Agriculture was the cornerstone of the Palestinian economy, and was “deliberately targeted” by Israel, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today.
As the Committee took up the question of permanent sovereignty of Arab peoples under occupation over their natural resources, he described the “serious grave injustices” faced by the Palestinian people. As well as confiscation of land and aquifers, harvests were stolen, access to crops was denied and agricultural land was inundated with waste water.
He said it was a systematic effort aimed at driving Palestinian landowners from their property, in order to allow Israelis to take it over. Around 68 per cent of the total of lands controlled by Israel was in the Jordan Valley, the largest area of cropping in the West Bank.
The international community stood by “inept”, he said, calling on importers of products like dates to stop “abetting and encouraging” violations of Palestinian human rights. Effective deterrent measures were needed, including boycotts of products and the imposition of trade restrictions, to force Israel to align its policies with international will.
Calling for resolutions that condemned Israel and obliged the country to recognize the self-determination and sovereignty of Palestine, Nicaragua’s representative said that once Palestinians’ lives were not dedicated solely to surviving bombings, they would be able to pursue sustainable development.
Morocco’s representative outlined the economic hardships facing Palestinians as a result of the occupation, noting that more than one billion square miles of land had been confiscated since 1967, and that the separation wall deprived Palestinians of access to their land and its resources. Productive structures in both the West Bank and Gaza had been destroyed, and restrictions were in place on transport and telecommunications. Unemployment was high, and last year’s economic growth stood at its lowest since 2006.
Several speakers pointed out discrepancies in access to water in the Palestinian territories, with the representative of Maldives calling discriminatory allocations “appalling”, and stressing that Palestinians in the West Bank consumed no more than 60 litres of water per capita per day, well below the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 100 litres per day, six times less than the amount consumed by Israeli settlers.
The blockade of Gaza was collective punishment, said Bahrain’s representative, describing how it prevented the building of new schools and the importing of basic commodities and materials. It also constrained fisheries, because the blockade was set 6.5 miles from the coast, and abundant fish were found eight miles from the shore.
Despite the world celebrating the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Iran’s representative noted that the world had witnessed with horror Israeli “savagery and military aggression”. The most recent “criminal military aggression” had caused massive human devastation, and sustainable development could not be achieved without a foundation of safety and security.
In the Syrian Golan, Israel was eroding Syrian agricultural land and limiting the benefits of natural resources to the Israeli settlers, the representative of Syria said. Such inhumane practices had prevented development of the Syrian Golan, increased poverty and unemployment, and resulted in the deterioration of health services.
Israel’s representative argued that the situation regarding water was agreed upon under the 1995 Oslo Accords, adding that her country had gone beyond its obligations, and that Palestinians continued to breach the Accords by digging private wells and contaminating water resources with waste water overflows.
She was disappointed by the anti-Israel campaign in the Committee, which did not advance its objectives, and which undermined its credibility. The report presented an inaccurate version of the situation on the ground, and she believed that the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) was not interested in analysing the real causes of turmoil in the region.
If the true goal of States was to improve the situation of the Palestinian people, she urged them to tackle the Hamas “terror regime in Gaza”, which abused resources, diverting concrete to fortification of tunnels that allowed death squads into Israel, rather than building schools.
Also speaking today were representatives of Malaysia, Kuwait, Qatar, Namibia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, Indonesia, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Syria, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, Israel, Iran, and Qatar.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on 5 November to hear the introduction of draft proposals.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to consider the issue of “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources”. The Committee had before it a report relating to the issue (document A/69/81-E/2014/13).
Introduction of Report
RIMA KHALAF, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the note by the Secretary-General on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/69/81-E/2014/13). The report described the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the negative consequences of the occupation on the life, economy and well-being of the Palestinian people. Furthermore, it described the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan. The document concluded that the Israeli occupation had entailed institutionalized discriminatory measures, most of which were illegal under international law. The ultimate goal remained comprehensive peace, which could not be attained without ending the occupation, attaining the rights of the Palestinian and Syrian populations living under occupation, the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions, and adherence to international law and norms.
The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine described two different approaches to quantifying the losses suffered by the Palestinian economy due to the occupation, and asked whether there were a more comprehensive way of addressing both direct and indirect impacts of the occupation on his State’s economy.
