FOURTH COMMITTEE
SEVENTY-FIFTH SESSION, 9TH MEETING (PM)
GA/SPD/724
4 NOVEMBER 2020

 

Français

Continuing its joint general debate today, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved seven draft resolutions concerning Israeli practices in occupied Arab lands and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as well as five additional texts on various subjects.

The Committee narrowly approved a draft titled “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/75/L.12) by a recorded vote of 72 in favour to 13 against, with 76 abstentions.

By its terms, the General Assembly reiterates its demand that Israel cooperate with the Special Committee and requests that the latter continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially its violations of the Geneva Convention.  Moreover, it requests that the Special Committee continue to investigate the treatment and status of thousands of prisoners and detainees, including children, women and elected representatives, in Israeli prisons and detention centres within the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Further by that text, the Assembly requests that the Secretary‑General provide the Special Committee with all necessary facilities, including those required for its visits to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Moreover, it requests that the Assembly continue to task the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with assisting the Special Committee in the performance of its tasks.

The Committee went on to approve — by a recorded vote of 142 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States,), with 14 abstentions — a draft titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/75/L.13).

By that text, the General Assembly condemns Israel’s settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as violations of international humanitarian law.  It deplores, by other terms, Israel’s construction and expansion of settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem, including its so‑called E‑1 plan, which aims to connect its illegal settlements and further isolate occupied East Jerusalem.  The Assembly further deplores ongoing settlement activities in the Jordan Valley, which further fragment and undermine the contiguity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

By further terms, the Assembly condemns Israel’s demolition of Palestinian buildings in the neighbourhood of Wadi al‑Hummus, in the village of Sur Bahir, south of occupied East Jerusalem.  It also reiterates its demand for the immediate and complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in all the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.  By other terms, the Assembly demands that Israel comply with its legal obligations, as mentioned in the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice.

Taking up a draft titled “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/75/L.14), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 138 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 16 abstentions.

By the terms of that draft, the Assembly urges the parties to observe calm and restraint and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, especially in areas of religious and cultural sensitivity, including in East Jerusalem.

Also by that text, the Assembly demands that Israel cease all measures contravening international law, as well as discriminatory legislation, policies and actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.  They include the killing and injury of civilians, the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of civilians, forced displacement and any obstruction of humanitarian assistance.  The Assembly also demands that Israel cease all of its settlement activities, the construction of the wall and any other measures aimed at altering the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem.

By further terms, the Assembly condemns all acts of violence, and especially any use of force by the Israeli occupying forces, against Palestinian civilians, as well as journalists, medical and humanitarian personnel.  It also condemns all acts of violence by militants and armed groups against Israeli civilian areas resulting in loss of life and injury.

Taking action on three texts related to UNRWA, the Committee first approved a draft resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/75/L.9) by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 12 abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly expresses concern regarding the negative implications of UNRWA’s severe financial crisis for the continued delivery of its core programmes.  Further by that text, it calls on all donors to continue to strengthen their efforts to meet the Agency’s anticipated needs, including with regard to increased expenditures and needs arising from conflicts and instability in the region, and the serious socioeconomic and humanitarian situation.  It also invites India to become a member of the Agency’s Advisory Commission.

Taking up a draft titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/75/L.10), the Committee approved it by a recorded 151 votes in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 9 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Kiribati, Guatemala, Malawi, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Serbia, Solomon Islands).

By that text, the General Assembly expresses deep concern about UNRWA’s critical financial situation, caused by its structural underfunding and by rising needs and expenditures resulting from the deterioration of socioeconomic and humanitarian conditions.  It also notes that contributions have not been predictable enough or sufficient to meet growing needs and remedy persistent shortfalls, which were exacerbated by the 2018 suspension of contributions from the Agency’s largest single voluntary donor.

