MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS
MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924
Israel's Enormous Web Of Unlawful Practices Is Devastating Palestinian Society
by United Nations Observer
UN Chairman of Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Underlines Interlocking, Reinforcing Relationship Between Human Rights, Potential for Peace
Through an "enormous web of unlawful practices" that entailed systematic human rights violations, Israel was causing severe devastation and damage to Palestinian society, the observer for Palestine said today as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) launched its annual discussion of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the occupied territories.
Opening the Fourth Committee's general debate, she said that despite the Special Committee's inability to conduct a field mission -- due to lack of cooperation by Israel -- it had nevertheless carried out an objective examination of the critical human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Syrian Golan.
For its report, the Special Committee, which was established b y the General Assembly in 1968 to investigate Israeli practices affecting Palestinian human rights in the occupied territories, had visited Egypt, Jordan and Syria and heard from 33 witnesses, as well as different Government officials and non-governmental organization representatives on the situation of human rights in the occupied territories.
"Even under the aegis of a peace process, Israel continued to breach all human rights standards," the observer for Palestine said, referring to the numerous examples provided in the Special Committee's report of Palestinian civilians being killed, injured, imprisoned, displaced and collectively punished.
She stressed that Israel had, for decades, relentlessly pursued a two-dimensional policy, namely the brutalization and oppression of the Palestinian people, and the confiscation and colonization of the land. Every sector of life had been disrupted, and poverty, hunger, disease and unemployment continued to rise. Further, these illegal actions undermined the peace process.
Underlining the interlocking and reinforcing relationship between the protection of human rights and the potential for the peace process to succeed, Special Committee Chairperson H.M.G.S Palihakkara of Sri Lanka, who introduced the report, said it was noteworthy that the human rights situation on the ground had continued to deteriorate, despite ongoing political negotiations -- especially those emanating from the Annapolis Conference of 2007, which had declared the intention to reach a two-State solution by the end of 2008.
The Special Committee was particularly concerned, he said, about the long-term impact of Israeli policies and practices infringing on Palestinians' human rights. Israel's closure of Gaza had had a serious impact on economic and social rights, disabling the economy and posing a wider threat to the environment. Meanwhile, within the West Bank, three separate entities -- described by witnesses as "encla ves", "cantons" and " Bantustans" -- had been created. Family ties had been severed, as had the Palestinians' links to their land. It was feared that the situation would have a significant impact on the whole society and, particularly, on Palestinian children, who made up half of Gaza's population.
Against that backdrop, he reiterated the Special Committee's belief that protection of human rights was an essential element for ongoing peace efforts, and emphasized its request for the General Assembly to encourage the Quartet (United Nations, Russian Federation, United States, European Union) to fully implement the Road Map and move towards a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement.
During the general debate, a number of speakers expressed cautious optimism that the fragile ceasefire in Gaza would bring real humanitarian relief and provide firmer ground for the ongoing peace process. The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the Palestinian and Israeli parties' efforts, and encouraged them "to take bold steps within the framework of the dialogue initiated in Annapolis" in November 2007.
In that, he underscored the parties' need to renounce all initiatives that would threaten the viability of a fair and comprehensive solution, and expressed hope that the continuing calm between Gaza and southern Israel would persist and result in further relief for Gaza's civilian population.
Lebanon's representative, stressing that several international resolutions, together with peace initiatives, had been unable to end the many years of tragedy, blood and tears experienced by the Palestinians, said that Israel's commitment to peace should be translated into confidence-building measures on the ground, including the withdrawal of Israeli troops. If, however, Israeli actions could not create a favorable climate for a solution to be found, it was incumbent on the international community to ensure that Israel met its obligations under the framework of international and military occupation law.
Also speaking were the representatives of Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Pakistan, South Africa and Senegal.
The Fourth Committee will continue its general debate on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arabs in the occupied territories at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 5 November. It is also expected to take action on several draft texts related to information.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to begin its consideration of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Arab peoples in occupied lands.
The Committee had before it a note of the Secretary-General transmitting the thirty-ninth 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/63/273). The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories is composed of three Member States: Sri Lanka (Chairman), Malaysia and Senegal.