In response, Ms. Khalaf said that the income-based model was not perfect, as it did not look at issues such as assets and the exploitation of natural resources. Various aspects must be included, and the only way would be through a dynamic model, looking at the interlinkages between different models, and taking into account both direct and indirect impacts of the occupation. ESCWA would be pleased to use its technical expertise to answer the question about the total cost of the occupation.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, pointed to continued “serious and grave injustices” ongoing in Palestine as the international community stood “inept” and unable to respond to Israel, despite its violations of international law and United Nations resolutions. That included killings and arbitrary arrests of civilians, confiscation of Palestinian agricultural land and aquifers, and the imposition of restrictions on mobility. Agriculture was the cornerstone of the Palestinian economy and the “basic pillar of food security”. It was “deliberately targeted” by Israel, and deprived from undertaking its role. Palestinian civilians were denied access to crops, harvests were stolen and agricultural land was inundated with waste water. The confiscation was systematic, aimed at the confiscation of lands after landowners were forced to leave. Around 68 per cent of the total land controlled in Israel was in the Jordan Valley, the largest area of cropping in the State of Palestine.
He outlined discrepancies in the statistics for Palestinian and Israeli agricultural output in the West Bank, including those related to exports. Pointing to exports of dates from Israel’s settlements, amounting to millions of dollars, he reminded importers that they were “abetting and encouraging” violations against the basic rights of Palestinians. Israelis used 90 per cent of available water, leaving less than 10 per cent for Palestinian use. The attacks on Gaza and the seven-year long blockade were examples of collective punishment, violating Palestinians’ rights to free movement, health care and education. Describing the impact of the recent war, he hoped for fulfilment of promises made at an international conference on reconstruction. Demolitions and “pillaging” continued while the international community helped with reconstruction, and Israel had to be held to account. The international community should take effective deterrent measures, boycotting products and imposing trade restrictions, to force Israel to align its policies with international will.
ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, pointed to Israel’s continued demolition and destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and the continued expansion and illegitimate building on occupied Palestinian lands. He stated some of the facts and figures explaining the consequences faced by residents of the affected areas, noting that more than one billion square miles of land had been confiscated since 1967. The separation wall deprived Palestinians of development and access to their land and natural resources, depriving them of sovereignty. Productive structures in the West Bank and Gaza had been destroyed, and restrictions were in place on transport and telecommunications. Sustainable development was hindered and living conditions impacted, with unemployment recorded at 38.5 per cent in Gaza and 18.2 per cent in the West Bank. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that the Palestinian economy grew by only 1.5 per cent, which was the lowest growth rate registered since 2006.
The Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly had expressed deep concern about continued Israeli practices in the West Bank and Gaza, he said. The Gaza blockade aggravated the conditions faced by residents, impeding human development. Humanitarian agencies faced restrictions and obstacles, and the economic restrictions imposed prevented transfer of fiscal revenues, exacerbating an already difficult fiscal situation. In the Golan, Israel still controlled water resources and provided resources to international companies for activities such as oil exploration. The separation wall challenged and defied international positions on racial discriminations, and contradicted United Nations decisions and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the matter. Environmental contamination continued in waste disposal, including discarding of nuclear waste. The recent aggression by Israel against Gaza increased the sufferings of civilians, compromising basic infrastructure and defying laws and rights. The international community had to force Israel to respect international law and ensure Palestinian sovereignty over their territories.
RABEE JAWHARA (Syria) said that the Israeli occupying Power adopted a policy based on starving, impoverishing and marginalizing the residents of the occupied Arab territories. In the Syrian Golan, Israel was eroding Syrian agricultural land, and limiting the benefits of natural resources, especially water, to the Israeli settlers. Such racist and inhumane practices had prevented development of the Syrian Golan, increased poverty and unemployment, and resulted in the deterioration of health services. Furthermore, the occupying Power and its settlers continued to impose an economic blockade on the Syrian population in the Syrian Golan. Daily violations targeting the Arab populations confirmed the true face of Israel, which did not abide by human rights and the provisions of international law. “Israel blasts every potential for peace” in the region, he said, urging the international community to stand up for the legitimate rights of populations under the occupation, and to pressure Israel to end its occupation in the Arab lands.
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia) spoke about the living conditions of the Palestinian people, as well as natural resource use by Israel and the Palestinians. Poverty and unemployment rates remained at unacceptably high levels, particularly among those living in Gaza, and the majority of the affected Palestinian population had been pushed into food insecurity. The only thing preventing a food-insecurity crisis had been the large-scale humanitarian assistance provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The reclaiming of the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinians over their natural resources was therefore the key to reversing that crisis.
