Seventy years had passed since the unjust partition of Palestine and Israel’s subsequent illegal acquisition of its territory, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said today, during a meeting to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Each year, on 29 November, the world honoured the resilience of Palestinians, Riyad Mansour told delegates gathered for the observance, organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. However, ending Israeli impunity would pave the way to peace, he said, calling for both individual and collective action to secure justice.
Indeed, 24 years after the Oslo Accords, Israel refused to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination, he said. Through its colonial settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian territories, Israel was entrenching its occupation rather than acting to end it. It was destroying the two‑State solution, and decisive action was urgently needed. “We believe much more can and must be done,” he said.
Agreeing, Ahmad Tibi, Deputy Speaker of Israel’s Knesset, cited a recent national bill proposing the creation of communities only for Jews. Israel had succeeded in obstructing a two‑State solution and now wanted to negotiate based on a one‑State proposal. It was time to establish a Palestinian State and he pressed the United Nations to play its role in that endeavour.
Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed said Secretary‑General Antonió Guterres was convinced that a two‑State solution was the only premise for a just and lasting peace. Encouraging leaders on both sides to demonstrate their commitment to that process, she said recent positive developments on intra‑Palestinian unity should be harnessed by all.
On that point, Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights, said the latest Cairo‑brokered intra‑Palestinian reconciliation agreement was an important step towards addressing the energy crisis in Gaza and, potentially, advancing the peace process.
Fodé Seck (Senegal), Chair of the Palestinian Rights Committee, agreed that unity among Palestinian political leaders had provided “a ray of light.” However, the two‑State solution was in peril due to violence and mistrust between the parties, a situation being exploited by extremists. Palestinian reconciliation must be followed by a peace process based on relevant United Nations resolutions and other initiatives.
Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, warned that merely condemning 50 years of settlements and war crimes was not enough. The United States had repeatedly and cynically abused its Security Council veto power and, along with Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, continued to transfer arms and munitions to Israel. That posed a significant risk for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, he asserted.
Also delivering opening remarks were the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council, and 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.
Representatives of the League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, African Union and Venezuela (on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement) also spoke.
Before adjourning the meeting, the Chair read out a list of Heads of State and Government, ministers and other representatives of Government and civil society who had sent messages of solidarity, saying they would be published on the website of the Division for Palestinian Rights.
The Committee will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.
FODÉ SECK, Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the international community must do more to ensure Palestine refugees enjoyed their human rights. Noting that 2017 marked the passage of 50 years since the beginning of the occupation of Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, he said illegal settlement building and the issue of detentions ran counter to international law. While the Committee condemned all acts of violence, terrorism and incitement, regardless of the perpetrators, he said the international community and the United Nations must support Palestinian rights and work to enhance peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
The two‑State solution was in peril due to violence and mistrust between the parties, he said, and the situation was being exploited by extremists. Yet, unity among the Palestinian political leadership provided “a ray of light”. Underscoring that Palestinian reconciliation must be followed by a peace process, he emphasized that the process, in turn, must be based on relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Roadmap proposed by the Quartet on the Middle East [United States, European Union, Russian Federation, United Nations]. He expressed support for efforts to re‑launch the peace process by the United States, the Russian Federation and Egypt, stressing that the Committee would continue to promote the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including to self‑determination and independence.
MIROSLAV LAJCAK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said the international community had a common responsibility towards the Palestinian people and must demonstrate solidarity through humanitarian assistance. On the Gaza Strip, the ongoing blockade had left people entirely dependent on aid. Given the vital role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he expressed concern over the Agency’s budgetary shortfall. International solidarity must be used to facilitate peaceful resolution of the Palestinian question, he went on, adding that a two‑State solution, as defined in resolution 181 of 1947, was the only answer. The international community must support the establishment of conditions conducive to a successful peace process, including an immediate halt to settlement expansion. “Palestinian people do not need our sympathy,” he stressed. “They deserve our solidarity.”
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), President of the Security Council, said that body had received monthly briefings on the situation from both the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process and the Department of Political Affairs, and held regular meetings in that context. Indeed, the situation in the Middle East remained a constant concern, and the Council was committed to a just and lasting peace in the region. In particular, he commended UNRWA and other relevant organizations addressing critical needs in the Gaza Strip, voicing hope that Member States and non‑traditional donors would continue to assist the Agency.
AMINA MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said the question of Palestine was inextricably linked with the history of the United Nations and among the longest unresolved issues on the Organization’s agenda. Speaking on behalf of Secretary‑General Antonió Guterres, she said he was convinced that a two‑State solution was the only premise for a just and lasting peace, and that resolution of the conflict would create momentum for greater stability throughout the region. Encouraging leaders on both sides to demonstrate their commitment to the process, she said recent positive developments on intra‑Palestinian unity should be harnessed by all.
