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Agenda item 16: 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 (A/74/88-E/2019/72; E/2019/L.25 and E/2019/L.26)

  1. Mr. Alami (Director, Emerging and Conflict-related Issues Division, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)), introducing the note by the Secretary-General on the 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 of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/74/88-E/2019/72), said that over the previous two years Israel had taken administrative measures to consolidate its control over the Occupied Palestinian Territory, support new settlements and apply Israeli jurisdiction in new domains. A discriminatory dual legal system under which Israelis and Palestinians were treated differently was still in place, and discriminatory planning and zoning policies in Area C and the West Bank left Palestinians with no choice but to build homes without Israeli permits, making them vulnerable to demolition and displacement.
  2. One of the key factors behind the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in 2018 had been the massive rise in Palestinian casualties caused by both Israeli military and security forces and Israeli settlers. Despite the increase in settler violence against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank, Israel had ended the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, raising further concern over the protection of Palestinians, particularly children.
  3. The excessive use of administrative detention of Palestinians was also a matter of concern, and continuous reports had documented the ill-treatment and torture of detainees, especially women and children. A number of practices employed against child detainees had been condemned by human rights organizations.
  4. Israeli practices had created a coercive environment that propelled Palestinians to leave Area C and East Jerusalem, which could amount to forcible transfer. The demolition and seizure of Palestinian homes and other properties, directly resulting in displacement, had increased in 2018. Some of those demolitions were punitive, targeting the families of Palestinians suspected of attacks, which could amount to collective punishment. In Area C, demolition orders had been issued against 13,000 Palestinian-owned structures and at least one third of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem were under immediate risk of demolition. Furthermore, even though Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were illegal and considered a major obstacle to peace, construction had increased in 2018 as the settlement population continued to grow.
  5. The blockade of Gaza, the most severe of the mobility restrictions imposed on Palestinians, was the main reason for the deteriorating social and economic conditions and the critical humanitarian crisis. In the West Bank, a complex system of physical and administrative obstacles impeded Palestinians’ access to services and land, obstructed social and economic activities and hindered the ability of organizations to deliver aid. Other policies and practices, particularly those that had a negative impact on the environment and natural resources, further exacerbated Palestinian living conditions. More than one fifth of Palestinians suffered from a lack of access to water or from poor water quality. In the West Bank, they were forced to buy water from Israeli companies owing to discriminatory water allocation and restrictions on infrastructure development. In Gaza, 97 per cent of aquifer water was unfit for human consumption, and the blockade and lack of electricity had left 90 per cent of the population without access to safe drinking water through the public water network.
  6. The inability to repair infrastructure in Gaza had exacerbated pollution, with untreated sewage being pumped into the sea. In the West Bank, Israeli-operated waste treatment facilities had not taken proper precautions to protect the land and populations of nearby Palestinian villages. Palestinian agriculture had also been jeopardized by Israeli practices, which included the uprooting of trees, discriminatory water allocation and the denial of access to farming land in the West Bank. In Gaza, agricultural production was damaged by the Israeli practice of spraying herbicides along the border fence.
  7. The physical fragmentation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory caused by a system of complex restrictions on movement and access imposed by the Israeli military had resulted in the emergence of different economies in Gaza and the West Bank, damaging peace and development prospects and causing the Palestinians’ living conditions to deteriorate. Nearly half of the Palestinian population was in need of humanitarian assistance. The economy continued to be negatively affected by occupation-related measures, resulting in low levels of investment, deindustrialization and a decline in economic growth.
  8. The 2 million inhabitants of Gaza were suffering from the blockade and the destruction resulting from recurring Israeli military operations. The contribution of Gaza to the Palestinian economy remained in decline and its gross domestic product continued to contract, while ongoing de-development was evident in the humanitarian crisis, as well as in the high unemployment rates in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a whole. More than half of Gazans lived under the poverty line and 33 per cent lived in deep poverty. Food insecurity affected one third of the population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and 68 per cent of Gazan households.