The report to the General Assembly reflects the substance of the information gathered during the mission of the Special Committee to Egypt, Jordan and Syria from 23 June to 5 July. In those three countries, the Special Committee met with 33 witnesses representing Palestinian non-governmental organizations from the occupied territories, Israeli non-governmental organizations and individuals from Syria.
Section V of the report provides information on the human rights situation in the occupied territories, while section VI gives a review of Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Syrian Arab citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan. Section VII presents the conclusions and recommendations of the Special Committee to t he General Assembly.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General's report on the work 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/63/483), which gives an overview of that body's activities and mission, as well as the activities of the Department of Public Information on the issue and the Special Committee's work during the period from August 2007 to July 2008.
Another report of the Secretary-General, on Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (document A/63/484), states that, on 4 September, the Secretary-General addressed a note verbale to the Government of Israel, requesting information on steps taken or envisaged concerning the implementation of the relevant resolution (62/107). No reply has been received, to that request. Replies to similar notes verbale, sent to all permanent missions, were received from the Permanent Mission of Lebanon on 17 September and the Permanent Mission of Colombia on 22 September.
The Secretary-General's report on the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/63/482) notes that Israel had not replied to a similar note verbale, also dated 4 September, regarding implementation of Assembly resolution 62/110 of 17 December 2007. No reply has been received to that request. Replies to similar notes verbale, sent to all permanent missions, were received from the Permanent Mission of Lebanon on 17 September and the Permanent Mission of Colombia on 22 September.
Presentation of Report
Presenting the fortieth 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/63/273), Special Committee Chairman H.M.G.S. PALIHAKKARA of Sri Lanka noted Israel's continued refusal to provide access to the occupied territories to the Special Committee, which had, instead, traveled to Egypt, Jordan and Syria to examine the human rights situation. There, the Special Committee members had met with several witnesses and representatives from Palestinian and Israeli organizations and civil society entities, and with individuals from Syria and the occupied Syrian Golan. It had also made use of a variety of information sources -- written material, United Nations actors and academics, among them.
He said that the report dealt with such important issues as the right to self-determination; the right to life; the right to freedom of movement; the right to liberty and security of person, the separation wall, settlements; the right to an adequate standard of living, including subsistence, clothing and housing; the right to food and water, as well as the rights to work, education and health; settler violence; and the situation of human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan.
The Special Committee had found it particularly noteworthy that, despite the continuation of the political negotiations -- namely those emanating from the Annapolis Conference of 2007, which had declared the intention to reach a two-State solution by the end of 2008 -- the human rights situation on the ground had deteriorated, and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people had remained elusive. As a result, the Special Committee reiterated that the protection of human rights was an essential element for peace efforts to succeed.
The report further highlighted the deterioration of human rights and of the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories and, specifically, in Gaza, he said. Civilians lacked protection in the face of escalating violence, significantly affecting the overall human rights situation there. Israel had continued rocket and artillery attacks, air strikes and military incursions into Gaza. Meanwhile, Qassam rockets continued to be fired by Palestinian militants, from Gaza into Israel. All crossings into Gaza had essentially been closed since June 2007, despite the current ceasefire. The severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people entering and leaving Gaza had resulted in shortages of food, medical and relief items, spare parts for critical health and sanitation installations, material for humanitarian projects, and raw materials for commerce and industry. Fuel shortages translated into electricity cuts of 8 to 10 hours a day. Water distribution, sewage treatment and health-care services were also disrupted.
The movement of Palestinians remained restricted between and within the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, severely damaging the social and economic structures, and increasing unemployment and poverty and the reliance on humanitarian assistance, he said. The separation wall, the steady expansion of settlements, curfews, and the closure regime had fragmented communities and seriously infringed, not only on the freedom of movement, but on virtually every other human right.
According to the report, the Special Committee was particularly concerned about the long- term impact of Israeli policies and practices infringing on Palestinians' human rights. The closure of Gaza had had a serious impact on economic and social rights. It had disabled the economy and would have a detrimental impact on the environment. Within the West Bank, three separate entities -- described by witnesses as "enclaves", "cantons" and " Bantustans" - - had been created. Access to East Jerusalem had also become much more difficult, and family ties had been severed, as had the Palestinians' links to their land. It was feared this situation would have a significant impact on the whole society and, particularly, Palestinian children, who made up half of Gaza's population.
