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    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/GA/1728
        8 November 2000
     Fourth Committee Begins Consideration of Special Committee’s Report
    On Israeli Practices in Occupied Territories

    Also Approves Draft Resolution on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
     
     

    NEW YORK, 7 November (UN Headquarters) -- The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning began its consideration of the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

     It also approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on international cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space.

     During its consideration of the Special Committee’s report, the observer for Palestine said that, in light of recent tragic developments and the deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, the Special Committee’s mandate continued to be appropriate and timely.  The Israeli army’s excessive and indiscriminate use of force against Palestinian civilians in the past five weeks had resulted in the willful killing of more than 150 Palestinians and injury to thousands.  It was the belief of many that such a gross violation of human rights might amount to war crimes.

     Egypt’s representative said that nine years after committing to the principle of land for peace, the Palestinian people still suffered under a humiliating occupation, with an occupier that wanted to drag them to the negotiating table and force them to make concessions.  Israel must realize that the only resolution to the problem would be an end of the occupation.  The actions of Israeli settlers were among the most egregious crimes and violations against the Palestinians.  They should immediately leave the occupied territory.  He called for a United Nations force to protect the Palestinian people against the Israeli army. 

    Syria’s representative said Israel continued to bring settlers from all over the world into the occupied Syrian Golan at the expense of the residents.  It had expelled the Syrian Arab population, continued to build new settlements and expand existing ones, even though peace negotiations were based on withdrawal from all occupied land.  Israel was now making life more difficult for residents of the five remaining Arab towns, and persisted in destroying the environment and agriculture.  The Special Committee, which had compiled all of Israel’s crimes in an impartial, meticulous way, continued to be relevant.  It was natural that Israel would refuse to cooperate with it, as it sought to expose human rights violations. 

     The United States representative said that the resolutions relating to the Special Committee contained outdated language that failed to support the peace process.  The parties were taking steps to implement the understandings reached at Sharm el-Sheikh on 17 October and the parties must be assisted in building, not lessening, confidence for the resumption of negotiations.  The Special Committee’s existence was inconsistent with joint Israeli and Palestinian efforts to resolve their differences and its work did nothing to support the cause of peace.  While the United States Government reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, its opposition to the relevant resolution’s specific references to Jerusalem remained strong.  Those references inappropriately sought to prejudge arrangements that could only be determined by direct negotiations between the parties.

    Following the discussion on the Special Committee’s report, the Committee took up and approved the outer space text.  By its terms, the General Assembly would endorse the recommendation by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space that its Legal Subcommittee consider as regular agenda items, among others: the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space; matters relating to the definition and delimitation of outer space; and the character and utilization of the geostationary orbit. 

    Also by the text, the Assembly would endorse the Outer Space Committee's recommendation that its Scientific and Technical Subcommittee consider, among other items:  the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, following the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III); matters relating to remote-sensing of the Earth by satellites, including applications for developing countries and monitoring of the Earth's environment; use of nuclear power sources in outer space; implementation of an integrated, space-based global natural disaster management system; and examination of the physical nature and technical attributes of the geostationary orbit. 

    The Chairman of the Special Committee, John de Saram (Sri Lanka), introduced that body’s report.  The representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cuba, Libya, South Africa, Yemen and Qatar made statements on the Special Committee’s report, as did a representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.  The representative of Israel spoke in right of reply.

     The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 7 November, to conclude its general debate.  It is also expected to act on draft resolutions relating to Israeli practices and to the activities of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

    Committee Work Programme

     The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to begin considering the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (document A/55/453).

     The Special Committee, established by General Assembly resolution 2443 (XXIII) of 19 December 1968, has three members:  John de Saram (Sri Lanka), its Chairman, as well as Absa Claude Diallo (Senegal) and Datuk Hasmy Agam (Malaysia).  Their report consists of oral testimony from people in the occupied territories -- the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the occupied Syrian Golan.  It also contains information from the Governments of Jordan and Syria and from press reports appearing in the Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Times.
    Information presented to the Special Committee concerns Israel's policies and practices, including its settlement policy; confiscation of land; house demolitions; revocation of residence permits in Jerusalem; water supply for domestic and agricultural use; movement of persons and goods; closures; treatment of prisoners and detainees; health conditions in the occupied territories; and the general economic and social situation. 

