Press Releases

    GA/SPD/305
    11 November 2004

    Fourth Committee Concludes Debate on Report Concerning Israeli Practices in Occupied Territories

    NEW YORK, 10 November (UN Headquarters) -- The work of the Special Committee investigating Israeli practices in the occupied territories was criticized as wasteful and one-sided by the representative of Israel this morning, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its consideration of the Special Committee’s report.

    He said that even if the Special Committee did not waste valuable resources, Israel would oppose its one-side and contentious mandate and its farcical work, which was supported by only 45 per cent of the Fourth Committee’s membership.  Every year, Israel allowed examination of the human rights situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by international government ministries, United Nations bodies and Special Rapporteurs and reputable non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International.

    The Special Committee, he said, had a larger budget than the entire Human Rights Commission which, during the 58th General Assembly, passed three times the amount of resolutions on specific States and had 20 States under its purview.  In all of those States, moreover, the violations on the part of all parties were examined. He asked why there was such a concentration of funds and why the Special Committee was authorized to “investigate” one side only. Surely, he said, no one in the room contended that the Palestinian Authority was innocent of the numerous human rights violations documented by the international community and responsible NGOs.

    Israel’s statement came at the end of two meetings devoted to the report, during which most delegations harshly criticized the Israeli practices in Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan and praised the work of the Special Committee -- known formally as the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

    Starting off today’s debate, Kuwait’s representative said that the report of the Special Committee was needed because of the continuing illegal practices on the part of Israel, which had led to many deaths and tragic social and economic conditions for Palestinian civilians. Recalling the judgement of the International Court of Justice on the separation wall, as well as other international decisions, he called for action from the international community to compel Israel to desist from such illegal practices and to help bring about a just and lasting peace through the Road Map to a two-State solution.

    Gravely concerned at the unprecedented cycle of retaliatory violence, the representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), also called on Israel to reverse the construction of the wall and new settlements, while calling upon the Palestinian Authority to take firm action against the perpetrators of terrorist acts. Although the Union recognized that Israel had the right to protect its citizens from such attacks, it stressed that the exercise of that right should take place within the boundaries of international law. In addition, he said that Israeli withdrawals would only be useful if done in the context of the Road Map to a two-State solution, and he called on Israel to take all possible steps, consistent with its legitimate security needs, to ease the humanitarian and economic plight of the Palestinian people.

    Joining many other delegations in expressing concern over the condition of Yassir Arafat, the Netherlands’ representative also expressed the Union’s solidarity with the Palestinian people during this difficult time, and encouraged the Palestinian leadership to demonstrate a strong sense of responsibility in ensuring the regular functioning of Palestinian institutions.

    Also speaking today were the representatives of Sudan, Bangladesh, Morocco, Senegal, United States, Cuba, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Peru (on behalf of the Andean Community of Nations). The Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) also made a statement.  Lebanon and the Observer of Palestine spoke in right of reply.

    The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 17 November, to take actions on all remaining draft resolutions before it.

    Background

    The Fourth Committee met this morning to consider 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 OccupiedTerritories. (For further information, please see press release GA/SPD/304 of 8 November 2004.)

    Statements

    MANSOUR AYYAD AL-OTAIBI (Kuwait) said that the report of the Special Committee clearly indicated illegal practices on the part of Israel, which led to tragic social and economic conditions for Palestinian civilians. Such practices were happening before the eyes of the entire world, yet they continued.  Hundreds had been martyred, and the expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation wall had worsened the situation. Recalling the judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on that wall and other international law, he called for action from the international community.

    Despite numerous resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, Israel persisted in its illegal practices. Kuwait supported the aspirations of the Palestinian people for an independent State, the work of the Special Committee and the efforts of the Middle East Quartet. He called on the international community to compel Israel to desist from its illegal practices and to help bring about a just and lasting peace.

    ANAS MUSTAFA (Sudan) said that the report of the Special Committee revealed the aggressive nature of the crimes of Israel against the Palestinian people, which were getting worse every day. The world had witnessed those crimes, so there was no need to list them. The international community had an obligation to take immediate action to stop the Israeli practices, because Israel showed that it felt itself above international law by ignoring previous resolutions.

    He said that Israel’s goals would never be achieved through violence; it could only be achieved through full Israeli withdrawal from occupied areas and the establishment of an independent PalestinianState with Al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital. Only then would Israel enjoy security.

