COMMITTEE ON THE EXERCISE OF THE INALIENABLE
RIGHTS OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE FIRST PART (PUBLIC)* OF THE 36th MEETING
Held at Headquarters, New York,
on Friday, 16 February 1979, at 10.30 a.m.
Chairman: Mr. FALL (Senegal)
Adoption of the agenda
Election of officers
Organization of work
* No summary record was prepared for the second part (closed) of the meeting.
This record is subject to correction.
Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages, preferably in the same language as the text to which they refer. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also, if possible, incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Chief, Official Records Editing Section, Department of Conference Services, room A-3550.
Any corrections to the records of the meetings of this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.
The meeting was called to order at 11.10 a.m.
ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA
1. The agenda was adopted.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
2. Mr. DOUKOURE (Guinea), seconded by Mr. CHERAANE (Tunisia), proposed that the officers should be re-elected.
3. Mr. Fall (Senegal) was re-elected Chairman, Mr. Roa Kouri (Cuba) and Mr. Siddiq (Afghanistan) were re-elected Vice-Chairmen, and Mr. Gauci (Malta) was re-elected Rapporteur.
4. The CHAIRMAN, speaking on behalf of the officers, thanked the Committee for its renewed vote of confidence. He recalled that, in its first three years of activity, the Committee had laid down the broad outlines of its work. During that time, the General Assembly had heeded the Committee's recommendations and the Security Council had concerned itself with what the Committee was doing. During the current year the Committee would concentrate on defining and strengthening its relations with the Council.
5. It would be necessary to define more precisely the functions of the Special Unit on Palestinian Rights and to increase its effectiveness. The fact was that results achieved by the end of 1978 had not entirely lived up to the expectations which the existence of the Unit had aroused. For instance, not all the docùments envisaged had been published; he was thinking in particular of the document concerning self-determination for the Palestinian people. He would be contacting the Under-Secretary-General for Political and General Assembly Affairs and hoped that, as a result, the Special Unit would speed up its work, complete its activities for 1978 and satisfactorily carry out those assigned to it for 1979.
6. Mr. BUFFUM (Under-Secretary-General for Political and General Assembly Affairs) reaffirmed the Secretariat's intention of co-operating fully in the Committee's work, and expressed the hope that in its activities for the current year the Committee would be successful.
ORGANIZATION OF WORK
7. The CHAIRMAN said that, if he heard no objections, he would take it that the Committee decided to entrust the Task Force with the work of preparing an outline of a programme of action for 1979.
8. It was so decided.
9. Mr. TERZI (Observer, Palestine Liberation Organization) reiterated his confidence in the Committee and its officers and expressed the hope that the experience it had gained would help make its work in the current year more fruitful.
10. At its session held from 15 to 22 January at Damascus, the Palestine National Council had adopted a resolution expressing gratitude for the Committee's efforts, particularly in organizing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and in providing guidance and supervision in the preparation of documents on developments in the Palestinian question. The resolution had also expressed the hope that the Committee would continue to try to implement the recommendations endorsed by the General Assembly at its thirty-first session.
11. The Israeli occupation forces continued to ignore United Nations resolutions and to confiscate Palestinian territory in areas where their presence was considered illegal, in order to force Palestinian Arabs to abandon their homes. That had happened in areas around Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, and was happening increasingly in other areas, for instance on the outskirts of Hebron and Jerusalem. Moreover, the question of the torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners was one which could not be emphasized enough. The Secretary-General must not fail to bring those facts to the attention of world public opinion.
12. Now the Israeli Government had launched a campaign to have Jerusalem recognized as the capital of the country. The 19 February edition of Newsweek had contained a reference to that issue, and the newspaper of the Zionist Organization of America was pressing the United States authorities to adopt a favourable attitude toward the change of capital. It must be emphasized that such a step would be in violation of a General Assembly resolution.
13. In the meantime, the Israelis were keeping the rest of the world inactive by offering illusory peace prospects. Thus, the so-called proposal for the autonomy of the West Bank really meant that the Israeli occupation forces would have full rights over the water resources of the territories occupied since 1967 and would be able to maintain their military presence there.