The Assembly commends, by other terms, the Agency’s measures to address the financial crisis, including by implementing the medium‑term strategy for 2016‑2021 and various internal measures to contain expenditures, reduce operational and administrative costs, while maximizing the use of resources and reducing funding shortfalls.  However, it expresses concern about plans and measures to interfere with or obstruct the Agency’s operations, including in East Jerusalem, contrary to international law and to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel.

By further terms, the Assembly commends the important role played by UNRWA throughout its areas of operation to help to prevent and contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.  Moreover, the Assembly expresses its grave concern over attempts to discredit the Agency despite its proven operational capacity and consistent implementation of its mandate.

Further by the text, the Assembly urges Israel to expeditiously reimburse UNRWA for all transit charges incurred and other financial losses sustained as a result of delays and restrictions on movement and access imposed by that country.  Moreover, it calls upon Israel to cease obstructing the Agency’s movement and access as well as to cease levying taxes, extra fees and charges.

The Committee then approved a draft titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/75/L.11) by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Honduras, Kiribati, Malawi, Serbia, Solomon Islands).

By that text, the General Assembly requests that the Secretary‑General take all appropriate steps to protect Arab properties, assets and property rights in Israel.  Further, it calls upon Israel to render all facilities and assistance to the Secretary‑General in implementation of the resolution.  Moreover, the Assembly urges both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues within the framework of final‑status peace negotiations.

The Committee went on to approve a draft titled “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/75/L.15) by a recorded vote of 142 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 19 abstentions.  By that text, the General Assembly calls upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and in particular to desist from establishing settlements.  Further, the Assembly calls upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan.

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General Debate

The Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States said the bloc opposes any proposals for resolving the Israel‑Palestine conflict that are not in keeping with a two‑State solution.  Citing the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, he said Israel persists in carrying out illegal detentions, demolition of Palestinian structures and other violations of international humanitarian law.  Condemning Israel’s crimes in that regard, he and called for the revival of the peace process through a return to negotiations between the State of Palestine and Israel based on the two‑State formula.  He called on the Secretary-General to convene a conference after January 2021, to re‑launch the peace process on the basis of the agreed pillars of international legitimacy.  He went on to emphasize that the return of Palestine refugees remains a key issue for the international community to resolve, calling for it to address UNRWA’s financial difficulties.  Any withholding of voluntary contributions would prove detrimental to Palestine refugees, he pointed out, calling on donors who have scaled back or frozen their contributions to reconsider that decision.

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Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee then took action on several draft resolutions, beginning with a text on the effects of atomic radiation (document A/C.4/75/L.4).

The representative of Australia introduced the draft, saying her delegation looks forward to three new scientific annexes and the programme of work for the 2020‑2024 period, which will be considered at the Scientific Committee’s sixty‑seventh session.  Noting that the Scientific Committee will celebrate its sixty‑fifth anniversary in 2021, he said the occasion will provide an opportunity to consider the commitment and dedicated work of scientists around the world as they provide an independent and authoritative analysis of radiation.

The representative of the United States, making a general statement, pointed to operative paragraph 24 of the text, noting that the criteria for new Scientific Committee members are insufficient.  Emphasizing the importance of considering the records of Member States in terms of maintaining international peace and security, she said Iran’s position, in particular, is inconsistent with the Scientific Committee’s.

The Committee then approved the text without a vote.

The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of position, recalled that in 2018, the Fourth Committee rejected the issue to which the delegate of the United States referred, therefore, raising the topic again is unconstructive.

The Committee then turned to a text on the peaceful uses of outer space (document A/C.4/75/L.5).

The representative of Romania introduced the draft, noting that the Working Group of the Whole held one virtual meeting on 21 October 2020, when it agreed to the text as a whole with no amendments.

The Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

The Committee then took up a series of draft resolutions (documents A/C.4/75/L.9-L.11) relating to:  “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (L.9); “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (UNRWA, L.10); and “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (L.11).

