24 Nov, 2015
United Nations, UN Information Service, 23 November 2015 – In a meeting commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, to be observed 29 November, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine called on the international community to stop selective and biased policies in applying justice, stressing that the lack of implementation of United Nations resolutions on Israel enabled that country to continue behaving as “a State above the law”.
Riyad Mansour, speaking on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas, told the Palestinian Rights Committee that while the Day of Solidarity would come two months after the raising of Palestine’s flag at the United Nations Headquarters, resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, Security Council and other bodies still remained unfulfilled. That deepened convictions of a double standard about those decisions.
Israeli actions in and around Jerusalem, including violations by settlers and extremists against Christian and Muslim holy places, risked turning the conflict from a political and legal one to a religious one with “disastrous consequences” for everyone, he warned. The Israeli “iron fist” was unsustainable as it kept the region in a constant spiral of violence, bloodshed and conflict. The international powers must stop selective and biased policies in applying justice and desist from “equating the victim with the executioner”.
Desra Percaya (Indonesia), Vice-Chair of the Palestinian Rights Committee, known formally as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, underlined the significance of 29 November. On that day in 1947, the United Nations General Assembly had adopted resolution 181, also referred to as the “partition resolution”, which provided for the establishment in Palestine of both a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”.
That day was a symbolic one for the Israeli people, as the same resolution led to the birth of their State the following year, he pointed out. However, the State of Palestine was now occupied, being denied the same rights the State of Israel enjoyed, including the right to self-determination and the right to national independence and sovereignty. “History teaches us that when you have an unhappy neighbour, you are not safe,” he stressed, calling on the United Nations to resolve the question of Palestine in all aspects.
Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said that settlements and settler violence, including punitive demolitions, continued. That ran contrary to Israel’s stated intention to pursue a two-State solution. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated assurances that he had no intention to change the status quo at Al Haram Al Sharif should be followed by action.
Similarly, Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), General Assembly President, and Matthew Rycroft (United Kingdom), Security Council President for November, also voiced concern about the lack of progress and called for new momentum to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recalling the flag of the State of Palestine being raised at Headquarters in New York, Mr. Kykketoft said, “Simply put, the Palestinian people had waited too long.”
Amrith Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka), Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said that during his Committee’s mission to Amman in August 2015, it had been seriously disturbed by the situation of human rights in the Occupied Territories as evidenced by the testimonies from civil society representatives, victims and witnesses of Israeli violations, as well as by Palestinian and United Nations officials. Some key concerns included excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, and corporate involvement in the settlements and the exploitation of natural resources.
Speaking on behalf of civil society, Brad Parker, of the Defence for Children International Palestine, said that instability and violence defined Palestinian children’s lives as Israeli settlers operated with increasing impunity and the military targeted them with live ammunition to quash protests. Each year, around 700 children were arrested and prosecuted in the West Bank, the majority charged with throwing stones. Children were reporting that Israeli interrogators used solitary confinement among other measures to coerce confessions. International juvenile justice standards demanded that children should only be deprived of liberty as a measure of last resort. Yet, despite those obligations, Israeli authorities failed to comply with international law.
Reading out messages by their leaders were representatives of Iran, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the League of Arab States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the African Union.
Before adjournment, Mr. Percaya read out a list of officials, Heads of State and Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Governments and civil society organizations that had sent messages of solidarity, and which would be published in a special bulletin of the Division for Palestinian Rights.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia), Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, underlining the significance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People recalled that on that day in 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which came to be known as the partition resolution. That resolution provided for the establishment in Palestine of a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State”, with Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under a special international regime. The State of Israel came into being in the following year. The State of Palestine was now occupied, being denied the same rights the State of Israel enjoyed, including the right to self-determination and the right to national independence and sovereignty.
Today, 68 years after resolution 181, a serious crisis was unfolding on the ground once again, he said. Despite repeated calls from the international community to cease, Israel continued to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which both Israel and Palestine were States Parties. The applicability of the Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, had been repeatedly confirmed by numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as by the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Convention. In addition, in article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which the State of Palestine acceded to in 2015, “The transfer … by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” was defined as a war crime.
Gaza was often called an open-air prison, with access to the outside world blocked through land, sea and air, he said. However, prisons had roofs, electricity, running water, and meals. Most of the over 150,000 homes destroyed during the 2014 war had not been rebuilt, with many people remaining homeless. “History teaches us that when you have an unhappy neighbour, you are not safe,” he emphasized. While 29 November was dubbed as the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, it was a symbolic day for the Israeli people too, as the same resolution 181 led to the birth of their State. “On this solemn occasion, let us all go back to the spirit of resolution 181 — two States for two peoples, with arrangements for the holy sites in Jerusalem to be accessible to people of all religions,” he said, stressing that the United Nations that had produced resolution 181 had a permanent responsibility until the question of Palestine was resolved in all aspects.
MOGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), General Assembly President, commended the activities of the Palestinian Rights Committee to raise awareness of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the conditions endured by the Palestinian people. It had been 40 years since the establishment of the Committee. The General Assembly had created the body as there had been no progress on the rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes.
Today, he said, those rights remained unfulfilled. On September 30 2015, the flag of the State of Palestine had been raised at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. That was a symbolic and timely acknowledgement of the contribution of the Palestinian people to addressing common challenges. “Simply put, the Palestinian people had waited too long,” he said, calling for new momentum to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
JAN ELIASSON, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said that, one year since the last “ruinous conflict” in Gaza, security in the region remained at a very low point. Settlements and settler violence, including punitive demolitions continued, which ran contrary to Israel’s stated intention to pursue a two-State solution. Recently, a troubling and dangerous religious dimension to the conflict had emerged. He welcomed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated assurances that he had no intention to change the status quo at Al Haram Al Sharif, and called for those statements to be followed by action.
It was crucial that leaders on both sides play a constructive role in solving the conflict, he continued. Recognizing the security problems faced by Israel, he emphasized that the use of excessive force, in particular lethal force, fed anger. The lack of a political horizon to achieving a two-State solution increased the risk of the situation spiralling out of control. The international community could and must play a greater role in breaking the impasse. In 2012, the State of Palestine had joined the United Nations as a non-member Observer State, and today its flag flew next to those of Member States. However, those diplomatic advances were not felt by the children of Gaza, who experienced a “glaring lack of hope” that their lives would change for the better.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), Security Council President for November, noting that the 15-nation body was concerned about the lack of progress in finding a lasting solution, expressed support for the two-State solution, whose realization had been supported by numerous Council resolutions. The Council had held various activities on the Middle East situation, including monthly briefings, open debates, and an emergency meeting. In a press statement in September, the Council had called for an end to provocative actions and had appealed for the restoration of calm, as well as for full respect for the sanctity of the Haram al-Sharif, recognizing the special role of Jordan.
The Council had also called on both parties to avoid escalation of the tension, and had voiced deep concerns about Israeli settlements, which jeopardised the viability of the two-State solution, he went on to say. As for Gaza, the Council was disappointed at the slow pace of reconstruction, and donors were urged to fulfil their pledges without further delays. The Council also recognized the important role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The international community should increase its support to the Agency. Welcoming efforts of the [Middle East] Quartet and the Palestinian Rights Committee, he pledged that the Council would continue its effort in the matter.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, noted that the Day of Solidarity came two months after the raising of the State of Palestine’s flag. However, the lack of implementations of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, Security Council and other bodies was regrettable, deepening convictions of a double standard about resolutions regarding Israel. That situation had enabled that country to continue behaving as though “it is a State above the law”.
Actions in and around Jerusalem, including restrictions imposed upon Palestinians and violations by settlers and extremists against the sanctity of Christian and Muslim holy places, risked turning the conflict from a political and legal one to a religious one, he said. That would have “disastrous consequences” for everyone. The angry uprising of Palestinians and successive events of the recent period stemmed from Israel’s continued incessant violations and crimes, which continued as the international community failed to end the Palestinian people’s suffering, especially that of youth, whose hopes and beliefs in the future were diminishing.
Peace was the State of Palestine’s desired goal, he said, and they had provided opportunities towards that. Nonetheless, many rounds of negotiations had been wasted by successive Israeli Governments. That had only further entrenched the occupation and undermined the realization of the two-State solution. In that context, he questioned the intended meaning of Israel’s dispatching 600,000 settlers and confiscating the occupied State of Palestine’s land, knowing that such action was a war crime according to the Fourth Geneva Convention and contradictory to the two-State solution.
He called for the complete end of the Israeli occupation, and independence for a sovereign, contiguous State of Palestine on its national territory. The unity of its land and people must be preserved. Efforts were being made to lift the “unjust, inhumane” Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and to advance reconstruction. The Israeli “iron fist” was unsustainable as it kept the region in a constant spiral of violence, bloodshed and conflict. It was time for the international powers to stop selective and biased policies in applying justice and desist from “equating the victim with the executioner”.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), reading a message from President Hassan Rouhani on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Day of Solidarity provided an opportunity to reflect on the decades of denial of Palestinian people’s rights and the nearly half-century of foreign occupation which had subjected them to gross and systematic human rights violations. He noted the “appalling” escalation of violence and violations by Israel, the occupying Power, and its “extremist” settlers against the Palestinian people, their land and their holy sites, including Al-Haram Al-Sharif. Because of the “brutal military aggression” inflicted in 2014 in the Gaza Strip, more than 2,200 Palestinians had been killed, more than half a million displaced, and thousands of Palestinian homes and properties, including United Nations premises, were attacked and destroyed.