14. The PLO Executive Committee wished to draw the Committee's attention to paragraph 2 of resolution A/33/28 B, and wondered whether the Security Council should not take appropriate steps to put an end to the persistent practices and policies of the Israeli occupation forces. World public opinion must be made to understand that the Palestinian people's decision to resort to armed resistance was fully justified by the fact that the Israeli forces ignored United Nations resolutions. Similarly, it should not be forgotten that the Israelis were backed by the United States Government, which was supplying them with money and arms.
15. Mr. NUSEIBEH (Jordan), speaking as Chairman of the Group of Arab States and as Ambassador of Jordan, congratulated the officers of the Committee on their re-election and thanked the Committee for the exemplary way in which it had come to the aid of the Palestinian people within the means at its disposal. He said that he had just returned from Jordan where there was a feeling of profound despair at the fact that Israel was swallowing up the remnants of the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.
16. Discussions in the Group of Arab States had dealt with various issues but had focused principally on the bill introduced in the Knesset by a member of the Likud with the aim of making it mandatory for all embassies to move to Jerusalem. the basis of that bill, the Government of Israel would have to deal only with embassies located in that city. He acknowledged that few States had agreed to the transfer. Although it was certain that many States would not comply with the proposed law, the Group of Arab States was concerned that there should be no repetition of past experiences when silence had served the cause of the Israelis similar measures had gradually come to be accepted. The Group had proposed that States members of the Group should summon the Ambassadors in their countries and advise them that if the State they represented complied with the proposed law, the Arab States would have to make a fundamental reappraisal of their relations with them. Moreover, States Members of the United Nations should ignore the bill, not only out of solidarity but out of respect for the Charter. To do otherwise would be tantamount to forsaking their commitment to the Charter and to United Nations resolutions.
17. Speaking as the representative of Jordan, he proposed that the Security Council should be convened to consider the erosion of the Palestinian presence or Palestinian land. That erosion was being brought about principally by means of confiscation and colonization, which had already extended to 29 per cent of the West Bank, including the most fertile land. That land was of vital importance to the Palestinian people. Israel was also bent on taking over the water resources the area. As a result of continued expansion, Israel had to make good its water shortage by using the water resources of the West Bank. It was doing so in three principal ways: firstly, by land confiscation; secondly, by drilling new wells which increased the salinity of Palestinian land; and, thirdly, by restricting drilling of new wells by Palestinians and installing meters so that Palestinian farmers could not exceed the water ration fixed by the Israeli authorities. By that method, Israel was simultaneously acquiring arable land and water resources The dire consequences of such policies for the Palestinian people could be readily appreciated. Palestinian land had been depopulated and the demographic structure altered. The population of the occupied territories comprised mostly young people and the elderly. The middle-aged population had dwindled as a result of expulsion and persecution, or because of the impossibility of finding work. Were it not for the money sent home by Palestinian workers abroad, the situation of the Palestinian people would be intolerable.
18. Another Israeli policy was the dismemberment of Palestinian territory so that it no longer formed a single entity but was broken up into pieces, one villa being cut off from another. That made personal contacts extremely difficult so much so that a person wishing to be present at a social event in another part of the country could not travel direct, for the Israelis had established settlements in between the various isolated strips of territory on the West Bank. In addition, Jerusalem had expanded fifteenfold, a string of settlements had been established and a mass of new buildings covered an increasingly large area. It was possible that the population of the Israeli settlements on the West Bank already numbered 90,000. They were preparing the territory for the establishment of further settlements to accommodate a population of up to half a million Israelis in the area. Despite all those Israeli measures, the Palestinian people's morale was still high under occupation and they were steadfast in their determination to remain on their land.
