Delegates warned today about escalating tensions in the Gaza Strip, with some welcoming the recently brokered ceasefire in the enclave, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its general debate on Israel’s practices affecting the human rights of people in occupied Arab territories.
Namibia’s representative recalled that scores of civilian protesters were killed and wounded as Israel used excessive and disproportionate force since the beginning of the “Great March of Return” on 30 March. Calling upon all concerned to exercise maximum restraint, he welcomed the 13 November ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt between the Government of Israel and the people of Gaza.
Jordan’s representative similarly highlighted the new round of tensions that arose in Gaza yesterday, calling upon the international community to help de‑escalate the situation and impose a ceasefire. Failure to address the frozen peace process sends a dangerous signal and undermines the hope of peace, he cautioned, adding that it gives terrorist and extremist groups an opportunity to create false legitimacy.
South Africa’s representative also expressed concern about signs of regression in the peace process. He emphasized that the impasse — fuelled by the increasing polarization of viewpoints, the erosion of multilateralism and provocative unilateral actions — has significant implications for peace and security.
Kuwait’s representative said Israel is the main violator of relevant Security Council resolutions and international instruments, citing the March massacres on the Gaza border as an example. That country is defying the international will, he stressed.
However, Israel’s representative said that attempts to bypass direct negotiations via multilateral international institutions are doomed to fail. He recalled that, since the Oslo Accords, the Government of Israel has offered the Palestinians several plans to end the current situation. Every offer included far‑reaching concessions, but they were all rejected or ignored, he noted.
Moreover, he continued, Hamas is piling up an arsenal of rockets dedicated to Israel’s destruction, including over the past week, when an unprecedented number of rockets were launched against Israel. In that context, Israel will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect itself, he said, calling upon the Palestinians to engage in direct negotiations.
Other speakers today included representatives of Turkey, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco and Nicaragua.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Israel, Jordan and Syria, as well as an observer for the State of Palestine.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 16 November, to take action on outstanding draft resolutions and conclude its work for the seventy‑third session.
MOHANNAD ADNAN MOUSA SHADDAD (Jordan), noting that a new round of tensions arose in Gaza yesterday, called upon the international community to help de-escalate the situation and impose a ceasefire. Failure to address the frozen peace process sends a dangerous signal and undermines the hope of peace, he cautioned, adding that it gives terrorist and extremist groups an opportunity to create false legitimacy. States must work in concert to lay the framework for a definitive solution for the Palestinian people, he said, pointing out that Jordan is in daily direct contact with the Palestinian population. Emphasizing that responsibility for Al Quds is a historic one shared with the Arab world, he warned that any attempt at dividing such holy sites as Al-Aqsa Mosque will constitute a threat to the stability of the entire region. Meanwhile, Israel continues to restrict the movement of people and goods in the occupied territories, depriving them of economic opportunity and employment, he noted. Expressing concern over the seizure of thousands of hectares of Palestinian land to create new Israeli housing and military bases, he said the violations of the right to education in the occupied territories, including shooting at students and restrictions on educational structures, are also worrying. He concluded by underlining that the creation of a Palestinian State is a strategic interest of Jordan and a priority for Jordanian policy.
WOUTER HOFMEYR ZAAYMAN (South Africa) said that in the current climate of heightened hostilities marked by continued human rights violations, the possibility of lasting peace seems distant. However, as a country that underwent a monumental political transition after years of systematic violations, South Africa remains hopeful for a similar, positive outcome for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, he said, emphasizing that violations of Palestinian human rights merely reinforce hatreds and fuel the cycle of violence between societies that can benefit from mutually reinforcing development. Recalling that South Africa condemned the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces against unarmed Palestinian protesters earlier in 2018, he echoed calls for an independent inquiry into those killings. Such deplorable human rights violations also take a collective form, dividing people with monolithic physical barriers facilitating draconian restrictions of movement and humiliation at checkpoints. Moreover, Israel’s continuing settlement expansion increasingly encroaches onto the limited land available to Palestinians, choking off all hope for a two-State solution, he pointed out. Expressing concern at signs of regression in the peace process, he said the impasse — fuelled by the increasing polarization of viewpoints, the erosion of multilateralism and provocative unilateral actions — has significant implications for peace and security.
