As Delegations Decry Settler Violence, Unjust Detentions, Israel’s Representative Voices Regret over Focus on ‘One-sided’ Report of Special Committee
Disturbing evidence of continued human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories further underscored the need for Israel to end its long-standing occupation, speakers in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) stressed today, as that body opened its annual debate on that country’s illegal practices in occupied lands.
Key concerns raised by the Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories - who addressed the Committee this morning - included illegal settlement activities, the excessive use of force by security forces and poor prison conditions for thousands of detained Palestinians.
Describing the continuing Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the occupied Syrian Golan, including demolition orders against “illegal” Palestinian homes, Special Committee Chair Amrith Rohan Perea (Sri Lanka) said the body had been dismayed to hear that settler violence remained a daily reality for Palestinians. He also cited numerous incidents of excessive force, including the use of teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. The Special Committee called upon Israel to take immediate steps to ensure compliance with international law-enforcement standards, and to ensure accountability for excessive use of force by security forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Regrettably, the Government of Israel had continued its practice of non-cooperation with the Special Committee, he continued, adding that, as a result, the body had not been allowed access to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He went on to say that the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip remained a key obstacle to Palestinian enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. It was therefore imperative that the international community use its influence to end it.
As the floor opened for the general debate, the observer for the State of Palestine emphasized that the Special Committee’s findings attested to a systematic pattern of gross human rights violations perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people. Israel’s two-pronged policy for maintaining its occupation consisted of brutalizing and oppressing the Palestinian people and colonizing their land through repressive measures, many of which amounted to war crimes, she said.
Syria’s representative said that Israel continued its systematic violations of human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, including the unjust imprisonment of activists. Condemning that country’s “racist” and “atrocious” actions, he said its occupation forces were establishing 750 new farms in the Syrian Golan. Families were being brought in to settle them and stolen water used to irrigate them. Syria called upon the United Nations to adopt immediate measures to force Israel to cease its illegal activities in the Syrian Golan and withdraw to the pre-1967 borders.
Cuba’s representative declared: “The international community cannot stand by unfazed by Israeli crimes,” pointing out that its current illegal practices stripped the Palestinian people of their human rights, and were therefore unacceptable. The occupation and repeated wars, coupled with daily Israeli aggression, threatened to make Gaza uninhabitable in the near future, he stressed.
Similarly, Sudan’s representative — noting the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories — warned of impending disaster due largely to illegal Israeli settlement expansion, torture and unjust detentions. Obtaining food, medicine and clothing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was extremely difficult and unemployment was widespread, which would certainly lead to “delinquent thinking” on the part of some young people, he warned.
Addressing the situation in Gaza, the European Union’s representative welcomed measures taken by Israel to ease restrictions in the enclave. Those steps included the resumption of limited trade from Gaza to the West Bank for the first time since 2007. However, further positive measures were needed to enable full delivery of humanitarian aid, reconstruction and economic recovery on a permanent basis.
Iran’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed: “It is high time to end this abhorrent Israeli occupation and impunity that has brought so much suffering to the Palestinian people, and continues to be one of the most destabilizing factors at the regional and global levels.” It was disturbing that Israel, the occupying Power, continued to pursue illegal practices with blatant impunity despite the prohibition of such actions under international law.
In that regard, several speakers underlined the need for the United Nations to “shoulder its responsibility” in exerting pressure on Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab lands. Jordan’s representative said the international community must take necessary measures to stop Israel’s violations, urging the United Nations to work towards ending the occupation, which was the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel’s representative expressed regret that the Fourth Committee had chosen to devote its valuable time to a one-sided report that distorted the truth and ignored the reality on the ground. The Government of Israel was ready to work with all those who were committed to enhancing security, peaceful coexistence and welfare for all peoples in the Middle East region, he said, adding that it sought to identify the opportunities within the challenges in a changing and profoundly volatile Middle East. “Israel’s message is clear: we want to achieve a lasting peace that would end the conflict once and for all.”
Also addressing the Fourth Committee was Charles Radcliffe, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), who presented five documents relating to illegal Israeli practices in occupied Arab territories.