In the occupied Syrian Golan, the human rights situation had also deteriorated, he went on. The number of settlers had increased, and existing settlements had expanded. Syrian citizens were reportedly denied access to water resources, and prisoners, who were held in unacceptable conditions, were subjected to harsh forms of torture.
Summarizing the Special Committee's recommendations, he said the General Assembly should urgently consider all means at its disposal to fulfill its responsibilities, regarding all aspects of the question of Palestine, until it was resolved in conformity with relevant United Nations resolutions and international law, and until the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people were brought to fruition. Towards that goal, the Special Committee's mandate should be renewed. The Security Council was also urged to ensure implementation of the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion on the construction of the separation wall. The Assembly was requested to encourage the Quartet to fully implement the Road Map, leading to a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement.
The Special Committee further recommended that the Government of Israel focus on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories, and distinguish between military objectives and civilians. The Special Committee called for international law to be respected, the appropriate use of means and methods of warfare, and for a cessation of the excessive use of force and extrajudicial executions and destruction of property. It also called for the cessation of the confiscation of Palestinian land and the expansion of Israeli settlements, which violated international law and damaged the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian State. Additionally, it called for the protection of Palestinian civilians and property from violence.
The freedom of movement for Palestinians should be restored, said the Special Committee, also urging steps to end the current man-made crisis and suffering of the people of Gaza, he said. The construction of the separation wall should be stopped, in compliance with the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion. Mass and arbitrary detentions should cease, and proper treatment of detainees should be ensured. The Road Map should be implemented.
The Special Committee also recommended that the Palestinian Authority abide by the provisions of human rights law and international humanitarian law. The Authority should also aim to resolve the urgent human rights and humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and fully restore the rule of law in areas under its control, and comply with the Road Map's requirements.
The Special Committee hoped that its report would be taken account of in the same spirit in which it was addressed: namely, to ascertain the facts without rancor, and take action to ease the suffering of the people in the territories, and facilitate the process of ensuring security and making peace sustainable.
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for Palestine, said that despite the Special Committee's inability to conduct a field mission -- due to lack of cooperation by Israel -- it had, nevertheless, carried out an objective examination of Palestinian, Syrian and Israeli witness testimonies. The report accurately reflected the critical human rights situation in the Palestinian Territory and the Syrian Golan, which had existed under Israeli occupation for more than 41 years.
She said that despite numerous United Nations resolutions and serious international efforts, peace remained elusive, and the Palestinian people continued to be denied their human rights because of Israel's disrespect for international law and continued brutal occupation. Israel's illegal actions undermined the peace process; the occupation was itself a violation of human rights and the root of all the human rights violations being committed against the Palestinian people.
Even under the aegis of a peace process, Israel continued to breach all human rights standards; killing, injuring, imprisoning, displacing and collectively punishing Palestinian civilians with impunity, she said. The humanitarian suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people also included destruction of their homes, property, infrastructure and land. Israel simultaneously continued its unlawful colonization campaign; building and expanding settlements, the wall, bypass roads, and checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem -- all aimed at altering the Territory's character, status and demographic composition, entrenching its presence on the land and advancing its expansionist agenda.
She said that Israel had relentlessly pursued a two-dimensional policy for decades, namely the brutalization and oppression of the Palestinian people and the confiscation and colonization of the land. Those policies had involved an "enormous web of unlawful practices" that entailed gross and systematic human rights violations, many of which amounted to war crimes, causing severe devastation and damage to Palestinian society. During the reporting period, occupying forces used excessive and indiscriminate force against civilians through extrajudicial killings, violent military attacks and destruction of homes, with hundreds injured and 68 children killed in the first six months of this year.
The rights of life, liberty and personal security were also violated by armed, extremist Israeli settlers illegally transferring to the Occupied Territory, she said, adding that they perpetrated acts of violence, harassment, intimidation and terror against Palestinians civilians, with impunity. The situation was particularly disturbing in Al-Khalil (Hebron), where 650 fanatical settlers continued to torment more than 150,000 Palestinian civilians. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented at least 76 cases of settler violence in 2007, resulting in death or injury to Palestinians. Israel also continued to arbitrarily detain and imprison approximately 11,000 Palestinian civilians, including nearly 400 children and more than 100 women. Despite the recent release of some prisoners, ongoing arrest campaigns kept prisoner numbers at a very high level.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Amnesty International had reported that Israel committed physical and mental ill-treatment, abuse, solitary confinement and torture, denying Palestinians family visits, adequate medical care and food, and due process, she said.