  9. The health system in Gaza was on the verge of collapse. Disease and mental health disorders were spreading and casualty rates remained high, while the limited supply of electricity put the lives of patients in hospitals and clinics at risk. In the West Bank, legislative and physical fragmentation created barriers to the right to health.
  10. The measures taken by Israel to occupy and annex the Syrian Golan were illegal and considered null and void. Discriminatory policies encouraged Israeli settlement while restricting the ability of Syrians to develop their agricultural sector, find employment and access their own natural resources. The Syrian agricultural sector continued to deteriorate, prospects for youth employment were ever more limited and the threat of home demolition and displacement continued to loom.
  11. The protracted Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan had multilayered, long-term cumulative consequences for the Palestinian and Syrian populations living under occupation. Under the conditions described, it would be almost impossible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially as the resulting humanitarian crisis diverted aid from development to relief.
  12. Mr. Al-Mouallimi (Saudi Arabia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, said that the report (A/74/88-E/2019/72) reaffirmed the serious harm sustained by the Palestinian people and the Syrian Arabs in the occupied Syrian Golan owing to the continued egregious violations of their basic rights by Israel. As an administering Power, Israel had turned a blind eye to many United Nations resolutions and international agreements, including the Geneva Conventions.
  13. Such violations of rights, resolutions and international agreements included the application of discriminatory land and water policies that were intended to drive people away from their land; the imposition of restrictions on the movement of Palestinians; the use of indiscriminate extreme force by Israeli forces against women and the elderly, and attacks by Israeli settlers; the administrative detention of thousands of Palestinians, including the detention and torture of children who were also denied access to medical care; threats of harm to the children of detained Palestinian mothers in order to obtain confessions; and the prevention of Palestinian ambulance workers from fulfilling their duties.
  14. ESCWA remained engaged in international efforts to guarantee the right to development for all, and the international community had agreed that development could never be sustainable unless it was inclusive and equitable. The Palestinian and Arab populations living under occupation needed the international community to prevent the Israeli occupation authorities from continuing with their egregious practices. More and more violations had occurred in recent days, with an increased number of Palestinian houses being demolished in East Jerusalem. There was no justification for such violations, especially in the light of the international consensus regarding the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent State. Furthermore, there was no reason for the continuation of the conflict given that Arab countries had reaffirmed their willingness to achieve a comprehensive peace with Israel, based on the Arab Peace Initiative and international legitimacy resolutions.
  15. Ms. Shurbaji (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic), said that, while her delegation welcomed the relative improvement in the format of the report (A/74/88-E/2019/72), any effective monitoring of Israeli violations in the occupied Syrian Golan that sought to study the economic and social repercussions of the occupation on living conditions required methodological consistency and should state clearly the legal stance of the United Nations, based on Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.
  16. The report reaffirmed the discriminatory nature of the land, housing and development policies adopted by the Israeli occupying authorities against Syrian people in the occupied Syrian Golan. The Israeli occupying authorities had sought to consolidate the occupation through a number of illegal measures, including the confiscation and seizure of land from Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan under the pretext of a “wind‑farm” project, which would power illegal Israeli settlements. Her Government had sent a letter to the President of the Security Council (S/2018/1158) containing information about that project and its negative repercussions on Syrian people and land. Such practices were in violation of international resolutions and represented a continuation of the Israeli Government’s discriminatory and racist policies, which aimed to exploit and deplete the natural resources of the Syrian people.
  17. Her Government had also sent a letter to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council (A/73/879) concerning the surveying of Syrian agricultural lands by the Israeli occupying authorities with a view to registering those lands and issuing Israeli title deeds, in violation of Security Council resolution 497 (1981), which stated that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights was null and void and without international legal effect.