Other speakers included representatives of Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Qatar, Tunisia and Morocco.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 November, to conclude its consideration of the Special Committee’s report and its general debate on peacekeeping operations. It is also expected to take action on a number of outstanding drafts.
Documents before the Committee were: a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the forty-seventh 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/70/406), and its corrigendum (document A/70/406/Corr.1); a report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Special Committee (document A/70/341); 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/70/133); a report of the Secretary-General on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/70/351); 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/70/421); and a report of the Secretary-General on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/70/312).
Introduction of Reports
AMRITH ROHAN PEREA (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/70/406). He regretfully informed the Fourth Committee that the Government of Israel continued its practice of non-cooperation with the Special Committee, and had failed to respond to its request to allow access to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In the absence of access, the Special Committee had visited Amman, Jordan, from 4 – 8 August 2015, having held prior consultations with Member States in Geneva on 2 August.
Highlighting some of the key concerns brought to the Special Committee’s attention during the reporting period, he cited: continuing settlement activity; settler violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem; excessive use of force by Israeli security forces; tensions surrounding the Al Aqsa Mosque; the situation of Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody; corporate involvement in the settlements and occupied territories; and the human rights situation in the Gaza Strip. Many of those concerns constituted important elements of the contextual background to the serious escalation of violence recently witnessed in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Describing the continuing Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the occupied Syrian Golan, including demolition orders against “illegal” Palestinian homes, he said the Special Committee had been dismayed to hear that settler violence remained a daily Palestinian reality. The root cause of the escalating violence was the continuing policy of settler expansion, and the climate of impunity relating to the activities of the settlers. He noted that a Palestinian filing a complaint against Israeli settlers had a 1.9 per cent chance that his or her complaint would lead to an effective investigation resulting in the identification, indictment, trial and conviction of a suspect.
He went on to describe “disturbing testimony” concerning numerous incidents of excessive force by Israeli security forces, including the use of teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. The Special Committee called upon Israel to take immediate steps to ensure compliance with international law-enforcement standards and to ensure accountability for excessive use of force by security forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Another serious concern for the Special Committee was the situation of Palestinian detainees, including women and children, he said, noting that an estimated 5,000 were held in Israeli custody, including 160 children under 18 years old. Additionally, some 400 Palestinians had been held indefinitely under administrative detention without charge or trial.
The Special Committee’s findings also revealed that ill-treatment, torture and medical neglect of detainees remained a serious issue, he continued, citing regular beatings, the administration of electric shocks, solitary confinement and the use of police dogs to intimidate and quell protesting detainees inside prisons. The Special Committee was also concerned that Israel’s Knesset had adopted a number of legislative measures in 2015 which further undermined the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
As in past years, he said, the Special Committee again reported on information received in relation to the role of companies that profited from the maintenance or construction of settlements, or exploited natural resources, whether in the occupied West Bank or the occupied Syrian Golan. The Special Committee hoped to maintain growing international attention and increasing awareness among companies of the potential financial, legal and reputational risks of doing business in the occupied territories. It also called upon Member States to review national policies, legislation, regulatory and enforcement measures in relation to business activities so as to ensure that they effectively served to prevent and address the heightened risk of human rights abuses in conflict-affected areas.
He called upon the international community to ensure that corporations respected human rights, and ceased to fund or enter into commercial transactions with entities involved in settlement activity or natural resource exploitation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the occupied Syrian Golan. The Special Committee’s report also covered the situation in Gaza, he said, describing the situation in the enclave a year after the deadly escalation of hostilities in 2014. Reconstruction lagged far behind, in part due to a lack of funds, but also as a result of Israel’s continuing blockade. As of August 2015, only a third of the $4 billion pledged by the international community in Cairo in October 2014 had been disbursed. The blockade of Gaza remained a key obstacle to Palestinian enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, and it was therefore imperative that the international community use its influence to end it, he emphasized.
