The evolution of the question of Palestine from its beginning up to the year 1977 has been dealt with in parts I and II of the present study. Since 1978 the question has remained in the forefront of United Nations attention. Its political and humanitarian aspects in particular have reverted to the centre of international attention as never before.
It has become evident that the overwhelming majority of the members of the international community are convinced that the attainment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people is a sine qua non for peace in the Middle East.
Certain basic considerations have also emerged which have the acceptance of the majority among the international community. These are that:
(a) The question of Palestine is at the heart of the problem of the Middle East and consequently no solution to the Middle East problem can be envisaged without taking into account the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people;
(b) The realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to return to their homes and to self-determination, and the right to establish their own independent State in Palestine will contribute to a solution of the crisis in the Middle East;
(c) The participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the representative of the Palestinian people, on an equal footing with all other parties on the basis of General Assembly resolutions 3236 (XXIX) and 3375 (XXX), is indispensable in all efforts, deliberations and conferences on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations;
(d) The acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible and hence the obligation which devolves on Israel to withdraw completely and unconditionally from all territory so occupied.
These views have been expressed repeatedly and unanimously by intergovernmental organizations such as the Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, the Organization of African Unity and the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Warsaw Treaty Organization, as well as by individual Governments.
While many States and organizations have consistently maintained this position, in recent years other governmental groups have also taken positions which appear to approach this conclusion. At the meeting of the Heads of State and Government and Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the European Community in Venice, Italy, in its declaration of 13 June 1980, the then Group of Nine detailed its position on the Middle East. 1/ It declared that the time had come to promote the recognition and implementation of the two principles universally accepted by the international community: the right to existence and security of all States in the region, including Israel, and justice for all the peoples, which implied the recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. It took a firm position on the question of Palestine and on the fact that the Palestinian people must be placed in a position to exercise fully their right to self-determination; that the Palestine Liberation Organization should be associated with the negotiations to that end; that Israel should put an end to the occupation of the territories which it had held since 1967; that Israeli settlements constituted a serious obstacle to peace in the Middle East and were illegal under international law and that the Nine would not accept any unilateral initiative designed to change the status of Jerusalem.
On 28 July 1982, a draft resolution was presented by Egypt and France to the Security Council. In its main provisions the resolution reaffirmed the right of all States in the region to existence and security, as well as the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination, with all its implications. This draft resolution was never put to a vote.
Furthermore, in September 1983, the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, which was widely attended, adopted inter alia the following principles:
- the need to oppose and reject such Israeli policies and practices in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, and any de facto situation created by Israel as were contrary to international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, particularly the establishment of settlements;
- the need to reaffirm as null and void all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, which had altered or purported to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, including the expropriation of land and property situated thereon, and in particular the so-called “Basic Law” on Jerusalem and the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel;
- the right of all States in the region to existence within secure and internationally recognized boundaries, with justice and security for all the people, the sine qua non of which was their recognition and attainment of the legitimate, inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
Events on the spot, however, remained on a negative course, although no major offensive took place after the cease-fire agreement signed on 24 July 1981. A period of some nine months of relative stability ensued. After some sporadic but fatal incidents in June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon initially with the declared intention of driving Palestinians out of a zone 25 miles wide which bordered on Israel. However, after declaring that “its intention was to eliminate the PLO”, Israel subsequently moved its troops in Lebanon to Beirut where the forces of the PLO held out for over two months. The PLO’s withdrawal from Beirut came only after a cease-fire had been arranged on 14 August which was to be maintained with the help of multinational troops. PLO troops withdrew from Beirut and were transferred to neighbouring countries. After appropriate guarantees of safety were provided for thousands of Palestinian civilians who would be left behind, the Organization’s headquarters moved to Tunisia.
On 15 September 1982 Bashir Gemayel, President-elect of Lebanon, was assassinated shortly after the withdrawal of the multinational troops.
Early on the same day, Israeli forces advanced into West Beirut. By 16 September the Israeli army had established its control of most of the West Beirut sector of the city and took up positions around the Palestinian refugee camps. The following day the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 520 (1982) condemning the recent incursions by Israel into Beirut in violation of the cease-fire agreements and of Security Council resolutions.
On 17 September reports were received that armed men had the previous evening entered the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in West Beirut and were engaging in wholesale killing of the civilian population.