Speaking in her capacity as Deputy Secretary‑General, she went on to say that ending settlement activity would be crucial to the viability of a Palestinian nation. Gaza was in a constant state of humanitarian emergency, an unsustainable reality that urgently demanded a response. Positive headway had been made in the intra‑Palestinian agreement signed in October and such positive momentum must be maintained, she said, encouraging the Palestinian government to send a message of unity to all its people, including those in Gaza.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas, recalled that, on 29 November 1947, the General Assembly had unjustly decided to partition Palestine without the people’s consent. A few months later, Israel had forcibly uprooted two‑thirds of Palestinians from their land and destroyed more than 400 towns and villages, clearing the way for its forced acquisition of more than three‑quarters of Palestine’s territory. “Seventy years later, the Palestinian people are still awaiting their long overdue freedom and independence and their rightful place among the community of nations,” he said. In 2017, the perseverance of the Palestinian people had been reflected in their peaceful resistance in Jerusalem, leading to the reversal of decisions taken by Israel to further its control over Al‑Haram al‑Sharif. Each year, on 29 November, Palestinians’ resilience, and global solidarity with their just cause, was honoured.
Twenty‑four years had passed since the Oslo Accords, he said, recalling that they had been interim agreements intended to lead to an independent State of Palestine within five years. However, Israel still refused to recognize the State of Palestine or even the right of the Palestinian people to self‑determination. Through its colonial settlement activities in Occupied Palestinian territories, in breach of United Nations resolutions and international law, Israel was entrenching its occupation rather than acting to end it. As such, it was destroying the two‑State solution and creating an existential crisis, both for Palestinians and the prospects for peace. Faced with Israel’s blatant contempt of the law, decisive action was urgently needed, he stressed, adding: “We believe much more can and must be done.”
Only ending Israeli impunity could pave the way to peace, he continued, calling for individual and collective action to deter violations and secure justice for generations of Palestinians. The State of Palestine was fully committed to international law and legitimacy, and to the two‑State solution on pre‑1967 borders. But if efforts for such a solution failed, Palestinians would neither disappear nor accept subjugation and oppression as their future. He reiterated that the struggle had never been directed against Judaism, but instead against the colonial occupation of Palestinian lands and people, and the denial of their inalienable human rights. Moreover, national reconciliation was a priority. As such, every effort would be made to end division and ensure that the Palestinian government was able to uphold its responsibilities in the Gaza Strip and to its people.
ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights, said the last 50 years had seen a continuous degradation of Palestinians’ human rights as a result of the occupation and atmosphere of impunity around those abuses. As settlement expansion persisted, freedom of movement was being restricted, with Palestinians subject to frequent arrests and administrative detention. Moreover, the blockade of Gaza had created an unbearable situation for people there. Human rights defenders were increasingly under attack throughout the Palestinian territories, often subject to arrest and detention for participating in peaceful protests. Amid those challenges, the United Nations and the international community must renew support for the peace process and help parties achieve the two‑State solution. The latest Cairo‑brokered intra‑Palestinian reconciliation agreement was an important step towards addressing the energy crisis in Gaza and, potentially, advancing the peace process.
AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), Chair, Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said the International Day of Solidarity served as a reminder of the urgent need to find a just and lasting solution to the plight of the Palestinian people. In Amman earlier in 2017, those affected by Israeli practices had briefed the Special Committee on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian territories and the Occupied Syrian Golan. Those testimonies had drawn attention to the effects of such practices on people’s everyday lives. Civilian casualties included infants, he observed, while dozens of families killed had been denied the right to a proper and dignified closure, on the basis of security concerns. Also, according to testimony, Israeli practices included the demolition of Palestinian homes and other structures, the denial of building permits and a lack of accountability for settler violence. The cumulative impact of such actions was a matter of serious concern.
He said the shrinking of democratic space was particularly troublesome, especially in the context of local organizations working towards human rights in the Occupied Palestinian territories. Also, Israel’s land closure and naval blockade in the Gaza Strip had entered its eleventh year. As a result, hospitals had been forced to reduce services and limit access to essential care. The Special Committee’s report also highlighted the situation in the Occupied Syrian Golan and the impact of settlement expansion there. He expressed appreciation for UNRWA’s work, which required adequate and predictable resourcing. Repeating his call for a just and lasting solution, he urged Israel to desist from taking actions that ran contrary to international rules and practice. He was encouraged to see that Palestinians had sustained their spirit and strength of purpose to gain their legitimate rights, voicing hope that they would work together towards national unity.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, reading a message from the Secretary General of that body, said that in 1974 the United Nations had welcomed Palestine as a permanent observer with the option of becoming a full member in the future. Since then, the Palestinian position had been reinforced by its joining the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and its strengthened position reflected global support for the Palestinian people. The League would continue to support their every initiative, including in defending the status of Jerusalem and making Palestine a permanent member of the United Nations. The reconciliation of Palestinians in October was a step forward as it would prevent Israel from setting aside the peace process by claiming it had no partner with which to negotiate.
