Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan continue to deprive populations living there of their rights and to hinder their development in all spheres, speakers told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today as it took up the issue of those lands.
The observer of the State of Palestine said Israel has issued hundreds of military orders and discriminatory laws allowing it to control Palestinian resources and economic assets during its 51-year occupation, making it impossible for his people to achieve sustainable development.
Mounir Tabet, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, 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 the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (A/73/87-E/2018/69). He observed serious concerns remain over the Israeli army’s continued use of excessive force, with recent unlawful killings of 80 Palestinians including 17 children. The representative of South Africa said the incidents “demand thorough, unbiased investigation, and the holding to account of perpetrators”.
Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, pointed to persistent Israeli policies in violation of international human rights law including the adoption of two separate legal systems in the same territory, effectively establishing one State and two societies. The representative of Maldives said systematic deterioration of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory requires the urgent attention of the international community, with 2.5 million Palestinians requiring humanitarian assistance, 1.8 million subject to water shortages and 1.6 million facing food shortages. Malaysia’s delegate warned that Gaza will be unliveable by 2020.
The delegate of Qatar, speaking on behalf of Organisation of the Islamic Conference, observed that Israel has continued to intensify its colonial settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. More than 6,000 housing units in the occupied West Bank were planned and approved by the occupation authorities, which will eventually enable more than 27,000 Israeli settlers to move to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Syria’s representative said that Israel has also flouted United Nations resolutions on occupation of the Syrian Golan, continuing to settle illegally, annex land and pass discriminatory laws. The occupiers also continue to control resources and oil exploration and have imposed Israeli citizenship on people in the Golan.
The delegate of Saudi Arabia said the magnitude of Israel’s violations and aggressive policies against Palestine have had serious implications for its economic development. Cuba’s representative noted Israel deprives the Palestinian people of their sovereign right over natural resources, maintaining almost total control over water. Speaking in his national capacity, Qatar’s delegate expressed concern over the plight of children in the Palestinian territory and noted his Government contributed $50 million to an education programme run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The representative of Iraq stressed that the right of the Palestinian people and those in the occupied Syrian Golan to self-determination is self-evident, with numerous speakers calling for the establishment of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In response, Israel’s representative, a youth delegate, noted that she grew up in Haifa, a multicultural city featuring different cultures working together to contribute to its society. She also recalled terrorist attacks and wondering if classmates would make it to school, and living in fear of Hamas. Citing a nearby joint industrial park shared by Israelis and Palestinians, she stated a young mother was recently killed by a former co-worker. “Life doesn’t have to be like this” she said. Noting that her address as a youth delegate was not the response from Israel that many might have expected, she said many States use United Nations institutions for political attacks rather than a venue for conversation.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Oman, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran, Namibia, Nicaragua, Libya and Bahrain.
The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 26 October, for a dialogue with regional commissions.
Introduction of Report
MOUNIR TABET, Deputy 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 the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/73/87-E/2018/69). He noted the Palestinian people continue to suffer under Israeli policies, including the application of two legal systems, and discriminatory planning and zoning policies that prevent Palestinian construction in Area C and East Jerusalem.
He stated serious concerns remain over the Israeli army’s continued use of excessive force, with unlawful killings of 80 Palestinians including 17 children. Attacks and harassment conducted by Israeli settlers saw a sharp increase in 2017, with Israel failing to stop them or hold the parties accountable; on the contrary, the army often accompanies them. There were 5,980 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons as of Feb 2017, including over 300 children.
In housing, he said Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes have created a coercive environment in the West Bank with thousands displaced and building permits nearly impossible to obtain. Seizures of property and punitive measures may amount to collective punishment. Some 7,500 in Bedouin and herder communities also face displacement, and he noted that authorities in May 2017 approved the establishment of a new settlement in Area C for the first time since 1993. Permits for valid traders decreased from 3,500 in 2015 to 500 in 2017 and last year, 60 per cent of West Bank roads were reserved for exclusive Israeli use.
Turning to living conditions, he stated that due to deterioration of basic water infrastructure in Area C, 95,000 people receive less than 50 litres of water per capita per day, less than half the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation. He cited 2.5 million Palestinians living in poverty with half of them requiring humanitarian assistance, including 80 per cent of those in Gaza, where the poverty rate has reached 54 per cent. The Gaza blockade has also led to a decrease in the quality of health care.
On the occupied Syrian Golan, he said that Israel has occupied the area since 1967, annexed it in 1991 and by 2017 had established 34 illegal settlements. Authorities restrict Syrian land use to 45,000 acres while Israelis may use 350,000 acres. The 51-year occupation is multilayered and contrary to Security Council resolutions, with certain practices amounting to a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Group of Arab States and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), noted that Israel has occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories for the past 51 years. They have issued hundreds of military orders and discriminatory laws that have allowed it to control Palestinian resources and economic assets, making it impossible for his people to achieve sustainable development.