On 18 September it was confirmed that a large-scale massacre had taken place in the refugee camps. A large number of bodies of men, women and children were found, some of them mutilated, many of them apparently killed while trying to escape; many homes had been blown up with their occupants still inside; there also appeared to be a mass grave on the perimeter of one of the camps.
The events in Lebanon in the summer of 1982 once again highlighted the need for a settlement of the question of Palestine. International interest in urgently finding some solution was again reflected in the various proposals made at the time.
On 1 September 1982, President Reagan made detailed proposals summarizing the position of the United States of America regarding a comprehensive Middle East settlement which, in the view of the United States Government, would take into account the preoccupation of all parties and would respond to the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. Self-government by the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, in association with Jordan, offered the best chance for a durable, just and lasting peace. This approach was based on the principle that the Arab-Israeli conflict should be resolved through negotiations involving an exchange of territory for peace. This exchange is enshrined in United Nations Security Council resolution 242 (1967). He remained convinced that Jerusalem must remain undivided, but its final status should be decided through negotiations. 2/ However, these proposals were immediately rejected by Israel and were subsequently criticized by most Arab States which felt that the proposals fell short of ensuring Palestinians the exercise of their rights in Palestine.
On 9 September 1982, the twelfth Arab Summit Conference, held at Fez, Morocco, adopted an eight-point peace plan for the Middle East: 3/
(a) The withdrawal of Israel from all the Arab territories occupied by it in 1967, including Arab Jerusalem;
(b) The dismantling of the settlements established by Israel in the Arab territories since 1967;
(c) The guaranteeing of freedom of worship and performance of religious rites of all religions in the Holy Places;
(d) The reaffirmation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the exercise of their inalienable and imprescriptible national rights, under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, their sole and legitimate representative, and the indemnification of those who did not desire to return;
(e) The placing of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under the control of the United Nations for a transitional period not exceeding a few months;
(f) The establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital;
(g) The establishment by the United Nations Security Council of guarantees of peace between all States of the region, including the independent Palestinian State;
(h) The guaranteeing by the Security Council of the implementation of these principles.
Although rejected by Israel, these proposals, which converge on many points with the position of the United Nations as initially recommended by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, have been regarded by many as a sound basis for a settlement.
On 15 September 1982 a six-point plan for the Middle East settlement was presented by L. I. Brezhnev, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. These six points, subsequently reaffirmed on 5 January 1983 by the Political Consultative Committee of the States Parties to the Warsaw Treaty, were: the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, and consequently, the need for the complete withdrawal of Israel from all Arab territories occupied since 1967, the Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan, including the eastern part of Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Lebanese territories; the exercise in practice of the inalienable rights of the Arab people of Palestine to self-determination and to the establishment of their own independent State in the Palestinian territories – the West Bank of the Jordan and the Gaza Strip; safeguarding the right of all States in the region to secure an independent existence and development on a basis of complete reciprocity; termination of the state of war and the establishment of peace between the Arab States and Israel; and the elaboration and adoption of international guarantees of a peaceful settlement. 4/
The events of the summer of 1982 also had their reflection in the United Nations, both in the General Assembly and in the Security Council.
I. Palestine and the United Nations, 1978-1983
The General Assembly has repeatedly reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine to self-determination without external interference and to national independence and sovereignty in Palestine. It has also reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted. The Assembly also emphasized that full respect for the realization of the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine was indispensable for a solution of the problem and recognized that the Palestinian people is a principal party in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. In 1974 the Assembly had conferred on the PLO the status of observer in the Assembly and in other international conferences held under United Nations auspices. 5/ The representative of the PLO has since been invited to participate in the Security Council debates and that invitation has conferred upon it the same rights of participation as those conferred on a Member State when it is invited to participate under rule 37 of the provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council. In the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, the PLO participated in it as the representative of the party most directly concerned. The Conference decided that the PLO delegation should be placed among the full participants in the Conference.
The Assembly has also repeatedly endorsed the recommendations of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and has urged the Council to do so as soon as possible. However, many of the resolutions adopted by the United Nations in the General Assembly and the Security Council on the question of Palestine have not been implemented and the wider Arab-Israeli tension and the situation in the Middle East are still unresolved. The matter remains before the Security Council.
