55th plenary meeting
Wednesday, 8 November 2000, 10 a.m.
President: Mr. Holkeri…………………………(Finland)
The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m.
Agenda item 26
Cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union
Report of the Secretary-General (A/55/409)
Draft resolution (A/55/L.20)
Mr. Ka (Senegal) (spoke in French): …
On the question of the Middle East, I, personally, in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, should like to testify to the remarkable participation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the Hanoi meeting in January 2000, during which the Union reaffirmed its support for the peace process through dialogue among the parliamentary delegations of the Asian region. In February 1999 in Rome, the Inter-Parliamentary Union also made a remarkable contribution to the conference to promote the Bethlehem 2000 project, launched by the Palestinian Authority and supported by the Committee.
Mr. Darwish (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic): I wish first of all to thank the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, for his valuable report on cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (A/55/409). The Egyptian delegation attaches particular importance to the debate on this important agenda item, “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union”.
The Egyptian delegation wishes to draw attention to an important resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority of members of the IPU at their Jakarta conference last October. It related to the need to end tension in the Middle East, to protect Palestinian civilians in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and to pursue the peace process in accordance with relevant resolutions of the United Nations. That IPU resolution condemned Israel for its acts of provocation. Israel’s failure to respect the sanctity of Islam’s holy places has fuelled violence in the occupied territories. As a result, thousands of unarmed Palestinian civilians have been wounded and dozens killed, including many children. The resolution called upon Israel to put an end to its military operations in the occupied Palestinian territories and to comply with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The resolution further reaffirmed the applicability of that Convention to all the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. That resolution was supported by some 1,000 members of the world’s parliaments and once again showed that the Inter-Parliamentary Union is the voice of the world’s people and is the enemy of injustice and occupation.
Draft resolution A/55/L.20, as orally revised, was adopted (resolution 55/19).
The President: I shall now call on those representatives who wish to speak in exercise of the right of reply.
May I remind members that statements in exercise of the right of reply are limited to 10 minutes for the first intervention and to five minutes for the second intervention, and should be made by delegations from their seats.
Mr. Schacham (Israel): The representative of Egypt has unfortunately used this debate on cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to voice a political attack against my country. It is my understanding that the Jakarta resolution regarding the Middle East does not condemn Israel, and appeals to both sides to work to end the violence and to return to negotiations. Only a fortnight ago, Egypt graciously hosted the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, at which an Israeli-Palestinian agreement was reached on ending the violence — an agreement which we are trying to implement today. That summit recognized that neither side in this conflict has a monopoly on the status of victim and that both sides must act to bring about an end to violence. Indeed, President Mubarak of Egypt spoke there of the need for both sides to return to the peace process and to end the cycle of violence. In this light, the words of the representative of Egypt, which seek to misrepresent Israel, are unreflective, at the very best, of Egypt’s pronounced and greatly appreciated role as a supporter and facilitator of the Middle East peace process. Such political manipulation of the IPU Jakarta resolution only undermines the IPU, an organization which all sides in our region respect.
Mr. Darwish (Egypt): Once more, the representative of Israel is attempting to alter and distort the facts pertaining to the escalation of violence in Palestine and trying to avoid pinning the situation on anybody. The representative of Israel is ignoring the well-documented facts that the violence was a consequence of, and a reaction to, the provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Daily atrocities and gross violations of human rights were then committed on an almost hourly basis by the Israeli occupying forces, which were armed to the teeth, against Palestinian civilians, women and men, old and young, including schoolboys and schoolgirls under the age of 10.
It is indeed puzzling and mind-boggling that in this regard Israel ignores its responsibility in this regard — a responsibility that is well-known and well documented. The Security Council, the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-Parliamentary Conference — to name just a few bodies — without exception, pointed the finger at Israeli responsibility in this regard.
Could it be possible that the international community, as represented in those different forums, is wrong, and that Israel is right? Israel can fool some of the people some of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but it cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
Finally, it is important that Israel work with its Palestinian partners towards establishing peace — durable and everlasting peace, based on the principle of land for peace, Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and full respect for and recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including the right to establish their own State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Mr. Schacham (Israel): It is extremely disingenuous of the Egyptian representative to couch the current violence in religious terms and to attempt to portray Israeli actions as a threat to the sanctity and integrity of other religious faiths. The current violence is wholly unrelated to any religious dispute, and any attempts to create such a connection is a fabrication deliberately aimed at widening the conflict, sharpening the religious divide and creating inter-religious tensions where there are none.