She went on to say that Israel had also imposed closures and restrictions on freedom of movement within, and into and out of, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Those closings violated the right to health, education, work, food, water, family life, choice of residence, worship and even the right to life. The 16-month siege in the Gaza Strip had transformed the areas into an "open-air prison" and was tantamount to a war crime. Israel also hampered access of humanitarian personnel to Gaza, including United Nations agencies, obstructing the population's access to essential aid.
Every sector of life had been disrupted, and poverty, hunger, disease and unemployment continued to rise, she said. Eighty per cent of the population depended on food aid for survival, with chronic malnutrition and anemia prevalent among children. More than 90 per cent of industry, businesses and shops were now closed, and nearly 50 per cent of the workforce was unemployed. Those deplorable, collective punishment methods continued, even in the ceasefire brokered by Egypt in June. In the West Bank, the wall and bypass roads further restricted Palestinians. Israel imposed a permit regime, and there were a t least 630 military checkpoints and obstacles to the movement of person and goods. Those violations were being committed simultaneously, in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I.
She said that the massive colonization scheme involved the continuous confiscation of Palestinian lands, construction and expansion of settlements, and the transfer of hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers. To date, Israel maintained and continued to expand 150 settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, with more than 100 settlement "outposts" established, with a total of 450,000 illegal Israeli settlers. In addition, construction of the wall continued, in deviation of the 1949 Armistice, sectioning off at least 50,000 Palestinians into isolated enclaves. Checkpoints established in areas adjacent to the wall, and near or around settlements, were also linked to the settlement campaign. Those restrictions were clearly aimed at "protecting and enhancing the free movement of settlers, and the physical and economic expansion of the settlement at the expense of the Palestinian population," she said.
All these actions, over the years, had undermined the contiguity, integrity and unity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and deepened the Palestinian human rights crisis, she said. They threatened future prospects for peace and stability, and endangered the realization of the two-State solution for peace in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, including, interalia, resolution 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003).
She said that the positive momentum for change generated by the Annapolis Conference had not yet been realized. Still, Palestinian leadership continued to exert all efforts to advance the peace process and uphold its commitments, including in terms of promoting security and the rule of law, as well as reforming and strengthening its national institutions. The Palestinian people were a real partner for peace and reaffirmed their commitment, in both word and deed. They were cognizant that the political process was the means to end Israeli occupation, and achieve a just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.
However, she added, peace could never be realized as long as Israel remained defiant of the law and an "absent" partner in the peace process. A complete cessation of all settlement activities and human rights violations was required, both for stemming human suffering caused by the occupation and for creating a more stable environment conducive for peacemaking. It was the responsibility of the international community, including the Security Council, to hold Israel accountable for its illegal practices and ensure its compliance with international law and United Nations resolutions. That would lead to fulfillment of the Palestinian people's human rights and national aspirations to live as a free, secure, dignified, self-reliant people in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX ( France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed full support for the continuation of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at achieving peace. Welcoming the Palestinian and Israeli parties' efforts, he encouraged them "to take bold steps within the framework of the dialogue initiated in Annapolis" in November 2007. That dialogue should enable concrete, desired outcomes to be reached, leading to the creation of a viable independent, democratic and fully sovereign Palestinian State, living in peace side by side with Israel and its neighbors.
He underscored the parties' need to renounce all initiatives that would threaten the viability of a fair and comprehensive solution. He encouraged them to increase cooperation on the ground. Welcoming the continuing calm between Gaza and southern Israel, he expressed hope that that calm would persist and result in further relief for Gaza's civilian population, including the regular opening of the crossings for both humanitarian and commercial flows, and sustained peace on Israel's southern border. Stopping all acts of violence and terrorism was of utmost importance if the peace process was to succeed.
The European Union remained concerned about civilian casualties during Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas, he said. It also strongly condemned the firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into Israeli territory. While recognizing Israel's right to self-defense, it called on Israel to exercise utmost restraint. It also condemned, in the strongest terms, the acts of violence and brutality committed by Israeli settlers in the West Bank against Palestinians. Significant improvements in the movement of goods and persons in the West Bank, via the removal of checkpoints, was another priority. Further, the Palestinian Authority should continue its security sector reforms.