A. Emergency special session of the General Assembly on the question of Palestine
In view of the constantly deteriorating situation in the region, and the fact that the Security Council was unable to adopt and implement the recommendations of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People endorsed by the General Assembly for lack of unanimity among its permanent members, the question of Palestine was considered by the General Assembly in an emergency special session held between 22 and 29 July 1980.
Resolution ES-7/2 was adopted by 112 votes in favour to 7 against, with 24 abstentions.
In it, the General Assembly recalled and reaffirmed its resolutions 3236 and 3237 (XXIX) and all other relevant United Nations resolutions pertinent to the question of Palestine. It reaffirmed that a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East could not be established without the withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories, including Jerusalem, and without the achievement of a just solution of the problem of Palestine on the basis of the attainment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine. It reaffirmed also the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine including the right to return, the right to self-determination and the right to establish its own independent sovereign State. The General Assembly reaffirmed the right of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian people, to participate on an equal footing in all efforts, deliberations and conferences on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East within the framework of the United Nations. It reaffirmed the fundamental principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, called upon Israel to withdraw from all the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and urged that such withdrawal should start before 15 November 1980. It also demanded that Israel comply with all United Nations resolutions relevant to the historic character of the Holy City of Jerusalem. It expressed its opposition to all policies and plans aimed at the resettlement of the Palestinians outside of their homeland. The General Assembly requested and authorized the Secretary-General to take the necessary measures towards the implementation of the recommendations contained in paragraphs 59 to 72 of the report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People as a basis for the solution of the question of Palestine. It also requested the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its thirty-fifth session on the implementation of the present resolution. It also requested the Security Council, in the event of non-compliance by Israel, to convene in order to consider the situation and the adoption of effective measures under Chapter VII of the Charter. It decided to adjourn temporarily and to authorize the President of the latest regular session of the General Assembly to resume its meetings upon request from Member States.
In recent years, General Assembly resolutions endorsing the recommendations of the Committee have had increasing support in the voting. In 1980 a resolution was adopted by 98 in favour to 16 against with 32 abstentions. In 1981 the voting pattern was 111 to 12 with 20 abstentions and, in 1982, 119 in favour to 2 against with 21 abstentions; in 1983, 126 in favour to 2 against with 19 abstentions.
As a consequence of further grave incidents, the seventh emergency special session of the General Assembly was resumed in April, June, August and September 1982, a clear indication of the international concern given to the question of Palestine.
- Invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1982
When Israel invaded Lebanon on 4 June 1982 the Security Council met urgently and on 5 and 6 June unanimously adopted resolutions 508 (1982) and 509 (1982) respectively. These resolutions,inter alia, called upon all the parties to the conflict to cease all military activities within Lebanon immediately and simultaneously demanded that Israel should withdraw its military forces from Lebanon forthwith and unconditionally. The texts of the two resolutions are annexed (annex II).
Cease-fire arrangements had come into effect on 12 August 1982 but the Security Council met on 17 September 1982 to consider the situation in Lebanon in the light of Israeli incursions into West Beirut. In resolution 520 (1982), the Security Council condemned Israeli incursions into West Beirut and demanded an immediate return to the positions occupied by Israel before 15 September 1982. The text of the resolution is annexed (annex II).
In November 1983, following disaffection within the PLO, hostilities broke out between some armed elements in and around the Lebanese city of Tripoli.
On 23 November the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 542 (1983) by which it requested the parties concerned immediately to accept a cease-fire and invited them to settle their differences exclusively by peaceful means. The text of the resolution is attached (annex II).
In December the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, accompanied by 3,000 armed elements and 1,000 militia, embarked from Tripoli aboard Greek ships. The Secretary-General, after having had consultations with the members of the Security Council, agreed to the request that a United Nations flag be flown over the evacuation ships as a humanitarian gesture.
Massacres of Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila occurred on 17 and 18 September 1982, when several hundred men, women and children were brutally killed. In this connection, the Israeli Government decided on 28 September to authorize the establishment of an independent judicial inquiry into the political and military circumstances of the Beirut massacre. The report was published on 8 February 1983. 6/ Another investigation has been carried out by the Lebanese Government but its findings are not yet available.
On 19 September the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 521 (1982) condemning the massacre and requesting the Secretary-General to take steps aimed at ensuring full protection of civilians in and around Beirut. The text of the resolution is attached (annex II).