The most blatant attempt to foment religious strife is the recent action of Palestinian gunmen, who have consciously taken up positions in or near Christian institutions in the village of Beit Jala, from where they direct fire at the Jewish residents of the nearby Gilo neighbourhood of Jerusalem. This appalling use of a religious site is intended not only to kill Jewish targets but also to draw Israeli return fire, which will damage the Christian shrines and inflame the Christian world against the Jewish people.
The unrelenting focus, mentioned again by the Egyptian representative, on the alleged provocation of Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount stems from a similar motivation. The visit of an Israeli politician to Judaism’s most holy site is repeatedly portrayed as though it must obviously be an affront to Muslims, in a further attempt to broaden the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis and to recast it as one between Judaism and Islam.
Unfortunately, this has not been the only example. The oft-repeated mantra from various Arab spokesmen protesting the Judaization of Jerusalem could be considered historically ludicrous were it not so blatantly malicious, blasphemous and dehumanizing to those of the Jewish faith. Jerusalem needs no Judaization. The city is mentioned hundreds of times in the Jewish bible, is a central theme of Jewish ritual and has been the site of continuous Jewish presence for 3,000 years.
Further examples abound. Joseph’s Tomb, in Nablus, after being temporarily evacuated under an agreement with the Palestinian police, was brutally destroyed, and Jewish ritual objects were burned and desecrated. The site was subsequently rededicated as a Muslim mosque. The ancient Shalom Al Israel synagogue, near Jericho, was the target of Palestinian arson. Rachel’s Tomb, near Bethlehem, has repeatedly been subjected to a hail of Palestinian machine-gun fire.
These are the sort of religious atrocities that would have caused worldwide religious outcry and denunciation had they been perpetrated against any other religion or in any other place in the world. The forced closure of Judaism’s most revered site of prayer, the Western Wall, on the eve of the Rosh Hashanah high holiday, as a result of the stoning of Jewish worshipers by Palestinians, is tantamount to the evacuation of St. Peter’s Square on Christmas or the shutdown of Mecca’s Kaaba during the height of the hajj.
And yet the Palestinians continue to maintain that the greatest travesty to have occurred, the grossest violation of a sacred site and the most unforgivable provocation was that brief visit by an Israeli politician to his people’s most holy site.
I must also respond to statements made by the Egyptian representative regarding the highly publicized deaths of Palestinian children over the course of the recent violence. It seems that not only does the Palestinian Authority deplorably seek to capitalize on these deaths to win international sympathy and advance its political objectives, but it seems to be deliberately obscuring attempts to ask one significant question: What were these children doing in the line of fire in the first place?
It is sickening to hear various Arab spokesmen stressing how many children have been killed by Israel, as if to say that each child lost is actually a victory for the struggle. It need hardly be mentioned that such activity is in blatant violation of international laws and accepted norms of conduct. This is not only an affront to Israel but an affront to ethical humanity as a whole and should roundly be condemned by the international community.
Mr. Darwish (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic): It would seem that I was not understood because I spoke in English. But I think I was clear. The representative of Israel, as usual, again is distorting facts and getting things mixed up. He speaks of religion and then accuses others of speaking of it. That is nothing new.
The Egyptian delegation recalled two paragraphs of the resolution that was adopted by the last Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments by a majority of 1,000 parliamentarians from all over the world, representing all cultures. The two paragraphs in question explicitly recalled the name of the Israeli official just referred to by the representative of Israel, and we all recognize that the cause of the violence was the provocative visit made to Al-Haram Al-Sharif. This was recognized by the international community and is not something being said by Egypt.
It is unfortunate that the representative of Israel did not read the resolution of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. He has mixed things up and distorted the facts. Of course, these are counter-truths, as I said in English.
The President: We have concluded this stage of our consideration of agenda item 26.
The meeting rose at 12.40 p.m.