Continuing, he said Israel has demolished 5,413 buildings in Palestinian territory, 2,000 of which are residential, on the pretext that building permits were lacking. Adding that such permits are impossible to obtain, he said that by the end of 2017, there were 13,000 orders of demolition of Palestinian structures pending implementation. He called attention to the most recent Security Council resolution on Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, which called for the drawing up of a list of Israeli companies operating in those areas, which are a major source of the exploiting of Palestinian natural resources.
MAHMOUD EL-ASHMAWY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, pointed to persistent Israeli policies in violation of international human rights law including the adoption of two separate legal systems in the same territory, bringing more restrictions for Palestinians and effectively establishing one State and two societies. He expressed deep concern that between April 2017 and March 2018, authorities demolished 310 Palestinian structures under the pretext of building permits that are nearly impossible to obtain. Turning to economic repercussions, he cited the Dead Sea as one of world’s great resources of mineral salts, with the majority of its coastline in Palestinian territory while they are denied the right to benefit from their own natural resources. Similarly, the tourism sector in East Jerusalem, with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, could benefit the people if it were openly accessible.
AHMED AL-KUWARI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of OIC, said that Israel has continued during the first half of 2018 to intensify its colonial settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. More than 6,000 housing units in the occupied West Bank were planned and approved by the occupation authorities, which will eventually enable more than 27,000 Israeli settlers to move to the Israeli colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The demolition and seizure of Palestinian homes and livelihood-related structures has also increased, thanks to Israeli legislation restricting the ability of Palestinians and human rights organizations to challenge the demolition or seizure of their properties. There are ongoing Israeli preparations to raze the entire community of Khan al-Ahmar, where several hundreds of people live.
In the first half of 2018, Israel demolished or seized 197 Palestinian-owned structures, he continued. It is estimated that about a third of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, or some 100,000 people, reside in buildings that are not approved by the Israeli occupation authorities, which would eventually make these buildings susceptible to demolition by Israeli authorities. At the same time, Israel continues to exploit natural resources and segregate, isolate and obstruct Palestinian movement by numerous measures, including annexation, the apartheid wall, a permit regime, hundreds of checkpoints and the systematic collective punishment of the entire Palestinian civilian population. The only way to end Palestinian suffering and make tangible progress towards peace is by compelling Israel to end its prolonged occupation and comply with international law, without exception.
KHALID AL-SHUAIBI (Oman), speaking on behalf of Group of Arab States and associating himself with the Group of 77, noted the plundering of resources and denial of human rights, and pointed further to economic and social repercussions affecting the Palestinian people. He expressed grave concern over the excessive use of force by the Israeli army, exacerbating the situation especially given what appears to be unlawful killings. Stating that Israeli settlements have no legitimacy at all, he noted their population now numbers 600,000, a policy supported by the Israeli Government. This amounts to population transfer, which is banned according to international humanitarian law.
Mr. MANZALAWI (Saudi Arabia) said the magnitude of Israel’s violations and aggressive policies against Palestine have had serious implications for its economic development. They are contrary to resolutions of the international community, present severe obstacles to sustainable development and have forced half of the Palestinian population to rely on humanitarian assistance. Israel has even violated the sanctity of the dead by detaining corpses and disrespecting Muslim sacred shrines. He also pointed to the unjustified illegal blockade restricting the movement of people and goods in Palestinian territories. His country supports all efforts to end Palestinian suffering and assist them in realizing their rights to independence, with Jerusalem as their capital.
Ms. ODHAV (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Africa Group, said that his country’s support for the Palestinian people remains unwavering. South Africa’s condemnation of the flagrant human rights violations by Israeli security forces against Palestinians is also well established and remains unwavering. He condemned the use of excessive force, including suspected unlawful killings, by Israeli security forces, against Palestinian protestors as found in the report. “These incidents constitute grave violations of human rights and international law, and demand thorough, unbiased investigation, and the holding to account of perpetrators,” he said. The same is true of the horrendous violence that is documented in the report at the hands of Israeli settlers against Palestinians. Equally insidious and deserving of condemnation are the findings in the Secretary-General’s report of a systematic undermining by Israel of the economic and social well-being of Palestinian people in the Occupied Territory. Destroying and confiscating property and depleting resources is a deplorable crime, which will resonate for generations to come. He also expressed full support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
ROSALIA LUCIA CUE DELGADO (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that Israel deprives the Palestinian people of their right to development by stripping them of the sovereign right over their natural resources. Israel maintains almost total control over water. The scarcity of this resource continues to affect life and hinder the development efforts of the Palestinian people. The restrictions imposed by Israel, land confiscations and violence prevent the Palestinians and Syrians of the Golan from having access to and using agricultural land. The destruction of forests as well as of hydraulic and electric structures has contributed to the deterioration of the environment. The occupation has caused a serious deterioration in the social and economic conditions of the Palestinian people. In Gaza, about 2 million Palestinians continue to live under the Israeli blockade. Poverty is rampant and basic resources, such as food and water, are disturbingly scarce. She condemned Israel’s continued military occupation of the Palestinian territory.