At a one-meeting resumption of its seventh emergency special session on the question of Palestine on 24 September 1982, the Assembly adopted resolution ES-7/9 by a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 2 against, with no abstentions. Separate votes were taken on two operative paragraphs of that resolution. Operative paragraph 2, by which the Assembly urged the Security Council to investigate, through the means available to it, the circumstances and extent of the massacre of Palestinian and other civilians in Beirut on 17 September 1982, and to make public the report on its findings as soon as possible, was adopted by a vote of 146 in favour to none against, with no abstentions. Operative paragraph 4, by which the Assembly demanded that all Member States and other parties observe strict respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries, was adopted by a recorded vote of 149 in favour to none against, with no abstentions. The text of the resolution is attached (annex II).
When the question of Palestine was considered by the General Assembly from 30 November to 2 December 1982, in resolution 37/86 D, the Assembly reaffirmed the principle of inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and also reaffirmed that a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East could not be established without the unconditional withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and without the exercise and attainment by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights in Palestine in accordance with the principles of the Charter and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations. It requested the Security Council to discharge its responsibilities under the Charter and recognize the inalienable rights of the Palestinian Arab people, including the right to self-determination and the right to establish its independent Arab State in Palestine. The Assembly reiterated its request that the Security Council take the necessary measures, in execution of the relevant United Nations resolutions, “to implement the plan which, inter alia, recommends that an independent Arab State shall come into existence in Palestine”.
In resolution 37/86 E, the Assembly recalled, in particular, the principles relevant to the question of Palestine that had been accepted by the international community, including the right of all States in the region to existence within internationally recognized boundaries, and justice and security for all the people, which required recognition and attainment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of self-determination and the right to establish an independent State in Palestine. In conformity with the fundamental principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, the Assembly demanded that Israel withdraw completely and unconditionally from all the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including Jerusalem, with all property and services intact. The Assembly urged the Security Council to facilitate the process of Israeli withdrawal and recommended that, following the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories, those territories should be subjected to a short-term transitional period under the supervision of the United Nations, during which the Palestinian people would exercise their right to self-determination. The Assembly also urgently called for the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace, based on the resolutions of the United Nations and under its auspices, in which all the parties concerned, including the PLO, the representative of the Palestinian people, would participate on an equal footing.
- Israeli settlements in the occupied territories
As a result of the Israeli policies and practices in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories, occupied since 1967, in resolution 446 (1979) the Security Council determined that the policy of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 had no legal validity and constituted a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
It called on Israel to abide scrupulously by the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949 7/ and to desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and, in particular, not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories.
It also established a Commission consisting of three members of the Security Council to examine the situation relating to settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and requested the Commission to submit its report to the Security Council by 1 July 1979. The members of the Commission were Bolivia, Portugal and Zambia under the chairmanship of Portugal.
The Commission was unable to obtain the co-operation of the Government of Israel in the fulfilment of its mandate despite its repeated appeals to Israeli authorities.
In its endeavours to discharge its mandate, the Commission brought up to date the basic information already at the disposal of the Security Council. It determined the consequences of the settlement policy on the local Arab population and assesssed the impact of that policy and its consequences regarding the urgent need to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. 8/
On 20 July 1979, the Security Council adopted resolution 452 (1979) which commended the work done by the Commission and requested it, in view of the magnitude of the problem of settlements, to report back to the Security Council before 1 November 1979.
Following the submission of the Commission’s second report (S/13679), the Security Council, on 1 March 1980, adopted resolution 465 (1980) which commended the work done by the Commission in preparing its second report and accepted the conclusions and recommendations contained in the above-mentioned report. It determined that “all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East”. The resolution called upon “all States not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connection with settlements in the occupied territories” and requested the Commission “to continue to examine the situation relating to settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, to investigate the reported serious depletion of natural resources, particularly the water resources with a view to ensuring the protection of those important natural resources of the territories under occupation, and to keep under close scrutiny the implementation of the present resolution”. The Commission was requested to report to the Security Council before 1 September 1980.
In its third report (S/14268), the Commission concluded that:
“In the fulfilment of its mandate and during its contacts with the government authorities, pertinent organizations and private individuals directly concerned, the Commission has examined the situation in the closest manner possible, as the previous reports so indicate. The Commission has noted deep anxiety about what was unanimously considered as a continuous process of detrioration of the situation in the occupied Arab territories, including Jerusalem, which is marked by heightened tensions and increased conflict and could lead to a major conflagration.