     The report confirms the continuing confiscation of Palestinian-owned land and Israeli settlement activity.  The Israeli authorities continue to regulate the movement of Palestinians within and between parts of the occupied territories through a complicated system of identity cards and travel permits, checkpoints and closures, the report states.

    Among the positive developments during the reporting period is a continuing decline in the number of Palestinian administrative detainees, attributed to the activities of Israeli human rights groups, and a September 1999 Israeli court decision ruling out the use of physical force during interrogation by the General Security Service.  However, witnesses were concerned about the possible circumvention of that ruling.

     Regarding the occupied Syrian Golan, the report describes the extensive consequences of the long-term Israeli occupation, which affect all aspects of life for families, villages and communities.  Syrian Government officials with whom the Committee met emphasized that the occupation itself was one of the most serious human rights violations, alongside the increasing number of settlers, loss of culture, and unfair economic practices.

     The Special Committee concludes that the rigorous implementation of laws, regulations and administrative measures by Israeli authorities creates a sense of fear and despondency among inhabitants of the occupied territories.  During periods of violence, such exercise of control makes the lives of the Palestinian and Syrian peoples in the occupied territories even more unbearable.  Their bitterness and sense of hopelessness are caused largely by lack of progress in the peace process and the absence of tangible benefits for the peoples of the occupied territories.

     While welcoming meetings between younger Palestinians and Israelis, which show an apparently increasing willingness to meet and communicate, the Special Committee also observes an apparent absence of sensitivity to circumstances in the occupied territories on the part of the Israeli authorities.  Regarding the general conditions of the Palestinians, their sense of alienation, exclusion and separation from their homeland remains a matter of anxiety and concern.

     The Special Committee recommends that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights consult with the appropriate Israeli authorities on the possibility of permitting long-separated families in the occupied territories to meet freely and often.  Such consultations should also broach the detention and treatment of detainees; the occupation's effect, including settlements, closures and restriction on movement, on the children of the occupied territories; facilitating access to educational centres; and ameliorating the conditions under which Palestinians travel from Gaza to Israel through the Erez border crossing.

     According to the report, the Special Committee considers it especially important that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights establish a system of continuous communication with the Israeli authorities to improve the lives of the Palestinian and Syrian peoples of the occupied territories.  The Special Committee considers it important that it have access to the occupied territories in order to witness for itself the actual human rights situation there and to ascertain the views of the Israeli Government on the subject.

    Also before the Committee was the first periodic report of the Special Committee (document A/55/373) covering the period from 21 August 1999 to 29 February 2000.  It contains a summary of articles from the Ha’aretz and Jerusalem Post newspapers, published in Israel, and from the Jerusalem Times, published in the occupied territories. 

    The summarized articles describe the restrictions on land, housing and water imposed on Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, as well as the restrictions affecting the movement of Palestinians within and outside the occupied territories.  Also described are delays and difficulties in the granting of authorizations and identification papers to Palestinians by the Israeli authorities; incidents at checkpoints; interrogation procedures; and the conditions of persons in administrative detention. 

    Also covered in the report are the use of force by Israeli authorities, aspects of the administration of justice, and the economic, social and cultural effects of the Israeli system of regulation and enforcement.  The last chapter is devoted to the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan. 

     The second periodic report of the Special Committee (document A/55/373/Add.1) contains summarized articles covering the same issues in the period from March to July.

     Also before the Committee were several reports of the Secretary-General.  A report dated 4 August (document A/55/265) states that no reply had been received to the Secretary-General's request to Israel's Minister for Foreign Affairs for information on any steps taken or envisaged by his Government towards implementing General Assembly resolution 54/80 of 6 December 1999 concerning the occupied Syrian Golan.

