Israel’s continued illegal settlement activities were signalling its blatant rejection of the two-State solution, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said today during a special meeting to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestine People.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, delivering a message on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, stressed that Israel’s rejection of the two-State solution is clearly illustrated by its illegal actions on the ground, including ongoing settlement activities. Leaving the two-State solution “hostage to the occupier’s will” means abandoning this solution in its entirety, he warned.
He went on to condemn the Israeli incursion into Palestinian land, as well as its acts of aggression against the Palestinian occupants of Jerusalem and its siege of the Gaza Strip. What the occupying Power seeks to do is claim the maximum extent of Palestinian land with the minimum Palestinian demography, he said, calling Israel’s ongoing racial discrimination a system of apartheid.
Cheikh Niang (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people, also pointed out that Israel was deepening its occupation by expanding illegal settlements, among other actions. However, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he underscored that the Committee has made sure that current challenges remained the focus of attention of the international community.
He noted that in March, ahead of the planned Palestinian elections, the Committee called for Israel to allow elections in East Jerusalem, a vital part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It also joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and others to express concern about Israel’s designation of six Palestinian civil society groups as “terrorist organizations”, when they are, in fact, established partners of the Committee and the United Nations.
Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet, speaking on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, also highlighted the persistent violations of the rights of Palestinians, emphasizing that such violations risk eroding the prospect of a two-State solution. However, sounding a positive note, she said that the Secretary-General was encouraged by recent discussions between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials on improving the security and economic situations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Adding a few words of her own, she said that all parties must take concrete steps to improve the prospects of a negotiated two-State solution and achievement of a just and lasting peace.
Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, expressed disappointment that so little has been accomplished despite decades of negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We must do much better,” he urged. He went on to note that the international community must ensure reliable funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), so that it can continue its vital work providing education, health and social services to externally displaced Palestinians.
Peter Mohan Maithri Pieris (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, expressed concerns over challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including reports that Israel had donated surplus vaccines overseas, even though a large proportion of Palestinians remained unvaccinated. The Committee also received information that the cost of vaccinating Palestinian workers had been recouped by Israeli authorities from the imposition of taxes.
Several members of civil society joined the meeting, either in person or by recorded video message, to urge Governments and other stakeholders to take concrete actions to uphold the human rights of the Palestinian people, particularly those of women and children.
Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian activist, raised a clarion call for action from the General Assembly podium, asking delegates, “How many Palestinians have stood on this platform for decades and decried the same broken promises and unfulfilled UN resolutions?” He emphasized the need for transformative political measures, including State sanctions and civil society boycotts, in order to break the current impasse. “Impunity and war crimes will not be stopped by statements of condemnation and raised eyebrows,” he stressed.
Joining the meeting via recorded video message, Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, called for immediate action from the international community, underscoring that Palestinian children should be sitting in classrooms, not piles of rubble.
Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and former Co-Chair of the International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace, also joining via recorded message, said that when women are included and participate in peace processes, achieving peace is not only more likely, but more sustainable and durable.
Also speaking today were the representative of Mexico in his capacity as President of the Security Council for November, the Permanent Observers for the African Union, League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as well as the representative of Azerbaijan, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Also speaking via recorded video message were members of civil society, including the Global Teacher Prize winner and the Secretary-General of Amnesty International.
Before adjourning the meeting, the Chair read out a list of Heads of State and Government, ministers and civil society representatives who sent messages of solidarity.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on 1 December, to hear the introduction of a draft resolution recommended to the General Assembly. Other annual resolutions have been bi-annualized and will be voted on at the General Assembly seventy-seventh session.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people, said that on this day — the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People — the promise of the independence of the Palestinian State remains unfulfilled. Since 1967, and more than seven decades since the 1948 Nakba, the Palestinian people continue to experience increasing levels of dispossession, violence and insecurity under Israeli occupation. The question of Palestine remains unresolved. “Israel continues to deepen its occupation by expanding its illegal settlements, confiscating Palestinian property and structures, demolishing homes and forcibly displacing Palestinian families,” he said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee has made sure that current challenges remained the focus of attention of the international community, he continued. In response to Israel’s further expanding its settlement enterprise — with now close to 700,000 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem — the Committee, in its quarterly statements to the Security Council open debates, consistently condemned this flagrant breach of international law. In March, ahead of the planned Palestinian elections, the Committee called for Israel to allow elections in East Jerusalem, a vital part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. When deadly conflict broke out in May, the Committee expressed grave concern at ongoing attempts to expel Palestinian families from their homes in Occupied East Jerusalem, the Israeli incursions and outbreak of violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the escalation in Gaza, where many civilians, including children, were killed by Israeli airstrikes.