“Consequently, after having carefully examined all the elements of information which the Commission has been in a position to gather in the implementation of its mandate, the Commission would like to reaffirm the entirety of the conclusions contained in its two previous reports, and more specifically the following:
“(a) The Israeli Government is actively pursuing its wilful, systematic large-scale process of establishing settlements in the occupied territories;
“(b) A correlation exists between the establishment of Israeli settlements and the displacement of the Arab population;
“(c) In the implementation of its policy of settlements, Israel is resorting to methods – often coercive and sometimes more subtle – which include the control of water resources, the seizure of private property, the destruction of houses and the banishment of persons in complete disregard for basic human rights;
“(d) The settlement policy has brought drastic and adverse changes to the economic and social pattern of the daily life of the remaining Arab population and is causing profound changes of a geographical and demographic nature in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem;
“(e) Those changes constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and of the relevant decisions adopted by the Security Council in the matter.
“Consequently the Commission wishes to reiterate that Israel’s policy of settlement, by which, as an example, 33.3 per cent of the West Bank has been confiscated to date, has no legal validity and constitutes a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the area.
“In view of the recent deterioration of the situation in the occupied Arab territories, the Commission considers that Israel’s settlement policy, with the unjustified sufferings which it imposes on a defenceless population, is an incitement to further unrest and violence.
“The Israeli policy of settlements has led to major displacements and dispossession of Palestinians, adding to the ever-growing number of refugees with all the attendant consequences.
“Available evidence shows that Israeli occupying authorities continue to deplete the natural resources, particularly water resources, in the occupied territories for their advantage and to the detriment of the Palestinian people.
“As water is a scarce and precious commodity in the area, its control and apportionment means control of the most vital means of survival. It would seem, therefore, that Israel employs water both as an economic and even political weapon to further its policy of settlements. Consequently, the economy and agriculture of the Arab population is adversely affected by the exploitation of water resources by the occupying authorities.
“On Jerusalem, the Commission has noted with grave concern that tension and confrontation between Israel and the Islamic world have increased, especially following the enactment of a ‘basic law’ in the Israeli Knesset, proclaiming a change in the character and status of the Holy City, which has also affected Christendom.”
The third report of the Commission has not as yet been considered by the Security Council.
Despite the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council declaring the settlements illegal, Israel has persisted in the pursuit of its policies of establishing settlements in the occupied Arab territories and by 1983 had established 204 settlements and has publicly stated its plan to increase that number in the near future.
- The status of Jerusalem
Bearing in mind the specific status and special character of the City of Jerusalem and the need for protection and preservation of the unique and spiritual dimension of the Holy Places in Jerusalem, in June 1980, in reaction to proposed legislative action by Israel to make a united Jerusalem its capital, the Security Council considered the question and adopted resolution 476 (1980), by which it deplored the persistence of Israel in changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and the status of the Holy City. The Security Council was gravely concerned about the legislative steps initiated in the Israeli Knesset with the aim of changing the character and the status of Jerusalem.
After the enactment of the “Basic Law” by Israel the Security Council adopted resolution 478 (1980). In this resolution, the Security Council called upon those States that had established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City. As a result, 13 countries withdrew their missions from Jerusalem.
In resolution 35/169 E of 15 December 1980, the General Assembly also censured in the strongest terms the enactment by Israel of the “Basic Law” on Jerusalem which constituted a violation of international law and did not affect the continued application of the Geneva Convention of 1949 in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including administrative measures and actions taken by Israel which altered or purported to alter the character and status of Jerusalem, particularly the “Basic Law” and the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, were null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.
In resolution 36/120 E of 10 December 1981, the General Assembly deplored the persistence of Israel in changing the physical character, the demographic composition, the institutional structure and the status of the Holy City of Jerusalem. It determined once again that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, which had altered or purported to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem and in particular, the so-called “Basic Law” and the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, were null and void and must be rescinded forthwith. Israel has however continued to pursue its policies in Jerusalem and to consider Jerusalem its eternal capital.
- Violation of human rights
Since its establishment by General Assembly resolution 2443 (XXIII) of 19 December 1968, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population in the Occupied Territories has been following developments concerning human rights in the territories occupied by Israel as a result of the war of June 1967. It has reported regularly to the Secretary-General in accordance with its mandate and these reports have been transmitted to the General Assembly. At each session, the General Assembly has renewed the mandate of the Special Committee, requesting the Committee to continue with its investigations. Ever since its inception, the Special Committee has requested the co-operation of the Government of Israel in the execution of its mandate. Israel has refused to co-operate with the Special Committee, including denying it access to the occupied territories in order to examine allegations of violations of human rights received by the Special Committee.