CHARLES RADCLIFFE, Officer-in-Charge, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), introduced five documents, starting with the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Special Committee. He said it outlined the activities of the Special Committee and the Secretariat. The second document report was 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 other occupied Arab territories (document A/70/133). It summarized the responses received to a request for information about steps taken regarding General Assembly resolution 69/91.
He said the third document was the Secretary-General’s report on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/70/351), which covered a period in May 2015, based on monitoring and other information-gathering activities by OHCHR and information provided by other entities. The report concluded that settlement expansion – taking multiple forms in contravention of international law – was a significant obstacle to the exercise by Palestinians of their right to self-determination. It also examined human rights violations linked to settlements, and their detrimental impact on efforts towards sustainable peace.
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/70/421), he said it focused on the increasing violence in that territory from June to August 2014, the situation in Gaza one year after the ceasefire, the situation in the West Bank, accountability, and treaty accession by the State of Palestine. It also provided an overall picture of the scale of destruction, displacement and humanitarian needs during and after the escalation of hostilities. Finally, he said, the Secretary-General’s report on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/70/312) was a compilation of responses from Member States to a request for information on steps taken to implement General Assembly resolution 69/9.
The Chair then opened the floor for an interactive dialogue session.
The representative of Syria said the Special Committee’s report addressed Israel’s use of natural resources in the occupied territories and in the Syrian Golan, and recommended that companies refrain from using those resources. The companies involved in the use of those natural resources were violating human rights and the Geneva Conventions, but despite that, Israeli authorities were still carrying out settlement activities, and “stealing” natural resources, such as water, including in the occupied Golan. He asked the Chair of the Special Committee to clarify what was required of States to work on stopping illegal practices by Israel or companies involved in that activity.
The representative of Pakistan said violent night-time arrests and raids were routine in the occupied territories. Trauma and loss of dignity was a common thread in testimonies about such practices, which humiliated men, women and children in their own homes. He asked the Special Committee Chair to elaborate on the psychological impact of such practices on the innocent people of Palestine, especially women and children.
The observer for the State of Palestine said Israel continued its abhorrent practice of interrogating and imprisoning Palestinian children as young as 11, putting them on trial in military courts. That serious matter had been raised with Israel by the Special Committee and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), she said, asking the Chair of the Special Committee for his specific observations regarding that practice.
Mr. PERERA (Sri Lanka), Special Committee Chair, referred delegations to the end of the substantive part of its report, part five, which contained recommendations made for consideration by the General Assembly. That section asked the Assembly to call upon Israel to comply with the measures recommended, while paragraph 89 called on the international community to undertake certain measures of compliance.
Responding to Syria’s representative regarding the use of resources by corporations and other entities within the occupied territories, he said the Special Committee had heard detailed testimony in that regard, and its recommendation on that aspect was contained in paragraph 89, sub-paragraphs (e) and (f).
To Pakistan’s representative, he said the Special Committee shared his concern about night-time raids, particularly their impact on women and children. Looking at the school drop-out rate, the raids had a great impact on children, he added. Paragraph 88, sub-paragraph (k), of the report contained recommendations in that regard, addressing the humiliating use of force, especially during night-time raids.
In response to the observer for the State of Palestine, he said that concerns over forcible detentions were dealt with extensively in paragraphs 50 to 57 of the report, and related recommendations were contained in paragraph 88, sub-paragraph (m), which called for investigation and prosecution in cases of illegal treatment of detainees, in line with international standards.
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, Deputy Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said the Special Committee’s and other relevant reports attested to a systematic pattern of gross human rights violations being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people in the context of a military occupation, which had itself been deemed a “massive” human rights violation and should be considered illegal. The Palestinian people under Israeli occupation were enduring a human rights crisis, a reality at the core of the situation’s current deterioration, and the failure of efforts to launch a credible political process to resolve the conflict. Israel’s two-pronged policy for maintaining its occupation consisted of the brutalization and oppression of the Palestinian people and the colonization of their land through repressive measures, many of which amounted to war crimes, she said.