Mr. AL-LAITHI (Iraq), associating himself with the Group of 77, OIC and the Group of Arab States, said the Zionist occupation and settlement policies continue to violate international law, with the Israeli army using excessive force for racial discrimination. Stating that the right of the Palestinian people and those in occupied Syrian Golan to self-determination is self-evident, he further noted their right to reparations in view of depletion and denial of resources. The Palestinian people need the political and economic support of the international community. Expressing grave concern over a lack of resources for UNRWA, he called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
ROUA SHURBAJI (Syria) said Israel has flouted United Nations resolutions on occupation of the Syrian Golan, continuing to settle illegally, annex land and pass discriminatory laws against Syrians in the Golan, subjecting them to construction restrictions and high water prices. The Israel occupiers also continue to control resources and oil exploration and have imposed Israeli citizenship on people in the Golan. In a recent action, the Israeli Ministry of Interior announced that it will hold local council elections in the Syrian Golan in November. This is a flagrant violation of the Security Council resolution stressing that the Israeli decision to impose its laws on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void, with no legal effect.
Mr. AL-KUWARI (Qatar), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Arab States, noted the continued denial of rights and resources of Palestinian people and those in the occupied Syrian Golan. He expressed concern over the plight of children in the Palestinian territory, with attacks against students and teachers and lack of access to education. His Government contributed $50 million to an education programme run by UNRWA. Noting that the 2030 Agenda stresses the need for peaceful societies for sustainable development, hence, more effective measures are required to assist the Palestinian people in the full enjoyment of their rights and sovereignty over their territory and East Jerusalem.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela) said Israel’s extended occupation of Palestine and the Syrian Golan is multidimensional with adverse effects accumulated over several years. Over 50 per cent of Palestinians in the Gaza receive food assistance. It is extremely grave that the United States has stopped providing funds to United Nations relief agencies for Palestine, limiting their efforts towards self-determination and leading to increased poverty and inequality. He called on the international community to take clear measures forcing the Israeli leadership to stop its expansionist policy, which stands in the way of economic development.
INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and OIC, expressed deep concern over the plight of the Palestinian people given their persistent land confiscation and settlement. Israeli policies hinder rights and development, with the Gaza unemployment rate now at 40 per cent. She also deplored underfunding of UNRWA and that action’s negative implications for health and social services. Affirming that sustainable development in Palestine hinges on ending occupation and the establishment of a two-State solution, she also pointed to the importance of funding and support for agriculture, entrepreneurship and women’s rights, noting that Indonesia has contributed to 169 capacity-building projects with Palestinians.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77, said he is “deeply frustrated” over the deteriorating social and economic conditions in the Palestinian territories due to ongoing Israeli occupation. He noted the high number of Palestinians living under the poverty line and said schoolchildren are subjected to “humiliation, harassment and violence” and that access to health and sanitation services is lacking. It is unacceptable that Palestinians are prevented from accessing and utilizing agricultural land, he said, calling on the international community to demand Israel put an end to systematic violations of international law. He urged States to resolve the funding crisis faced by UNRWA and said his Government remains steadfast in its support for the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people.
LAILA SHAREEF (Maldives) said that the international community has failed to reverse the situation in the occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan. It is the responsibility of each Member State to ensure that no country enjoys impunity and defies the principles of international law. The systematic deterioration of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory requires the urgent attention of the international community. It is extremely worrying that 2.5 million Palestinians need humanitarian assistance, that 1.8 million are subject to water shortages, and that 1.6 million face food shortages. “These statistics point to a catastrophe that requires urgent action,” she said. Expressing concern over instances of violence against Palestinian civilians, she added that vulnerable populations like children are increasingly facing grave threats from Israeli forces. Ending the illegal occupation is the single most important factor that would enable the Palestinians to achieve any socioeconomic development.