On 22 January 1982, the Special Committee requested the Secretary-General to establish contact with the Israeli Government and to use his good offices to make another effort aimed at securing their co-operation. On 23 February 1982 the Special Committee was informed that the Israeli authorities had not changed their position.
Following the dismissal on 18 March 1982 of the Mayor and Municipal Council of the town of El Bireh by the occupation authorities, strikes and demonstrations took place in several West Bank towns, provoking clashes with Israeli troops and leading to the death of a number of demonstrators. This was followed on 25 March by the summary dismissal of the mayors of Nablus and Ramallah, again leading to further resistance by the local population and corresponding intervention by the Israeli army.
The Special Committee, in its 1982 report (A/37/485), noted that the situation in the occupied territories remained volatile, and the level of determination in the resistance of the civilian population to the occupation clearly was reaching limits that would threaten further violence.
Among the conclusions of the Special Committee in its 1982 report to the thirty-seventh session of the General Assembly were:
“… the Special Committee continued to apply its mandate and it informed itself on the situation in the occupied territories on the basis of sources considered to be reliable and in any not contradicted by the Government of Israel. The information contained in the preceding chapter led to a fundamental conclusion, namely that the persistent violation of human rights derives from the very fact of a 15-year military occupation and a policy of colonization and annexation of the occupied territories. The Palestinian people as well as the Syrian people under occupation cannot expect to enjoy their fundamental rights so long as they are denied the right to self-determination. None is free to enjoy his rights if he is not himself directly or indirectly responsible and involved in the determination and the application of his rights and obligations as a citizen. In a situation of occupation it is the occupying Power which dictates the limits of these rights. The years of occupation have shown that the Government of Israel as an occupying Power has legislated in such a manner as to subject the civilian population to the Government of Israel’s own requisites. The military orders through which Israel has changed law in all areas have exceeded 950 in all. In the Golan Heights, Israel claims to have applied, in its entirety, Israeli legislation which constitutes de facto annexation, and this is a flagrant violation of international law.
“It is therefore vital that the international community recognizes that the violation of human rights in the occupied territories will cease only when the Palestinian people are allowed to enjoy their right to self-determination. The Syrian nationals in the Golan Heights who are themselves under occupation will not secure their own rights until that territory is reintegrated into Syrian territory …
“The results of the prolonged occupation has led to the complete subjugation of the economy of the occupied territories to the Israeli economy. Agriculture in these territories, which is the main economic sector, is largely conditioned by the vicissitudes of Israeli agriculture. The latter, benefiting from subsidies and centralized planning, has taken control of markets that would normally constitute the outlets for agriculture in the West Bank.
“Parallel to these events and starting in September 1981, the Government of Israel, in its efforts to eliminate the popular base of the municipalities, undertook the establishment of ‘village leagues’ in various areas. These ‘village leagues’ are without any popular base and include persons whose reputation and standing in the Palestinian community leave room for doubt. These ‘village leagues’ have been accorded, over a period of time, such power and influence as to make them indispensable in the daily life of the civilian population in the occupied territories. Originally established as ‘charitable organizations’ they have already been accorded the power to issue certain permits, as, for example, building permits and permits for summer visits issued to persons wishing to visit relatives abroad …
“… the Special Committee notes that there is a greater tendency to consolidate the settlements that have already been established and these in particular in those areas considered as being densely populated by Palestinians, as, for example, the peripheries of the towns of Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah. The Special Committee concluded that the argument of security invoked in support of the policy of annexation and settlement is without any justification.”
The General Assembly has repeatedly adopted resolutions condemning Israel’s policies and actions in the occupied territories. During the thirty-eighth session of the General Assembly, resolution 38/79 D was adopted after consideration of the Special Committee’s report (A/38/409) by a vote of 115 in favour to 2 against, with 27 abstentions. The text of the resolution is attached (annex II).
Similar action has been taken by the Human Rights Commission which has also condemned Israel’s violation of human rights in the occupied territories, reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and recognized their right to regain their rights by all means in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations (Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1983, Supplement No. 3 (E/1983/13 and Corr.1)).