    A.Z.M. ENAYETULLAH KHAN (Bangladesh) said the discussion was taking place at a “twilight zone” period, because of Mr. Arafat’s condition. The Fourth Geneva Convention had stipulated specific provisions about the responsibilities of the occupying Power. Israel, being the signatory of the Convention and as the occupying Power could not legally or morally absolve itself from those obligations. Unfortunately, the Israeli authority was trampling upon the basic human rights of the Palestinian people with impunity. Despite international condemnation, the Government of Israel had continued the construction of the separation wall inside the Palestinian territory. Both the wall and settlements in the West Bank were serious obstacles to the achievement of a two-State solution. Construction of the wall should be stopped immediately and segments already built should be dismantled.

    He said, in the past year, Israel had resorted to a policy of targeted assassination of Palestinian political leaders and activists and extrajudicial killing of civilians. Those were clear violations of international law and he condemned those actions. He demanded full and immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Palestinian self-rule areas and return to positions held prior to September 2000. The Road Map, if fully and fairly implemented, was the best way to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict. The cycle of violence and revenge must not be allowed to deter that. The Road Map needed a serious and genuine commitment, he said, and called upon all parties to help re-engage the protagonists in the peace process.

    SAADIA EL ALAOUI (Morocco) said the situation in the Palestinian territories had deteriorated.  There had been a spiral of Israeli violence and aggression in violation of international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention and several other conventions, including the Convention against torture. The Israeli practices touched all aspects of Palestinian life. The great number of checkpoints had made daily life a nightmare.  The policy to destroy infrastructure and agriculture had reached unprecedented heights. The separation wall was an attempt to annex Palestinian land and water resources.

    She said Israel must respect the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion regarding the separation wall. The Court had called upon the Members States to take measures to ensure that the illegal situation was terminated. The Assembly had responded by adopting a resolution that recognized the legal implications of the Court’s decision. The situation in the occupied Syrian Golan had deteriorated as well. Villages had been destroyed and settlements built. Landmines had also been used. There was, moreover, a policy of scaring away the inhabitants of the Syrian Golan and destroying the Arab Syrian identity in that territory.

    Mr. CAMARA (Senegal) praised the work of the Special Committee, which had been accomplished without the cooperation of Israeli authorities. He said the report showed flagrant Israeli violations of international law, with a great deal of evidence that collective punishment was being carried out in violation of humanitarian law. Due to Israeli policies, Palestinians had become refugees on their own land, deprived of their fundamental rights. Similarly, citizens of the Syrian Golan were subject to many oppressive policies.

    As a member of the Special Committee, he saw that destructive and disastrous polices, carried out by Israel, were preventing a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict. He urged return to the Middle East Road Map for that purpose, and asked that the international community engage in advocacy to end Israeli practices and bring about peace.

    YOUSIF GHAFARI (United States), sharing concerns about the hardships facing the Palestinian people, said that, however, the resolutions before the Committee viewed the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a crude prism that cast light on just one victim. He urged delegations to carefully consider the consequences of endorsing such one-sided resolutions, which condemned Israeli actions but failed to address Palestinian actions or inactions. In addition, he urged Member States to retire the Special Committee, which he called a “cold war dinosaur” that had no parallel body to investigate practices of the Palestinian Authority affecting Israelis, and to look for ways to reinvigorate the United Nations as a balanced partner, committed to the Road Map and realization of the two-State vision.

    The resolutions nearly omitted mention of terrorism, he said, and were silent on the current Israeli initiative to withdraw settlements from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, encouraged by the Quartet. He was concerned, in addition, that the General Assembly’s efforts to implement the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion could undercut efforts by the Quartet and the international community to reinvigorate the Road Map. He called on the Committee to reject the fruitless approach of the agenda item and focus on following the Road Map toward a two-State solution instead.

    RODNEY LÓPEZ CLEMENTE (Cuba) said that during the previous session there had been an astonishing statement by a MemberState that its aim was to eliminate the Special Committee. That view still shamelessly appeared on that delegation’s web page. However, the Committee work was nowadays most necessary for the achievement of full respect of the Palestinian people’s human rights.  There had been an unprecedented escalation of violence in the occupied Arab territories. The Security Council was practically at a stalemate in finding a just and impartial solution, due to the usual double standards and the threat of veto by one of its permanent members. The aggressive actions of the occupying Power against the Palestinian civil population was an unequal battle of a powerful army against a civilian population that defended its inalienable right to exist as an independent State, a common scenario nowadays.

    He said the continuation of the construction of a separation wall in the occupied Palestinian territories constituted a virtual annexation of the most fertile lands and an attack to Palestinian territorial integrity, already seriously affected by the proliferation of Israeli settlements. A just and lasting peace in the Middle East would be impossible as long as the effective and full enjoyments of fundamental rights of the Palestinian and Arab peoples in all the territories under foreign occupation were hindered. He reiterated his country’s firm support to the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent and sovereign State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

    HOSSEIN MALEKI (Iran) said during the past year, Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinian people had been worse than ever.  Extrajudicial killings had continued, in line with the ongoing State terrorism by Israel, carried out to hold onto the territory under its occupation. As the Special Committee had again not been authorized by Israel to visit the occupied territories, it had been deprived of having access to information regarding the living conditions of all Palestinians in the occupied Arab territories. Giving examples of the “brutality and inhuman practices” exercised by the occupying Power against the civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories, he said the Israeli army had also continued its regular military raids into the occupied territories.