She went on to say that a systematic Israeli campaign to deny their history, rights and legitimate aspirations amounted to a dehumanization of the Palestinian people, whose legitimate resistance had been criminalized as “terrorism”. That had prevented the emergence of genuine trust and understanding, which were essential for justly addressing the root causes of the conflict and ultimately establishing peace, security and coexistence. The situation remained critical because of Israel’s insistence on occupation through illegal means, and on cultivating a culture of hate, which had recently been shamefully exhibited in the words and actions of Israeli occupying forces in Bethlehem, as documented in a video of a military vehicle entering a refugee camp and threatening residents over a loudspeaker. That incident was not the exception but the rule, she emphasized.
The same threats, policies and measures had fuelled the savagery of Israeli occupying forces in Gaza in 2014, she said, recalling that more than 2,251 Palestinians, the majority civilians and refugees, had been killed, among them 299 women and 551 children. Those threats were shouted by Israeli soldiers during night raids on Palestinian homes, in which families were traumatized and children as young as 10 seized. The provisions of international law prohibiting such actions were clear and applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as confirmed by the General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council, among other bodies. Human rights could not be a condition of, or postponed until the conflict was resolved, she said, stressing that they must be respected under all circumstances. If Israel was never held accountable for its crimes and human rights violations, it would be emboldened to continue “trampling the law”. The international community had a clear responsibility to protect the Palestinian people, she said, urging it to rise to the challenge and uphold human rights, salvage the prospects for a just and lasting peace, bring an end to the occupation and realize a two-State solution.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep concern that Israel, the occupying Power, had refused again to cooperate with the Special Committee, preventing it from holding consultations with the relevant Israeli authorities or to gain access to the occupied territories so as to meet with victims under its mandate. He said the Non-Aligned Movement also strongly condemned Israel’s non-cooperation with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza, and its refusal to grant access so that body could investigate violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Further, the Movement condemned Israel’s continuing settlement construction throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around Occupied East Jerusalem, in grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and various United Nations resolutions. Those and other systematic violations, including the demolition of homes, forced displacement, the arrest and detention of Palestinians, including children, as well as terror and provocations by Israeli settlers and extremists, had exacerbated conditions on the ground. “It is high time to end this abhorrent Israeli occupation and impunity that has brought so much suffering to the Palestinian people, and continues to be one of the most destabilizing factors at the regional and global levels.”
He went on to call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to promptly and unconditionally end its illegal blockade of Gaza and open all its crossing points, in accordance with international humanitarian law and all United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). It was disturbing that Israel, the occupying Power, continued to pursue illegal practices with blatant impunity despite the prohibition of such actions under international law. Turning to the occupied Syrian Golan, he reaffirmed that all unlawful actions by Israel, the occupying Power, since 1967 constituted a clear violation of international law, the United Nations Charter and relevant resolutions, including Security Council resolution 497 (1981) and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Non-Aligned Movement demanded that Israel abide by resolution 497 (1981) and withdraw completely from the occupied Syrian Golan to the pre-June 1967 borders. The Movement remained unwavering in its commitment to a just and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the question of Palestine at its core; to the immediate restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination; to their right to their own independent and viable State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital; and to a just solution to the plight of Palestine refugees, on the basis of General Assembly resolution 194 (III).
ROBERTO STORACI, European Union, noting that the bloc was “very concerned” about the recent escalation of violence and tensions in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, emphasized that the response of security forces must be proportionate and consistent regardless of the perpetrator. The European Union was also concerned about recurring tensions and clashes at the Haram al-Sharif/ Temple Mount, and renewed its appeal for full respect for the holy sites, he said, stressing that any change in the historical status quo would have deeply destabilizing effects.
He went on to call for full implementation of the agreements reached by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in October 2014, reaffirming the European Union’s long-held position that settlements were illegal under international law, constituted an obstacle to peace and threatened to make a two-State solution impossible. The bloc urged the Government of Israel to reverse its decision and end all settlement activity, including “natural growth” in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. All outposts erected since March 2001 must be dismantled, he added.
