities compared to those available to Israeli settlers.

The representative of Nicaragua, referring to the reported excessive use of force by Israeli security forces against Palestinian civilians and the increase in extrajudicial killings, requested that the Special Committee elaborate and provide specific examples of the victimization of those whose actions represented no threat whatsoever.

The representative of Indonesia, noting Israel’s restrictions on the residents of East Jerusalem, which made their lives unbearable and forced them to leave the city, asked about the implications on Palestinian livelihoods and how to prevent such conditions from worsening.

The representative of Cuba said a number of reports had commented on the underdevelopment of Gaza as a result of the occupying Power’s illegal and restrictive policies, including its nine-year blockade, an act of collective punishment.  What was the psychological and socioeconomic impact of that situation on the enclave’s population, particularly the women and children?

The representative of Tunisia, noting that Israel’s policy of collective punishment was a blatant violation of international human rights law, asked whether the Special Committee perceived such actions as part of a deliberate policy, and if so, what the intended objectives were.

The representative of Ecuador asked about the situation of children imprisoned in Israeli jails.  On the particular issue of stoning, she noted that children could be imprisoned for up to 10 years without authorities even verifying whether they had engaged in that activity.  She also asked about the draft law on force-feeding targeting Palestinian prisoners.

The representative of Venezuela said threats and other forms of intimidation had been made against human rights defenders, non-governmental organizations and Palestinian organizations.  Recently, there had also been attacks against the Israeli non-governmental organization B’Tselem, he noted, asking what steps could be taken to guarantee a safe environment for human rights defenders so that they could report freely on the situation.

Mr. PERERA (Sri Lanka), Special Committee Chair, emphasized that corporations as well as States must respect human rights.  States were responsible for ensuring, through domestic policies, that corporations knew the risks of potential complicity in such issues.  It was the duty and responsibility of each Member State to ensure that trade relations did not contribute to the maintenance or expansion of illegal settlements.

Regarding women and children, he said the Special Committee had heard a fair number of representations on the impact of night raids and collective punishment measures, and had set out statistics on the increase in suicide rates and recourse to violence among youth, which demonstrated the adverse impact of those practices.  Concerning whether such practices were isolated or deliberate, the Special Committee had formed the view that they carried all the hallmarks of deliberate policy rather than isolated incidents.

On the subject of force-feeding, he said the report concluded that adequate measures must be taken to come to a negotiated settlement before a person’s life was in danger.  Regarding the creation of a safe environment for human rights defenders, he said it had received the Special Committee’s particular attention.  The decision by B’Tselem that it would no longer file complaints to the Israeli military law enforcement system had raised serious questions about Israel’s claims that it had adequate domestic accountability mechanisms in place, he said.

Statements

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, said the Special Committee’s report, as well as others issued by United Nations agencies, portrayed with painful accuracy the critical human rights situation in Palestine resulting from Israel’s oppressive policies.  Despite its blatant defiance of United Nations resolutions, that country continued a cynical narrative of being targeted by the United Nations and the international community, she said.  It was incomprehensible that the conflict had entered its fiftieth year, whereby three generations of Palestinians had only known the misery of a demeaning life under occupation, she said.

It was “high time for real action based on conscience, responsibility and the rule of law to end the prolonged occupation and make peace reality”, she said.  However, the past year had seen non-stop demolitions of Palestinian homes, land confiscations, expansion and construction of settlements and the wall, as well as forced displacement and annexation threats by Israeli officials.  The State of Palestine again called for international accountability for Israel’s crimes, including an end to the culture of impunity, she continued.  “Every passing day reconfirms that Israel is more interested in its colonial, expansionist agenda rather than a just peace and security,” she said.

She went on to warn that Israel’s  policies violated the entire range of Palestinian human rights.  They included military raids in Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps resulting in injury and trauma to children; destruction of Palestinian homes and civilian infrastructure, in violation of international law; and the creation of a coercive environment in the form of harsh living conditions for Palestinian civilians in areas intended for settlement expansion.  “Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people has no limits,” she stressed, adding: “Not a day goes by where Palestinian people’s rights are not violated.”  However, the State of Palestine remained committed to a just and peaceful two-State solution, she said.

RAFAEL DARIO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned Israel’s continuing settlement construction and expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in the Occupied Syrian Golan as grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and United Nations resolutions.  Israel’s illegal colonization measures and other systematic violations, including the exploitation of natural resources, demolition of homes, forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, arrest and detention of Palestinians and terror, as well as provocations exercised by Israeli settlers, had further destabilized the situation on the ground and exacerbated high tensions, he said.  It was high time to end the abhorrent Israeli occupation, which had entered its fiftieth year and brought so much suffering to the Palestinian people.  The Non-Aligned Movement deplored the continuation of Israeli settlement activities through a combination of illegal policies and practices, including the confiscation of land, the construction of settlements and the wall, the transfer of Israeli settlers and the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians.