    He said the separation wall was becoming a major source of injustice to the Palestinian people. The international community should spare no efforts in convincing Israel to abide by the rules of international law and to accept the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. The Israeli occupation was at the core of the tragic, long-lasting conflict, and must come to an end. The international community had a responsibility to put an end to inhuman practices of the Israeli regime and protecting Palestinian civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli military operations must be brought to an end and the occupying Power should fully abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention. 

    SONG SE IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), taking into account the report of the Special Committee, said his country extended support for the just cause of the Palestinian people and all Arabs towards restoration of their territories and their self-determination. The separation barrier was certainly an infringement on the sovereignty of those territories. As long as Israel maintained its policy of occupation and oppression, the Middle East could not achieve peace.

    He said that Israel should discontinue its undisguised State terror in the name of “retaliation”, unconditionally withdraw its forces from the occupied territory, stop constructing and expanding Judaic settlements, and stop expelling the Palestinian population, destroying infrastructure and plundering cultural properties. In accordance with the advisory opinion issued by the ICJ, it should also dismantle the separation barrier and pay compensation for damages caused.

    IBRAHIM DABBASHI (Libya) said that Israel’s lack of cooperation with the Special Committee proved that its authorities had a great deal to hide.  Occupation was bad enough, he said, but it could become a living hell if the occupiers had no moral standards, which was the case in the occupied Palestinian territories. There the worst crimes had been committed, with warplanes and tanks assassinating civilians and killing women and children. He praised journalists who had brought to light the suffering of the Palestinian people.

    Israeli violations would not just go away, he said. The international community must act to end them, as well as the occupation. It was squarely the responsibility of the Security Council, which, unfortunately was unlikely to act and would allow Israel to continue with its impunity. He invited the media to also go to the Golan Heights to see the suffering that was going on there, as well.

    ABDUL HAMID MANSOUR (Yemen) said the report reflected a horrifying situation that threatened peace in the whole region. Israeli practices were in violation of human rights. The advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice had reaffirmed the rights of the Palestinian people to free themselves from colonization, as well as the right to self-determination. The report of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had illustrated how Israel had flaunted international instruments and conventions.

    He said the fact that Israel was waging a war against the Palestinian people threatened the peace process. He condemned the Israeli policy against the Palestinian people, as well as the colonization of the occupied Syrian Golan. He asked the international community to apply pressure on Israel to implement adopted resolutions. Arabs had chosen peace based on the conviction that violence would lead to nothing, he said.

    FAISAL ALZAYANI (Bahrain) said for almost four decades there had been annual reports from the Special Committee on the human rights of the Palestinian people and Arabs of the occupied territories. He was alarmed by the deterioration of the situation, as a result of Israel’s continued oppressive measures and the policy of annexation and building settlements in Palestinian territories and in the occupied Syrian Golan. Israel was disregarding resolutions on the situation, including on the status of Al Quds. Despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and a General Assembly resolution that called on Israel to stop the construction of the separation wall in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel continued to divide Palestinian territories and prevent Palestinian refugees from benefiting from the services of UNRWA.  

    He said the continued construction of new settlements and expansion of existing settlements was even worse, as they fed the escalation of the conflict. An Economic and Social Council report had noted that Israel had constructed more than 136 settlements in the West Bank. Israel had also continued settlement activities in the occupied Syrian Golan, despite existing United Nations resolutions. The number of settlements in Golan had doubled and the construction of nine new settlements had been announced.  News that the Israeli occupation forces had planted landmines and buried nuclear waste in the territory was a matter of concern.  A just and comprehensive peace required complete implementation of United Nations resolutions and implementation of other agreements.

    DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said in this difficult moment, the Union expressed its solidarity with the Palestinian people and encouraged the Palestinian leadership to demonstrate a strong sense of responsibility in ensuring the regular functioning of Palestinian institutions. Gravely concerned at the recent unprecedented cycle of retaliatory violence, he reiterated full and unconditional condemnation of all forms of terrorism and called upon the Palestinian Authority to take firm action against the planners and perpetrators of such terrorist acts.  Although he recognized that Israel had the right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, he stressed that the exercise of that right should take place within the boundaries of international law.

