Speakers Voice Concern over Attempts to Alter Status of Holy Sites in Jerusalem, as Fourth Committee Concludes Debate on Israeli Practices in Occupied Arab Lands

GA/SPD/712
14 November 2019
Seventy-fourth Session, 24th Meeting (AM)

Speakers Voice Concern over Attempts to Alter Status of Holy Sites in Jerusalem, as Fourth Committee Concludes Debate on Israeli Practices in Occupied Arab Lands

Morocco’s Delegate Highlights Initiatives to Defend Holy City’s Status, Historic Role of Jordan’s Royal Family as Custodian

Delegates expressed concern today over Israel’s attempts to change the status of holy sites in Jerusalem, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its general debate on that country’s practices that affect the human rights of people in occupied Arab lands.

Morocco’s representative rejected Israel’s efforts to undermine the status of Al‑Quds, recalling that King Mohammed VI of Morocco and Pope Francis agreed during their meeting earlier in 2019 that the special status of Jerusalem as a multi‑religion city must be maintained.  Morocco and Jordan are engaged in various initiatives intended to defend the Holy City against attempts to change its status, he added, pointing out that Jordan’s royal family is the historic custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

The observer for the League of Arab States also rejected the Judaization of Jerusalem, warning that such a process will deepen and prolong the conflict.  In similar vein, Iran’s representative expressed concern about Israel’s measures to alter or eliminate the presence of Jerusalem’s Palestinian Christians and Muslims, with the support of the United States.

Israel’s representative, however, dismissed those concerns, emphasizing that the very fact that the draft resolution under discussion does not refer to the Temple Mount by that name, but only by its Arabic name, is outrageous and proves Palestinian intentions to sever Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

Delegates warned that Israel’s violations diminish any prospect for peace, with Algeria’s representative emphasizing that the peace process is blocked because Israel unscrupulously continues its illegal actions, such as its blockade of the Gaza Strip, its construction of settlements, violence against civilians, forcible displacement, property confiscation, plunder of natural resources, extrajudicial executions and detention of children.

Indonesia’s representative described Israel’s illegal settlement activities as a key driver of human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, expressing concern about increased settler violence, as well as the further deterioration of socioeconomic conditions and the prospects for peace.

In other business today, the Committee concluded its general debate on the comprehensive review of United Nations peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.

Serbia’s representative said that the importance her country attaches to peacekeeping operations is motivated by the presence on its territory of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), established by Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).  Given the challenges facing that Mission, the very complex political and security situation in Kosovo and Metohija, and the fact that its Serb and other non‑Albanian populations trust UNMIK most, Serbia must remain engaged on all questions relevant to consistent implementation of resolution 1244 (1999), she emphasized.

The Permanent Observer for the Holy See noted that 20 years have passed since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1265 (1999) on the protection of civilians, emphasizing that they are often the targeted victims of indiscriminate attacks by parties to conflict.  Welcoming the evolution of peacekeeping mandates to include the protection of children, he said one of six children in the world is affected by war.

Other speakers today included representatives of Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Venezuela, Ecuador and China.

Also delivering statements were observers for the International Organization of La Francophonie and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Jordan, Israel and Iraq, as well as the observer for the State of Palestine.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 15 November, to take action on outstanding draft resolutions and conclude its work for the seventy‑fourth session of the General Assembly.

General Debate

IBRAHIM MODIBBO UMAR (Nigeria), associating himself with the statement delivered on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, reiterated his delegation’s support for all General Assembly resolutions on Israeli practices in the occupied territories.  He also expressed concern over the effects of settlement expansion on the prospects for a negotiated two‑State solution and urged Israel to stop demolitions, evictions, restrictions on movement and other infringements of Palestinian rights, while calling upon that country to halt and reverse all settlement activity.  Noting the alarming humanitarian situation reported in the Gaza Strip, he called for an end to Israel’s blockade of the enclave.  He went on to express deep concern over the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on a range of fronts, according to the reports before the Committee and called for the reversal of all negative trends.  Reiterating his delegation’s support for the Special Committee, he called upon Israel, Palestine and others in the region to work together in pursuit of a viable two‑State arrangement.

MOHAMED ELHOMOSANY (Egypt), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said no progress or positive development is expected in the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.  Recalling that all peace proposals and initiatives have stressed the need to establish a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said escalating Israeli practices in the occupied territories have resulted in Palestinian children being subjected to bullets during demonstrations, adding that they have also endured arrest, detention and interrogation.  The financial crisis afflicting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) exacerbates the impact of the restrictions imposed by Israel, he noted, pointing out that the situation in the Syrian Golan is also deteriorating, with Israel planning to expand its settlements and hold illegal elections there.

