ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
2019 SESSION, 36TH & 37TH MEETINGS (AM & PM)
ECOSOC/7010

23 JULY 2019

français

The Economic and Social Council today adopted decisions and resolutions on issues ranging from a rise in opioid overdose deaths to the social and economic consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands, as it continued its 2019 Coordination and Management meetings today.

/…

In a recorded vote of 45 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States), with 4 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Togo, Ukraine), the Council adopted a resolution titled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”.

By its terms, the Council called for the full opening of the border crossings of the Gaza Strip, in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) to ensure humanitarian access, as well as the sustained, regular flow of person of goods, the lifting of movement restrictions on Palestinians and other urgent steps to alleviate the serious humanitarian situation in the Territory.  The Council demanded that Israel comply with the Protocol on Economic Relations it signed with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1994 and called upon Israel to restore and replace civilian property, vital infrastructure, agricultural lands and government institutions that have been damaged or destroyed due to its military operations.

Further, the Council reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan to all their natural and economic resources, calling upon Israel to immediately cease its exploitation of natural resources and its dumping of waste materials in the occupied areas.  resources.

Tarik Alami, Director of the Emerging and Conflict-Related Issues Section of the United Nations Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), who introduced the related ESCWA report, said that overall, the protracted Israeli occupation has had a detrimental effect on the living conditions of Palestinians and Syrians, making it nearly impossible for them to achieve the targets enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.  Moreover, 2.5 million Palestinians – about half the population – require humanitarian assistance.

Pointing out that Gaza’s economy contracted by 6.5 per cent in 2018 – after shrinking 12.5 per cent in 2017 – he declared:  “Real de-development is unfolding there.”  Meanwhile, unemployment in the Gaza Strip is among the highest in the world.  In the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel’s actions intended to annex that land are illegal under international law and, therefore, remain null and void.  Citing more than 1,500 demolitions orders in the Syrian Golan, he said young Syrians are forced to seek employment opportunities elsewhere.

The representative of Israel, speaking before the action, said the ESCWA report is critically flawed and intended to hide real, on-the-ground facts.  Underlining its reliance on hearsay and lack of context, she said it paints the so-called “Great March of Return” in May 2018 as a sort of Palestinian family picnic at the border fence with Israel.  In reality, it was a demonstration intended to create a human shield behind which violent attacks were launched against her country.

Noting that a Hamas spokesperson admitted that the vast number of casualties on that occasion were in fact Hamas militants, and not civilians, she added that the report omits a single reference to the more than 600 rockets launched into Israel from Gaza over the reporting period.  “Welcome to the alterative universe of the United Nations, where this is standard procedure,” she said.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking after the vote, said the dire economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people are man-made and due to the occupation.  Today’s vote is confirmation of countries’ commitment to international law, human rights, sustainable development and just and lasting peace.

“Our nation has an unbelievable potential that, if unleashed by freedom and independence, would change the lives of millions of Palestinians, and the ensuing peace would change the entire region for the better,” he said.  “There is no better life without freedom, without sovereignty, without control over our land and access to our resources, and on that day, we may no longer need international assistance.  But, until then, your support and assistance are indispensable.”

The Council also adopted the related draft resolution “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women”, by a recorded vote of 40 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States), with 9 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Romania, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom).  By its terms, the Council called for urgent measures to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and urged the international community to continue giving special attention to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian women and girls, including by, among other things, intensifying steps to improve their difficult living conditions.

/…

Economic and Social Repercussions of the Israeli Occupation

The Council then turned its attention to the next item, titled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”.

TARIK ALAMI, Director of the Emerging and Conflict Related Issues Division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced a note by the Secretary-General on that topic (document A/74/88-E/2019/72), which covers the year-long period ending March 2019.  Recalling that Israel took several administrative actions during that period aimed at expanding its jurisdiction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said its discriminatory planning and zoning policies in Area C leave many Palestinians no choice but to build settlements without proper permits, making them vulnerable to seizure and demolition.  Noting that hundreds of Palestinians were killed or injured during the reporting period, he said Israel’s decision to terminate the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron also raises questions about the protection of Palestinian civilians.  Also citing the continued use of administrative detention and ill-treatment of detainees – including women and children – he said those actions have regularly been condemned by international organizations.