HASSAN HUSSAIN SHIHAB (Maldives) said the persistent discriminatory allocation of such a basic need as water was “appalling”. As revealed in the Secretary-General’s report, approximately one million Palestinians in the West Bank consumed 60 litres of water per capita per day, or less, well below the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 100 litres per day, while Israeli settlers consumed six times that amount. The plight of the Palestinian people could only be solved with the end of occupation and the recognition of the State of Palestine. The Palestinian people had a right to self-determination and to sovereignty over their territory and resources.
Mr. AL WAZZAN (Kuwait), associating himself with the Arab Group, detailed Israeli aggression, coercion and systematic violation of international conventions and laws. He asked how a people that could not sustain their lives could possibly achieve the goals of sustainable development. Pointing to the separation barrier, he said 85 per cent of it was on Palestinian land, despite the opinion of the International Court of Justice on the matter. Infrastructure had been destroyed, territory confiscated and homes demolished. Palestinians’ economic activities were restricted, and the blockade continued in violation of international law. Israel had responded to resolution 68/235 by ignoring it, as it had done with several other resolutions. Approval of more than 1,000 settlement units had been given for East Jerusalem, and efforts were ongoing to give a Jewish character to the city. He pointed out that Kuwait had contributed $200 million to reconstruction in Gaza.
AHMAD MOHAMED AL-THANI (Qatar), associating himself with the Arab Group, pointed to statistics showing Israel’s confiscation of one billion square metres of Palestinian land. Settlement building had increased in the previous year, and the report mentioned the strict conditions faced by Palestinians, including those related to water. The lack of food security was of concern, and affected 1.5 million Palestinians. He noted the unemployment figures of 38.5 per cent in Gaza and 18.2 per cent in the West Bank. Exploitation of Palestine’s natural resources continued, gravely aggravating the humanitarian situation. The occupation of the Syrian Golan included Israel offering incentives to settlers, while at the same time Syrian residents suffered discrimination on access to water and basic services. That contravened United Nations decisions, as well as international humanitarian and human rights law.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip could not dedicate themselves fully to economic and social development if their primary preoccupation was to survive bombings. She emphasized that a calculated 40 per cent of the population suffered from malnutrition and 90 per cent of the available water on the Gaza Strip was not fit for human consumption. Scarce water resources were a violation of human rights, and the only viable solution was the cessation of those hostilities. To achieve sustainable economic development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the first task would be to enact resolutions that condemn and obligate Israel to recognize the self-determination and sovereignty of Palestine, and therefore allow the return of its refugees to the territory that they historically belonged to. The United Nations must ensure the construction of schools for the Palestinians. There cannot be any more destruction, but rather construction, until the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people were vindicated.
WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia) reasserted support for the full independence and viable “State of Palestine” on the basis of the 1967 borders, living side-by-side in peace with Israel. Deeply concerned with the conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Syrian Golan, he condemned the Israeli policies of illegal occupation that contradicted the principles of the Charter, and were a violation of numerous Assembly and Council resolutions. The economic situation in the occupied territories had been exacerbated by a continued divide between the West Bank and Gaza. The only sustainable solution was the peaceful co-existence of the Occupied Palestinian Territory with Israel, and the United Nations had a moral responsibility to ensure that the Palestinian people realized their right to self-determination and statehood. The Organization should act decisively to bring about a resolution to the Palestine question. He noted that his country had contributed $1 million in humanitarian assistance to the crisis in Gaza.
AHMED ABDELRAHMAN AHMED ALMAHMOUD (United Arab Emirates) said that the Israeli occupation had resulted in blatant violations of human rights, including the right to development. Despite resolutions calling upon it to stop its settlement activities, Israel had even intensified its illegal expansion. The building of the illegal separation wall had led to erosion of agricultural land and destruction of the water sources of the Palestinian people. Moreover, Israel’s confiscation of taxes and revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Government had exacerbated its economic situation. Suppressive policies by the Israeli occupation against Arab citizens in the occupied lands had spread poverty and hunger, and deprived them from enjoying sustainable development and reaping the fruits of trade. In that context, he called on the international community to help the Palestinian and Syrian people to self-determination, as the current situation prevented them from achieving economic and social development.