IDO BROMBERG (Israel) recalled claims that Israel has disobeyed more than 100 United Nations resolutions, while saying the resolutions are built upon each other, self‑referencing and adopted by a pre‑declared majority.  Citing the Jordanian‑Israeli General Armistice Agreement of 1949, he said that when his country took control of the West Bank in 1967, it did not cross any agreed or accepted international border, and therefore did not take land from any sovereign Palestinian entity.  He emphasized that Palestinians have not acknowledged the Jewish people’s right to self‑determination, despite claims to the contrary, and pointed out that Palestinian textbooks contain maps that exclude the Israeli territory from any configuration.

If the Special Committee were truly interested in Palestinian human rights, it would address all factors affecting those rights, including the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, he continued.  Recalling that more than 360 rockets were launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip over the past three days, he stressed that launching rockets at Israeli civilian centres from behind Palestinian civilians is a war crime rather than a defensive action.  Such tactics by Palestinian militants place the people for whom they claim to fight at risk, he said, underlining that Israel does everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties, in accordance with international law.  He went on to point out that since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel has made several offers to the Palestinians with a view to ending the conflict only to be rebuffed.  The disputed issues will only be resolved through direct negotiations and not through unilateral attempts to pre‑determine the results via international institutions, he, emphasized.

MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed his delegation’s full confidence in the Special Committee’s report, despite the “sad norm” of the panel’s not having been allowed to visit Palestine.  From the report, it is clear that illegal settlement activities are a key driver of human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said, expressing concern over increased settler violence, as described in the Secretary‑General’s report, as well as the further deterioration of socioeconomic conditions and the prospects for peace.  Calling for international action to end the perpetuation of the situation, he condemned Israel’s use of excessive force in Gaza and called for an end to the blockade.  Emphasizing the need for that country to demonstrate full respect for its obligations under international law, he said Israel must be held accountable for its illegal actions.  As for Palestinian actions of concern, he condemned all violations while underlining that Palestinian actions cannot be compared to those of the occupying Power.

MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted that the Special Committee’s report contains disturbing findings as to how the Israeli regime treats the Palestinian people, with 180 Palestinians killed and more than 19,000 injured between September 2018 and August 2019.  Emphasizing that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands is at the epicentre of all conflicts in the Middle East, he said the Palestinians are denied their right to self‑determination under the pretext of “one Jewish State”.  Israel has also taken measures to alter or eliminate the presence of Jerusalem’s Palestinian Christians and Muslims, with the support of the United States.  Calling upon Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza and end all practices considered as collective punishment — including restrictions on movement and the demolition of homes, among other measures — he condemned illegal settlement expansion and land confiscation in Palestinian lands and in the Syrian Golan, the latter being an integral part of Syria.  All those practices “constitute a flagrant violation of international law, the United Nations Charter, relevant United Nations resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention”, he declared.  The General Assembly has a vital responsibility and should play an important role in resolving the conflict, he said, stressing his delegation’s support for the self‑determination of the Palestinian people and the establishment of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.

RAJEEL MOHSIN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is marred by the denial of fundamental rights, including those of movement and assembly.  Noting that such tactics are not limited to those territories alone, he said they are staples of every occupier aiming to obliterate a people’s identity and erase their abiding ties to their homeland.  “The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is almost identical to that in Indian‑occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, citing arbitrary arrest and administrative detention, including of children, as a norm there as well.  Since India’s attempt to annex occupied Jammu and Kashmir on 5 August, it imposed a total curfew and lockdown lasting more than 100 days, turning that state into the world’s largest open‑air prison, he said.  He went on to observe that resolving the question of Palestine is critical to lasting peace in the Middle East and expressed Pakistan’s commitment to the Palestinian cause.

RAHMA SAMAI (Algeria), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the statement to be delivered on behalf of the League of Arab States, recalled that, despite international calls for an end to the occupation, Israel continues to enact coercive policies against the Palestinian people.  The peace process is blocked because Israel unscrupulously continues its illegal actions, such as the blockade of Gaza, settlement construction, violence against civilians, forcible displacement, property confiscation, plunder of natural resources, extrajudicial executions and child detentions, she said.  Describing the situation in occupied Arab territories as a thermometer for measuring international justice, she also expressed concern over violations of holy sites in Jerusalem.  Emphasizing that those with influence have allowed the situation to persist, she called upon the international community to support the Palestinian people, in accordance with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.

YOUSSEF EL MEZOUAGHI (Morocco) called for an end to the violence against the Palestinian people, describing it as a flagrant violation of international law undermining the prospects for a two‑State solution.  Rejecting attempts to undermine the status of Al‑Quds, he recalled that King Mohammed VI of Morocco and Pope Francis agreed that the special status of Jerusalem as a multi‑religion city must be maintained during their meeting in 2019.  Morocco and Jordan are engaged in various initiatives intended to defend the Holy City against attempts to change its status, he said, noting that Jordan’s royal family is the historic custodian of the holy sites.  Morocco contributes more than $1 million every year to an agency charged with protecting Al‑Quds and has provided artists and architects to restore the sites, he reported.  People living in Jerusalem benefit further from social outreach programmes to which Morocco contributes, he added.  Calling upon donor countries to step up their support for UNRWA, he underlined Jordan’s support in its capacity as one of the main host countries for those refugees.