Turning to the situation in Gaza, he welcomed steps taken by Israel to ease restrictions in the enclave, including the resumption of limited trade from Gaza to the West Bank for the first time since 2007. However, further positive measures were needed to enable the full delivery of humanitarian aid, reconstruction and economic recovery on a permanent basis. Regarding the protection of human rights, he expressed concern about Israel’s extensive recourse to administrative detention without charge for excessive periods. He also voiced concern over the high number of Palestinian children held in detention, and continuing reports of ill treatment during the arrest, transfer and interrogation of child detainees in the West Bank.
ELHAFIZ EISA ABDALLA ADAM (Sudan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his delegation had closely followed the tragic situation of the Palestinian people. Noting that the situation had been deteriorating, he warned of impending disaster due largely to the Israeli practices of illegal settlement, torture and unjust detentions. Obtaining food, medicine and clothing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was extremely difficult and unemployment was widespread, which would certainly lead to delinquent thinking on the part of some young people. Condemning all illegal practices by the occupying Power, he reaffirmed his delegation’s support for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland, emphasizing that the international community must shoulder its responsibility in that regard. It must also hold Israel accountable for its crimes, he added.
IHAB HAMED (Syria), also associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the paradox was that “nobody has moved a finger at the international level” to end the illegal Israeli occupation of Arab lands, despite Israel’s overt rejection of a two-State solution, its continuous attacks against Christian and Muslim holy sites and its daily violations of the rights of Palestinians. The number of settlers had increased dramatically, he said, noting that the paradox there lay in the fact that no deterrent international response had ever been taken against Israel. The military and economic sanctions imposed by some countries on others had never been imposed on Israel. Those facts put the credibility of the United Nations at stake, he said, emphasizing that it was not acceptable that the Organization treated the Israeli occupation in a routine way. Moreover, support for Israel by certain States should not lead to inaction by the United Nations.
He went on to state that the Israeli authorities continued their systematic violations of human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, including the unjust imprisonment of activists. Further condemning Israel’s “racist” and “atrocious” actions, he said Israeli occupation forces were establishing 750 new farms in the Syrian Golan, with families brought in to settle them and water stolen to irrigate them. Those measures constituted blatant violations of international law and a number of United Nations resolutions. Syria called upon the Organization to adopt immediate measures to force Israel to cease its illegal activities in the Syrian Golan and to withdraw to pre-1967 border lines. He added that his delegation supported the recommendations of the Special Committee on preventing corporations from profiting from their relations with settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
SONIA SUGHAYAR (Jordan) said 2015 was witnessing another cycle of oppressive Israeli practices against the Palestinian people. Past decades had shown that the use of force would only deepen hate and frustration, which could be seen in the racist actions of Israeli settlers. The international community must take necessary measures to stop Israel’s violations, he said, emphasizing that the Israeli Government must stop exploiting natural resources, building more settlements and violating international humanitarian law. Urging the United Nations to work towards ending the occupation, which was the root cause of the conflict, she called upon it also to work for the legal protection of the Palestinian people. Israel should abide by a serious peace process, translating its statements about being committed to a two-State solution into concrete steps, she said. While Palestinian children were stripped of the rights enshrined in international covenants, they did not have the same educational facilities available to Israeli children, yet they were deprived of the most basic right — to live in peace and dignity. Noting that Israeli forces were keeping Palestinians from entering their holy sites while desecrating such places, she said Islamic and Christian holy places in East Jerusalem represented “a red line we cannot cross”. Jordan would work hard with any international effort aimed at ending the occupation of Palestinian lands and restoring their rights, she emphasized.
Y. HALIT ҪEVIK (Turkey) said the Israeli-Palestine conflict remained the core challenge to a peaceful, secure, stable, inclusive and democratic environment in the Middle East that was respectful of human rights and freedom of religion. The 48-year Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and other territories deprived Palestinians of their right to a decent life, he said, pointing out that the 2.8 million on the West Bank were forced to live in a small portion of land, where they faced entrenched inequality, systematic humiliation, discriminatory legislation, excessive use of force and other disproportionate measures, forced displacements and house demolitions. The situation in Gaza was also worrying, he said, adding that the humanitarian conditions there were so disastrous that the enclave could become uninhabitable in less than five years if current trends persisted. Lifting the blockade and all other restrictions was an urgent priority, he said, emphasizing that the status quo was not sustainable. The international community should not only condemn such intolerable practices, but also renew its engagement in the quest for a negotiated political settlement.