After 50 years of occupation, Israel continued to undermine the two‑State solution, he said, including through settlement expansion in flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions and international law. Attacks on holy places, the blockade of Gaza, movement restrictions and illegal detention of Palestinians persisted. While well known for disregarding United Nations resolutions, Israel was vying for a seat on the Security Council and he called on all parties to resist that effort. Serious peace negotiations must be restarted within a clear mechanism and he expressed hope the international community would assist in that endeavour. For its part, the League of Arab States could coordinate with the Middle East Quartet to achieve peace in the region, he suggested, concluding that “it is time for the rule of law to prevail over the rule of force.”
SHAHER AWAWDEH, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said this year coincided with the first centenary of the Balfour Declaration and marked 70 years since the adoption of resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine. In that context, the international community had the historical, legal, political and moral responsibility to find a just solution to all aspects of the Palestinian question. East Jerusalem was an integral part of the Palestinian territory, he said, underscoring the religious status of Al‑Quds and Al‑Aqsa Mosque. As such, the international community must take practical and effective measures to end illegal Israeli practices aimed at changing the geographical and demographic status in and around East Jerusalem.
He expressed concern about policies to expand Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and warned against the failure of holding Israel accountable for its non‑compliance with international law. He called for international condemnation of Israel’s settlement building and support for Palestinian reconciliation. Moreover, the illegal Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was tantamount to collective punishment and a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. He expressed his commitment to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention and called for action to defend their rights, bring their cause to global attention and ensure that Israel respected international humanitarian law and human rights instruments.
SHARENE LOUISE BAILEY, African Union, said the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People presented a unique opportunity to raise awareness and reiterate the bloc’s support for the people of Palestine. While she commended the reconciliation deal reached in Moscow this year, she expressed grave concern over the critical situation of Palestinian refugees, stressing that Israeli occupation adversely defined every aspect of the daily lives of Palestinian youth and camp residents.
Continued occupation and conflict had led to deeper poverty and depravation, she stressed, adding that conditions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank were serious concerns. She reiterated the Union’s condemnation of Israeli occupation and the campaign to change all Islamic and Christian features of the Holy City. With the path to durable peace still unclear, the international community must support all parties to overcome differences and return to peace talks on the basis of the two‑State solution.
HENRY SUAREZ (Venezuela) spoke on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement and read a message from President Nicolas Maduro. He said that 70 years after the General Assembly’s decision to partition Palestine, it was clear that the Palestinian question lay at the heart of many other crises in the Middle East. The International Day provided an opportunity to renew States’ shared commitment to a just and lasting solution to the question. Despite decades of peace efforts and Palestinians’ adherence to international law, their plight had worsened on all fronts due to Israel’s practices, which undermined all peace efforts and obstructed justice.
While the Security Council remained paralyzed, the international community had watched as Israel’s military occupation breached United Nations resolutions, he said. The occupying Power continued its collective punishment and perpetrated grave human rights violations, including war crimes. Amid such illegality, the bloc advocated protection for Palestinians. He condemned the occupation and illegal settlement activities, urging Israel to cease all measures aimed at colonizing Palestinian territory, altering its demographic nature and facilitating the de facto annexation of Palestinian land. The Non‑Aligned Movement reiterated its unwavering commitment to a just and comprehensive solution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, with the question of Palestine at its core.
AHMAD TIBI, Deputy Speaker of Israel’s Knesset, said the Israeli occupation was the only such operation active today. It was said that while Jerusalem was made from light and gold, Al‑Quds was made of checkpoints, bullets and occupation, he said. Indeed, Palestinians were subject to policies of racial segregation and discrimination in all aspects of life, while Israeli police operated with impunity. Moreover, a recent national bill proposed that the right to self‑determination was only for Jews. In a dangerous manner, it stated clearly and for the first time that there would be cities established only for Jews. There would be no hope for creating a sovereign Palestinian State without ending the occupation. Israel had succeeded in obstructing a two‑State solution and now wanted to negotiate based on a one‑State proposal. It was time to move towards establishing a Palestinian State and he pressed the United Nations to play its role in that endeavour. The international community must also step in and prevent Israel from enacting undemocratic laws so that everyone in the region could enjoy peace and development.
SALIL SHETTY, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said Israel’s policy of settlement expansion across stolen Palestinian land was illegal, discriminatory and unjust. It was a key driver of the mass human rights violations resulting from the occupation. Merely to condemn 50 years of settlements and war crimes was not enough. Such double standards, particularly by the United States, must not be ignored. The United States had repeatedly and cynically abused its Security Council veto power and, along with countries such as Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, continued to transfer arms and munitions to Israel. That posed a significant risk for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, he asserted.