ÖNCÜ KEÇELI (Turkey) said that inflicting hardship and humiliation reflects a systematic effort to pressure the Palestinians into accepting the status quo. Israel’s campaign violates their fundamental human rights and subjects them to excessive use of force, he said, adding that it also involves building illegal settlements in the West Bank, displacing Bedouins from Khan al-Ahmar and imposing collective punishment on the Palestinians by targeting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Current developments deepen the sense of injustice in the region and create a growing mistrust of universal values, he cautioned, emphasizing that it is high time for the international community to take decisive steps to protect the rights of the Palestinian people.
BASHAR A. A. A. E. ALDUWAISAN (Kuwait), associating himself with the Arab Group, said Israel is the main violator of relevant Security Council resolutions and international instruments. Citing the massacres on the Gaza border as an example, he noted that more than 60 Palestinians were killed. How long will Israel be allowed to destroy the lives of Palestinians with no accountability? That country is defying the international will, he said, recalling Israel’s withdrawal of its candidacy for a Security Council seat in June because of its poor standing in the international community. Expressing concern over Israel’s unilateral measures to change the situation on the ground within the occupied territories, he said its practices amount to flagrant violations of international law. Expressing support for the expansion of the Middle East Quartet to include other regional parties under the umbrella of the United Nations, he said Kuwait also supports measures to strengthen the sovereignty of Jerusalem. He called for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories to the pre-1967 borders while granting the Palestinian people their right to self-determination.
IBRAHIM MODIBBO UMAR (Nigeria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), warned that the spike in settlement expansion and consolidation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, will have a negative impact on the Middle East peace process, affecting the contiguity and viability of a future sovereign Palestinian State. He called upon Israel to cease all such expansion because it is changing the character, status and demographic composition of the affected territories, noting that the freezing of settlements is key to restoring peace. Moreover, the situation in the Gaza Strip and the near-collapse of its infrastructure should be of grave concern to the international community, he said, calling for an end to the blockade on Gaza and for the restoration of free movement of people and goods into and out of the enclave. He expressed his delegation’s unwavering support for a two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, noted the use of excessive force by Israel’s Government against protesters. The latter is on record as having ordered its military to intensify force despite Egypt’s offer to intervene as a peace broker. Expressing concern that the occupying Power denied the Special Committee access to those territories, he described the biased measures that Israel has undertaken as illegal under international law. Since the beginning of the “Great March of Return” on 30 March, he recalled, scores of civilian protesters were killed and wounded as Israel used excessive and disproportionate force. Such actions are tantamount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, he added, noting that they are destined to have a multiplier effect, increasing the prospects for violence and hatred. Calling on all parties to exercise maximum restraint, he welcomed the ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt on 13 November between the Government of Israel and the people of Gaza.
ACHSANUL HABIB (Indonesia) said Israel continues its reckless demolition of Palestinian structures, restrictions on movement and arbitrary detentions. Citing also its construction of new settlements, blockade of Gaza and human rights violations, he stated that those actions are in full violation of international law and Security Council resolutions. “Life in Gaza has been rendered almost meaningless as the Palestinian population continues to be deprived of basic services,” he said, condemning the deterioration of the humanitarian situation there and throughout the occupied territories. Indonesia supports the deployment of an international protection force, he added. Also condemning Israel’s unilateral efforts to alter the character or prejudge the status of Jerusalem, he called on that country to review its attitude and ensure full respect for its obligations under international humanitarian law. Indonesia urges the international community to refocus on a political solution based on the two-State vision, he added.
MOHAMMAD QORBANPOUR (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and OIC, underscored the Special Committee’s important role in investigating Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories. “The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is at the epicentre of all conflicts in the Middle East,” he said, highlighting the need to end the blockade on Gaza and collective punishment, including restrictions on free movement across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the demolition of homes, revocation of residency, closure of towns and illegal settlement expansion. Turning to the occupied Golan, he said Iran considers it an integral part of Syria, emphasizing that the international community must uphold its political and legal responsibilities to end Israel’s occupation of Arab lands.