The representative of Indonesia introduced drafts A/C.4/75/L.9 and L.11, noting that they focus only on the technical update due to restrictions caused by the pandemic.  Nevertheless, the texts continue to lay out the difficult situations suffered by the Palestine refugees and the severe funding shortfall of affecting UNRWA, he said, adding that they also reaffirm the fundamental rights of the refugees and the international community’s responsibility to protect their well‑being pending a just solution to the Israel‑Palestine conflict.  Emphasizing that UNRWA continues to play a crucial role in the region, he appealed to Member States to lend their financial and political support to the Agency.  The draft also reflects that India will become a member of the Agency’s advisory committee, he said.

The representative of South Africa introduced draft resolution A/C.4/75/L.10, saying it reaffirms that support for UNRWA is vital to the plight of the Palestine refugees against the background of the continuing conflict.  It also reiterates the call for efforts to close the Agency’s financing gap in order to ensure the continued services it provides.

The Committee then took up a series of draft resolutions related to the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/75/L.12-L.15).

The representative of Namibia introduced drafts A/C.4/75/L.12 and A/C.4/75/L.13, saying the Special Committee’s general debate on the topics reflected the international community’s collective concern over Israel’s activities and human rights violations in the occupied lands.  Israel’s violations have only escalated and are well documented by United Nations agencies and international organizations, he said, noting that draft A/C.4/75/L.12 renews the Special Committee’s mandate and reaffirms its parameters to raise awareness of the grave human rights violations against the Palestinian population.  He went on to note that, in view of appeals for technical rollovers, draft A/C.4/75/L.13 has only been technically updated since the General Assembly’s seventy‑fourth session.  It reiterates that Israel cannot exercise sovereignty or annex the Territories according to its obligations under international law.

The representative of Cuba then introduced two draft resolutions in the same cluster:  “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/75/L.14) and “the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/75/L.15).  He noted that Israel persists in conducting illegal colonial activities and violating international humanitarian law.  Moreover, the human rights and protection crisis has worsened, causing suffering for millions of innocent people.  As such, he said, the texts condemn Israel’s systematic violations, including military operations that kill and injure Palestinian civilians, arbitrary detentions and the construction of settlements, among others.  Such actions seek to change the legal status and demographic characteristics of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, he noted, adding that the draft condemns any use of force by the occupying forces and settlers as well as actions by militants and armed groups that target Israeli civilians.  On the Occupied Syrian Golan, he said no amendments have been made to the text adopted every year.

The representative of Israel, making a general statement, emphasized that the draft resolutions under consideration achieve nothing.  The failure of the United Nations to end the Israel‑Palestine conflict is a result of its continued support for UNRWA, which perpetuates the conflict, he said, adding that the Agency uses its schools to spread hatred, and enables Hamas to use its infrastructure for its own activities.  Moreover, UNRWA inflates refugee numbers and incites violence, reinforcing the demand that millions of refugees be allowed to resettle in Israel.  Israel supports providing humanitarian assistance to refugees but opposes wasting resources on those who do not meet the international definition of refugees, he stressed, saying his delegation will vote against the draft resolutions under consideration.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, pointed to her country’s vision for peace and the Abraham Accords in the efforts for peace, while noting that the United Nations takes up a disproportionate number of texts that are critical of Israel.  Anti‑Israel resolutions only lock both sides in an intractable conflict, she said, explaining that her delegation will therefore vote against the texts.

Moving to take action on the UNRWA‑related texts, the Committee first approved a draft resolution titled “Assistance to Palestine refugees” (document A/C.4/75/L.9) by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 12 abstentions.

Taking up a draft titled “Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/C.4/75/L.10), the Committee approved it by a recorded 151 votes in favour to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 9 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Kiribati, Guatemala, Malawi, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Serbia, Solomon Islands).

The Committee went on to approve a draft titled “Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” (document A/C.4/75/L.11) by a recorded vote of 151 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 8 abstentions (Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Honduras, Kiribati, Malawi, Serbia, Solomon Islands).