AL ALI (United Arab Emirates) said her country has provided $130 million to the Palestinian territory and made an additional contribution to UNRWA, given its vital role in supporting the Palestinians. Her country made another contribution of $50 million to support the relief agency’s education programme. This assistance ensured the continuation of education programmes, providing for their basic needs. The United Arab Emirates also continues to support the rebuilding of schools and hospitals, and is providing fuel and electricity.
HUSAIN EBRAHIM (Kuwait), associating himself with the Group of 77, Group of Arab States and OIC, asked how the State of Palestine can achieve sustainable development given Israeli practices in contravention of international law. He said their plight will not end without implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions. Noting that the report by ESCWA cites violations which affect all aspects of populations under Israeli occupation, his country shares the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Kuwait condemns all brutal Israeli practices and policies in the occupied territories and calls for an end to the long-running tragedy of the Palestinian people.
ALI HAJILARI (Iran) said Israel’s continued violations of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions go against international humanitarian and human rights law. It is impossible for Palestinians to take any steps towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in such a situation. Irresponsible acts by the Israelis against the Palestinians have seriously hampered economic development. Israelis continue to carry out actions leading to population displacement and endangerment of natural resources, exploitation of natural resources and water shortages, which continue to impede daily life. Amid movement restrictions and land confiscations, some 1.6 million Palestinians are considered food insecure.
POLINA KEMPINSKY (Israel), a youth delegate, noted that she grew up in Haifa, a multicultural city featuring different cultures working together to contribute to its society, where general well-being is the most important shared quality. She also recalled terrorist attacks and wondering if classmates would make it to school, and living in fear of Hamas attacks. Citing a nearby joint industrial park shared by Israelis and Palestinians, she stated a young mother was recently killed by a former co-worker. “Life doesn’t have to be like this” she said, lamenting Palestinian youth committing acts of violence in Israel. She also pointed to the positive use of social media for communication between peoples and cultures. Noting that her address as a youth delegate was not the response from Israel that many might have expected, she said many States use United Nations institutions for political attacks rather than as a place to have a conversation.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Group of 77, expressed concern over the human rights violations depicted in the Secretary‑General’s report, especially those effecting children who are exposed to fear, trauma, injury and inability to reach schools. Noting the number of Palestinians being held as detainees by Israel and the low approval rate for medical patients allowed to see treatment, he underscored that poverty in the region cannot be eradicated when infrastructure in Palestine is constantly being destroyed and the electricity supply disrupted. He reiterated the need to preserve the territorial contiguity unity and integrity of the Palestinian lands and demanded compliance with the Protocol on Economic Relations between the Government of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It is only through legally established statehood that social normalcy, legal equality and economic opportunity can be realized, he said.
KARLA ALEJANDRA BAJAÑA TINOCO (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Group of 77, said it is inconceivable that the Palestinians can make the changes needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Continuing Israeli occupation has resulted in the destruction of property and infrastructure as well as the confiscation of land and restrictions on movement and commerce, which have accumulated over time and could actually reverse Palestinian development. She expressed hope that, through dialogue and negotiation, Israelis and Palestinians will be able live in peace, as they both have a right to this as well as sustainable development.
MOHD SUHAIMI TAJUDDIN (Malaysia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the Secretary-General’s report reaffirms that Israeli practices and policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as in the occupied Syrian Golan, are in violation of international law and international human rights. Israel has blatantly ignored the international community’s pressure and has been continuously expanding its illegal settlement activity on Palestinian territory. He warned that Gaza will be unliveable by 2020, also condemning Israel’s disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force against Palestinians. He condemned Israel’s illegal occupation and stressed that the two-State Solution is the only viable option. The international community must be more active and assertive in preserving the status of Jerusalem, he added.
OMAR AL-SHAMES (Libya), associating himself with the Group of 77, OIC and the Group of Arab States, said the “occupying Power” continues to deprive Palestinians of basic rights, including preventing farmers from reaching their land. Gazans continue to suffer the effects of the blockade, turning their area into a huge prison. The Palestinian people cannot enjoy the fruits of sustainable development without access to water and land. Also citing the issue of the occupied Syrian Golan, he called for a Palestinian independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of refugees to their homeland.
Mr. AL-HADDAD (Bahrain), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Arab States, noted that Israel has continued to carry out negative practices and policies in Palestinian territories, including those which violate human rights and impact livelihoods. Forced evictions are key factors contributing to the coercive environment in the West Bank, which has given many Palestinians no other choice but to leave. In justifying building demolitions, Israeli authorities cite the lack of building permits, which are almost impossible to obtain. Israel’s establishment of settlements since 1967 is illegal, a blatant violation of international law and major impediment to the two-State solution. It has impacted the Palestinian’s ability to access agriculture and placed restrictions on movement and land.