Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa Ambassador, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations before the Resumed 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 5 August 2002, United Nations, New York:

 

 

Mr. President,

 

            In accordance with resolution ES-10/10 (7 May 2002) of the 10th emergency special session of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General has presented a report, drawing only upon the available resources and information, on the recent events that took place in Jenin and other Palestinian cities.  The report had to be prepared in this manner, without a team to investigate the situation on the ground in Jenin or other Palestinian cities, because of Israels refusal to cooperate with the Secretary-Generals fact-finding team, in disregard of Security Council resolution 1405 (2002).

 

Thus, the Secretary-General has rightly concluded that, as a result of the Israeli position, a full account of the events that occurred could not be obtained. Israel did not even respond to the request by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs to submit information for the preparation of this report, which by the way makes us fail to understand the extensive quotation of Israeli sources in the report.  The Israeli rejection and intransigence should be repeatedly and strongly condemned by the whole international community as illegal and as an attempt to conceal reality.

 

            Indeed, the complete and full facts have not been revealed, including some serious questions that were not answered in specific about what happened in the Jenin camp.  A real, direct investigation remains a necessity for revealing the whole truth.

 

In addition, the report only addresses a specific period of time, namely from early March 2002 until 7 May 2002.  Yet, an accurate and thorough understanding definitely requires placing the situation in the context of everything that the occupying Power has been doing before and after that period, including the measures and practices mentioned in previous reports by the Secretary-General as well as other organs and agencies of the United Nations, all against the background of the existence of the Israeli occupation of our land and our people.

 

Mr. President,

 

            We have received the Secretary-Generals report with interest.  Unfortunately, it came later than anticipated and without the expected conclusions.  Irrespective of our feelings about the reports shortcomings, there is no doubt that it provides yet further confirmation of what we have always known - that the Israeli occupying forces have committed war crimes, atrocities and other serious violations of the 4th Geneva Convention against the Palestinian people, including unlawful killings; the use of human shields; the use of excessive, disproportionate, indiscriminate and lethal force; arbitrary arrests and torture; the imposition of collective punishments; the targeting ambulances and medical personnel; and denial of medical treatment and access.

 

            All of this raises serious issues about the responsibilities of the international community.  In light of Israels commission of war crimes, direct responsibility falls on the shoulders of the international community to take measures against the perpetrators.  This responsibility must be borne by the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention, bearing in mind Articles 29 and 148, the Parties to the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which has now entered into force, and all Member States of the United Nations.

Mr. President,

 

Another serious issue that we must bear in mind in our review of the report and the ongoing situation is the fact that the situation on the ground has become even worse since the period covered by the report.  The situation has gravely deteriorated as the Israeli occupying forces continue to wage their military campaign against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and regrettably continues to worsen each day.

 

            Until now, the Israeli occupying forces continue with yet another wave of invasion and reoccupation of most Palestinian cities and population centers in the occupied West Bank. Throughout this time, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians - actually the whole Palestinian population in those areas - have been subjected to round-the-clock curfews, confined to their homes and denied any aspect of normal daily life, including access to basic necessities such as food, water and proper medical care.  In other areas, closures and severe restrictions on the movement of persons and goods also continue to remain in effect. The extent of human loss and physical destruction that has been caused by the occupying forces, the continuous confinement of the people and other Israeli collective punishment measures, including the increasing number of home demolitions, against the Palestinian people have led not only to socio-economic devastation but to a dire humanitarian crisis, for which Israel must be held responsible.

 

            As of today, more than 1,710 Palestinians, men, women and children, have been killed by the Israeli occupying forces in military attacks since September 2000.  This tragic figure does not include the hundreds of other Palestinians that have died as a result of other illegal practices being carried out by the occupying Power.  Moreover, thousands of Palestinians have been injured, many seriously and permanently disabled, by the occupying forces.  Thousands of homes have been damaged or completely destroyed and thousands of Palestinians have been rendered homeless.  Hundreds of thousands of productive trees have been uprooted from Palestinian agricultural lands.  Billions of dollars have been lost in Palestinian wages and income.  Currently, nearly 50% of the Palestinian population now lives below the poverty line, and malnutrition among Palestinian children is rapidly increasing.

 

At the same time, the Israeli military siege on the headquarters of President Yasser Arafat in the Palestinian city of Ramallah continues, in violation of all norms and logic.  In this regard, the repeated assaults and the ongoing siege essentially constitute a direct attack on the leader and symbol of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority.  In addition, this siege continues to seriously obstruct the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to exercise its responsibilities in all fields, including the process of reform, and to rebuild itself.

 

Mr. President,

 

            All of the above is an escalation of the same Israeli military campaign against the Palestinian people that began with the infamous visit of Mr. Ariel Sharon to Al-Haram Al-Sharif on 28 September 2000.  What the Israeli government has been doing is intended to serve clear political objectives, expressed repeatedly by Mr. Sharon.  His aims have always been to drag us all back to a pre-Oslo situation and to destroy the Palestinian Authority, while inflicting the maximum pain, suffering and loss on the Palestinian people.  Only in this way could Mr. Sharon guarantee the obstruction of any potential for a serious peace settlement and the continuation of Israels occupation and colonization of the Palestinian land. 

