Statement by Ms. Feda Abdelhady, First Secretary, before the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), Item 84: Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, 53rd Session, 19 November 1998:

Mr. Chairman,

The continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the desperate condition of the Palestinian people continue to constitute the main feature defining the landscape of the Middle East region. As such, agenda item 84, Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, is of high relevance to my delegation and, we hope, to the international community as well.

I wish to begin by expressing my delegation’s appreciation to Ambassador John de Saram 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 the efforts they have exerted in carrying out the duties of the Committee throughout the reporting period under review, from 30 August 1997 to 30 August 1998. It is regrettable, however, that the valuable periodic reports of the Committee have been once again subject to delay, making it difficult for delegations to have sufficient time for their thorough consideration.

Mr. Chairman,

The Special Committee, in accordance with resolution 52/64 of 10 December 1997, was requested, "pending complete termination of the Israeli occupation, to continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, especially Israeli lack of compliance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949…" This is all the more relevant in light of the resolutions of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly on "Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory".

During the reporting period under consideration, the tenth emergency special session resumed twice more to address ongoing Israeli violations of international law in the occupied territory, including in particular illegal settlement activities. Similar to resolutions ES-10/2 and ES-10/3, resolutions ES-10/4 and ES-10/5 were adopted by overwhelming majorities, reflecting the clear position of the international community on the matter. Further in this regard, as recommended by the resolutions of the tenth emergency special session, a process was undertaken towards the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 "on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect in accordance with common article 1." We are confident that this recommendation will be fulfilled in the near future.

With regard to the illegal construction of a settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim to the south of Occupied East Jerusalem, which directly led to the convening of the tenth emergency special session, the Israeli government concluded the phase related to the building of the infrastructure in total disregard for the resolutions of the tenth emergency special session. In fact, the Israeli authorities recently invited tenders for the actual construction of the housing units there.

Mr. Chairman,

The current Israeli government has maintained its stranglehold on the Palestinian economy. The illegal measures and practices used in this regard, including the imposition of closures and restrictions on the freedom of movement of persons and goods, have obstructed the path for genuine economic development, causing severe deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinian people. Not only have such collective measures violated the fundamental freedom of movement; they have also violated the freedom of worship and of education and have resulted in the suffocation of our people and the dismemberment of Palestinian territorial integrity. Moreover, the Israeli government has continued its campaign to judaize Occupied East Jerusalem by making changes to its legal status, character and demographic composition and by abrogating the rights of Palestinian Jerusalemites to live in their city through the illegal confiscation of their identity cards.

As reported by the Special Committee, several forms of collective punishment, aside from the closure, continued during the reporting period, including the demolition of homes, the imposition of curfews and administrative detentions. Harassment and physical ill treatment also persisted, as did killings and assassinations by the Israeli authorities. Palestinian political prisoners who remain in Israeli jails also continued to be subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment and human rights violations.

Mr. Chairman,

All of the above-mentioned Israeli practices are in blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, which is applicable to all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. The Security Council has adopted twenty-five resolutions in which it affirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem. There is clear international consensus in this regard. It is only Israel that rejects this, continuously violating the provisions of the Convention for more than three decades. We reiterate once more that it is imperative that the Israeli government accept the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention and fully implement its provisions.

Mr. Chairman,

As noted, the deadlock in the peace process continued throughout the period under review. This resulted in a continuation of the difficult living conditions of the Palestinian people as the Israeli government continued to carry out policies and practices in violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people and in violation of international law, international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and relevant United Nations resolutions.

Recently the Wye River Memorandum was signed between the two sides, and witnessed by the United States, on 23 October 1998. This became a source of hope that the situation would soon become better. Unfortunately, however, the Israeli government has not chosen to genuinely proceed down that path. For example, with the government’s permission, Jewish settlers resumed work at a planned settlement in the heart of the Arab sector of Jerusalem at Ras al-Amud. In addition, Israeli officials announced the building of 200 housing units on the edge of a Jewish settlement in Al-Khalil (Hebron). Further, the confiscation of more Palestinian land, the exploitation and theft of natural resources, the transfer of more settlers into the occupied territory and the building of bypass roads for use by the illegal settlers, as well as the violent behavior of the settlers, has persisted.

Mr. Chairman, it remains our strongest hope that the prevailing situation will soon change. However, it must be emphasized that the peace process will continue to suffer as long as Israel continues to violate international law, international humanitarian law and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations. International law and United Nations resolutions must be respected. In addition, the Israeli side must comply with its contractual obligations under the agreements reached. These are the requirements for progress in the peace process and for a genuine improvement in the living conditions and the situation of the human rights of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Chairman,

Once more, we 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. The United Nations has a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until it is solved in all its aspects, and the Committee’s work will continue to be of importance to the international community until the Israeli occupation is brought to an effective end. It is therefore our hope that all of the resolutions under this agenda item will receive the necessary and deserved support. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.