Such practices have also led Palestinians to leave Area C, he continued, and may amount to a practice of forcible transfer.  Seizures and demolitions increased in 2018, and Israel’s settlement activities saw a significant increase in construction starts.  Meanwhile, mobility restrictions against Palestinian civilians continued, the most severe of which is the ongoing blockade against the Gaza Strip where a complex system of physical, economic and social barriers obstructs humanitarian aid and degrades living conditions.  Noting that a fifth of Palestinians lack access to clean water, he said Israeli policies are also leading to the emission of hazardous pollution, the uprooting of trees and the denial of access to farmers to care for their lands.  Some 2.5 million Palestinians – about half the population – require humanitarian assistance, he said, noting that investment in the Palestinian economy remains low.  Pointing out that Gaza’s economy contracted by 6.5 per cent in 2018 – after shrinking 12.5 per cent in 2017 – he declared:  “Real de-development is unfolding there.”  Meanwhile, unemployment in the Gaza Strip is among the highest in the world.

Stressing that such conditions have resulted in high food insecurity rates, he noted that disease and mental health disorders continue to spread in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and casualties remain high.  The lack of access to electricity, in particular, puts lives at risk.  Turning to the Syrian Golan Heights, he said Israel’s actions intended to annex that land are illegal under international law and, therefore, remain null and void.  Citing more than 1,500 demolition orders in the Syrian Golan, he said young Syrians are forced to seek employment opportunities elsewhere.  Overall, the protracted Israeli occupation has had a detrimental effect on the living conditions of Palestinians and Syrians, making it nearly impossible for them to achieve the targets enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals, he said.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, raised concerns about the violations of the administering Power in the Syrian Golan and Palestinian lands, including discriminatory housing, water and freedom of movement policies.  He condemned Israel’s manipulation and use of indiscriminate, extreme force against women and the elderly, as well as settlers attacking civilians in occupied areas.  In the last few days, more violations have occurred, including demolished Palestinian houses in Jerusalem.  In light of the international consensus on Palestine’s right to self-determination, there is no justification for these violations, especially since Arab States have expressed their will to have peace with Israel.

The representative of Syria said the Secretary-General’s report demonstrates the discriminatory practices of Israel in the occupied Syrian Golan.  Recent violations include Israeli authorities seizing more land from Syria under the pretext of a wind farm project, a power-generating initiative to supply the illegal Israeli settlements, violating relevant resolutions.  Raising concerns about the report, she said the authors turned a blind eye to the dire conditions of prisoners in occupied areas.  These and other detrimental actions run counter to the principle of “leaving no one behind”.

An observer for the State of Palestine said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is deteriorating and despair is rising.  The 52-year-long Israeli occupation is compounding socioeconomic hardships and severely undercutting any efforts towards sustainable development, she said, stressing that illegal occupation violates international law and intentionally kills civilians.  Among other things, she outlined the illegal expansion of settlements and walls, the forced displacement of civilians, the imprisonment of more than 5,000 men, women and children, and the vandalism of holy sites, as well as the collective punishment of the entire Palestinian population.  The report before the Council today documents many of those practices and reflects clearly, with specific figures, the suffering of the Palestinian people.  “This unjust situation and the consequent loss of hope is totally unsustainable and highly volatile, requiring urgent remedy to stem further deterioration and desperation,” she stressed, noting that unless Israel is held accountable, its impunity and depravity will be further emboldened.  In that context, she appealed for international aid to alleviate humanitarian suffering and address the deplorable socioeconomic conditions they are currently enduring, calling on Council members to fully support the draft resolution.

The representative of Israel said the ESCWA report is critically flawed and intended to hide real, on-the-ground facts.  Underlining its reliance on hearsay and lack of context, she said it paints the so-called “Great March of Return” in May 2018 as a sort of Palestinian family picnic at the border fence with Israel.  In reality, it was a demonstration intended to create a human shield behind which violent attacks were launched against her country.  Noting that a Hamas spokesperson admitted that the vast number of casualties on that occasion were in fact Hamas militants, and not civilians, she added that the report omits a single reference to the more than 600 rockets launched into Israel from Gaza over the reporting period.  “Welcome to the alterative universe of the United Nations, where this is standard procedure,” she said, warning that omission of such information only encourages further attacks and sends the message that political points are more important than facts.  Noting that every time Israel has engaged with its neighbours it has built stronger and better relationships, she urged the Palestinians to “look at history differently” and reconsider what is possible.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolutions “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” (document (E/2019/L.25) and “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document E/2019/L.26).