He went on to say that in October, the Committee joined the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, as well as several United Nations experts and other organizations, to express deep concern at Israel’s decision to designate six Palestinian civil society groups as “terrorist organizations”. These organizations are reputable and reliable partners of the Committee and the United Nations, he emphasized, adding that they have been advocating for years for the protection and promotion of the human rights of Palestinians. “The Committee will tirelessly continue to serve as a torch-bearer until we reach the finish line of a just, lasting and comprehensive solution whereby two States, Israel and Palestine, will live side by side in peace and security, with East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, and with freedom and dignity enjoyed by all,” he stressed.
ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, expressed disappointment that so little has been accomplished towards implementing a just settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute despite the amount of energy expended, the multiple United Nations resolutions adopted and the decades of negotiations, dialogues and engagements held. The people of Palestine continue to suffer alongside their Israeli counterparts; the vision of a two-State solution remains elusive; and Palestinian aspirations for self-determination and sovereignty remain unfulfilled. Palestinians living in Gaza continue to live in appalling conditions, trapped inside a cycle of unemployment, limited economic opportunity and poverty — a dynamic exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Deprived of Statehood, they cannot even advocate on their own behalf as a peer member of the global community,” he pointed out.
“We must do much better,” he stressed. The international community must continue to support Palestinians and Israelis in resolving the conflict, based on relevant resolutions, within the parameters of international law and the ongoing Middle East Peace Process. He welcomed ongoing work by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides vital education, health and social services to help meet the needs of 5.6 million Palestinian refugees. However, he drew attention to the fact that UNRWA does not have the funds to continue operations until the end of 2021, which jeopardizes, inter alia, girls’ education, vaccination rollouts and humanitarian assistance. The global community must ensure sufficient and reliable financing so that these refugees receive adequate assistance, he stressed. “I also urge them to not merely reflect on all the ways that we have failed to do right for the people of Palestine,” he added, calling on the international community to work towards granting such people Statehood, self-determination, respect and dignity.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), speaking in his 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 monthly briefings from the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, as well as the Secretary-General’s report. In May, the Council convened meetings in response to the situation in Gaza and East Jerusalem, adopting a press statement on the matter. The status quo is not sustainable and significant steps to reverse negative trends on the ground are urgently needed, he said, adding that the Council remains committed to the pursuit of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, which should be achieved through direct negotiations and lead to achieving a two-state solution. Concerned about the deteriorating situation on the ground, he also said the Council is calling for an immediate end to actions which undermine the trust between the parties and threaten the viability of a two-State solution, including demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property and evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and settlers’ attacks across the occupied Palestinian territory. Stressing the importance of ensuring the protection of civilians, to ameliorate the dire economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza, he underscored the essential role played by UNRWA to millions of refugees in the region, and urged donors to contribute to the agency, which faces a recurrent crisis.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Chef de Cabinet, speaking on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories continues to pose a significant challenge to international peace and security. Persistent violations of the rights of Palestinians, along with the expansion of settlements, risk eroding the prospect of a two-State solution. However, the recent engagement between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss ameliorating the security and economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is encouraging. Still, the overall goal remains two States living side by side in peace and security. All parties must avoid unilateral steps that undermine the chances for a peaceful resolution of the conflict based on international law and relevant Council resolutions. Highlighting the generous donors who support UNRWA, she cited the Secretary-General’s call to Member States to provide timely and predictable funding and the United Nations commitment to the Palestinian people.
Adding some of her own words, Ms. Viotti said that the peace process must be relaunched in earnest. All parties must take concrete steps to improve the prospects of a negotiated two-State solution and achievement of a just and lasting peace. Further, Israel’s designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist entities” was concerning, she said, calling on Israel for additional information. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the concerned organizations are some of the most reputable human rights and humanitarian groups in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The United Nations will continue to engage with the Israeli authorities on this matter to ensure space for legitimate activities under international law. She also stressed that investment in humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Gaza is crucial. The occupied West Bank needs economic revitalization, and economic assistance to the Palestinian people is necessary, she emphasized.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, delivering a message on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, said the international community decades ago determined its vision for peace: the two-State solution based on 1967 borders. Israel’s blatant rejection of the two-State solution and its insistence to entrench its occupation rather than end it means, in practical terms, allowing Israel to finalize annexation through its illegal actions and its altering of the facts on the ground; this renders the possibility of achieving the two-State solution more remote, if not impossible. Israeli authorities are entrenching a reality of racial discrimination and a reality of apartheid, as its military forces continue to exert their control over the Palestinian people. “This is a defining moment,” he stressed, adding “either the international will prevail, and with it the two-State solution, or we leave the two-State solution hostage to the occupier's will, which effectively means abandoning this solution.”