  18. The ESCWA report failed to mention both the inhumane conditions experienced by prisoners in Israeli detention facilities and the Syrian boycott of the so‑called local elections organized by the Israeli occupying authorities. It was incumbent on the international community to support steps to end the occupation and halt other illegal practices, based on the relevant international resolutions.
  19. The root causes of humanitarian crises that diverted resources from development to relief must be addressed. The occupation of the Syrian Golan, which threatened regional and global peace and stability, must be ended; otherwise, the goal of “leaving no one behind” would not be achieved and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would not be implemented.
  20. Ms. Abdelhady-Nasser (Observer for the State of Palestine) said that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, was rapidly declining. The report documented the many serious economic and social repercussions of the brutal, illegitimate Israeli occupation, which had gravely affected the living conditions of the Palestinian people, caused socioeconomic, humanitarian and human devastation, and undermined sustainable development efforts, despite the assistance provided by the international community. The blockade had crippled economic growth through sharp increases in unemployment and poverty levels, and had caused widespread dependence on food aid.
  21. The illegal Israeli occupation violated all principles of international law and entailed intentional acts such as the killing and injury of innocent children, women, men and elderly persons; theft and colonization of another people’s land; construction and expansion of illegal settlements; destruction of homes and properties; forced displacement and dispossession of thousands of civilians; imprisonment and detention of more than 5,000 Palestinians, including women and children, under inhumane conditions; destruction of livelihoods; desecration and vandalism of holy sites, particularly in Occupied East Jerusalem; exploitation of natural resources; and segregation, isolation and obstruction of Palestinian movement by numerous means, including annexation, an apartheid wall, a permit regime, hundreds of checkpoints and the systematic collective punishment of the entire Palestinian civilian population.
  22. Her delegation appealed to the international community for immediate collective action to resolve the question of Palestine in line with international law and United Nations resolutions because the situation was unsustainable and required urgent measures to stem further deterioration and desperation. As well as providing international aid to the Palestinian people to end the deplorable socioeconomic conditions that they endured, the international community must hold Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people
  23. That was essential in order for Palestine to pursue the Sustainable Development Goals, which could never truly be achieved under occupation. Her delegation called for the continued support of all concerned Member States and specialized agencies and programmes of the United Nations to assist the Palestinian people to achieve their legitimate national aspirations and live in an independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in peaceful coexistence with Israel based on the pre-1967 borders. She urged all members of the Council to support the draft resolution, which contributed to upholding international law and the economic and social rights of the Palestinian people.
  24. Ms. Fisher-Tsin (Observer for Israel) said that the report was an embarrassment and liability to the United Nations because it was flawed, provided no new or constructive information and was drafted with the intention of masking critical details. The so-called “Great March of Return”, described so positively in the report, was, in fact, nothing more than the creation of a wall of human shields from behind whose cover terrorists could attack Israel with bullets, Molotov cocktails and burning kites. Major donors to the United Nations system should be aware that their resources were being used to fund lies. In fact, a senior Hamas official had admitted that the public was being deceived by talk of “peaceful resistance” and a Hamas member had urged Palestinians abroad to kill Jews around the world.
  25. The word “rocket” was conspicuously absent from the report even though hundreds of rockets had been launched into Israel from Gaza over the past year. No other Member State facing such assaults would be willing to countenance a report which overlooked their existence. The report’s extreme bias promoted further use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, encouraged terrorists to continue launching rockets into Israel and sent the message that political points were more important than the well-being of all sides. The fundamental approach of ESCWA, which would only prolong the abuse and neglect of Palestinian citizens by their own leadership, was a calculated effort to distract from the mass corruption, incompetence and lack of vision of the Palestinian leadership. A failure by the Council to object to the bias would encourage the drafting of further similar reports.