He went on to emphasize that the continuing Israeli land closure and naval blockade in the Gaza Strip, now entering its tenth year, constituted collective punishment of the civilian population, in direct contradiction of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law and its responsibilities as the primary bearer of the duty to meet the needs of a protected population under occupation.  The Non-Aligned Movement called upon Israel promptly and unconditionally to end its illegal blockade of Gaza and open all its crossing points.  As for the Syrian Golan, he said Israel’s unlawful actions there since 1967 had included discriminatory and illegal policies towards the Syrian population, continued deployment of landmines, the presence of Israeli army bases in and around Syrian residential and civilian areas, the construction and expansion of settlements and the imposition of a new school curriculum and education system on Syrian students.  Those actions constituted a clear violation of international law, he said, demanding that Israel abide by Security Council resolution 497 (1981) and withdraw completely from the occupied Syrian Golan to the borders of 4 June 1967.

PIERRE-CHRISTOPHE CHATZISAVAS, European Union, said the bloc was gravely concerned about trends on the ground, adding that they threatened the viability of a two-State solution.  Emphasizing that entrenching the one-State reality of perpetual occupation and conflict was incompatible with the national aspirations of both peoples, he said a lasting solution required meeting security needs, achieving Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty and ending the occupation.  Expressing concern about the escalation of violence and tension, he stressed that all perpetrators of crimes or acts of terror must be brought to justice.  “The response of security forces needs to be proportionate and consistent,” he said, calling upon Israel to conduct thorough investigations.

Turning to the issue of settlements, he said it was illegal under international law, constituting an obstacle to peace.  The acceleration of settlement expansion and Israel’s plans to construct 98 new housing units increased the risks to the contiguity of a future Palestinian State.  In addition, militant activity and the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza fed general instability and constituted “a recipe for renewed conflict”.  Fundamental improvements in living conditions were needed, particularly for the most vulnerable, he said, emphasizing that while all international donors must honour their pledges made at the Cairo Conference, Gaza’s humanitarian needs could only be properly addressed by respecting the ceasefire, engaging in reconciliation, and ending the Gaza closures.

HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) expressed regret that the Special Committee had been unable to gain access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and that Israel continued to expand its settlements.  Such an expansionist policy and the attendant construction of roads was a deliberate strategy to ensure the disappearance of Palestine, she noted.  While Israelis continued to live under their national law, Palestinians were deprived of their basic rights, she said, noting that after the almost 50-year-long occupation, a two-State solution had become difficult to achieve.

AHMED ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about the contents of the Special Committee’s report, particularly in regards to excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, including extrajudicial killings.  The report also pointed to a surge in arrests and detention, a lack of accountability and civil remedies and other well-documented abuses.  It painted a disturbing picture of the conditions that Palestinians and other Arabs of the occupied territories had to endure, he said.  Reiterating his country’s strong opposition to Israeli settlement activity, he voiced wholehearted support for the relevant recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report, and called upon all stakeholders to work hand-in-hand to end the occupation and bring about the two-State solution, the only path that could lead to peace.

HADAS MEITZAD (Israel) said the Special Committee’s report was the product of an illegitimate mandate and had been drafted by those with a predetermined and discriminatory agenda against her country.  Noting that the Special Committee had decided to consult a representative of the Syrian regime, which systematically killed its own people, she said the report failed to mention Hamas, an internationally designated terror organization imposing brutal policies on the Gazan people, and had only made vague reference to Israeli casualties during the ongoing violence.  Since late 2015, there had been an increase in Palestinian terror attacks and attempted attacks, in which 42 Israelis had been killed and 577 injured, all of which the report had also ignored.  Furthermore, the report criticized Israel’s judicial system without any evidence or facts, she said, adding that the system allowed its courts to review any law, decision or ruling issued by other authorities, and enjoyed an internationally established reputation.

She went on to note that the report encouraged a boycott of business with Israel, presented in the name of the freedom of expression, which was a shameful pretext for introducing extremist and anti-Israel activities into the report.  Such calls had no place in an official United Nations report, she emphasized.  The section of the report dealing with Gaza’s reconstruction did not mention Israel’s support for the enclave, commended by United Nations officials for trying to ensure effective implementation of a workable rebuilding mechanism.  Also missing from the report were Israel’s significant steps to help residents of Gaza as Hamas attempted to seize goods and raw materials needed for reconstruction and instead used humanitarian supplies for a military build-up.

Israel had worked closely with the United Nations to facilitate the Mechanism for the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, she continued.  More than 81,000 houses had been renovated and 817 public projects authorized.  Some 800 trucks entered the enclave every day through the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings, and Israel was working to upgrade that capacity to 1,000 trucks daily, she said.  Food, consumer and other goods entered Gaza without restrictions, and the only prohibitions were placed on weapons as well as a short list of dual-use items routinely exploited for terrorist purposes.  She also noted that the number of Palestinians working in Israel had increased, benefitting 100,000 households and stimulating $1.3 billion worth of economic activity for the Palestinian Authority.  Israel categorically rejected the Special Committee’s mandate and work, and called upon Member States to end discussions that perpetuated the bias against it.