He said the Union would not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties. Acknowledging the International Court of Justice's ruling on the separation barrier, the European Union requested that Israel halt construction and dismantle the wall. The Union remained concerned by settlement activities in and around Jerusalem, and in the West Bank. Those activities that ran contrary to international law, and to Israel's commitments under the Road Map, should end because they undermined the credibility of the Annapolis process, caused tension and impeded development of the Palestinian economy. He also called on Israel to abandon future settlements.
Despite the current period of calm, the Union remained concerned by continued sporadic violence and the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza, he said. It underscored the urgency of humanitarian assistance and called for the continuous provision of basic services. It also reiterated the need to fully implement the "Agreement on Movement and Access" of 15 November 2005. It once again called for the immediate release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. He emphasized that the Union's determination to help resolve the conflict was stronger today than ever. It stood ready to make tangible contributions towards implementing a peace agreement, when the time came.
Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, ILEANA B. Nò„EZ MORDOCHE (Cuba) said that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continued to deteriorate and be marked by deadly violence, instability and high tensions. The toll on human life was rising at an alarming rate. She expressed grave concern about the constant deterioration of the situation, resulting from the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian civilian population. She condemned the prolonged Israeli occupation since 1967 and the unrelenting violations of international law, during which time the occupying Power had committed grave human rights violations, including purported war crimes, and carried out deliberate and unlawful policies and practices aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and nature of the Palestinian land.
She said that Israel also continued to impose closures, including the sealing off of the Gaza Strip, and the continued arrest and detainment of thousands of Palestinian civilians and the carrying out of intense military raids. Settlers, illegally transferred by Israel to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, continued to kill, injure and intimidate Palestinian civilians and to destroy their property, including agricultural fields and crops. Israel continued to carry out its illegal colonial campaign in grave violation of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, in violation of numerous United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, and in defiance of the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.
In the past several months, Israel had issued tenders for thousands of new units in Israeli settlements and continued to build bypass roads to serve those settlements and maintain settlement "outposts". Such actions were not only flagrant violations and grave breaches of international law, but also heightened tensions and further destabilized the situation on the ground, she said, reiterating the Movement's condemnation of all such illegal actions and calling for their immediate cessation. Furthermore, all actions taken by Israel, which purported to alter the legal, physical and demographic condition and institution of the occupied Syrian Golan, were null and void, and had no legal effect. The Movement would continue to support the Palestinian people, in order to bring an end to Israeli occupation. She confirmed the Movement's unwavering support for a just and peaceful solution.
BASHAR JA'AFARI (Syria) said the report before the Committee directed attention to Israeli intentions to deliberately and methodically alter the Syrian Golan, and demonstrated that Israel, the occupying Power, did not give any consideration to international legality and to humanitarian norms. For a long time, it had denied the rights of the Palestinians, as well as the provisions of General Assembly resolutions. Israel also continued to refuse access to the Special Committee. Its occupation was shameful and a crime against humanity.
He said that the occupying Power, by refusing to withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan, disregarded the General Assembly's repeated calls, the last of which was resolution 62/110. It continued to impose Israeli identification cards on Syrians in the occupied Golan, and it continued to obfuscate the Syrian features of the occupied Golan. It put additional outposts and settlements in the Golan and expanded those that already existed, in a pattern that had been cited by the Human Rights Council on 27 March. The occupying Israeli Power also refused to define areas of the Golan, even though those mines jeopardized the lives of Syrian farmers there. An Israeli mine had killed and injured Syrian citizens on 27 September. To date, 531 people had been injured by those mines, and more than 200 had been killed, including 17 children. Further, Israel continued to bury nuclear waste in parts of the occupied Syrian Golan, and he called on the international community to put necessary pressure on Israel to stop that practice.
In addition, the occupying Power's generally coercive and inhuman detentions should be stopped, he said. Israel also persisted in its policies to end all forms of communication between Syrians living in the "motherland" and those in the occupied Golan. Israeli practices led to starvation, injustice, collective punishment and land confiscation. He challenged "all those who sided with Israel" to volunteer to live for only one week in the refugee camps, or even in Gaza, and to bear the burdens imposed by Israel. If only 1 per cent of the activities attributed to Israel, by the reports, were committed by another Member State, continuous Security Council sessions would be held until those actions ceased. Syria supported the Special Committee's recommendations, especially its urging of the Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel, because it refused to implement its obligations under international law. The international community should take actions to urge Israel to comply with those obligations.