DAVID FORÉS RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said Israel’s current illegal practices stripped the Palestinian people of their human rights, a situation that remained unacceptable. The occupation and repeated wars, coupled with daily Israeli aggression, threatened to make Gaza uninhabitable in the near future. “The international community cannot stand by unfazed by Israeli crimes,” he emphasized, calling for the immediate lifting of the cruel and illegal blockade on Gaza and an opening of all checkpoints in order to facilitate movement and allow humanitarian aid to enter the Strip. Only an end to Israel’s illegal settlement policies, as well as recognition of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, could lead to a just and lasting solution to the conflict, he said.
MOHAMMED ALNAQSHABANDI (Iraq), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, despite the passage of more than 45 years since the establishment of the Special Committee, Israel still refused to cooperate with that body in an effort to “blacken out” its crimes in the occupied territories. Its continuation of settlement activities, as well as its demolition of homes, would contribute to instability, he said. The Special Committee’s report demonstrated disturbing facts relating to illegal detentions and other violations of the human rights of Palestinians. The international community — including the Security Council and the General Assembly — must take immediate measures to protect the rights of Palestinians, from extremist Israeli settlers in particular, he said.
CHARBEL WEHBI (Lebanon) said that every step the State of Palestine took to increase its involvement in international affairs was met by abusive practices on Israel’s part. Palestinian land was still under Israeli occupation and, as if that were not enough, Israel also continued to build settlements at an unprecedented rate, with the number built in East Jerusalem alone having increased by 260 per cent in 2014. On the besieged Gaza Strip, he said the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had found that if the siege continued, it would no longer be possible for people to live in the enclave by 2020. He said the increasing terror inflicted on Palestinians by Israeli settlers, as well as Israeli legislation, reminded him of apartheid. Jerusalem, including Al Aqsa, was witnessing attempts to change its diverse nature as a land for worshippers of all religions, so as to make it a monopoly of a single religion. Lebanon called for returning Jerusalem to its original diversity. As the State of Palestine sought to deepen its involvement in the work of the United Nations, Israel tried to undermine the drive for a two-State solution, he said, urging the international community to protect Palestinians, revive peace and negotiations, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194.
RIM CHOL UNG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Israel, which had killed thousands of Palestinians and ruined their territory through a large-scale military attack in 2014, was now more transparent in its efforts to dampen the will of the Palestinians for an independent State by expanding Jewish settlements. However, the Security Council had not taken due measures to halt Israel’s crimes against humanity because the United States supported that country fully. Consequently, the peace process had once again become deadlocked, contrary to the intention of the Arab peoples. Above all, the United States and Israel should immediately provide due compensation, both moral and material, to the Palestinians and deal with the peace process in an honest, forthright way going forward, he said, reiterating his delegation’s support for efforts by the Palestinians to retrieve their legitimate right to an independent State in the Middle East.
ABDULRAHMAN YAAQOB Y.A. AL-HAMADI (Qatar), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed his delegation’s deep concern over increased violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, which was carried out with full impunity. Illegal Israeli practices included the building of the separation wall, the demolition of homes, arbitrary arrests of civilians including children, and the destruction of Palestinian communities by depriving them of water resources. Israel’s blockade of Gaza also continued, making it impossible for the enclave’s inhabitants to live normal lives. In the occupied Syrian Golan, the exploitation of natural resources continued, as did other flagrant violations of international law and human rights, he said, emphasizing that Israel must immediately cease all such actions. However, only its full withdrawal from Palestinian lands and the creation of a full, independent and viable State of Palestine would ultimately resolve the conflict. The Arab League had requested the United Nations to implement resolutions relating to ending the occupation, he said.