Draft resolution E/2019/L.25: Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women

  1. Mr. Mansour (Observer for the State of Palestine), introducing draft resolution E/2019/L.25 on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the Group looked forward to the adoption of the draft resolution by consensus.
  2. The President said that a recorded vote had been requested. The draft resolution had no programme budget implications.
  3. Mr. Baror (Observer for Israel), making a general statement before the voting, said that just as the ESCWA report portrayed a one-sided narrative with no context and bearing little relation to reality on the ground, draft resolution E/2019/L.25 blamed all the problems of Palestinian women, many of which were doubtless genuine, on Israel rather than on Palestinian society and culture. For years, Israeli officials had tried to work with the Palestinian authorities to improve the situation in the West Bank, in environmental and other fields. Such efforts, however, had been completely ignored by their Palestinian counterparts in keeping with a broad paradigm of refusal by the Palestinian leadership to cooperate with Israeli authorities, while making no efforts to improve the lives of Palestinians themselves. Any support for the draft resolution would endorse a pattern of behaviour of avoiding responsibility, even for issues that were wholly domestic and required only the smallest of steps. He urged delegations to reject the draft resolution in order to make it clear that the issues faced by Palestinians would be fixed only when the Palestinians were willing to take responsibility for their own challenges.

Statements made in explanation of vote before the voting

  1. Mr. Mack (United States of America),said that his delegation had long been concerned at the inclusion of political elements and one-sided condemnation in the annual draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, which was usually considered by the Commission on the Status of Women. Such elements were unhelpful and detracted from the real challenges at hand. The humanitarian situation in Gaza remained worrying, including in view of reports that the Hamas authorities had taken steps to limit women’s abilities to appear in public and move freely. The launch of a women’s television channel had reportedly been blocked and women continued to suffer punishment for so-called “ethical” crimes. While the United States remained committed to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace agreement, politicized efforts in international and multilateral forums would do nothing to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Any peace settlement must ultimately be the product of direct negotiations between the parties.
  2. Mr. Monteiro (Brazil) said that his delegation was deeply concerned about the precarious social and economic conditions in Palestine, which disproportionately affected women and girls, especially in the Gaza Strip. Urgent measures must be taken to guarantee respect for the human rights of all women and girls in Palestine. Brazil reaffirmed its commitment to the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and welcomed the references to those instruments in the text of the draft resolution. His Government wished to emphasize the key role of women in achieving, sustaining and promoting international peace and security, especially in the Middle East, and welcomed the adoption by Palestine of a national action plan for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).
  3. In certain substantive respects, however, the draft resolution was imbalanced and partial. It addressed the conditions of Palestinian women in a selective way and placed blame exclusively on Israel for the violation of their human rights. His delegation was concerned that, by focusing on only some of the victims and perpetuating an incomplete portrayal of the reality on the ground, the draft resolution was detrimental to a constructive and comprehensive approach and did not contribute to peace and mutual understanding in the region. His delegation would therefore abstain from the voting. It hoped that future initiatives would help to promote sustainable political solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Brazil would continue to uphold women’s rights in an objective, balanced and non‑selective way.
  4. A recorded vote was taken on draft resolution E/2019/L.25.

In favour:

Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Cambodia, Chad, China, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uruguay, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen.

Against:

Canada, United States of America.

Abstaining:

Brazil, Cameroon, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Romania, Togo, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

  1. Draft resolution E/2019/L.25 was adopted by 40 votes to 2, with 9 abstentions.
  2. Mr. McDonald (United Kingdom) said that his delegation welcomed the language in the draft resolution reaffirming Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and further resolutions on women and peace and security. It fully supported the emphasis placed on the vital role of women in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, as well as on the importance of efforts to end violence and discrimination and ensure the safety and meaningful participation of women and girls everywhere, including in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The fact that the Israeli occupation had a detrimental impact on the status of men and women in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was not in doubt. His delegation appreciated the constructive response of the Palestinian delegation to the concerns of the European Union and the United Kingdom, including by making amendments to the text. Those positive changes had allowed his delegation to abstain in the voting rather than voting against the draft resolution. It had been unable to vote in favour not because of the substance of the text, which it supported, but rather because of certain important omissions, such as the failure to address the actions of all authorities that contributed to the situation of women and girls in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The text highlighted the failures of Israel to live up to its obligations but did not mention Hamas in Gaza or make any direct reference to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. His delegation’s abstention did not mean that it would fail to voice concerns about Israel when the lives and livelihoods of Palestinian women and girls were affected; however, Member States must address those matters in an objective, comprehensive fashion. The United Kingdom remained committed to supporting the creation of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State living side by side with Israel. A lasting and negotiated settlement that ended the occupation and delivered peace, rights and security for both Palestinian and Israeli women alike was long overdue. His Government remained committed to making progress towards that goal.