Noting that no one can wait for the Israeli occupying Power to awaken one day and choose its own peace, he spotlighted how it is advancing settlements and allowing settlers’ violence to rampage; persisting in its aggression against the Palestinian people in Jerusalem, in the Old City, in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan; besieging the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip; and maintaining an occupation that subjects prisoners to ill-treatment and forcibly displaces children. This will not happen in the absence of intensive international efforts that include deterrent steps to put an end to such crimes. What Israel seeks is to devour the maximum extent of Palestinian land with the minimum Palestinian demography at a time where in historical Palestine - from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River – where around 13.5 million people, half of whom are Palestinian and the other half Israeli Jews, live. “Today more than ever the choice is clear and unequivocal, he said, citing President Carter [of the United States], who said “Peace or Apartheid”. The Palestinian people will continue to pursue their struggle against the colonial occupation, he emphasized, reiterating that the question of Palestine will remain the litmus test for the credibility of the international community.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, in a video message, expressed her solidarity with the Palestinian people. After decades of oppression against Palestinians, the international community cannot deny the asymmetry of power and brutality, she said. People around the world, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, are calling on leaders to protect Palestinians' human rights. She especially called for children's safety. A Palestinian child should be sitting in a classroom, not in rubble, she stressed, adding that world leaders must act immediately.
HANAN AL-HROUB, Global Teacher Prize Winner, in a video message, said that Palestinian children have the right to enjoy a genuine childhood, as do other children around the world. The teacher must be a therapist, a social counsellor, a friend, a father and a mother for the students, she said, adding that teachers must also free children from anger, fear, and anxiety so they can heal from the trauma they endure. The Palestinian child, carrying the hopes and dreams of a nation, deserves solidarity and protection, she said.
AGNÈS CALLAMARD, Secretary General of Amnesty International, in a video message, said that Palestinians have been living through a human rights crisis for decades. Generation after generation of Palestinians have had their most fundamental rights trampled. This precarious reality has been particularly highlighted in the last few months, she noted, stressing that solidarity is the least the international community can do to ensure that the human rights of the Palestinian people are restored and protected. Amnesty International, a global human rights movement of 10 million people, stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people, she said.
TARJA HALONEN, former President of Finland and former Co-Chair of the International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace, in a video message, said that for a long time, she has advocated for a two-State solution, including the creation of an independent and democratic Palestinian State. In that regard, women’s participation and leadership at the negotiation table is required for sustainable peace. When women participate in the peace process, achieving peace is more likely, and is more durable and inclusive. Leaving women, half of the population, out from the discussions is not only wrong, but also an immense loss for everyone, she underscored.
MOHAMMED AL-KURD, Palestinian activist, recalling his childhood experience of forced eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah in occupied Jerusalem, described the occupation by Israel as theft. Pointing out that the Israeli judicial system is created by and for those who benefit from the Israeli settler-colonial regime, he argued that the unjust laws are preferential and concealed behind a cloak of quasi-democratic legislation. Despite the Unity Uprising, the reality for Palestinians has not changed, he observed, spotlighting the continuing restrictions on the hundreds of Palestinians in his community. “How many Palestinians have stood on this platform for decades and decried the same broken promises and unfulfilled UN resolutions? How many of us have tried to articulate the atrocities that everyone at this institution knows very well and still ignores,” he questioned. The situation in Sheikh Jarrah is a perfect illustration of settler colonialism, a microcosm of the reality for Palestinians across 73 years of Zionist rule, he said.
Expressing his faith in people around the world who protest and pressure their Governments to end unconditional support for Israeli policies, he underscored that the problem is not ignorance, but inaction. “Impunity and war crimes will not be stopped by statements of condemnation and raised eyebrows,” he said, calling for transformative political measures, such as civil society boycotts and State-level sanctions. Drawing attention to the fact that the United States has vetoed more than 53 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, he emphasized that the question of Palestine can only be resolved by establishing a free Palestine. The Palestinian people deserve justice and liberation within their lifetime, he stressed.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (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, gave an overview of the Committee’s fifty-third report, which was presented to the General Assembly in October. The Committee had also issued a press statement in March, regarding reports that Israel had failed to fulfil its international legal responsibility to ensure the vaccination against COVID-19 of the Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. These concerns were based on reports indicating that Israel had been donating surplus COVID-19 vaccines overseas, while Palestinians remained largely unvaccinated. Recent information indicated that, as of June, 150,000 Palestinian workers had been vaccinated by the Israeli authorities. However, the cost of these vaccinations was recovered by Israel from the taxes imposed on the Palestinians. More so, thousands of Palestinian workers refused to undergo COVID-19 testing, as they faced the prospect of losing their work permits if found to be positive. He also noted that the pandemic continued to have a substantial impact on women and girls, as helplines for survivors of gender-based violence reported a 70 per cent increase in calls received. Turning to the work of UNRWA, he said that, while more than 5.7 million Palestinian refugees are registered with the Agency, its funding gaps are growing annually. Its work requires the continued support and engagement of States through adequate and predictable funding, he said.
