Speakers called on Israel to respect international law and halt its illegal settlement activities, amid strong objections from others to unilateral moves by the United States in the region, as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People met today to observe the International Day of Solidarity.
Committee Chair Cheikh Niang (Senegal) opened the meeting by highlighting the importance of resolution 181, adopted by the General Assembly 72 years ago, which recommended the creation of two sovereign States. Only one of those two States has achieved its independence, he said, noting that Palestinians still live under the cloud of illegal occupation.
He urged the international community to stand firm against Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and demand that the Gaza blockade be lifted. He applauded the peace and reconciliation efforts of Egypt and the United Nations and expressed his support for the recent renewal of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) mandate.
“The Palestinian people will not vanish and will not surrender to oppression and injustice as our fate,” said Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine. Israel has carried out “bad faith actions” since conclusion of the Oslo Accords, while its current Prime Minister has not only rejected the two-State formula but aggressively pursued settlement building. The State of Palestine, by contrast, continues to advance the rule of international law by spreading a culture of peace and empowering all people, particularly women and youth.
He condemned the recent announcement by the United States Secretary of State that Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, do not breach international law. This declaration will only embolden Israel to ramp up its activities, and as such, should be considered “null and void”, without legal standing.
Maged A. Abdelaziz, permanent observer for the League of Arab States, said these unilateral measures have “given a green light to Israel to begin its plan to make the two-State solution impossible”. They also include a decision to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, cut funding to UNRWA, he said, declaring Israel’s occupation of Palestinian a “moral shame” and a violation of international law.
Speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, Yashar T. Aliyev (Azerbaijan) likewise rejected the United States statement on the legitimacy of Israeli settlements, as well as the activities themselves. He called for an end to all such violations and implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions.
Kshenuka Senewiratne, Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, described first-hand accounts by victims and witnesses in the occupied Palestinian territories and occupied Syrian Golan, which laid bare their suffering. The Committee’s most recent report also cites administrative detention of Palestinians and the exploitation of natural resources.
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria), President of the General Assembly, said the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed by the United Nations each year. “Arab or Jewish, we are one, and our destinies are intricately linked”, he said.
Also delivering statements today were the President of the Security Council, the Chef de Cabinet of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, the Permanent Observer for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the permanent observer of the African Union and social justice advocate Eugene “Gus” Newport.
Before adjourning the meeting, the Chair read out a list of Heads of State and Government, ministers and other governmental and civil society representatives who sent messages of solidarity.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 3 December, to hear the introduction of four draft resolutions recommended to the General Assembly.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, underscored the need to uphold resolution 181, adopted 72 years ago, when the General Assembly decided to split Palestine under the mandate of two sovereign, neighbouring States. Despite its passage, one State saw that day, while the other never achieved its independence and sovereignty. It is discouraging that “we must reunite each year to recall to the entire world that the United Nations continues to struggle to keep its promise,” he said, stressing that for 52 years, Palestinians have lived under an illegal occupation that flouts their inalienable rights to self-determination, to Statehood and independence, and millions continue to suffer as refugees, while their international right to return is constantly denied.
He rejected declarations by Israeli politicians of their intention to annex the Occupied Palestinian Territory, while settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues unabated, in violation of international law, and Palestinian families see their homes destroyed and lives paralyzed. The international community must stand firmly against such actions, he asserted, demanding that the Gaza blockade be lifted and the cycle of violence end. He called on all parties to cease all incitement, provocation and violence against civilians, and instead, exercise utmost restraint. Welcoming efforts by Egypt and the United Nations to re-establish peace and promote Palestinian reconciliation, he expressed support for the 15 November vote to renew the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), by an overwhelming majority, a new expression of loud support for the vital Agency working for 5.5 million Palestinian refugees, contributing to their development, protection and stability in the region.
He reiterated that Palestinians are not only awaiting expressions of sympathy and solidarity with their just cause. They must also count on open support and credible political perspectives so they can realize their independent State. They need true partners, ready to carry out what the Assembly and the Council have demanded on many occasions since the adoption of resolution 181, of 1947, and to support the realization of their inalienable rights.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD-BANDE (Nigeria), President of the General Assembly, said the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed by the United Nations each year. The international community has a collective responsibility to resolve the issue, as for seven decades, the question of Palestine has remained unresolved and civilians have suffered. “Arab or Jewish, we are one, and our destinies are intricately linked”, he said, urging a focus on de-escalation and ensuring a just peace with two States living side by side based on 1967 lines.