RIADH BEN SLIMAN (Tunisia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said Israel continued to derail the peace process with impunity, establishing roadblocks, demolishing Palestinian homes and imposing the unprecedented blockade of Gaza. Condemning those practices, he said that the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands, increasing numbers of detentions, the construction of settlements, and the annexation of Palestinian territory continued without pause, flouting United Nations resolutions. Tunisia opposed provocations against holy sites, including the “Judaization” of Al Quds, he said, warning that any infringement on Al Aqsa and violations of other holy sites must be stopped. He expressed support for the request by the State of Palestine’s representative that the international community protect the Palestinian people, and welcomed the study published by the Secretary-General in that regard. Steps must be taken to protect them before the situation deteriorated further, he said, emphasizing that only the end of the occupation would allow a just and lasting solution. The only way forward was to relaunch the process towards a two-State solution, he added.
BENJAMIN SHARONI (Israel) said that today’s meeting offered yet another window into the “theatre of the absurd”. The Committee had chosen to devote its valuable time to a one-sided report that distorted the truth and ignored the reality on the ground. The Special Committee’s report did not seek to advance human rights or promote Palestinian development, nor did it bring the situation closer to a lasting peace, he emphasized. “Instead, it propagates a biased narrative of the conflict and advances a clear political agenda aimed at discrediting Israel.” He said that his Government was ready to work with all those who were committed to enhancing security, peaceful coexistence and welfare for all peoples in the region, and sought to identify the opportunities within the challenges in a changing and profoundly volatile Middle East. “Israel’s message is clear: we want to achieve a lasting peace that would end the conflict once and for all,” he said, adding that his delegation supported and sought to promote the vision of “two States for two peoples”.
Some important facts had been omitted from the Special Committee’s report, he said, highlighting in particular the steps that Israel had taken and could continue to take to improve the well-being of the people living in Gaza under the oppressive rule of Hamas. Israel was doing its utmost to assist in Gaza’s reconstruction, had granted entry permits to the West Bank for non-urgent medical care, and had coordinated the movement of 650 doctors and medical teams from Gaza to the West Bank for continuing education projects and conferences. In order for the reconstruction mechanism to produce better results, the Palestinian Authority must take on a more substantive role, he said, noting that the fact that it did not assert its responsibility in Gaza “makes one wonder about their priorities”. Above all, there must be zero tolerance for terror and violence, he said, stressing that Gaza’s rehabilitation must go hand-in-hand with the demilitarization of Hamas and its proxies, and with the return of the Palestinian Authority to effective governance in the Strip.
Over the last few weeks, he continued, Israeli citizens had faced daily terror attacks by Palestinians. Since September, Israel had witnessed 62 stabbing attacks, seven shooting attacks and eight vehicular attacks, which had claimed the lives of 13 Israelis and injured almost 200, mainly civilians. The reason behind that wave of terror was clear: inflammatory rhetoric lit the fuse and incitement kept feeding the flame. Israel had repeatedly called for the resumption of talks and expressed its readiness to meet with Arab leaders as well as the Palestinian leadership in order to advance the peace process, but unfortunately, the Palestinian side consistently refused to return to the negotiating table. It must play a constructive role by demonstrating a commitment to bilateral negotiations rather than unilateral actions, he said, warning that any other path would keep the region captive to the chains of resentment and hatred, and pass on a legacy of violence and intolerance to the next generation.
MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the Special Committee’s report was yet another testimony to Israel’s disregard for international law. Its recent consultations on implementing General Assembly resolution 69/90 provided an opportunity for Member States to express their concerns over the expansion of settlements and settler violence against Palestinians, as well as the deplorable conditions in Israeli detention centres, the demolition of Palestinian homes and other illegal activities. Such practices “ride roughshod” over international agreements prohibiting such conduct, he said, adding that his delegation strongly deplored methods that fuelled feelings of injustice for Palestinians and millions of Muslims. Morocco also condemned attempts to “Judaize” Arab lands and Holy Sites. The main way to solving the Palestinian question would not be through war and bloodshed, but through good intentions and a return to the negotiating table in order to implement a two-State solution, he said.