MOHAMED AHMED ALALI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said Israel must cease all practices that were in flagrant violation of international law, United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace.  Expressing particular concern over the escalation of violence and counter-violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he called upon the international community to take all necessary measures to save the two-State solution and put an end to the occupation.  He also called for increased support, meanwhile, for the Special Committee and increased pressure on Israel to cooperate with its members and to grant them the access needed to fulfil their mandate.

Mr. AL RUWAISHED (Kuwait) said Israel was taking illegal measures against people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Golan that showed its ignorance of international humanitarian law as well as human rights law.  The suffering of Palestinians continued to worsen, and Israel continued to commit aggression against the people in the Gaza Strip, amid the tragic humanitarian situation there, where people were suffering from a lack of essential services.  He called on the Security Council to assume its legal responsibility, as laid down in the United Nations Charter, to force Israel to cease its aggression and align itself with international law.  Israel must be held accountable for its crimes and assume legal responsibility for all losses to the Palestinian people, he emphasized, pointing out that it was also usurping Palestinian holy sites, in violation of United Nations conventions protecting them.  The international community must ensure the necessary humanitarian assistance for the people of Gaza and honour its commitments in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people, he stressed.

Mr. RASOOL (Iraq), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the occupying Power’s expansion activities were in violation of United Nations resolutions and international law.  Iraq denounced the settlements, as well as racist Israeli laws that imposed “a new fait accompli of coercive practices” by the Israeli people.  The occupying Power must be forced to provide prisoners with all their rights and end its recurring attempts to alter the geography of Jerusalem, he emphasized.  The General Assembly had adopted a dozen resolutions on the responsibility of the United Nations towards the Palestinian people, he said, reiterating their unalienable right to self-determination.

SONIA ISHAQ AHMAD SUGHAYAR (Jordan) said it was not too late for Israel to review its policies and prove its willingness to work towards peace, but it must adopt serious policies on the ground and truly believe in a two-State solution as the only way that would allow the two peoples to live side by side.  The settlements were aimed at undermining the creation of a viable Palestinian State, and an end to the practice would strengthen confidence between the two parties and allow the start of sincere negotiations.  The blockade on Gaza, the demolition of houses, the forced displacement of Palestinians, all exacerbated the situation, she said, emphasizing that the occupying Power must take responsibility for those and other violations flying in the face of international humanitarian law.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said the international community had not compelled Israel to end its occupation of Arab territories, and some influential Member States continued to support that country and its pretext for the occupation.  Noting that Israel had attempted to change the legal and political status of the Syrian Golan, systematically violated the population’s rights and tried to impose Israeli citizenship on Syrians residing there, he said people were imprisoned for interminable lengths of time without being tried.  He called upon the international community to make every effort to release all detainees held in Israeli prisons.  The worst violations and attacks against Syrians had deprived them of the most basic human rights, he added.

They were unable to contact their families in Syria, had fines imposed on them and were left isolated in their villages, he continued.  Ill people were unable to pay their medical bills or to travel to Damascus in search of treatment.  They were not permitted to build homes or, if they were, their houses were often demolished, he said.  Many antiquities had been stolen, the rights of students had been violated, and local school curricula had been replaced by Israeli ones.  More than three quarters of agricultural land had been usurped and over 21,000 Israeli settlers were living in the Golan, he said, adding that it was exploiting natural resources there, in violation of international conventions.  Israel was improperly using the resources of major rivers to the detriment of the Golan’s inhabitants, he said, stressing that the occupation must end, and Israel withdraw to the borders of June 1967.

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Palestinian people continued to suffer extensively due to 50 years of Israeli occupation and illegal policies violating international humanitarian law and human rights law.  The reports considered had provided abundant and dramatic information, leading to the conclusion that flagrant violations of human rights continued.  The Security Council had been unable to reach agreement putting an end to Israel’s aggressive policies and colonizing practices, he said, calling upon that body to fulfil its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.  Emphasizing that blockades caused economic strangulation, increased unemployment and poverty, and contravened international peace and security, he called for the immediate lifting of Israel’s cruel and illegal blockade on Gaza.

Ms. ZHANG (China) said the international community should remain united in working towards a peaceful resolution of situations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan.  There was an urgent need to put an end to the occupation in order to give Palestinians and Syrians the possibility to live in tranquillity.  Both the Israeli and Palestinian sides must exercise restraint so that talks could resume and yield a positive outlook.  Noting that the international community had recently focused on new ideas relating to the questions of Palestine and the Golan, she said China was firmly committed to resolving the situation and would continue to play a constructive and active role.  The international community should uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter and foster a culture of tolerance conducive to peace and stability.

Right of Reply

The representative of Malaysia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, noted that Israel had had numerous opportunities to engage with the Special Committee and clarify its position.  Instead, it did not even recognize the Special Committee and obstructed its visits, he said, expressing regret that it had not taken up the opportunity in good faith.

For information media. Not an official record.