SAADIA EL ALAOUI (Morocco) said that, over the past several years, the pace of widespread human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces, against civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, had greatly increased, including targeted assassinations, increasing blockades and settlement activities, and destruction of possessions and property. Those violations were being perpetrated in a greatly disturbed climate and ran counter to international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Israeli Government continued to deny the Palestinian people the right to political and economic self-determination, food, housing, health and education.
She said that that situation -- the result of ongoing settlement activities -- negatively impacted the daily lives of Palestinians, who today lacked access to 40 per cent of the land in the West Bank. Many Palestinian farmers could not use their land; there were road blocks set up to prevent children from going to school and to prevent sick people from reaching clinics and hospitals. Beyond the physical blockades, there were financial and economic restrictions imposed against the Palestinian Authority. Poverty and unemployment had worsened, now affecting the majority of the population. At the same time, the economic and social crises were extremely serious in the Occupied Territory, where many were dependent on humanitarian assistance from international organizations. The Syrian Golan, occupied since 1967, also continued to face an extremely difficult situation, by the imposition of taxes and land acquisition for Israeli settlements.
Farmland was being reduced and taken over by military operations, and local water access was shrinking, she said. Morocco reiterated full rejection of the practices in the Golan and called for the return of the Golan to Syrian sovereignty, as the current situation had negative humanitarian consequences. The annual report of the Special Committee and of the Special Rapporteur, as well as the reports of other human rights organizations -- Palestinian, international and Israeli -- all pointed to a persistent reluctance by Israel to protect Palestinians from violence and marginalization.
She said Morocco was working to promote a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, leading to a Palestinian independent State. She called for an end to all human rights violations, and for the promotion of a political climate that respected the rights of civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and other occupied Arab territories. As chair of the Al- Quds Committee, King Mohammed VI had expressed serious concern over the measures by Israel to "Judaize" the city of Jerusalem, specifically regarding the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Those practices would not help establish a climate conducive to the peace process. Strengthening the peace process and returning to the negotiating table was the only way to establish a just and lasting peace, and a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
MOHAMED SOFIANE BERRAH (Algeria) said the reports before the Committee unequivocally illustrated the tragedy being experienced by the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territory. Underlining the deplorable conditions in which the Special Committee had been forced to work, he noted that Israel refused to allow it access to the Occupied Territory, which was part of its mandate. Pointing to the report's "disturbing" conclusion that the peace process launched by the Annapolis Conference had stagnated, he said Algeria had serious misgivings that Israel wished to act constructively and in good faith for the establishment of a Palestinian State. Indeed, its practices of fragmenting the Palestinian Territory seemed to indicate otherwise, as did its refusal to seriously address the key issues of the status of refugees and of Al-Quds.
Israel had methodically continued its genocidal policy of physical consolidation, he said, noting Algeria's concern that Israel continually violated human rights in the Occupied Territory, despite repeated condemnations by the international community. Given the suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian people, it was hard to understand how the "virtuous circle" of democratic countries could remain impassive to the actions of and suffering caused by the Israeli war machine. Nevertheless, Israel dug in behind several Powers in the Security Council and was allowed to continue its actions.
Given the unacceptable developments reported by the Special Committee, he said it was the moral and legal responsibility of the world community to put an end to the climate of impunity surrounding Israel's actions. Israel should be treated firmly and should be encouraged to take specific actions, such as the immediate halt and dismantling of the separation wall. The expansion of settlement activities should be ended. The right of refugees to fair and equitable compensation should be recognized. The system of checkpoints should be dismantled. The process of annexing Palestinian land under the guise of security should be curbed. Without those steps, the process launched in Annapolis would not be able to continue. In parallel, the world community's political will should be mobilized towards the establishment of a Palestinian State living in peace side by side with Israel. A clear robust message should be sent to all parties to encourage discussion on the final status issues.