ISAAC BACHMAN (Israel) said the human rights situation is critical in Areas A and B, over which the Palestinian Authority exercises security control, and in Gaza, where Hamas has de facto control. The rights to life, protest, free expression and safety, as well as the rights of women and girls are in severe danger, he said, citing a statement from a human rights organization. The Special Committee’s annual report ignores severe violations by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas against the human rights of Israelis as well as those of their own people, he added, noting that it also fails to lay out the context of historical events that led Israel to gain control over its territory, as well as its attempts to seek solutions and build bridges. The Special Committee is not about human rights; instead, “it is about railing against Israel and Israel bashing”, he reiterated. Recalling that Israel gained control during a war of self-defence, he described its historic peace agreement with Egypt as a pillar of strategic stability and a source of hope and comfort for his people. However, such an approach cannot be implemented on the other side of the African-Syrian rift, he said, stressing that the Assad regime does not have the credibility to make peace or maintain stability.
The representative of Syria, raising a point of order, pointed out that the Special Committee’s report is the agenda item under discussion, calling on Israel’s representative to discuss that matter exclusively.
Mr. BACHMAN (Israel) went on to recall that the Jordanian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement of 3 April, 1949 explicitly states that the demarcation line, known as the Green Line, is not and should not be considered a border because it is only a military line. Therefore, when Israel took control of the West Bank in 1967, it did not cross any agreed international border, he said, emphasizing that it was taken from the aggressor by the self-defender. “Thus, the Israeli presence there is legitimate,” he added. The claim of the Jews to the region is legitimate and its future status should be negotiated directly and bilaterally, as agreed by both parties and the international community under existing and binding agreements, he emphasized. Since the Oslo Accords, Israel has offered the Palestinians several plans to end the current situation, he recalled. “Israel does not wish to control the Palestinians,” he stressed, while noting that every offer included far-reaching concessions, but they were all rejected or ignored.
In 2005, he recalled further, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and the occupation was ended, with the enclave free for its people to run their daily lives in full autonomy. After two years, however, Hamas built an underground “city of terror”, he said, calling for both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to be held accountable for the disastrous human rights situation in Gaza. “If the ongoing Palestinian terror ceased, no restrictions and no blockade would be needed to protect Israeli civilians,” he noted. However, Hamas is piling up an arsenal of rockets actively dedicated to Israel’s destruction, including over the past week, when an unprecedented number of rockets were launched against Israel. In that context, Israel will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect itself, he said, calling upon the Palestinians to engage in direct negotiations. Attempts to bypass negotiations via multilateral international institutions with clear one-sided agendas are doomed to fail, he added.
YOUSSEF EL-MEZOUAGHI (Morocco), noting that 2018 has seen unprecedented developments on the question of Palestine, including in Jerusalem, he warned that modifying the city’s legal status will endanger stability in the region. Welcoming the central role played by UNRWA in providing vital services to the affected populations, he expressed regret over Israel’s settlement and destruction policies, saying they are in violation of international law and threaten the prospects for peace in the region. Noting that the paralysis of the peace process has led to the further deterioration of the situation in Palestine, he called upon the international community to reinvigorate negotiations towards a solution that will build trust between parties and lay the framework for a viable Palestinian State.
MANUEL MADRIZ (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed the pledges by Member States to make contributions to UNRWA. Emphasizing that full implementation of the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions is the only legal and diplomatic way to restore peace and stability in the region, he expressed support for dialogue and negotiations that will provide the foundation for a solution in the Middle East.
Right of Reply
The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the accusations against his country came from States that should learn something from Israel’s practices, including those towards Palestinians. One such accusation was that Israel is activating a war machine, which is far from the truth because it is a defensive machine, he noted. “We are surrounded by countries that couldn’t accept the very existence of the Jewish State,” he said, adding that the people of such countries teach their children hatred of Jews and Israel. When Palestinians fire from densely populated civilian areas towards civilian areas in Israel, that constitutes a double war crime, he said. However, Israel defends its people, investing billions in an iron dome to stop the terrible effects of missiles launched from Gaza, he added. “We are proud of it, not only technologically but because of its strategic contribution to stabilizing the Middle East.” Describing Israel as an island of democracy in the region, he emphasized that the Middle East is a special environment in which a minority cannot be weak.