JORGE ARTURO REYES HERNÁNDEZ (Venezuela), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the increase in settlements condemns Palestinians to living in isolation and poverty.  He also expressed concern about the climate of complete impunity surrounding Israel’s incursions against Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank.  The confiscation of land and demolition of homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory reflects a volatile reality that hinders negotiations for a resolution of the conflict, he said, reiterating that settlements are a key factor behind violations of the freedom of movement, violence by settlers and the confiscation of assets.  The aim is to alter the legal and demographic character of the territories, he observed, emphasizing the need to curb Israel’s settlement expansion in the Syrian Golan since they are also aimed at changing its demographic character.  The Security Council must demand Israel’s compliance with its Charter obligations, he stressed, warning that greater international paralysis could open the door to unilateral measures.

HENRY JONATHAN VIERA SALAZAR (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, emphasized that children must never be the target of violence, nor be encouraged to participate in violence.  Urging the United Nations system to mobilize international support for the Palestinian people, he said it should also increase the necessary contributions for sufficient, predictable and sustainable financing of UNRWA.  He went on to call upon the Security Council to take concrete action, reiterating Ecuador’s support for the legitimate right of Palestinians to self‑determination.

NASRIA ELARJA FLITTI, observer for the League of Arab States, associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, noted that unarmed demonstrators are subjected to violence in the occupied territories.  During the Great March of Return, she recalled, many children were victims of Israel’s use of excessive force, she observed, reiterating her delegation’s condemnation of that country’s actions in the Syrian Golan as well.  Palestinians are living under the yoke of violence and instability, with no hope for a secure life, she said, emphasizing that the solution to the Palestinian question must involve ending Israel’s colonization.  Delays in implementing United Nations resolutions will lead to further suffering, she cautioned, citing Israel’s systematic settlement policy, including forced evacuations and illegal demolitions.  Stressing the need for a just solution to the conflict, and for a Palestinian State based on the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap, she also rejected the Judaization of Jerusalem, warning that such a process will deepen and prolong the conflict.

Right of Reply

The representative of Jordan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, took issue with Israel’s reference to the Jordanian‑Israeli Armistice, emphasizing that it is not possible to ignore international agreements on a whim.

The representative of Israel, noting that his country is ranked thirtieth on the world democratic index, pointed out that Palestinians can approach the Supreme Court in Israel and seek support from Israeli non‑governmental organizations.  Any attempt to undermine its democratic nature is false, he added.  Rejecting claims that his country is attempting to change the status of Al‑Quds, he said the very fact that the resolution under discussion does not refer to the Temple Mount by that name but only by its Arabic name is outrageous and proves Palestinian intentions to sever Jewish ties to Jerusalem.  The Arab view of justice is aimed at preventing the Jewish people from seek self‑determination, with no regard for their own historic responsibility for the plight of their people, he said.  Recalling the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries in 1948, he said Jewish refugees did not have an UNRWA or Special Committee to investigate their status, although they are also victims of the Arab‑Israeli conflict.  Jewish people are a minority in the world and in the United Nations, he added, pointing out that only in Israel are they a majority.

The observer for the State of Palestine rejected the distortions made by the representative of Israel.  Noting that the Special Committee’s efforts to expose that country’s actions are openly ridiculed, she emphasized that the international community must not remain silent while Israel belittles international law, pointing out that Palestinian children have lost their lives since the last meeting of the Special Committee.  Its reports are fact‑based and the result of efforts by principled Israeli organizations that are under increasing pressure as the Government of Israel continues its aggression against human rights defenders, she said.  Criticism is on the side of international law, which Israel violates through occupation, colonization and de facto annexation, she added.  It is the height of audacity for Israel to refer to United Nations resolution 181 when it continues to destroy minimal prospects for a two‑State solution, she emphasized.  Stressing that the right to self‑determination does not only apply to the Jewish people, she said the reports barely touch on the dismal reality of Palestinians under occupation, adding that nothing under international law can validate Israel’s actions.  Regarding that country’s standing as a democracy, she underlined that a democracy does not privilege one part of its population as superior to all others, behaving like an apartheid State.  In closing, she emphasized that the support and solidarity of the international community are invaluable to the Palestinian people.

The representative of Iraq expressed support for the statements by Jordan and the State of Palestine.  Reaffirming the international community’s moral obligation to exert greater pressure in response to the aggressive actions and violations documented by the Special Committee, he called for solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemned the use of military power against civilians, including women and children, as well as the lack of access to the territories for humanitarian workers.

