Statement by Ms. Feda Abdelhady Nasser, First Secretary, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), Item 85: Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, 51st Session, 25 November 1996:

Mr. Chairman,

As we begin the debate on agenda item 85, Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, I would like to express the appreciation of my delegation to Ambassador Herman Leonard de Silva of Sri Lanka, Chairman of the Special Committee, as well as his colleagues on the Committee, Ambassador Absa Claude Diallo of Senegal and Ambassador Dato Abdul Majid Mohamed of Malaysia, for their efforts in carrying out the responsibilities of the Committee, including preparation of the detailed periodic reports constituting the twenty-eighth report of the Committee. We must note, however, that once again this valuable report was issued late and that serious adjustments are required by the secretariat to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Mr. Chairman,

At the beginning of the reporting period there were indeed some positive developments, including the redeployment of Israeli forces from six cities and approximately 250 villages in the West Bank and the successful completion of the general Palestinian elections for the legislative Council and the presidency of the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, however, the situation has deteriorated, recently falling to a dangerous level, both with regard to the difficulties facing the peace process and with regard to the overall socio-economic conditions of the Palestinian people.

It is clear that the policies and positions of the Israeli government are responsible for the current political impasse. Further, we believe that the ongoing practices of Israel, the occupying power, as well as the spiraling consequences of such practices, are the cause of the terrible and disturbing situation on the ground, one which threatens the existence of the peace process and the stability of the region as a whole. Today, we speak about a qualitatively different situation with increasing Palestinian frustration, humiliation and suffering as a result of Israel's punitive, harsh and illegal policies and practices.

At the forefront of these is the closure or siege imposed upon the Palestinian territory, which in reality means the obstruction of the freedom of movement of persons and goods within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Jerusalem, between the West Bank and Gaza and between the Palestinian territory as a whole and Israel as well as the outside world. This is not only about the reneging by Israel on the economic agreement between the two sides by preventing Palestinian workers from reaching their jobs, in spite of the importance of this dimension. It is about the suffocation of the Palestinian people, the destruction of the Palestinian economy and the dismemberment of the Palestinian territorial integrity. It is also about the violation of fundamental freedoms of movement, of worship and of education. It is a sick attitude, which violates international law, international humanitarian law, the agreements reached between the two sides and the whole meaning of the peace process itself.

Israel, the occupying Power, in the past year has also continued to carry out the whole set of practices and measures violating the human rights of our people as it has done since the first days of occupation. During the reporting period, as indicated in the report, harassment and physical ill treatment continued, summary executions and assassinations continued and several forms of collective punishment, aside from the closure, continued, including the demolition of homes and the imposition of curfews. Moreover, political prisoners, many of whom are subject to torture, remain imprisoned in Israeli jails, including female prisoners, contrary to the agreements reached in this regard.

Also, there have been continuous Israeli attempts to change the situation on the ground, again in violation of international law, relevant United Nations resolutions and the agreements reached. This includes Israeli measures in Jerusalem, such as the demolition of the building of Burj al Laqlaq society in August of this year and the opening of the tunnel in the vicinity of Al Aqsa Mosque, which Israel has kept open in complete disregard and violation of Security Council resolution 1073 (1996).

Mr. Chairman,

The present Israeli government has also decided to resume the campaign of settler colonialism in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem. Actions have already been undertaken to expand and build more colonial settlements and to illegally bring in more settlers, which is of course accompanied by the confiscation of land and the abuse and exploitation of our natural resources. Further, the frequent belligerent and violent behavior of those illegal settlers has continued and remains a source of great tension and an endangerment to the lives of the Palestinian people, as illustrated by the situation in Al-Khalil (Hebron).

We have brought this dangerous situation before the Security Council and we do the same before you today. Obviously, there cannot be a peace process and Israeli settlements at the same time. Israel must choose and the international community must shoulder its responsibilities and take a clear position in this regard. Further, for the peace process to be salvaged and be put on stable ground towards progress, it is necessary to achieve Israeli redeployment from Hebron in accordance with the agreement reached, to implement all other overdue provisions of the agreements and to commence negotiations on the final settlement. In short, what is needed is for Israel to end its maneuvers aimed at destroying the agreements reached and to comply with its contractual obligations under those agreements.

Mr. Chairman,

We once again express deep regret with regard to the refusal of the Israeli authorities to cooperate with the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. We believe that Israel should immediately accept to cooperate with the Committee. Moreover, it is imperative that the Israeli government accept the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to all of the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and that it respect and abide by the provisions of the Convention.

In closing, we must state that we hope the prevailing situation will soon change, but until then we do believe that the bleak situation, which we have tried to briefly detail, renders new reasons for the United Nations to take stronger positions and to provide the necessary support for this Committee and its valuable work. We do hope that the Special Political and Decolonization Committee will do precisely that. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.