Draft resolution E/2019/L.26: 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

  1. Mr. Mansour (Observer for the State of Palestine) introducing the draft resolution on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the Group looked forward to its adoption by consensus, in the hope that it would contribute to the alleviation of the socioeconomic and social hardships of the Palestinian and Syrian civilians living under Israeli occupation and ultimately contribute to international efforts to bring an end to the injustice.
  2. The President said that a recorded vote had been requested. The draft resolution had no programme budget implications.
  3. Ms. Herity (Secretary of the Council) said that Turkey had joined the sponsors.
  4. Ms. Fisher-Tsin (Observer for Israel), making a general statement before the voting, said that, while the draft resolution highlighted the poor conditions existing in the Gaza Strip, it made no mention whatsoever of the terrorist organization Hamas, which controlled Gaza through violence, repression, the denial of basic human rights and the misuse of economic resources. The draft resolution was not intended to put forward any constructive solutions but rather to widen the gap between the parties and shield the Palestinian authorities from their responsibility to work towards solving the challenges they faced. By voting against the draft resolution, the Council could send a message to the Palestinian authorities that the time had come to assume the difficult challenges of leadership.

Statements made in explanation of vote before the voting

  1. Mr. El Eid (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union would support the draft resolution with the understanding that the use of the term “Palestine” could not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and was without prejudice to the individual positions of the States members of the European Union on that issue and, consequently, on the question of validity of an accession to the conventions and treaties mentioned therein. Moreover, the European Union had not expressed a legal qualification with respect to the term “forced displacement” in the draft resolution and had not expressed itself on the use of certain legal terms therein. In addition, the European Union and its member States understood the term “Palestinian Government” to refer to the Palestinian Authority.
  2. Mr. Mack (United States of America) said that his delegation was disappointed once again at the presentation of a biased and one-sided draft resolution, which was virtually identical to those previously considered by the Council. Such resolutions did nothing to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace and merely served to enflame the conflict. The United States remained deeply concerned at the bias against Israel that existed within ESCWA. The resolution and the accompanying report were unbalanced and unfairly singled out Israel in a forum that was not intended to be politicized. The United States shared with many other members of the international community the goal of a lasting and comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace, which could be achieved only through direct negotiations. It stood ready to help promote economic security and would work with all parties to improve conditions and promote the cause of peace. Resolutions such as the one currently before the Council did nothing to improve the situation. His Government had no choice but to vote against it.
  3. A recorded vote was taken on draft resolution E/2019/L.26.

In favour:

Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen.

Against:

Canada, United States of America.

Abstaining:

Brazil, Cameroon, Togo, Ukraine.

  1. Draft resolution E/2019/L.26 was adopted by 45 votes to 2, with 4 abstentions.
  2. Mr. Monteiro (Brazil) said that his delegation, which had abstained in the voting, acknowledged the hardship and difficult living conditions faced by Palestinians as well as by part of the Arab population living in the Golan Heights. The situation should be examined using objective criteria and the broader perspective of local political realities. Furthermore, Brazil recognized the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the situation at hand. The draft resolution lacked proper balance as it singled out Israel and unnecessarily politicized the debate on the matter. His delegation supported bolder and more innovative diplomatic initiatives as the best way to find a lasting and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
  3. Mr. Mansour (Observer for the State of Palestine),said that he wished to thank all delegations that had voted in favour of draft resolutions E/2019/L.25 and E/2019/L.26, thereby confirming their commitment to international law, human rights, sustainable development and a just and lasting peace. The dire economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people were a result of the occupation. The Palestinian nation had unbelievable potential that, if unleashed by freedom and independence, would change the lives of millions of Palestinians. The ensuing peace would change the entire region for the better. Until the Palestinian people enjoyed freedom, sovereignty, control over its land and access to its resources, the continued support and assistance of the international community would be essential.
  4. The votes in favour of the two draft resolutions were a sign of solidarity with all Palestinian women and children, regardless of their circumstances. His Government recognized the need to meet its own obligations in relation to the rights of women, as well as its own shortcomings. The Palestinian women’s movement was one of the oldest in the world. For nearly a century, Palestinian women had fought for the rights of their people, leading an ongoing national and social struggle. They deserved the support of Member States and were entitled to protection and assistance.