19. The rescission of the measures adopted by Israel was a prerequisite to any settlement. The situation had deteriorated so radically that Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) had become meaningless and had little value as a political framework within which to solve the problem. The situation had become so acute that the very survival of the Palestinian people was in serious jeopardy, regardless of the political framework within which efforts might be made to deal with the situation. From the Israeli press it could be learned that the colonization of the West Bank territories was being intensified; new settlements were constantly being established. The fundamental question, therefore, was to decide what action the Committee should take in defence of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
20. With respect to the question of human rights in the occupied territories, although it was the prerogative of every sovereign State to express its opinion when it deemed fit, it was impossible not to be amazed at the report prepared by the United States Department of State. The situation was depicted in such a favourable light that it would have been better not to have published anything, or to have stated that there was not sufficient information or that the Israelis had not made it possible to verify the situation adequately. The Department of State should never have participated in that general cover-up operation.
21. He hoped that in the course of the coming month the Committee would uphold its tradition of being always in the front line of defence of the rights of the Palestinian people and would support them in the Security Council, the regional groups and any other appropriate United Nations forums.
22. The CHAIRMAN, referring to the statement made by the Jordanian representative said that he has addressed a letter to the Secretary-General which had already been issued as an official document of the General Assembly. The Committee was convinced that the United Nations should continue to keep a close watch on the situation in the occupied Arab territories. All the points mentioned by the representative of Jordan fell within the framework of the Committee's programme of action. If that programme had been implemented, if Israel had withdrawn from the occupied territories and dismantled the settlements it had established there, the current deplorable situation would never have come about.
23. With regard to the status of Jerusalem, talks were in progress to decide on the most appropriate course of action. The Chairman had been in contact with the Secretary-General of the Islamic Conference, which had set up a special committee to deal with the matter. The decision taken by the Arab countries was correct: Governments must realize that the transfer of embassies to Jerusalem would be construed as a hostile act, directed not only against the Arab countries but against all those cultures for which Jerusalem was a holy place. The Committee would consider the measures to be taken with regard to the status of Jerusalem as a matter of priority. He requested the Under-Secretary-General to inform the Secretary-General of the Committee's concern at the bill about to be introduced in the Israeli Parliament.
24. He reminded members that the representative of Pakistan had participated, on the Committee's behalf, in a seminar on the situation and rights of the Palestinian people, convened at Helsinki by the Finnish-Arab Friendship Society, and called upon him to report to the Committee on that subject.
25. Mr. HASSAN (Pakistan) said that the Finnish-Arab Friendship Society was headed by Mrs. Tellervo Koivisto, a member of the Finnish Parliament, and that its leaders included some prominent Finns. The Society, established about four years earlier, had done considerable work in disseminating information about the Palestine question to the news media, government circles and public opinion in Finland. The seminar, held on 30 January 1979, had been designed to focus attention on the Palestine question in the light of recent developments in the Middle East, particularly after the Camp David accords.
26. In accordance with the wishes of the Society, the lecture which he had delivered at the seminar had centred on United Nations involvement with the question of Palestine. By way of introduction, he had dwelt at length on the historical background leading to the partition of Palestine and the role of the United Nations in the partition resolution of 1947. He had also outlined the concept of self-determination, trying to explain why the Palestinians had been deprived of that right and had emphasized that, of all the so-called Class A mandate territories of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine had been the only one to be denied the inherent right of self-determination.
27. He had then spoken of the important and useful work performed by the Committee and by the Special Unit on Palestinian Rights, whose detailed studies had been of immense help to him in his presentation. After the talk he had replied to questions from members of the audience, who had shown eagerness to know more about the question of Palestine, details of the Committee's work, the implications of the Camp David accords, the situation of Palestinian refugees, and so on.
28. The audience had been composed of representatives of the major political parties and journalists from the important newspapers as well as representatives of radio and television, who had accorded extensive publicity to the seminar in the Finnish mass media. The text of his lecture would be reproduced in the magazine of the Finnish Institute for Foreign Affairs; the Committee's work and the Palestinian cause would thereby be publicized.
29. Subsequently, the seminar had been addressed by a representative of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as representatives of the news media and other government officials, who had reiterated the consistent and steadfast position which Finland had adopted on the situation in the Middle East. As an example, he had quoted from a speech by the President of Finland, Mr. Kekkonen, who, speaking on the question of the Palestinian people, had said that it would not be possible to find a durable, peaceful solution until justice was done to the Arabs who had originally inhabited Palestine.