     By that resolution, the Assembly calls upon Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions, in particular Security Council resolution 497 (1981), by which the Council decided that Israel's decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect, and demanded that Israel rescind that decision forthwith.

     Resolution 54/80 also calls upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition and institutional and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and, in particular, to desist from the establishment of settlements.  It determines that all legislative and administrative measures and actions by Israel that purport to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan constitute a flagrant violation of international law.

     According to a report dated 4 August (document A/55/264), the Secretary-General had received no reply to his note verbale requesting information on Israel's steps to implement General Assembly resolution 54/79 of 6 December 1999.

     That resolution stresses the need to preserve the territorial integrity of all the occupied Palestinian territory and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods within it, including the removal of restrictions on movement into and from East Jerusalem, and the freedom of movement to and from the outside world.  Further, the resolution calls upon Israel to accelerate the release of all remaining Palestinians arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.  It also calls for complete respect by Israel of all fundamental freedoms of the Palestinian people.

     Another report (document A/55/263) says that the Secretary-General had received no reply to his request for information on steps by Israel to implement General Assembly resolution 54/78 of 6 December 1999 on settlement construction.

    That resolution demands complete cessation of the construction of the new settlement at Jebel Abu-Ghneim and of all Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.  It reaffirms that Israeli settlements in those areas are illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development.

     Also by that resolution, the Assembly stresses the need for full implementation of Security Council resolution 904 (1994) calling upon Israel to continue to implement measures, including confiscation of arms, with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers, and calling for measures to guarantee the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territory.

     In another report (document A/55/262), the Secretary-General says he had received no reply to his request for information on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 54/77 of 6 December 1999, which demands that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since June 1967.

     Another report (document A/55/261) notes that on 14 July, a note verbale from the Secretary-General drew the attention of all States to General Assembly resolutions 54/76, 54/77, 54/78, 54/79 and 54/80 of 6 December 1999.

     The report states that, pursuant to resolution 54/76, the Department of Public Information continued, in cooperation with the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, to provide press coverage of the Special Committee's meetings.  Comprehensive audio-visual and press coverage was also provided for the year 2000 session of the Commission on Human rights.

     According to the report, the Department continued to disseminate information on all the Special Committee's activities and, through its Information Service in Geneva, provided print, radio and television coverage, and organized briefings for the press and public.  Through its information centres, the Department also supported the Special Committee's field mission to Egypt, Jordan and Syria from 18 to 31 May 2000.

     The Committee also had before it identical letters (document A/55/490-S/2000/993) dated 16 October from the Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council containing the names of Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli security forces in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, from 11 to 16 October 2000.

     Also before the Committee were identical letters (document A/55/450-S/2000/957) dated 4 October from the Permanent Observer for Palestine to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council containing the names of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territory between 2 and 3 October.

     A letter to the Secretary-General (document A/55/449-S/2000/956) dated 3 October from the Permanent Representative of Malaysia, in his capacity as Chairman of the Islamic Group at the United Nations, contains a statement expressing the Group's serious concern over the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem/Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

     Identical letters (document A/55/437-S/2000/930) dated 2 October from the Permanent Observer for Palestine to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council contains the names of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territory from 29 September to 1 October.

     A letter (document A/55/432-S/2000/921) dated 29 September from the Permanent Observer for Palestine refers to the provocative 28 September visit by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to Al-Haram Al-Sharif in East Jerusalem to emphasize Israeli sovereignty over the place.

    The letter notes that the presence of Israeli security forces accompanying Mr. Sharon aggravated tensions and led to clashes with Palestinian civilians.  Following Friday worship on 29 September, Israeli security forces stormed Al-Haram Al-Sharif.  They used live ammunition and rubber bullets, killing five Palestinian civilians and injuring about 200 others.