    He said the Union called upon both parties to end the spiral of violence and to implement their obligations. The only way to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East was through the resumption of security cooperation and direct negotiations between the parties, as called for in the Road Map. Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank could represent a significant step towards the implementation of the Road Map. Such withdrawal should take place in the context of the Road Map and as a step towards a two-State solution. It should not involve a transfer of settlement activity to the West Bank. There should be an organized and negotiated handover of responsibility to the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, Israel should facilitate the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza. Withdrawal must not be an attempt to replace the Road Map and the two-State solution it encompassed.

    He called on Israel to lift the blockade on the occupied territories, to withdraw occupying forces from Palestinian cities and return to positions held prior to September 2000, in line with Council resolution 1435.  Acknowledging the advisory opinion of the ICJ, the Union demanded that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the separation barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around Jerusalem. He urged the Government of Israel to implement its obligations under the Road Map, including dismantling of settlement outposts erected since March 2001, and to impose a settlement freeze. The lack of action in that regard was a cause for concern. The Union also called on the Government of Israel to take all possible steps, consistent with Israel’s legitimate security needs, to ease the humanitarian and economic plight of the Palestinian people.

    ROLANDO RUIZ ROSAS (Peru), on behalf of the Andean Community of Nations, said that despite the many decades of United Nations focus on the Middle East, the conflict had not been resolved. The Andean Community supported the aspirations of both peoples involved and, that is why, it supported the Middle East Road Map, the implementation of relevant resolutions and the goal of two States living side by side in peace. He urged both sides to return to the negotiating table to achieve that goal.

    MENAHEM KANAFI (Israel) said that even if the Special Committee did not waste valuable resources, he would oppose its one-sided and contentious mandate and its farcical work, which was supported by only 45 per cent of the Fourth Committee’s membership. Every year, Israel allowed examination of the human rights situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by international government ministries, United Nations bodies and Special Rapporteurs and reputable non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International. 

    The useless Special Committee, he said, had a larger budget than the entire Human Rights Commission which, during the 58th General Assembly, passed three times the number of resolutions on specific States and had 20 States under its purview. In all of those States, moreover, the violations on the part of all parties were examined. He asked why there was such a concentration of funds and why the Special Committee was authorized to “investigate” one side only. Surely, he said, no one in the room contended that the Palestinian Authority was innocent of the numerous human rights violations documented by the international community and responsible non-governmental organizations.

    Reading a passage of a report of the Secretary-General that advocated dropping activities that did not further the Millennium Goals, he said that the work of the Special Committee was in no way relevant to those goals. It did not serve in any conceivable manner the agenda of the United Nations, as a member of the Quartet, co-sponsoring the Road Map process to end terror and violence and renew dialogue in the Middle East. In the words of the Secretary General then, it must be let go. Its funds must be diverted to causes that promoted United Nations objectives.

    YUSSEF FAEK KANAAN, Permanent Observer Mission of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the report showed that Israel, the occupying Power, was going too far in its blatant challenging of the will of the international community and of international law. As long as the occupation and the violations of human rights continued, the Special Committee must continue its mandate. The report had also noted the deteriorating situation of Palestinian prisoners, including torture and abuse. Israel had also tried to change the status of East Jerusalem through intensified settlement activities and attacks on the holy shrines there. It was also conducting excavation work under the Al Aksa mosque. 

    He said that, in a blatant challenge to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, Israel continued to construct the separation wall, which had serious repercussions on the situation. Israel continued to seize land to build and expand settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan. The OIC condemned such and other practices that changed the status of the territory. The OIC also supported Lebanon’s efforts to liberate all its territories still under Israeli occupation. It called on Israel to release all Lebanese prisoners. 

    The international community, in particular the members of the Quartet, must intensify efforts to force Israel to return to the negotiating table and to abide by all United Nations resolutions. A just and comprehensive peace would not be realized without an end to the occupation and without giving the Palestinian people the right to return, to self-determination and to establish their own State with Al Quds as its capital, he said

    FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, Observer of Palestine, in exercise of the right of reply, said that Israel’s statement showed its disregard for international law and its lack of respect for the General Assembly, which had created the Special Committee at the onset of the illegal Israeli practices. In regard to the waste of resources, she said endless amount of resources would not have been wasted if Israel had abided by international law. The Special Committee was not singling out Israel; Israel was singling out itself as occupier, a human rights violator and an oppressor. It was a matter that had to be addressed by the Committee until the matter was peacefully resolved. She urged delegates to continue their support for the Committee until that time.

    IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon), also in exercise of the right of reply, joined the Observer of Palestine in affirming that the costs of the Special Committee were incurred by Israeli actions. The Special Committee existed because of Israel’s occupation and violations, and its costs would end if Israel stopped both.  Those who truly cared about the finances of the United Nations, moreover, would not destroy its infrastructure and kill its staff.

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