Israel does not want to invest so much in its Defence Forces, but it must defend itself in a region that does not want it, he continued. Other minorities in the Middle East look upon Israel with envy and admiration, he said, describing his country as the victim of terrible aggression by neighbouring countries and the whole Arab and Islamic world. “We are a strong victim because, without being strong, we will cease being a victim; we will cease to exist.” Unfortunately, Palestinians choose to live in misery, he said, noting that it is in their hands to decide whether to accept the Jewish State. Palestinians should solve their own internal problems, he noted, pointing out that elections have been overdue for 13 years and Hamas has taken over half of the population, turning Gazans into hostages. Recalling the Jewish State’s disasters throughout history, including the Holocaust, he called upon Palestinians to put their hatred of Jews and Israel behind them, saying they can enjoy a great life if they accept the existence of a Jewish State instead of sacrificing themselves.
The representative of Jordan, noting that Israel’s delegate mentioned that the Jordanian army had occupied the West Bank in the past, said that in fact, the territory was part of Jordan following a choice by the Palestinians. There was therefore no occupation and the two sides were united.
The observer for the State of Palestine said it is unacceptable that the Committee’s work can be so callously ridiculed with disparagement of Member States. Emphasizing that the international community should not stand idly by while Israel violates international law, she said it cannot be that everyone is wrong and only Israel is right, describing such a claim as the height of audacity. The Special Committee’s reports are not one-sided but, rather, based on facts and evidence, including the work of legitimate Israeli human rights organizations that are under increasing pressure, she said. Rejecting the notion that the conflict has anything to do with hatred of Jews, she described it, instead, as ruthless oppression of a people under occupation.
It is, in fact, Israel that insists on having it all, she continued, recalling that country’s endless preconditions in response to offers of peace as it buys itself more time, settler by settler, one illegal measure after another, in seeking to annex more territory. Claims attributing the situation to some Palestinian inferiority are offensive, she said, pointing out that Palestine has recognized Israel and its right to exist but has not received the same acknowledgement. While Israel pays only lip service to a two-State solution, Palestine has repeatedly drafted legislative proposals, she noted. Stressing that the statements made in the Committee barely touch the dismal reality in the territories, she went on to refute Israel’s claim that it has the world’s most moral army, citing the killing of Palestinian children as evidence. Encouraging statements by other Member States contradict Israel’s account of the situation in the region, she said, expressing appreciation for the solidarity, kindness and assistance extended to Palestine by people all over the world.
The representative of Israel, noting that a majority at the United Nations does not mean the Organization’s positions and decisions are just, cited numerous anti-Israel decisions. Stressing also that Israel is proud to have NGOs in the country that are critical of the Government, he said that would not be possible in Gaza. Expressing incredulity at claims that there is no hatred of Jews, he recounted instances of anti-Semitic propaganda and terrorist attacks around the world. Regarding the name of Palestine, he said it has nothing to do with today’s Palestinians and is based on a Roman decision that had nothing to do with them. In response to comments about Israeli aggression towards Palestinian children, he said they are sent to the front lines in Gaza in order to have the Committee discuss the outcome.
The representative of Syria said that Israel lies in order to steal land and wealth, kill, bomb and displace people. Through falsification and lies, Israel’s representative is trying to trick the world, but cannot cover the ugliness of the occupation, he said, describing that country as the source of the daily suffering endured by the Palestinian people and Syrians in the Golan. It has built walls of isolation, demolishing housing and practising systematic terrorism, he said, pointing out Israel’s support for Al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups aligned with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Besides treating their wounded, Israel has destroyed 260 towns, villages and farms in the Syrian Golan, displacing half a million of its inhabitants, he said, adding that it has also planted a million mines in the occupied Golan, with 200 children dying as a result. Calling for an end to Israel’s falsification, he said that will not erase its own shameful history of occupation.