A peaceful solution cannot come from unilateral decisions that are contrary to long-agreed positions, he said. There is no doubt that Palestinians face complex positions, with many living as refugees. The population in Gaza continues to endure difficult living conditions. The international community must act to ensure that the critical humanitarian situation does not continue to fuel anger and despair, notably by strengthening UNRWA. It is important not to lose faith that significant progress can be made and he encouraged all parties to engage in dialogue.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), speaking in her capacity as President of the Security Council for November, said the Council remains seized of the situation in the Middle East, holding open debates on a quarterly basis and receiving the Secretary-General’s report. The topic is a central concern, not least in finding a lasting solution to the Palestinian conflict. The Council remains committed to finding a lasting and just peace in the Middle East, a goal that should be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. Calling for an end to actions that undermine trust, she condemned indiscriminate attacks against civilians and expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The Council will continue to follow the situation in the Middle East closely and work to create an environment conducive to peace and security.
Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, said resolving the Palestinian conflict represents one of the international community’s greatest challenges. She urged that intensified illegal settlement building stop, as it has no legal validity and violates international law. Indiscriminate rocket fire also must cease and she called on Israelis and Palestinians to take steps towards the two-State solution. Only constructive negotiations between the two parties, supported by the international community, will bring about a just solution. The gap between Israelis and Palestinians must also be bridged so that the right to security and dignity is realized by both parties, she said, calling the two-State solution “essential” in addressing the immense suffering of Palestinians in Gaza who, among their challenges, face restricted access to health care. More broadly, there must be a stronger response to Palestinians’ humanitarian needs and efforts towards peace must continue. In this context, UNRWA remains a stabilizing factor in the Middle East and she called on Member States to intensify their support and financial contributions to the Agency.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority, said that over 70 years, Palestinians have endured many tragedies, suffering displacement and imprisonment while defending their history. Israel has only pursued delaying tactics and “bad faith actions” since the conclusion of the Oslo Accords, he stressed, noting that Israel’s Prime Minister rejected the two-State solution and actively pursued annexation and settlement activities. Israel also has promulgated discriminatory, racist laws, and isolated Gaza from the rest of the country, and indeed the world.
Meanwhile, United States violations of international law prove it is unqualified to be an honest broker, he said, recalling that two weeks ago, the United States Secretary of State declared that Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, do not contravene international law. “This statement is null and void”, illegitimate, without legal effect, and stands in complete contravention to international law and United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolutions, he said, foremost among them, resolution 2334 (2016). Such unlawful statements only embolden Israel to perpetuate its occupation and accelerate its settlement building. Treating Israel as a State above the law has only encouraged it to act as an “outlaw”, he stressed, pressing the international community to assume its responsibilities to end Israel’s aggression. The State of Palestine will continue engaging in efforts to advance the rule of international law, including through the building of national institutions, spreading a culture of peace and empowering people, especially women and youth. “The Palestinian people will not vanish and will not surrender to oppression and injustice as our fate,” he said.
KSHENUKA SENEWIRATNE (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, said delegates have gathered today driven by compassion and concern for the people of Palestine. In June in Amman, civil society representatives, victims and witnesses briefed the Special Committee on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Syrian Golan. Their testimonies brought attention to the daily violence and hardship endured by Palestinians, where every aspect of life is affected by the unlawful occupation. The Special Committee noted with concern the uptick in settler violence and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza caused by the blockade.
Recalling that the Special Committee recently presented its fifty-first report, he said it provides updates on Israel’s expanded settlement building, destruction and confiscation of Palestinian property, increased settler violence, use of administrative detention of Palestinians, exploitation of natural resources, humanitarian crisis in Gaza and lack of accountability for such abuses. The report also covers deteriorating conditions in Gaza, where the excessive use of force against demonstrators led to 138 Palestinians being killed and 15,901 injured. Urging both parties to create an environment conducive to peace, he underscored the imminent need for mutual confidence-building measures to pave the way to renewed substantive negotiations. The safety of civilians in the occupied territories must also be ensured, in line with international law and practice.
MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, permanent observer for the League of Arab States, delivering a statement on behalf of its Secretary-General, said the League’s General Assembly pays close attention to this anniversary. He recalled that recent activities undertaken as peace initiatives were, in reality, the vision of Israel’s right, which sought to impose its solution and consolidate the occupation. The United States meanwhile took several illegitimate measures, including an announcement by its State Department that the Government does not consider West Bank settlements to be contrary to international law, contradicting Security Council resolutions. He condemned this regrettable change in policy, noting that international law is defined by the collective will of the international community.
Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands remains illegal, he asserted, and settlements are “in no way” legal. They are a moral shame. He rejected the United States decision to move its Embassy to Jerusalem, cut assistance to UNRWA, and attempt to destroy the Agency as a way to change the status of Palestinian refugees — all of which tramples on international law and international human rights law. It is regrettable that these unilateral decisions have “given a green light to Israel to begin its plan to make the two-State solution impossible”. Denying established principles will not change the scale of support for the Palestinian position, as the international community still supports the two-State solution. Conversely, the United States position aims to legalize settlement building. The General Assembly, by a vast majority, agreed to continue UNRWA’s mandate, he said, while many regional groups have adopted positions in strong support of international law and the Palestinian people.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV, Permanent Observer for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, reading out a message from Yousef bin Ahman al-Othaimeen, its Secretary-General, said the International Day of Solidarity presents an opportunity to renew the ongoing commitment to the just cause of Palestinians and to end Israel’s occupation, forced displacement and ethnic cleansing. Witnessing the dangerous intensification in the West Bank, in flagrant violation of international law, he called on the international community to provide protection to Palestinians. He rejected the statement by the United States Secretary of State, stressing that Security Council resolutions confirm that measures employed by Israel violate international law. Expressing support for a two-State solution, he condemned a recent statement by an Israeli minister, which undermines that prospect. With the situation growing more dangerous, the absence of international measures will legitimize racism against Palestinians, and he urged the international community to pressure Israel to end its illegal occupation. Recalling General Assembly resolution 194 of 1948, he advocated international support for the two-State solution in accordance with the relevant legal instruments.
YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, affirmed support for Palestinians’ right to self-determination and independence. June regrettably marked 52 years since the illegal occupation of Palestine, including East Jerusalem and other Arab territories, in 1967. He reiterated calls to intensify efforts to end this injustice, recalling that in October, the Movement’s ministerial committee convened in Baku to review recent events in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. The situation is critical and unsustainable, and people continue to be deprived of their human rights by the occupying Power, causing deep trauma and suffering, especially in the Gaza strip, where the humanitarian situation is dire.
In its unanimously adopted political declaration, the Movement renewed calls for ending all violations of international law, he said, stressing that a just, lasting solution remains the permanent responsibility of the United Nations. Despite decades of participation by Palestinians in peace efforts, and their commitment to the two-State solution, their plight has worsened. All relevant Security Council resolutions and obligations under international law must be implemented. He rejected the statement by the United States Secretary of State on illegal settlements, as well as the settlement activities themselves, calling any such pronouncements by the United States null and void.
FATIMA KYARI MOHAMMED, Permanent Observer for the African Union Commission, called for an end to the suffering of Palestinians and the immediate implementation of all Council resolutions on Palestine adopted since 1947, especially resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) on ending all armed conflicts and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and upholding the human rights of Palestinian refugees and prisoners to humanitarian assistance. He urged all parties involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict to stop unilateral policies, actions and provocations that could exacerbate the security situation and tense atmosphere in the Middle East, and rather, follow the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. Condemning the incessant attacks on and violations committed against innocent people “under any guise”, he said all parties must recognize there is no military solution to the conflict. An enduring, just and peaceful solution can only be achieved through already established principles “based on the existence of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and harmony, within the framework of the relevant United Nations Resolutions”, he said.
EUGENE “GUS” NEWPORT, social justice activist, expressed support for Palestinians in their just pursuit of a free Palestine through a two-State solution, recounting his history with the civil rights movement in the United States, notably his participation in the World Peace Council and the Non-Aligned Conference. He recalled that [South Africa’s former President] Nelson Mandela saw a parallel between South Africa and Israel, before describing a time in 1988, when he and three Jewish friends saw young Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli police. Because they attempted to take pictures of the event, the military shot at them with rubber bullets. They then went to Gaza and witnessed the most horrific scenes he had ever seen. They stayed with Palestinians in support of the revolution, while Israeli soldiers came looking for them. He elaborated on the founding of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, whose original mission was to build play grounds for Jewish and Palestinian children to learn to play together and evolved into assisting in the building of water systems in Gaza. He also recounted his experience on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which he joined at the request of [former professor] Edward Said.