Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, New York, 14 December 2001:
(Original: Arabic – Check Against Delivery)
The government of Mr. Ariel Sharon announced last Wednesday the severance of all contacts with the Palestinian Authority and with its elected leader, President Yasser Arafat. This decision means the abandonment of the negotiation process, and it appears to be a prelude to the abandonment of all existing agreements between the two sides. The Israeli government has thus begun taking official and public measures to prevent a final settlement and to revert the conflict between the two sides to the era before the Oslo agreements, instead of resolving the conflict and establishing peace in the region.
Despite the immense danger of such measures, which forebode widespread confrontation and plunging the whole region into war, it is difficult to say that this comes as a total surprise. It was obvious that Mr. Sharon and his government were proceeding in that direction from the first day this government came into power. Mr. Sharon has declared on more than one occasion that he does not want to reach a final settlement and that he only wants an agreement on ending belligerency. Mr. Sharon has also repeatedly declared his animosity towards the Mitchell Committee and later to its recommendations. In fact, in order to evade implementation of the recommendations, he invented the condition of "7 quiet days" - as if a period of quiet would lead to implementation of the recommendations and not that the implementation of these recommendations will lead to the quiet period, an end to the violence and a resumption of the peace process.
Once Mr. Sharon succeeded in burying the Mitchell recommendations for a long period of time, and aborting any attempts to revive them, he came up with a new declaration regarding the necessity for the Palestinian Authority to first combat and end terrorism, and meanwhile Israel would continue to assault this Authority and its institutions, including the security apparatus, disabling them from functioning. Finally, he most recently came with the announcement to boycott the Palestinian Authority. These basic political announcements by the Israeli government and its leader all firmly convey the persistence of this government to continue its confrontation and violence as well as its rejection of all attempts to establish peace. It is regrettable for me to say here that some tried to provide cover for some of these positions, whether deliberately or not, thus encouraging the Israeli government to continue with its destructive policies and its aggression against our people.
On our part, we have repeatedly declared our commitment to the existing agreements and our full acceptance of the Mitchell Report and have called for the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Report in a comprehensive and speedy manner. Moreover, we have always expressed our readiness to resume the negotiations on the basis agreed upon with the aim of rapidly achieving a final settlement and the establishment of peace. This has been our position and remains so, and the Israeli government must stop doubting this position. The Israeli government must also understand that any retreat from the mutual recognition and the existing agreements cannot be in one direction, and will only lead to prolonging the pains and suffering of the two peoples and all the peoples of the region, although our people remain the main victims.
With regard to terrorism, the Palestinian side has taken a clear position against international terrorism and against terrorist groups with a global dimension. The Palestinian side joined the international consensus that formed with regard to this issue after the September disaster in the United States. In conformity with this clear position, and prior to this, we also rejected the suicidal bombings carried out in Israel and targeting Israeli civilians. We condemned them as terrorist acts and considered them to be a departure from Palestinian obligations and acts that damage the national interests of the Palestinian people. This position remains clear and firm despite all the crimes and state terrorism committed by the official Israel, and not just by Israeli groups or organizations, against our people. Despite our clear position, the Palestinian ability to confront this phenomenon and put an end to it is linked firstly to the capabilities of the security apparatus, including the ability of free movement, and maybe more importantly, it is linked secondly to the cessation of the suffering of the Palestinian people and restoring their hope and the belief that the negotiation process will actually lead to the end of occupation and the establishment of peace.
Regrettably, the current Israeli government has persistently acted to destroy both requirements as it violently assaulted the Palestinian security apparatus and practically prevented it from the capability to function. At the same time, it continued imposing the siege and closure, suffocation, destruction and killing against our people and persisted in delivering the message that there is no hope for the achievement of a final settlement and the establishment of peace.
A word now with regard to any acts of violence committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. We do not support or condone these acts as we are trying to reach a peaceful, negotiated solution. Further, we state that these acts are incongruous with our commitments, including our commitment to the cease-fire. However, we absolutely do not accept any attempt to label these acts as terrorist acts. Throughout the years, resistance to foreign occupation was, and remains, a legitimate right in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law. Further, in the Palestinian case, there are no protected Israeli civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. Israeli settlers are illegal and they have been brought in grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol 1. They came to colonize the Palestinian land and consequently negate the existence and the rights of our people. Further, I add that most of those settlers are armed, making them illegal combatants or a militia. Over the years, they have engaged in terrorizing Palestinian civilians and attacking them, including for example the massacre committed by a settler in Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi in Al-Khalil. We refer to all of this because there are some parties that appear to seek to give some legitimacy to their presence. The Israeli settlers remain illegal until they leave with the end of the occupation of our land.