FATIMA KYARI MOHAMMED, Permanent Observer for the African Union, delivering a message on behalf of Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union Commission, recalled that, during this year in particular, the Palestine people endured many hardships with devastating human and material destruction, setting back the already fragile development of vulnerable communities. She called for the implementation of all Security Council resolutions adopted since 1947 concerning Palestine — particularly resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 2334 (2016) — on ending armed conflict and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories; upholding the human rights of Palestinian refugees and prisoners to humanitarian assistance; and recognizing that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory constitute a flagrant violation of international law. Spotlighting the African Union’s consistent, clear position that a two-State solution is necessary for peaceful co-existence, she urged all parties involved in the conflict to desist from unilateral policies, actions and provocations that could further exacerbate the security situation and tense atmosphere in the Middle East. Progress cannot be made, she added, unless both parties agree on a way forward, together, based on relevant United Nations resolutions, international law and joint agreements.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, delivering a message on behalf of Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said recent developments have made the world more aware of the legitimate fight of the Palestinian people. The Gazan population continues to suffer from an inhumane, oppressive blockade. The Israeli Government incarnates racist and brutal beliefs; it does not believe in the two-State solution, and its main plan is to expand settlements and oppress the Palestinian people. The opportunities to apply the two-State solution will not last forever; in fact, these opportunities are eroding on the ground because of Judaization of the situation, he asserted, adding that it was time to move from conflict management to final settlement. The international community must assist the Palestinian cause and refuse the actions of “the last colonial regime of our world”, he said. Calling for an international peace conference, he underscored that the League of Arab States pays tribute to the tenacity of the Palestinian people in the face of terrorism and occupation.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV. Permanent Observer for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), speaking on behalf of Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, Secretary-General of OIC, reiterating his group’s condemnation of the Israeli occupation measures, rejected that country’s illegal practices to alter the demographic character of the occupied city of Al Quds and obliterate its Arab and Islamic identity. Emphasizing that the principle of State sovereignty should not be a pretext for consolidating Israeli colonial occupation, he called on States which opened or moved their diplomatic or consular missions to Al Quds to streamline their positions with the provisions of international law and United Nations resolutions, concerning the international legality of this city. Also drawing attention to the plight of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli detention centres, he added that the continued impunity of Israel has emboldened that country to commit more documented crimes and violations of the rights of Palestinian people. He called on the Middle East Quartet to sponsor a political solution based on the agreed references, including the principles of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, and reaffirmed OIC’s solidarity with the Palestinian people in their quest to restore their inalienable national rights and to find a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.
YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, called on all States to provide predictable and sufficient financial support to UNRWA. He expressed regret that, despite decades of the Palestinian people’s participation in peace efforts, their plight has worsened, and a just solution remains elusive. The Security Council remains paralyzed on this issue, notwithstanding its duties under the Charter of the United Nations. The situation only continues to deteriorate and become destabilized. He called for the full and immediate lifting of the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and reiterated his concern about the lack of accountability for the countless violations being committed by the occupying power. He also reaffirmed his commitments to the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent, democratic and viable State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to the achievement of a just solution for the plight of the Palestine refugees on the basis of General Assembly resolution 194 (III).
Mr. NIANG said that the Committee had received messages of support and solidarity from many Heads of State and Government, as well as Ministers for Foreign Affairs and governmental organizations. He read out a list of those messages of support in the order in which they were received, firstly from the Heads of State of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Senegal, Egypt, China, Nicaragua, Viet Nam, Morocco, Jordan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka; from the Heads of Government of India, Thailand, Malta and Japan; from the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Philippines, Cuba, Syria, Argentina and Bahrain; and from the permanent observers for the European Union.
On behalf of the Committee, he expressed its sincere appreciation for all those messages of support and solidarity, as well as to all participants for their persistent efforts which, through 54 years of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. He also thanked everyone who made the meeting possible, in particular, the staff members of the Division for Palestinian Rights in the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the “Department of Public Information”, the Office of Central Support Services, interpreters, and everyone who worked “behind the scenes”.
On 1 December, the General Assembly will begin its debate under the item "Question of Palestine", he continued. Neville Melvin Gertze (Namibia), Vice-President of the Committee, will introduce the draft resolution “Peaceful settlement of the Question of Palestine” and present the 2021 annual Report of the Committee. The other annual resolutions have been bi-annualized and will only be voted on at the seventh-seventh session of the General Assembly.