- The International Conference on the Question of Palestine
In resolution 36/120 C, the General Assembly decided to convene, under the auspices of the United Nations, an international conference on the question of Palestine not later than 1984, on the basis of General Assembly resolution ES-7/2, for a comprehensive effort to seek effective ways and means to enable the Palestinian people to attain and to exercise its rights.
The gravity of the Palestinian question has reached new heights as a result of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Sabra and Shatila massacres and the creeping annexation of the West Bank. In essence, time seemed to be running out.
Accordingly, at the resumed seventh emergency special session of the General Assembly on the question of Palestine, in resolution ES-7/7 the General Assembly took note of the final communiqué of the Extraordinary Ministerial Meeting of the Co-ordinating Bureau of the non-aligned countries on the question of Palestine and, on the basis of its recommendations, decided to convene the International Conference on the Question of Palestine at the headquarters of UNESCO, in Paris, from 16 to 27 August 1983.
On the basis of the recommendations of the Preparatory Committee for the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, the General Assembly at its thirty-seventh session endorsed the two main objectives of the Conference as:
(a) To increase international awareness of the facts relating to the question of Palestine;
(b) To attain governmental and non-governmental support for effective ways and means to enable the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable rights in Palestine on the basis of United Nations resolutions. More specifically, the purpose of the Conference was to ensure Palestinian rights and the establishment of a Palestinian State within the framework of action adopted by the General Assembly at its thirty-first session. The Conference would set in motion agreed modalities for the implementation of agreed decisions.
The Preparatory Committee planned five regional meetings to deal with specific themes. The African regional meeting took place at Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, from 29 March to 12 April 1983. Political and juridical aspects of the question of Palestine were discussed at the meeting. Managua was the site of the Latin American meeting from 11 to 15 April 1983. Its main theme was Palestine and international law. The Western Asia meeting at Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, from 25 to 29 April 1983 dealt with economic, civic, social and cultural conditions of the Palestinians. The Asian regional meeting held at Kuala Lumpur, from 3 to 7 May 1983, discussed the question of Palestine and world politics. The European meeting took place at Geneva, from 4 to 8 July 1983 and took up the issue of the United Nations role and the future of Palestine.
At each regional preparatory meeting for the International Conference on the Question of Palestine, recommendations were adopted which formed part of the documentation of the Conference.
The International Conference on the Question of Palestine was held at the United Nations Office at Geneva from 29 August to 7 September 1983, in conformity with General Assembly resolution 36/120 C of 10 December 1982, and with the subsequent recommendations of the Preparatory Committee.
Of high importance was the representative character of the Conference. Representative attendance of such a high level and in such large numbers reflected the hopes of the international community that the Conference would contribute to genuine peace and security and manifest the new, quasi-global consensus which has unequivocally emerged for the achievement of Palestinian rights.
One hundred and thirty-seven States attended the Conference, 20 of them as observers. The PLO participated in the Conference as the representative of the party most directly concerned. The Conference decided that, in the spirit of General Asssembly resolutions 3210 (XXIX) and 3375 (XXX) of 14 October 1974 and 10 November 1975 respectively, the delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization should be placed among the full participants in the Conference.
In addition, 25 intergovernmental organizations, United Nations bodies and programmes, as well as specialized agencies and related organizations, participated in the work of the Conference. A total of 104 non-governmental organizations were represented by observers. Sixteen eminent persons made their valuable contributions. This overwhelming international presence spoke for itself: never before have so many governmental representatives, representing an overwhelming percentage of humanity, and so many non-governmental organizations devoted so much time and energy exclusively and directly to the rights of the Palestinian people, rights to which the people of Palestine are entitled no less than other peoples.
At its eighth plenary session, the Conference heard a statement by Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO.
In his address, he deplored the negative role of the United States in the Security Council and explained the reasons why the Palestine Liberation Organization could not accept the proposal advanced by President Reagan. The Palestine National Council accepted the Arab peace plan adopted by the twelfth Arab Summit Conference at Fez on 9 September 1982 and supported the peace initiative of the Soviet Union.