The representative of Israel said the Special Committee has demonstrated bias, recalling that it did not approve a draft resolution condemning the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinians.  Different standards are applied for Israelis and Palestinians, he added, noting that the Palestinian narrative is indulged while Israel has demonstrated its ability to compromise.  Israel will not help those who seek to discredit it as a nation, he reiterated.

Conclusion of Peacekeeping Debate

JELENA PLAKALOVIĆ (Serbia), associating herself with the European Union, said her country is committed to active participation in the United Nations system of collective security and peacekeeping operations as an important element of its foreign policy.  Serbia continues the tradition of the former Yugoslavia’s participation in peacekeeping and rejoined United Nations peacekeeping operations in 2002 after an absence of more than a decade, she said, noting that 259 Serbian soldiers, officers, policemen and other personnel are currently deployed in five United Nations and four European Union missions.  Describing her country as the largest contributor of peacekeeper in the Balkans, she said it ranks among the largest troop‑ and police‑contributing countries in Europe.  She went on to state that the importance Serbia attaches to United Nations peacekeeping missions is also motivated by the presence on its territory of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), established by Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).  Given the challenges facing that Mission, the very complex political and security situation in Kosovo and Metohija, and the fact that its Serb and other non‑Albanian populations trust UNMIK most, Serbia must remain engaged on all questions relevant to consistent implementation of resolution 1244 (1999), she stressed.

FREDDY JATIVA (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the establishment and the implementation of a peacekeeping operation must be carried out in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.  The increasing complexity of mandates means that triangular cooperation involving the Security Council, the Secretariat as well as troop‑ and police‑contributing countries must be strengthened, he emphasized.  Ecuador’s armed forces have been contributing to peacekeeping training for the last 16 years and have participated in operations since 1958, he said, going on to underscore the essential role of peace in sustainable development, and highlighting the crucial role of women in preventing conflict and peacebuilding.  He also expressed support for the no‑tolerance approach to sexual exploitation and abuse.

WANG NIAN (China) highlighted the need for peacekeeping operations to remain committed to Charter principles, including consent of the host country and non‑interference in domestic affairs.  Moreover, Security Council mandates must be realistic and feasible, he said, emphasizing it must have precise goals and avoid trying to be “everything, everywhere”.  The resources provided should be commensurate with the mandate, he added.  Peacekeeping operations must also create a safe and stable environment in the host country, laying the foundation for the eradication of poverty.  He went on to call for a solid foundation for partnership, stressing the need to ensure sustainable financial support for the African Union’s peacekeeping efforts.  Pointing out that his country is the second‑largest contributor to the peacekeeping budget and currently has 2,500 peacekeepers on active duty, he said that, in the past four years, China has delivered on its commitments to a fund intended to build capacity and improve the safety of peacekeepers.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, recalled the importance that Pope Francis placed on the importance of politics in resolving disputes, observing that peacekeeping operations are often deployed where civilians are most at risk.  Noting that 20 years have passed since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1265 (1999) on the protection of civilians, he emphasized that they are often the targeted victims of indiscriminate attacks by parties to conflict.  He went on to welcome the evolution of peacekeeping operations to include the protection of children, noting that one of six children in the world is affected by war.

YASMINE MALOUCHE, observer for the International Organization of La Francophonie, said that her organization responded to the rising presence of peacekeeping operations in francophone countries by ensuring that La Francophonie is represented among peacekeeping troops and in operational management.  Noting that the United Nations recognizes the important role of international organizations and linguistic abilities in peacekeeping operations, she said the organization contributes a vision that unites francophone countries while serving as a focal point for the francophone position on peacekeeping challenges.  La Francophonie also develops teaching materials and training programmes in French and helps to build force-generation capacity for francophone police and staff tasked with planning deployments, she reported.  Emphasizing the importance not only of training peacekeeping troops, but also decision‑makers and planners, she announced that La Francophonie will hold training sessions on the engagement cycle of peacekeeping operations for members of La Francophonie in New York later in 2019.

AGNES COUTOU, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the applicability of international humanitarian law to multinational forces depends exclusively on the circumstances prevailing on the ground, irrespective of the mandate or the terms used to designate opposing parties.  Emphasizing the need for United Nations peacekeeping missions to maintain the “do‑no‑harm” principle at the centre of their operations and mindset, she suggested that the relevant policymakers increase the ceiling of mission police components, both to enhance community engagement and to better deliver law‑enforcement‑related tasks.  She also recommended that missions focus on unarmed protective activities that contribute directly to gains in protection and study the complementarity of such activities with the work of uniformed personnel.  Peacekeepers can also make a positive contribution by ensuring that the wounded and sick enjoy safe access to health care, she said.

For information media. Not an official record.