 

Mr. President,

 

            Yet still, the government of Mr. Sharon has been trying to portray all of its policies and practices as simply a response to the suicide bombings. Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is useful for us to remember that the Israeli occupation began in 1967, while the first Palestinian suicide bombing occurred in 1994, 27 years later.  It is also useful for us to remember that the Palestinian people waged their first intifada, in rejection of the Israeli occupation, without firing a single bullet, while the Israeli army killed, injured, broke bones, maimed, deported and destroyed in a campaign referred to by the Israeli government as its iron fist policy.  The reality is that this is a situation of foreign occupation.  This is the phenomenon that has been the source of the conflict, strife and suffering.  That is the real problem, of which some often seem to lose focus.

 

            Moreover, over the decades, driven by ideological and political goals, this illegal Israeli occupation has transformed into the vicious and active colonization of the Palestinian land. The pursuit of this colonization by Israel has by necessity required the use of oppressive policies and measures and even the negation of the basic rights of the Palestinian people under its occupation.  This has continued over the years, even after the advent of the peace process, specifically so under people like Mr. Netanyahu and, worse still, Mr. Sharon. This is the situation under which the Palestinian people have lived for 35 years now.  And, throughout all of this time, the international community has never been able to effectively stop Israels violations, ranging from its illegal settlement and colonization campaign to measures aimed at altering the demographic composition and legal status of Occupied East Jerusalem to its practice of extrajudiciary execution.

 

            Once again, I reiterate that the situation is clearly one of a foreign occupation, in which the occupying Power has actively sought to colonize the land to serve its expansionist designs.  Any attempts to even partially conceal this fact and to find a pretext to absolve the Israeli side from its responsibilities in this regard will never succeed.  Unfortunately, however, such attempts might, as has been the case, lead to greater suffering for an even longer time for both peoples.

 

Mr. President,

 

            In spite of all of the above, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership has taken a very clear position against suicide bombings as wrong and as acts undermining the national interest the Palestinian people.  Sometimes, we wonder, however, whether those opposed to peace on the other side are keen to take actions that could only fuel such a phenomenon.  We have witnessed a tragic example of that recently with the war crime committed by the occupying forces, upon instructions from Mr. Sharon, in the extrajudiciary execution carried out in Gaza on 23 July, which resulted in the killing of 9 children and 6 other Palestinians.  This war crime has only served to further feed the vicious cycle of violence.

 

            At this point, let me reiterate that acts of resistance by Palestinians in the Occupied Territory against the Israeli occupation are legitimate under international law, incomparable with acts targeting Israeli civilians in Israel itself.  As a matter of principle, resisting Israeli occupation, Israeli colonization and settlements, and indeed the Israeli invasion of our cities and refugee camps is our right, if not our duty.  Nevertheless, we do remain committed to a peaceful, negotiated settlement, and we once again call upon the Israeli side to cease the aggression and atrocities against the Palestinian people and to choose instead the path of peace. Clearly, ending the prevailing tragedy could most rapidly be achieved by the ending the Israeli occupation.

 

            Moreover, I wish to add that we believe that morality requires that no one attempt to speak of both sides as though they are on equal footing.  There is a basic, marked difference.  On the one side there is an occupying Power with its highly sophisticated and mightily armed occupying army committing war crimes and State terrorism at instruction from the political leadership.  On the other side there is an occupied people, helpless and devastated, with groups committing acts of terror in contradiction with the official policies of the political leadership.  Any attempt to ignore this difference is completely unacceptable, while we should all constantly strive to spare all civilians any harm.

 

            This leads me to the sensitive issue of the responsibility of the United States vis--vis the situation, not only as the superpower of the world but also as the country providing the occupying Power with substantial financial assistance and armaments, much of which is being used against our people.  There is also the continuous shielding of Israel from international law and the will of the international community.  That, for example, has occurred here at the United Nations in the form of 26 vetoes on draft Security Council resolutions on the Palestinian situation.  Given its own values and in the interest of fairness and credibility as a mediator for peace, it is important for the United States to revisit some of its stances in this regard.  Indeed, it is vital if peace is ever to actually become a reality in the Middle East.

 

Mr. President,

 

            In this forum, we wish to reiterate our appreciation for the international consensus that has emerged on the two-State solution and the need for the establishment of the independent State of Palestine.  What we need now is a detailed roadmap and timeline guiding us to that goal and helping the people to believe that we can actually get from here to there.  As for the current debate that is taking place with regard to this issue, I would like to reaffirm a few basic Palestinian positions.

 

To begin, the internal Palestinian situation will always remain the domain of the Palestinian people themselves to deal with.  That is the true meaning and purpose of free and democratic elections.  Moreover, any initiatives or plans that would exempt the Israeli side, including in particular Mr. Sharon, from taking specific actions up front and from adopting different policies than are currently being pursued will only serve to provide further cover for even more destructive Israeli actions.

 

We also once again reiterate our belief with regard to the need for a comprehensive approach to the situation.  This means not only dealing with the political, economic and security issues simultaneously, but also means, as mentioned earlier, agreement on a final outcome from the start.  In this respect, we firmly believe that the Security Council can and should play an important role.  Clearly, an international presence, such as observers or even a more bold and appropriate proposal such as that made by the Secretary-General for a credible and robust multinational force is needed and could genuinely contribute to efforts to stabilize the situation and work towards a peaceful, final settlement.

 

Mr. President,

 

            We call upon the entire international community to support the efforts to end the current tragedy and to return to the path of peace.  We will continue to cooperate with the Quartet and we hope to see a more active role by the Security Council and the General Assembly.

 

I thank you, Mr. President.