Recently, Israel, the occupying Power, escalated its bloody military campaign against our people and the Palestinian Authority in a vicious manner. It has intensively used military warplanes, F-16s, helicopter gunships and tanks and other weaponry. It has reoccupied parts of the areas under full Palestinian control, fortified its siege of Palestinian cities, and destroyed many Palestinian institutions and symbols of the Authority and main utilities such as Gaza International Airport and the Voice of Palestine Radio. All of this has been accompanied, of course, with significant human losses and a situation of widespread fear and terror among Palestinian civilians. Prior to this escalation, the Israeli campaign was incessant since the infamous visit of Ariel Sharon to Al-Haram Al-Sharif on 28 September 2000. During this period, Israeli occupying forces have killed more than 800 Palestinians in addition to the hundreds of other Palestinian martyred by the occupation in different ways such as the prevention of the movement of ambulances. Israeli occupying forces have also injured approximately 30,000 Palestinians, many of them suffering from permanent disabilities, and caused tremendous suffering for all the Palestinian people.
The occupying forces have committed deliberate killings and Israel, the occupying Power, has adopted the policy of extra-judiciary executions as an official policy. Israel has also caused widespread destruction of individual and public properties, including of economic institutions and including the uprooting of thousands of trees and the razing of agricultural lands. All of the above-mentioned represent grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The occupying Power has also committed other serious violations of the Convention, including the imposition of severe restrictions on the movement of persons and goods and the imposition of closure and suffocation and collective punishments. Reference should be made here to the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was reconvened on 5 December and unanimously adopted an extremely important Declaration, calling, inter alia, upon the occupying Power to immediately refrain from committing grave breaches of the Convention involving any of the acts mentioned in article 147 and to refrain from any other violations of the Convention. With all regret, Israel has continued and even escalated these violations.
Here, and on the basis of the clear provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol 1, we charge the Government of Mr. Ariel Sharon, the Government of the occupying Power, with war crimes committed against the Palestinian people pursuant to the official policies of this Government. Further, we hold it responsible for all other war crimes committed by members of the occupying army and by Israeli settlers, in accordance with article 29 of the Convention. The responsibilities of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention are very clear as defined in common article 1 and article 148. The responsibilities of the Security Council are also clear. We also charge Israel, the occupying Power, of committing state terrorism against our people as it has engaged in the killing of civilians and the vast destruction of property with the aim of instilling fear and terror among the population and forcing them to submit to its political will. The responsibilities of the international community are clear and, once again, the responsibilities of the Security Council are also clear, particularly in light of the campaign against international terrorism. Our people and our region and many in our world are looking to see how the international community will deal with this grave and tragic matter.
In all cases, the Israeli occupation of our land and our people remains the main predicament and the origin of all the disasters. The only solution for the situation we are in is an end to the occupation and the realization of the rights of our people, including the establishment of their independent State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. This realization and the coexistence between the two States, Palestine and Israel, is what will bring security, stability and peace for both sides and for the region. In this regard, we would like to express our appreciation for what was stated by President George Bush before the General Assembly and the statement made by Secretary of State Powell on 19 November with regard to the Middle East. We accept the content of this statement as a basis for moving forward, both with regard to dealing with the current situation on the ground and with regard to the final settlement between the two sides.
We also express our appreciation to the envoys of some concerned parties, including the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations Secretary-General, and of course to all of our friends, including the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement for their principled and continuous support.
The Security Council convenes today to consider the grave situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the attempt to take the necessary action in this regard. Undoubtedly, this step comes extremely late, due particularly to the inability of the Council to take any action since its adoption of resolution 1322 (2000) on 7 October 2000, even merely following up on the implementation of the resolution. No one can deny that the inability of the Council in this regard has greatly affected its credibility and possibly its ability to take action in other areas. The important question, relevant perhaps to the entire matter of international relations and perhaps to the future of this organization, is whether this Council is being used by some only when it is appropriate for them or whether this Council is representative of and acting on behalf of all members of the international community and is actually responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security.
… Continue with Delivery