NOUR MAMDOUH KASEB ALJAZI (Jordan), associating herself with the Arab Group, said that Israel’s occupation activities had had a negative impact on the living standards of the Palestinian people, as well as on the Palestinian economy. They had, among other effects, resulted in food insecurity, soaring inflation and a situation where real economic growth was less likely. Strict restrictions on the mobility of the Palestinian people had separated them from regional and global markets, and the fragmentation of their territory and agricultural land had exacerbated the rehabilitation opportunities of the Palestinian economy. She called upon the international community to continue providing assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and to pressure Israel to enable them to build their own independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
HAMAD FAREED AHMED HASAN (Bahrain) described restrictions imposed on Palestinians by Israel, pointing to a constraint on fisheries, because the blockade of Gaza was set 6.5 miles from the coast, and abundant fish were found eight miles from the shore. Multiple other practices impeded development and prevented the utilization of resources. Settler violence against civilians and their properties continued, along with continued settlement building and destruction of Palestinian homes. The blockade was collective punishment, and had prevented the building of new schools and the importing of basic commodities and materials. Discriminatory policies had been institutionalized, including settlement activities that amounted to a “creeping annexation” that undermined the viability of a Palestinian state.
OMAR A. A. ANNAKOU (Libya), aligning his statement with the Arab Group, said there was a worsening of Israeli policies and activities. Flagrant violations of United Nations decisions took place in front of the entire world. The report dealt with 2013, but it was important to discuss the impact of the Gaza war in July and August, as data showed that the situation had worsened since launch of the war. He spoke of Israeli expansionism in the West Bank, the separation wall, isolation of East Jerusalem, prevention of Palestinian construction, destruction of homes and control of aquifers. In the Syrian Golan, occupation forces prevented Syrians from returning to their land and prevented Syrians from accessing resources. He asked how the Committee could talk about sustainable development while failing to do anything for an occupied people, and stressed that the Israeli occupation damaged all dimensions of sustainable development.
Mr. HAJILARI (Iran) said that during the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the world had witnessed with horror Israeli “savagery and military aggression”, which had traumatized the entire Palestinian population and the whole world. Safety and security were prerequisites for sustainable development, and the most recent “criminal military aggression” had caused massive human devastation. The humanitarian disaster persisted as urgent recovery and reconstruction efforts were hampered by the blockade of Gaza. In the West Bank, settlement activity continued despite the Geneva Convention and United Nations resolutions. Conditions had worsened for the Palestinian people there, and they were impeded from enjoying prosperous lives. He condemned the Gaza blockade as collective punishment, saying recent aggression was “tantamount to grave breaches of international law”, and constituted war crimes. The situation posed a threat to regional and international peace and security; the occupation had to be terminated and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people realized.
RAMZI LOUATI (Tunisia) said that the report had revealed serious ramifications of the Israeli occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Syrian Golan. The latter had seen the continuation of illegitimate settlement activities, exploitation of agricultural land, and violations of human rights of Syrians through restrictions on their right to free movement. He recalled the 2014 declaration of the ESCWA member States on social justice in the Arab region, which had recognized that the Israeli occupation and its continued settlement activities represented a violation of the rights of Palestinians and Syrians in the occupied territories. The international community should pressure Israel to respect international law and enable Palestinians’ complete sovereignty over their territory and the use of their natural resources.
PURNOMO A. CHANDRA (Indonesia) said that the Palestinian people had been “robbed of their undeniable right to pursue their social and economic prosperity in their own homeland”. The indiscriminate killings and disproportionate use of force by Israel on the Palestinian civilian populations in the summer of 2014 was “transforming the Occupied Palestinian Territory into a graveyard”. The international community was currently in the process of global deliberation on the post-2015 agenda, and the Palestinian people, who had been “marginalized, disenfranchised and disempowered for many years”, should be part of that quest. His country was a firm supporter towards the Palestinian State, and would be starting the promotion of private sector development in Palestine in five sectors: tourism, light manufacturing, agriculture, information and communications technology, and infrastructure.