    Statements

    JOHN DE SARAM (Sri Lanka), Chairman of the Special Committee, introduced its report.  He said that the Committee reached the same conclusions as in previous years.  In the occupied territories there was an extensive system of Israeli laws, regulations, administrative procedures and practices that discriminated against the Palestinian and other Arabs in seemingly oppressive degrees.  He listed examples of those found in the report.

    However, he said, the Committee had not been without hope when it concluded its visit to the region at the end of May.  It was felt that developments in the peace process might possibly, in the not too distant future, lead to tangible improvement in the unfortunate circumstances in which so many in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem lived out their lives.  But, the tragic occurrences that began in late September changed that optimism.

    The Committee, he said, before it finalized and adopted its report on 4 October, noted communications from the Permanent Observer for Palestine and the emergency session of the Security Council.  Those had drawn attention to the erupting violence and the loss of life among civilians, including children, and the use of greatly disproportionate force on the part of the occupying authorities.  The continuance of the tragedy was deeply troubling.  Members of the Committee hoped and prayed that there would soon be a return to the process of dialogue and peace, as the consequences of long-term occupation were traumatic in the most profound ways -- to the occupier and occupied alike.

    FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for Palestine, recalled that in past sessions, the Special Committee had mistakenly been referred to as an anachronism whose time had come and gone.  With the recent tragic developments and deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, the Special Committee’s mandate continued to be appropriate and timely.  It was the occupation that was an anachronism -- a glaring anomaly at the beginning of the twenty-first century and an aberration that should long ago have been relegated to the bin of historical transgressions against humankind.

     She said the Israeli occupying army’s excessive and indiscriminate use of force against Palestinian civilians in the past five weeks had resulted in the willful killing of more than 150 Palestinians and injury to thousands.  It was the belief of many that such a gross violation of human rights might amount to war crimes.  Moreover, of the Palestinians killed and injured in the Israeli army’s recent military campaign, more than one third had been children under 18 years of age.

     Turning to the Special Committee’s report, she noted that illegal colonial settlement activities continued at a feverish pace throughout the reporting period.  They included the construction of new units, the expansion of existing settlements, the confiscation of more land for the building of more bypass roads, land seizures by Israeli settlers, including “hilltop outposts”, and in recent months the fortification of settlements with light and heavy equipment and weaponry.

    The illegal colonial settlements were part of Israel’s ongoing attempt to change the status of the occupied territory and to change its demographic composition by creating facts on the ground, she said.  That had been Israeli policy, regardless of the existence of a peace process or otherwise.  In particular, it had been a central element of Israel’s overall campaign to judaize occupied East Jerusalem by making changes to its legal status, character and demographic composition, thus attempting to prejudice its final status.

     She stressed that a genuine resumption of the peace process could not be expected as long as Israel continued its bloody campaign against the Palestinian people in violation of international law, international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions.  The Special Committee’s work remained important and its functions remained part and parcel of the work of the United Nations as it carried out its permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until it was resolved in all its aspects.

     HAMAD HAREB AL-HABSI(United Arab Emirates) expressed appreciation to the Special Committee and its Chairman.  The report told the truth of the massive violations of human rights against the Palestinian people, not only over the past months, but since the cruel, barbaric massacres that had been committed to force the Palestinians to leave the territories.  Since that time, Israel had persisted in non-compliance with resolutions and agreements.

    DAVID ZOHAR (Israel), in a point of order, said that, under the rules of the Committee, speakers were bared from casting aspersions on Member States.  He requested the Chairman to ask the speaker to abide by those rules.

    MATIA MULUMBA SEMAKULA KIWANUKA (Uganda), Chairman of the Fourth Committee, requested the speaker to abide by the rules, and to continue with his statement.