The draft resolution “L.25” reaffirms that the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women, he said, calling on Israel, the occupying Power, to cease all measures contrary to international law.  The draft resolution also calls for urgent measures to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and urges the international community to give special attention to the promotion and protection of the human rights of Palestinian women and girls.  “L.25” stresses the need to increase the role of Palestinian women in decision-making, he said, anticipating the adoption of the draft by consensus.

Draft resolution “L.26” expresses grave concerns about the serious repercussions of the prolonged occupation and its associated regime and resulting violations of economic and social rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to work, health, education, property, an adequate standard of living and freedom of access and movement.  It also expresses grave concern about the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza as a result of the prolonged Israeli blockade, calling for the full opening of border crossings in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) and international humanitarian law.  The draft further stresses the urgency of achieving a lasting peace settlement and the need for renewed international efforts in this regard.

The representative of Israel, speaking before the action, said the text on Palestinian women blames all of the challenges facing Palestinian women – many of which are cultural in nature – on Israel.  Noting that alternative and more balanced reports on the situation on the ground exist, he outlined diplomatic outreach efforts by his Government, which Palestinian leaders have repeatedly ignored.  Describing that pattern of inaction as destructive, he said the text encourages taking no responsibility on a primarily domestic topic, instead putting all the blame on a foreign actor.  The issues faced by Palestinians will only be resolved when they are ready to look in a mirror, he stressed, urging Council members to vote against the texts before them.

The representative of the United States, underscoring his delegation’s long-standing concerns about draft “L.25” – which is regularly considered in the Commission on the Status of Women and is this year also being considered by the Council – expressed concern about the insertion of one-sided and unhelpful language in the latter’s work.  Pointing out that Hamas has recently limited women’s ability to move freely and appear in public, he stressed that politicized efforts at the United Nations will do nothing to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Any resolution of that conflict must be the result of direct negotiations between the parties, he said.

The representative of Brazil voiced concern about the precarious economic and social conditions in Palestine, which disproportionately impact women.  Reiterating his delegation’s support for the rights of Palestinian women, he expressed concern that the “L.25” still has elements that render it biased and unbalanced.  Among other things, the text only reflects some challenges on the ground, and not others.  Noting that it fails to contribute to peace in the region, he said that for those reasons Brazil will abstain in the vote.

The Council adopted “L.25” by a vote of 40 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States) with 9 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Romania, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom).

The representative of the United Kingdom said that while it supports language in “L.25” on women and girls’ participation, his delegation has concerns about references to Israel’s occupation.  While positive changes in the draft during this session have made his delegation move to abstain from the vote instead of voting against it, his delegation still has concerns about omissions, including references to all authorities that are hampering the rights of women and girls.

As the Council turned its attention to draft resolution “L.26”, the representative of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the use of the term “Palestine” in the text cannot be construed as a recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the bloc’s member States.  The European Union has not expressed itself on other legal terms in the resolution, including the legal qualification of the term “forced displacement”, yet it supports the draft and will vote in favour of it.

The representative of the United States expressed his delegation’s disappointment over the one-sided biased draft resolution.  Concerned about the bias against Israel at the United Nations, he said such a stance does nothing to foster progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace.  As such, his delegation will vote against “L.26”.

The Council then adopted “L.26” by a vote of 45 in favour to 2 against (Canada, United States) with 4 abstentions (Brazil, Cameroon, Togo, Ukraine).

The representative of Brazil said that in abstaining, his delegation recognized the difficult situation faced by Palestinian people, but also its view that the text before the Council is politicized and singles out Israel.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said the vote is confirmation of countries’ commitment to international law, human rights, sustainable development and just and lasting peace.  The dire economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people are man-made and due to the occupation.  “Our nation has an unbelievable potential that, if unleashed by freedom and independence, would change the lives of millions of Palestinians, and the ensuing peace would change the entire region for the better,” he said.  “There is no better life without freedom, without sovereignty, without control over our land and access to our resources, and on that day, we may no longer need international assistance.  But, until then, your support and assistance are indispensable.”  He said the vote also is a sign of solidarity with Palestinian women, who for nearly a century have fought for the rights of their people and themselves.

/…

For information media. Not an official record.