Aligning his delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, MOHAMMED ABDULLAH AL HADHRAMI (Yemen) said this meeting to consider the report of the Special Committee coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which was considered to be the longest running in the Middle East. Resolutions 242 (1967) and 348 (1973) called on Israel to withdraw from all the Arab territories and end Israeli occupation in return for peace. The "occupation authority" had persisted in its policies aimed at undermining the peace process through policies of forced migration, displacement, the building of the separation wall, isolation, siege, sanctions and collective punishment, in defiance of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
He noted that Archbishop Desmond Tutu had described the situation in May as a "grave violation of human rights", he said. It was estimated that 80 per cent of Palestinians were living below the poverty line in Gaza and dependent on food aid provided by international organizations, and that the West Bank Palestinians were subjected to the destruction of their houses. The building of the separation wall was in stark violation of the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion of July of 2004. He reiterated support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital, and condemned the actions of Israel to occupy the Syrian Golan through expanded settlements, exploitation of the natural resources and other illegal practices.
In conclusion, he emphasized the importance of Israel's withdrawal from all occupied territories and the return of the Syrian Golan to Syrian sovereignty. He called for support for the conclusions and recommendations of the Special Committee and urged the Security Council to consider imposing sanctions against Israel if it continued to disregard its legal and international commitments.
FARUKH AMIL (Pakistan) said the plight of the Palestinian people and the worsening humanitarian and human rights situation corroborated scores of other reports by the United Nations and other independent international bodies, which had documented somber accounts of the circumstance prevailing in the occupied territories. The ruthless denial and suppression of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people revealed the true face of the occupation, to which the entire international community had too long been a witness.
He said the international community had called for Israel to halt its illegal practices and policies for decades, but Israel continued to defy those calls with impunity, which exacerbated the situation on the ground and damaged the peace process in which the international community had invested so much. The hope for lasting peace, generated by the Annapolis Conference last year, needed to be nurtured and strengthened, and required immediate and credible confidence building measures to create an environment conducive for good faith and result-oriented negotiations. Regrettably, that had not happened. Confidence could not be built in the face of repeated military attacks and incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israel, which resulted in the loss of innocent life and injuries, including among women and children, as well as extrajudicial killings, abductions, disappearances, arbitrary and illegal detentions, and torture.
The construction of the illegal separation wall continued, in defiance of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, he continued. Settlement activity had increased, and Israeli policies and practices had triggered a whole range of human rights violations and hardships for the people of the occupied territories. Those included denial of the right to life, liberty, property, freedom of movement, adequate standards of living, work, education, health and water. Resolving the Palestinian issue was key to a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East and must include parallel processes in addressing the Syria-Israel and Lebanon-Israel conflicts. It was essential to bring an end to the Israeli occupation of all Arab territories. A durable solution could not be imposed by force or unilateral actions; it could only be achieved through dialogue and negotiations, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions and the norms of international law.
He said Pakistan had a natural and strong affiliation with the issue of Palestine, and a deep commitment to its just and peaceful settlement. The promise of Annapolis, a peace treaty to be realized by the end of 2008, was unfortunately fading. It was incumbent upon the international community to reinvigorate efforts to revise the process, as it could not afford another failure.
ZAHEER LAHER (South Africa) noted the intensified illegal practices by Israel in the socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in the occupied Arab territories, along with settlement expansion and increase in settler violence. The annual report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had pointed to the construction of the separation wall and Israeli closure policy as entrenched "de-development" in the occupied Palestinian territories, with wide recognition of the policy as "one of the most devastating factors limiting the Palestinian economy".
He said that despite dramatic improvements to Israel's security situation, owing to the sustained ceasefire with Palestine and positive political developments, such as the resumption of dialogue between Israel with Palestine, and Israel with Syria, the situation on the ground for millions of Palestinians and other Arab civilians remained grave. Israel had specific obligations under international law as an occupying Power, as indeed all Member States had specific legal obligations in the Middle East situation. He, therefore, urged the international community to address the situation, especially in combating widespread violations of civil, cultural, economic and social rights, along with assigning accountability for such violations, and lifting the siege on Gaza.
In closing, he said that Israel's right to self-defense did not entitle it to violate the rights of innocent civilians. Illegal Israeli practices were undermining the basic rights and aspirations of people throughout the region, including within Israeli itself, because they fuelled the continuing cycle of violence and the collapse of the Palestinian economy. How could the right of Israelis, and residents of other countries in the region, to live in peace and security ever be fully realized while Israel's neighbors continued to face what the Special Committee had described as a "manmade crisis"? he asked.