     Mr. AL-HABSI (United Arab Emirates) continuing, said that the Israeli Government persisted in illegality and agression by distorting the legal and demographic matters, especially as concerned the city of Jerusalem or Al-Quds Al-Sherif.  The United Arab Emirates was convinced of the legal foundations of the Palestinian cause and was on the side of that people.  Israel had not respected agreements, and persisted with illegal, inhuman activities, using deadly weapons against encircled towns, and allowing the burning of homes and institutions by extremists.  Its intentions were to confirm its occupation of Palestinian towns, in particular Al-Quds al-Sharif. 

    In addition, he said, the expansion of settlements, the Judaization of Palestinian areas, and other practices were in flagrant defiance of international law.  The United Nations must shoulder its responsibilities and put an end to the oppression.  It must create an international mechanism to deal with current violations of rights, while bringing to justice those who were responsible for those crimes.  A just, lasting settlement would only take place if Israel ended its occupation, dismantled the settlements, and allowed Palestinian self-determination under international law and the principle of land for peace.

     GINA ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY (United States) said that the resolutions relating to the Special Committee contained outdated language that failed to support the peace process.  While the difficulties on the long road to peace could not be ignored, the many accomplishments of the negotiating partners to date could not be minimized.  The parties were taking steps to implement the understandings reached at Sharm el-Sheikh on 17 October, and should be encouraged to follow through completely.  Confidence for the resumption of negotiations must be assisted, not lessened.

     She strongly urged Member States to delete the standard call for the Special Committee to continue its work and report next year.  The Special Committee’s existence was inconsistent with joint Israeli and Palestinian efforts to resolve their differences and its work did nothing to support the cause of peace.  It was hoped that governments supporting the peace process would seek opportunities to strengthen an environment of reconciliation between the parties to help attain a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region.

     The United States Government reaffirmed its view that the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 applied to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, she said.  However, its opposition to specific references to Jerusalem remained strong.  Those references inappropriately sought to prejudge arrangements which, in reality, could only be determined by direct negotiations between parties.

     ZAID AL-HADIDI (Jordan) expressed appreciation for the Committee’s work, which revealed incidents that contradicted the peace process during the past year, which lead to the continued deterioration of the humanitarian conditions in the territories and did great harm to its residents.  The persistence and growth of Israeli settlements, in particular, were in violation of clear international resolutions.  They ran counter to all the bases of the peace talks. 

    East Jerusalem, he said, was an occupied territory since 1967.  It should be the capital of a Palestinian State.  He condemned the hideous crimes committed by Israel and demanded it withdraw its forces from all the territories.  Desiring peace in the region, Jordan participated in the peace negotiations of recent years.  But, peace in the region could not be lasting unless it was global, which included the return of the Golan to Syria.  Provisional or partial solutions would not lead to a lasting peace. 

     In addition, Israel’s persistence in destroying housing, confiscating land and resources, using force, closing off territories, and other such practices resulted in despair and discouragement, he said.  In addition, Israel was not respecting conventions concerning civilians in wartime.  Only an end to the occupation, with full self-determination for the Palestinians, would allow peace, security, and prosperity to finally prevail in the region.

     RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) said that pro-war forces in Israel could not coexist with peace and it did not, therefore, matter to them that Palestinian children, women and children were being killed.  Missile and rocket attacks on Ramallah and other Palestinian towns showed Israel’s total lack of interest in achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, as did its massive violations of human rights and its flouting of all the relevant United Nations resolutions.

     He said that the Special Committee was submitting to the General Assembly a broad and heart-rending picture of the way in which the rights of the Palestinian people, and those of the occupied Syrian Golan, were being violated.  It presented a picture of the confiscation of lands, demolition of homes, and problems of health, water supply and the movements of goods.  In that light, it was easy to explain why the Israeli Government had never cooperated with the Special Committee or granted it access to the occupied territories.

    Cuba called for absolute respect for the human rights of the Palestinian and other Arab peoples in the occupied territories, he said.  That called for a definitive solution to the situation of the Palestinian people, which was the cornerstone to peace in the Middle East.  The beginning of the last decade had been marked by hopes for peace, beginning with the Madrid Conference and Oslo accords.  The Wye River Agreements of 1998 had awakened hopes that the peace process would be genuinely achieved.  However, those hopes had once again crumbled under the onslaught by extreme right-wing forces on the heroic Palestinian people.