The representative of Pakistan, speaking in explanation of position on “Assistance to Palestine refugees”, said his delegation voted in favour of that text but dissociates itself from operative paragraph 6, which invites India to become a member of UNRWA’s advisory commission.  That country’s atrocities in occupied Jammu and Kashmir are well‑documented, he said, pointing out that India is an illegal occupier but portrays itself as a well‑wisher to Palestinians.  Pakistan will continue to extend political and financial support to UNRWA, he said, adding that it will always stand with its Palestinian brethren.

The representative of Israel, making a general statement, said the draft resolutions only serve to embolden a narrative leading to incitement and violence.  Anyone who wants peace should not contemplate supporting them, he added.  By supporting the texts, the United Nations is wasting human resources and sabotaging any chance for peace, he stressed, adding that the texts also ignore any link between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount.  Spotlighting the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, he said many countries are moving their embassies to the city and acknowledging it as the capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish State.  No resolution adopted at the United Nations will stop that process, he stressed.

The representative of India, responding to Pakistan’s delegate, said that country is a globally recognized hub for terrorism that sponsors cross‑border terror attacks and glorifies terrorists as martyrs.  Jammu and Kashmir constitute an integral part of India, she stressed, adding that its residents enjoy all human rights.

The Committee then took up a series of draft resolutions related to the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (documents A/C.4/75/L.12‑L.15).

The representative of Germany, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the European Union, said his delegation has not expressed a legal qualification to the term “forced displacement” contained in several of the drafts.  Concerning one text’s reference to the holy sites in Jerusalem, he called for upholding the status quo, in line with previous understandings and with respect for Jordan’s special role there.  As for the terminology of the Temple Mount and Haram al‑Sharif, he stressed the need for the draft’s language to reflect sensitivity to the holy sites of the three major monotheistic religions.

The Committee narrowly approved a draft titled “Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (document A/C.4/75/L.12), by a recorded vote of 72 in favour to 13 against, with 76 abstentions.

The Committee went on to approve — by a recorded vote of 142 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 14 abstentions — a draft titled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/75/L.13).

Taking up a draft titled “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” (document A/C.4/75/L.14), the Committee approved it by a recorded vote of 138 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 16 abstentions.

In other action, the Committee approved a draft titled “The occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/C.4/75/L.15) by a recorded vote of 142 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 19 abstentions.

The representative of Iran, speaking in explanation of position, pointed out that despite overwhelming international support for the resolutions, Israel’s non‑compliance, with backing from the United States, has meant the international community remains unable to implement the resolutions.

The representative of India, speaking in explanation of position in relation to agenda items 52 and 53, said that while her country has a deep sense of commitment to the Palestinian cause, it abstained from draft A/C.4/75/L.12 as it sees the need for streamlining it to avoid the duplication of mandates with A/C.4/75/L.14.

The representative of Syria, in a general statement, said the broad international support for the resolutions demonstrates the rejection of occupation by force and sends a clear message to Israel that it must end its occupation and stop its violations of the Geneva Convention.  The international community also sent a message to those who lend a unilateral legitimacy to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, he said.  The opposing votes of the United States and Israel are further evidence of the violations of international law, he said, pointing out that the United States supports Israel in all manner of ways and has overstepped civilized relations with countries in the region.  With that country’s support, Israel built a settlement in the Syrian Golan and named it Trump, he said, stressing that such unilateral moves prove that the United States lacks the political or moral competency to determine the fates of the world’s people.  He underlined that any unilateral measure is null and void and has no legal impact.

The observer for the State of Palestine said the clarity and strength of the international community’s support is more important than ever.  That the resolutions have been accepted by an overwhelming majority reflects its support of the Palestinian plight in line with international law, he added.  Contrary to accusations by some, the resolutions are firmly rooted in international law, she said, emphasizing, however, that implementation is paramount for the credibility of the United Nations and the viability of a rules‑based international order.

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For information media. Not an official record.