HADAS ESTER MEITZAD (Israel) was deeply disappointed with an anti-Israel campaign that did not advance the Committee’s objectives, but undermined its credibility. An inaccurate version of the situation on the ground had been presented in the report, and ESCWA was not interested in analysing the real causes of turmoil in the region. It was time to “stop wasting time criticizing Israel” and laying blame at her country’s doorstep, and address the situation in a professional manner, as was expected of a United Nations body. Her country had not wanted conflict in Gaza and Hamas was to blame, choosing warfare over their people’s welfare. She regretted every death that occurred during the conflict, but it was “time to be honest over who was responsible”. If the true goal of States was to improve the situation of the Palestinian people, they should tackle the Hamas “terror regime in Gaza”, which abused resources, diverting concrete to fortification of tunnels that allowed death squads into Israel, rather than building schools. Hamas’s modus operandus was to exploit civilians, and nothing was off limits. Ambulances transported fighters, and UNRWA schools were used to fire rockets.
The situation regarding water was agreed upon under the 1995 Oslo Accords, and Israel had fulfilled and gone beyond its responsibilities under that agreement, she said. Palestinians continued to breach the Accords by digging private wells and contaminating water resources with waste water overflows. She did not believe the Committee was the place to defeat all the “baseless accusations” made against Israel. It was “absurd” to listen to the region’s tyrannies denouncing the Middle East’s only true democracy. She said Qatar was the chief financial sponsor of the most dangerous and brutal terrorists, while Iran’s delegate lectured on sustainable development and human rights while enjoying the status of being the greatest State sponsor of terror. Syria’s representative had launched a “cynical attack” in a “complex conspiracy theory” that attempted to divert attention from the fact that he represented a Government with zero credibility. She called on the Committee to be more introspective, honest and realistic, and reminded delegates that Israel had approved a three-phase plan to assist Palestinians, which had been rejected by Abu Marzouk of Hamas.
KHALID SAEED MOHAMED AL SHUAIBI (Oman), associating himself with the Arab Group, called upon the Security Council to assume its legal and moral responsibility to implement its resolutions. Furthermore, the international community should put an end to the blockade, intensive campaigns to change demographic structure and other practices by the Israeli occupation authorities. The Council should force Israel to stop its activities and to continue negotiations to establish a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Peace and stability could not be attained through military force, but through economic recovery and peace between the Israeli and the Palestinians, which could only be achieved once the ceasefire had been observed by both sides. He called upon both parties to resume negotiations to reach a just settlement, and upon Israel to comply with all decisions of international legitimacy to establish a Palestinian State within internationally recognized borders.
MAREI AL-DERBASS (Saudi Arabia) said finding a solution for the Palestinian question was among Saudi Arabia’s top priorities. His country had presented the Arab Peace Initiative, adopted at the 2002 Beirut Summit, which pledged to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. That was to be done on the basis that Israel would withdraw from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the “occupied Syrian Golan since 1967” and the “occupied Lebanese territories”. He stressed the right of the Palestinian people to regain the occupied lands since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and to compel Israel to cease its violations of international laws, its theft of Palestinian land and water, and its destruction of agriculture. Israelneeded to respect previous decisions adopted by this Committee, because they reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people over their land and water, and their right to claim compensation for the illegal exploitation and destruction of their natural resources.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Syria’s representative pointed out Israel’s consistent criticism of the Committee, ESCWA and Member States as an attempt to divert attention from the monitoring of the tragic situation facing the people it occupied. Stressing that immediate withdrawal was the basis for peace in the region, he described the sufferings of people in the Golan, the West Bank and Gaza. He also pointed to Israel’s support for Al-Nusra Front and other terror organizations.
The representative of the State of Palestine also spoke exercising the right of reply, saying the Oslo Accords was an interim agreement aiming to reach a comprehensive and just peace that would end the occupation and grant independence to a Palestinian State by 1999. While Israel claimed to be upholding its end of the bargain on water, it had violated all the Accords, because the overarching objective had not been achieved. On the issue of extremism, he recalled the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, stating that those responsible for his assassination were now in power, pushing towards catastrophe.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Israel’s representative re-stated her earlier point about introspection, noting that her country imprisoned those responsible for Rabin’s assassination, and did not name streets after them.
Also in exercise of the right of reply, Iran’s representative reminded the Committee of the subject they were discussing, and requested that delegations make statements that were relevant to the agenda item under discussion.
The representative of Qatar also spoke in exercise of the right of reply, saying that despite its illegal and immoral policies, Israel tried to turn a blind eye to facts and accuse others, including Qatar. He had engaged only with discussion of the facts and figures, and rejected categorically the claims. Emphasizing his commitment to international efforts against terror, he said occupation was one of the worst forms of terrorism.