     AHMED ABOULGHEIT (Egypt) expressed appreciation to the Special Committee and its Chairman, saying he supported the continuation of its work until a final settlement was reached.  Israel’s objective was changing the facts on the ground in total disregard of the hopes and ambitions of the occupied people.  Lately the media had been flooded with bloody images, in the wake of the provocative visit of an Israeli politician.  Nine years after committing itself to land for peace, the Palestinian people still suffered under a humiliating occupation, with the occupier wanting to drag them torn and wounded to the negotiating table and thus force them to make concessions.

     Israel must realize, he said, that the Palestinians were now struggling for independence so that succeeding generations could live in freedom and dignity.  The only resolution to the problem would be through the end of the occupation.  The Palestinians had an inalienable right to self-determination in their entire territory, including Jerusalem as its capital.  The unjustified force being used against them was a gross violation of human rights and the Geneva Convention of 1949.  Among the many crimes and violations, the actions of settlers were especially egregious.  They should immediately leave the occupied territory.  He called for United Nations force to protect the Palestinian people against the Israeli army, and said that practices in the Golan also ran counter to Israel’s commitments.  Israel must accept its responsibilities, or face the consequences.

     SIFAW HAFIANA (Libya) called on the Special Committee to continue and intensify its work, now that Israeli forces were killing and intimidating Palestinians in the occupied territories, as well as attempting to expel them from their homes.  The actions of the Palestinian children had disproved the myth of “people without land, land without people”, thus reaffirming the existence and vibrancy of the Palestinian people.

     He called for contributions from the international community to enable the Special Committee to continue reporting on continued violations of the rights of the Palestinians and other Arabs in the occupied territories.  The Palestinians had a right to return to their land as well as to self-determination.  The conscience of the international community would not allow the continuation of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians, who had suffered for more than half a century.

     BEULAH NAIDOO (South Africa) said that South Africa firmly believed that it remained the permanent responsibility of the United Nations to be fully engaged in the Palestinian question until a definitive solution was achieved.  She called for the full and expeditious implementation of Security Council resolution 1322, and for Israel to abide by the Geneva Convention concerning civilians in times of war.

     The international community was obligated, she said, to make sure that States abided by the Convention.  It was incumbent upon the United Nations to adopt measures to protect the Palestinian people and to ensure that practices that exacerbated their suffering were ended.

    The only way to achieve lasting peace, she said, was to secure self-determination for the Palestinians through negotiation.  For that reason, she welcomed the agreement reached between former Prime Minister Peres and President Arafat.  The Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement, in September, reaffirmed their commitment to a just and lasting peace based on relevant United Nations resolutions and the principles of land for peace.

     HAMED OBADI (Yemen) said that Israel’s aggressive demonstration of force proved it had scant regard for life and challenged international humanitarian law.  Its occupation of Palestinian towns and villages as well as its use of tanks, helicopter gunships and missiles was preventing progress in the search for a just and lasting peace in the region.

     By the actions of its forces, Israel was violating the agreements to which it had committed itself, as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions, he said.  The international community must condemn its excessive and arbitrary use of force against unarmed Palestinians civilians.  Israel was mistaken in thinking that brute force could stop the uprising by the Palestinians, who were defending their legitimate rights.

    Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories was the only door that could lead to peace and provide guarantees for the entire region, he said.  The international community must oblige Israel to accept the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The international community was responsible for making Israel comply with resolutions on the need to preserve the territorial integrity of the occupied territories.  Illegal settlement policies were threatening the peace process and threatening to turn the clock back on all the progress that had been made.

     FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that Israel had declared war against the Palestinians.  It was completing its plan to terrorize the population and impose its will on the occupied territories.  The world had become aware of massacres, which were intended to exterminate the occupied people and defy their aspirations. The Special Committee had compiled all the crimes committed by the Israelis in an impartial, meticulous way.  That Committee continued to be relevant, being the only way for the international community to be made aware of the crimes being committed against the Palestinian people.  It was natural that Israel would refuse to cooperate with the Committee, since it sought to expose Israel’s violations. 

     In the Syrian Golan, he said, Israel continued to bring in settlers from all parts of the world, at the expense of residents.  It expelled the Syrian Arab population from its centres and continued to build new settlements and expand existing ones, even though peace negotiations were based on withdrawal from all occupied land.  Now Israel was making life more difficult for residents of the five remaining Arab towns, and persisted in destroying the environment and agriculture. 

     Syria, he said, remained committed to a peace based on United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace.  If Israel really wanted peace, all it had to do was withdraw from all occupied territories.  It was clear, though, that Israel, through its practices, wanted a peace that allowed it to continue its occupation, with its new plans for more settlements in the Golan. Occupied Golan was, though, an indivisible part of Syria and would, eventually, be reunited with the rest of the country.

     YUSSEF KANAAN, Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the world was once again witnessing Israel’s barbaric and iron-fisted practices against the valiant Palestinian people, who were resisting occupation, defending their inalienable rights and protecting their holy and sacred sites in East Jerusalem/Al-Quds al-Sharif.  Israel had tried and was still trying to shift the blame to the Palestinian side.

     Citing a 12 September Israeli press report, he said Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory had been collecting millions of dollars in donations to purchase military and rescue equipment in preparation for a possible outbreak of violence, if peace talks failed.  The West Bank coordinator for “Peace Now” had expressed concern over the noticeable increase in the number of settlers with army-issued weapons and physical defence preparations in Hebron and Nablus, he added.

     The Organization of the Islamic Conference had consistently reaffirmed its support for the Lebanese Government’s insistence on the full withdrawal of all Israeli troops from all its territories, including the Shaba Farms, and the release of Lebanese citizens in Israeli jails, he said.  It had reaffirmed that Israel’s policy of annexation and building illegal settlements in the Syrian Golan constituted a grave violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and relevant United Nations resolutions.

     FAISAL AL-MERRI (Qatar) expressed appreciation to the Committee and its Chairman for the report.  He noted that there were also daily reports in the media that showed oppressive and barbaric practices against Palestinians who were struggling for their rights.  Resolutions, agreements, and the Geneva Convention concerning civilians in time of war were being flagrantly violated by the Israeli occupation.  In addition, land confiscation and the demolition of houses served to show the real intention of Israel.  He called for international pressure against the settlements, and for the return of refugees, which was an inalienable right.

     Real peace, he said, could not be achieved without the withdrawal of Israel from all territories occupied in 1967, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.  He called for an investigating committee to look at current Israeli violations of human rights.  It is true that, at the United Nations, many resolutions had been adopted, but the bitter reality was that Palestinians were suffering because of Israeli practices and the United Nations remained the only international forum to condemn that suffering and the practices that caused it.

    DAVID ZOHAR (Israel), exercising the right of reply, said that he shared the view of many in the room that peace in the Middle East was needed now more than ever.  He quoted from a recent letter from Prime Minister Barak, sent today to all the capitals of the world.  In that letter, Mr. Barak stated that, since the tragic violence that occurred after an unprovoked attack on Jewish worshippers, Israel had tried to stabilize the situation and end the violence.  On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority had orchestrated an attempt to replace the peace process with an armed struggle.  Israel had presented new initiatives at the last conference, to which there had been no response.  And Israel had met its commitments ahead of time, without reciprocation from the Palestinians. 