He reiterated his condemnation of those Israeli aggressions and urgently called for accountability for those breaches of international law and United Nations resolutions. He also condemned all illegal Israeli practices aimed at altering the demographic composition, legal status, geography and character of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and de facto annexation of more Palestinian land. Provocations by Israeli settlers and extremists, including at sensitive religious sites, had worsened the situation on the ground, deepening doubts about Israel’s claimed commitment to the two-State solution and peace.
AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said that he had recently presented his Committee’s report examining the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the occupied Syrian Golan. During its mission to Amman in August 2015, the Committee had been seriously disturbed by the situation of human rights in the occupied territories as evidenced by the testimonies from civil society representatives, victims and witnesses of Israeli violations, as well as by Palestinian and United Nations officials. Some key concerns included continuing settlement activity, settler violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, tensions surrounding the Al Aqsa Mosque, the situation of Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody, corporate involvement in the settlements, and the exploitation of natural resources.
AHMED FATHALLA, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, reading out a message from Nabil Elaraby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said the Day was a reminder of the historic injustice visited upon the Palestinian people on the same day in 1947 when the decision was made to partition their land. Attempts at a peace process had been met by Israel’s violations of international law. It had not heeded calls to return to the negotiating table, despite the international community’s efforts to establish two independent States. The occupied Palestinian territory had seen further volatility since early October, with Israel’s right-wing extremist Government allowing settlers and the military to kill Palestinians and use live ammunition against them.
In the absence of a just political solution, protecting the Palestinian people was imperative, he said. The occupation represented the main cause of extremist ideology in the region. The Security Council and major Powers, including the United States, should step up efforts, in particular to end the occupying Power’s attempts to “Judaize” East Jerusalem and change the nature of holy places. Palestinians had made efforts over the past 20 years to find a breakthrough; however, “all windows remain closed”. It was incumbent on the international community to launch a negotiation track that was meaningful and credible. Establishing a viable Palestinian State should not remain contingent on Israel’s practices of apartheid. It was high time for the Palestinian people to regain their stolen rights and enjoy peace and security.
UFUK GOKCEN, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), reading out a message from that body’s Secretary-General, Iyad Amin Madani, highlighted among other things, the “racist separation wall” that was consuming Palestinian lands, and the harsh Israeli measures that East Jerusalem was being subjected to through “judaization” and ethnic cleansing to alter its geographic and demographic composition and obliterate its Arab Islamic identity. Furthermore, the escalation of Israeli crimes in the occupied State of Palestine, especially the policy of shoot to kill, would only further deepen the conflict, exacerbate the suffering of the Palestinian people and make peace difficult to achieve in the Middle East.
The dangerous developments in Palestine could not be viewed outside the context of Israeli aggression against Al-Aqsa Mosque, he said, which he condemned as an unprecedented assault against the inalienable religious rights of Muslims around the world. If it did not cease, it would further extremism, violence and racism, and contribute to igniting religious strife that would endanger prospects for peace and stability in the region.
Noting that failure to find a just solution to the Palestinian cause, as the core issue in the Middle East had begun to fuel conflicts in the region, he called upon the international community, and the Security Council in particular, to provide international protection for the Palestinian people and establish a political path to preserve the two-State solution, based on relevant United Nations resolutions, with a well-defined timeframe for ending the occupation, international guarantees and binding implementation mechanisms.
TÉTE ANTÓNIO, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, reading out a message from Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union, said that today’s gathering reflected the international community’s desire to conclude the final peace agreement. The failure of peace talks had led to the intensification of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and conditions on the ground had remained volatile, resulting in attacks on holy sites and civilians being killed.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza was concerning, with poverty and unemployment rates remaining high, he went on to say. The blockage by Israel should be lifted. Reaffirming the sanctity of Islamic and Christian shrines, he warned against “Judaization” of the Arab city. Regrettably, the path to peace was uncertain. Both parties should iron out differences and return to peace talks. He supported Palestinian efforts to raise its position and become a full member of the United Nations.
BRAD PARKER, Defence for Children International Palestine, said that, for nearly 25 years, the organization had investigated and documented violations against Palestinian children and had advocated on their behalf. Instability and violence defined those children’s lives as Israeli settlers operated with increasing impunity and the military targeted them with live ammunition to quash protests. In troubling developments over the past months, Israel had relaxed standards for the use of lethal force and renewed its use of administrative detention for children. In 2014, the organization had verified that 535 children died in the summer military assault in the Gaza Strip. For many children over age eight, that was the sixth time they had experienced military assault.
The Israeli court system also denied basic human rights, he went on to say. Since 1967, Israelis had established two legal systems in the same territory, and used nationality and ethnicity to determine which laws applied to whom. Each year, around 700 children were arrested and prosecuted in the West Bank, the majority charged with throwing stones. Children reported that Israeli interrogators used solitary confinement among other measures to coerce confessions. Military detention exposed them to violence and contributed to mental health issues. International juvenile justice standards demanded that children should only be deprived of liberty as a measure of last resort. Despite those obligations, Israeli authorities failed to comply with international law.