GEORGES HABIB SIAM (Lebanon) said international resolutions, together with peace initiatives, had not been able to put an end to the many years of tragedy, blood and tears experienced by the Palestinians. In September, 10 months after the Annapolis Conference, the representative of Israel had affirmed in the Security Council that Israel was committed to peace and would undertake confidence-building measures.
He cited the analysis of a former Israeli Minister of Education that the Israeli State had a policy of racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens. He noted that the last report of the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories had painted a "terrifying" scenario: the Israeli occupation of all occupied territories showed a system of apartheid and settlement, which was a violation of the basic right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. Stressing that the Special Rapporteur would not have made that observation if Israel's action was not continuous and systematic, he said those violations weighed heavily on the Palestinian people.
Indeed, he said that Gaza was today at the mercy of the Israeli occupation -- a situation that placed a juridical responsibility on Israel, the occupying Power. But the question remained: Was Israel fulfilling those obligations? If Israel had not pursued a policy of destroying Palestinian territory, closing institutions of a socioeconomic nature, instituting a regime of checkpoints and closures, it might be. But its policy of exodus and of eliminating the Palestinian identity was clearly evident in its settlement policies and construction of the separation wall. Those policies also ran counter to the United Nations Charter and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
In the occupied Syrian Golan, Israel showed constant, flagrant flouting of its obligations, which also ran counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention, he said. Syrian citizens were deprived of basic rights to exploit their water and land resources, and were exposed to all manner of security measures. Syrian prisoners were also deprived of their most basic rights. If those were Israel's preparations for peace, what would its preparations for war look like? Israel's commitment to peace should be translated into confidence-building measures on the ground, including the withdrawal of Israeli troops. Israeli actions could create a favorable climate that would facilitate a solution to the problem, but they did not. It was incumbent on the international community to ensure that Israel met its obligations under the framework of military occupation law.
BABACAR CARLOS MBAYE (Senegal) said that, at a time when the international community was commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Palestinians in occupied territories were still seeking freedom -- of movement, of security and other basic rights. Their worsening situation had deepened their frustration, reminding the Committee that the occupation itself was a violation of human rights. The occupying Power was in violation of Security Council resolution 237 of 1967.
He said there needed to be an immediate end of settlement expansion and to the building of the separation wall. He called upon the State of Israel, whose people had, in the recent past, "suffered injustice and unspeakable repression", to look back into its own past and bring an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, and restore what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls the "highest aspiration of man". In this case, that meant ending the various abuses of basic rights of the Palestinian people and seeking a solution that would bring about peaceful coexistence.
Senegal had always stood by the peoples of the region and would continue to join any efforts undertaken to bring about a just, lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Promoting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in no way meant working against the rights of the State of Israel, with which Senegal had friendly relations, marked by mutual respect and trust. He issued a "heartfelt appeal" to that country to cooperate with international efforts, and called on the international community, specifically the Security Council, to effectively implement the recommendations of the Special Committee to promote and protect the human rights of the Palestinians people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.
Committee Chairman JORGE ARG†ELLO of Argentina announced that, with the submission of an amendment by Antigua and Barbuda (document A/C.4/63/L.8) to draft resolution B entitled "United Nations Public Information Policies and Activities", contained in the Report of the Committee on Information (document A/63/21), the Committee was ready to take action tomorrow on all the draft proposals.
He noted that the draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation was contained in document A/C.4/63/L.9. The draft provisional guidelines for the Fourth Committee's sixty- fourth session in 2009 was contained in document A/C.34/63/L.10, and the draft decision regarding the next session's program would be annexed to the report on this item to the plenary. The Committee would make a formal decision on the draft program at tomorrow's meeting.
* *** *
For information media ¥ not an official record
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non-sectarian and non-partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.
The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans. ADC-RI programs include research studies, seminars, conferences and publications that document and analyze the discrimination faced by Arab Americans in the workplace, schools, media, and governmental agencies and institutions. ADC-RI also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Arabs.
Nabil Mohamad I Organizing Director I American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) I 202-244-2990I [email protected] www.adc.org I
Coastal Post Home Page