    Mr. Barak went on to say that Palestinian forces were using live ammunition every day against Israeli civilian targets, he said.  And bombings were occurring as a result of the release of Hamas terrorists by the Palestinian Authority.  In response to that kind of warfare, Israel was acting with the utmost restraint, issuing warnings prior to helicopter attacks against buildings, for example.  Chairman Arafat was not exerting his power to stop the violence, evoking serious doubts as to his intentions.  On the other hand, Israel abided by all its commitments.  It had taken measures to avoid undue humanitarian effects and damage to all religious sites.  It expected the Palestinian Authority to adopt a similar approach to Jewish sites, but that had not happened.

    In ignoring those facts, continued Mr. Barak, the international community encouraged more violence, he added.  The region was at a crossroads.  It could resume negotiation towards a viable Palestinian State, or could succumb to violence and unilateral Palestinian action.  Israel was striving for stability that would allow negotiations to resume.  Chairman Arafat was choosing other methods, and, against those, Israel needed to defend itself.  The international community should make sure he lived up to his commitments, so that peace could make progress once again.

     Ms. ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for Palestine, exercising her right of reply, said it was laughable as well as regrettable for Israel’s representative to try to convince Committee members that all his country’s actions were aimed at restoring calm.  Could it be at all possible to restore calm through the use of heavy weaponry, including tanks? she asked.

    Action on Draft

    The Committee then took up a draft resolution on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space (document A/C.4/55/L.8/Rev.1), as well as the revised programme budget implications (document A/C.4/55/L.9/Rev.1).

    Under the terms of the draft resolution, the General Assembly would endorse the recommendation by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space that its Legal Subcommittee, at its fortieth session, taking into account the concerns of all countries, in particular the developing countries, consider as regular agenda items, among others:  the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space; matters relating to the definition and delimitation of outer space; and the character and utilization of the geostationary orbit, including consideration of ways to ensure its rational and equitable use without prejudice to the role of the International Telecommunications Union. 

    Further, the Assembly would endorse the Outer Space Committee's recommendation that its Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, at its thirty- eighth session, taking into account the concerns of all countries, in particular the developing countries, consider among other items:  the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, following the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III); matters relating to remote-sensing of the Earth by satellites, including applications for developing countries and monitoring of the Earth's environment; use of nuclear power sources in outer space; implementation of an integrated, space-based global natural disaster management system; and examination of the physical nature and technical attributes of the geostationary orbit and its utilization and applications, including in-space communications. 

    According to the draft, the General Assembly would agree that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee should assess the effectiveness of existing space debris mitigation practices and the extent to which they were being implemented.  In addition, efforts to model and characterize the debris environment should continue.  It would note with satisfaction that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee at its thirty-seventh session continued to consider, on a priority basis, the agenda item on space debris. 

    By other terms, the Assembly would note with satisfaction that the African Regional Centres for Space Science and Technology Education began their first education activities in April; that the Centre for Space Science and Technology in Asia and the Pacific continued its education programme in 2000; and that progress had been achieved in furthering the goals of the Network of Space Science and Technology Education and Research Institutions of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and in establishing regional centres for space stations and technology education in the other regions. 

    The Assembly would, by other terms, recognize the usefulness and significance of the Space Conference of the Americas for the Latin American countries, encourage the convening of a Fourth Space Conference of the Americas, and also encourage other regions to convene periodically regional conferences, with a view to achieving convergence of positions on issues of common concern in the peaceful uses of outer space.

    According to the text, the General Assembly would urge all governments, organs, organizations and programmes within the United Nations system, as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental entities conducting space-related activities, to take the necessary action for the effective implementation of the recommendation of UNISPACE III, in particular, its resolution entitled “The Space Millennium:  Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development”. 

     The Assembly would, by other terms, take note of the interest of certain countries, including Saudi Arabia and Slovakia, that submitted requests to become members of the Outer Space Committee, as well as the requests of those countries that have been sharing seats on a rotating basis -- Cuba, Peru, Malaysia and the Republic of Korea -- to have that practice terminated and to become full members. 

    The programme budget implications indicate that should the draft resolution be approved, no additional requirements would arise under the programme budget for 2000-2001. 

    The Committee approved the text without a vote.

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