30. The main point made by the representatives of Finnish news media was that, in the absence of hard information on developments in the Middle East, they had to rely on Western news agency reports, which made it difficult for them to maintain a balance in their reporting. Some political parties represented at the seminar said that the information available in Finland was one-sided and merely reproduced what appeared in the Western news media.
31. The Chairman of the Society had concluded the seminar by stressing that, in today's age of interdependence, no country could remain insulated from the repercussions which would inevitably follow if the conflict in the Middle East remained unsolved. She asked for the co-operation and help of the news media and the leaders of public opinion in Finland in evolving a balanced and correct approach to the just cause of the Palestinian people.
32. On the following day, he had called on Mr. Veijo Sampovaara, Chief of the International Division of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who had said that the Finnish Government had followed with great interest the debates on Palestine and the Middle East in the United Nations as well as the activities of the Committee and the Special Unit, and would continue to support the just and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people for self-determination.
33. The Society had requested copies of past reports of the Committee and publications of the Special Unit, which would be translated into Finnish and disseminated as widely as possible. Since the available funds were limited, the members of the Society wondered whether the Committee could offer some financial help for the translation of those documents. He felt that the Society had done valuable work in promoting the Palestinian cause; the office bearers of the Society were in a position to brief the highest levels of Government. Finland had traditionally taken a sympathetic and constructive view and had a correct appreciation of how the Palestine question could be solved. Given those factors, it would be mutually advantageous for the Committee and the Society to strengthen contacts. He felt that some financial assistance would pay rich dividends and that the matter deserved to be studied.
34. The CHAIRMAN said that he had arranged for the documents requested in the working languages of the United Nations to be sent to the Society. The question of financial assistance exceeded the competence of the Committee, and he would consult with the other members of the Bureau and with the Secretariat on that matter.
35. He invited the representative of Mali, who had represented the Committee in the observance of the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People at the United Nations Office at Geneva, to inform the Committee with regard to that ceremony.
36. Mr. KANTE (Mali) thanked the Committee for having designated him to represent it. The Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People had been observed at the United Nations Office at Geneva with the participation of non-governmental organizations, individuals and representatives of the press. Members of the staff of the Office had also attended the meeting. Seated at the podium were the Director of the Office, a representative of the non-aligned countries, a representative of the President of the Islamic Conference, a representative of PLO, and he himself, who had presided over the meetings and presented the opening statement on the Committee's behalf. In his statement he had outlined the origins of the tragedy of the Palestinian people and had reviewed the efforts exerted by the United Nations and the Committee to restore the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to independence and the establishment of a sovereign State. Statements had then been made by the Chairmen of the various regional groups and by certain individuals. The representative of PLO had made the closing statement. At the Chairman's suggestion, a minute of silence had been observed in memory of the Palestinian martyrs who had fallen in the struggle. An illustrated presentation on the situation of the Palestinian people had then been given by PLO.
37. After the meetings had been concluded, the non-governmental organizations had held a press conference in which the representative of PLO had been asked a number of questions. He felt that the observance of the Day of Solidarity had been entirely successful, since it had served to arouse public opinion with regard to the problem of the Palestinians.
38. In that connexion, he wished to make a few suggestions that might guide the Committee's future work. First of all, a basic programme could be drawn up to harmonize the various manifestations of support for the cause of the Palestinian people, leaving the various forums in which such manifestations would take place the freedom to develop programmes according to their capabilities. In addition, the number of such forums could be increased with a view to influencing more effectively world public opinion, whose importance in the struggle was crucial. Lastly, it would be appropriate for the documents flowing from those manifestations of support to be published as official documents of the United Nations in order to provide more information on that question. He reaffirmed his delegation's unshakable support for the Committee's work and for the just cause of the
39. The CHAIRMAN announced that the Committee would continue its work informally.
The discussion covered in the summary record ended at 11.35 a.m.