Mr. Arafat stressed that the people of Palestine rejected war and were fighting for justice. He expressed the hope that the Conference could advance the search for practical means to secure the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
In that regard, the PLO wished to put forward the following considerations:
(a) The Middle East region should remain secure from monopolization by any one Power in the world;
(b) Regaining of the rights of the Palestinian people was a legitimate international responsibility;
(c) The Fez Summit resolutions provided the minimum base for the attainment of justice;
(d) The only basis for peace in the region was the exercise of the Palestinian people’s right to return, self-determination and national independence;
(e) The continuation of Israeli military aggression with United States support destroyed any prospects for peace;
(f) United States-Israeli policies which called for capitulation were rejected by the PLO;
(g) The PLO was ready to co-operate with the United Nations system within the framework of its resolutions relating to the question of Palestine. The PLO called for an international conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, in which the two major Powers would participate with all concerned parties in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.
Mr. Arafat conveyed his greetings to democratic Jewish forces in and outside Israel that had rejected Israel’s policies against the Palestinian people.
He stressed that all efforts to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization and to liquidate its infrastructure had failed. The Organization was determined to continue the struggle until victory.
At its concluding session on 7 September 1983, the Conference adopted, by acclamation, the Geneva Declaration on Palestine and the Programme of Action for the Achievement of Palestinian Rights. The Geneva Declaration on Palestine contains guidelines, consistent with the principles of international law, which have been presented on this question, such as the Arab Peace Plan, adopted at the twelfth Arab Summit Conference in Fez, in September 1982, which should serve as a basis for concerted international efforts to resolve the question of Palestine. The Declaration calls for the convening under the auspices of the United Nations of an international peace conference on the Middle East with the participation of all parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict including the Palestine Liberation Organization, as well as the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and other concerned States, on an equal footing. The Programme of Action for the Achievement of Palestinian Rights consists of recommendations addressed to Member States, to the Security Council, the Secretary-General and organs and bodies of the United Nations system, as well as to world-wide public opinion to undertake concrete action to assist the Palestinian people in securing and implementing its inalienable rights, in particular, the establishment of a sovereign State of its own in Palestine.
At its thirty-eighth session, the General Assembly, in resolution A/38/58 A endorsed once more the recommendations of the Committee; it also requested the Committee to keep under review the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Achievement of Palestinian Rights adopted by the International Conference.
The General Assembly, in resolution 38/58 C endorsed the Geneva Declaration, as well as the call for convening an international peace conference on the Middle East, in conformity with the following guidelines:
(a) The attainment by the Palestinian people of its legitimate inalienable rights, including the right to return, the right to self-determination and the right to establish its own independent State in Palestine;
(b) The right of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian people, to participate on an equal footing with other parties in all efforts, deliberations and conferences on the Middle East;
(c) The need to put an end to Israel’s occupation of the Arab territories, in accordance with the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, and consequently, the need to secure Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem;
(d) The need to oppose and reject such Israeli policies and practices in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, and any de facto situation created by Israel as are contrary to international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, particularly the establishment of settlements, as these policies and practices constitute major obstacles to the achievement of peace in the Middle East;
(e) The need to reaffirm as null and void all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purported to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, including the expropriation of land and property situated thereon, and in particular the so-called “Basic Law” on Jerusalem and the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;
(f) The right of all States in the region to existence within secure and internationally recognized boundaries, with justice and security for all the people, the sine qua non of which is the recognition and attainment of the legitimate, inalienable rights of the Palestinian people as stated in subparagraph (a) above.
The General Assembly invites all parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the PLO, as well as the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other concerned States, to participate in the International Peace Conference on the Middle East on an equal footing and with equal rights.
The question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East continues to dominate international affairs and remains vitally important to the political and economic stability of the region and of the world at large.
In his report of 1981 on the work of the United Nations, the Secretary-General stated:
“The United Nations has since 1948 been engaged in a practical way in operations designed to control conflict in the Middle East. Without these efforts the situation would undoubtedly be infinitely more dangerous and destructive than it actually is. The Organization is also a universal forum in the framework of which efforts to evolve a peaceful settlement may in the end best be pursued. Such efforts will require not only the participation of all concerned, but their active determination to succeed. The issues are well known and include the right of all States in the area to live in peace, within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force, the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination, and withdrawal from occupied territories. In this context, the question of Jerusalem remains of primary importance. We need urgently, in the interests of world peace as well as of the peoples of the Middle East, to take every possible step to encourage the will to negotiate and to settle on a solution to the central and obdurate problem of the Middle East.”
And in 1982:
“It is absolutely essential that serious negotiations on the various aspects of the