Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, New York, 23 September 2002:
(Original: Arabic – Check Against Delivery)
Last Thursday, 19 September 2002, Israel, the occupying Power, once more, sent its troops and tanks to reoccupy the headquarters compound of President Yasser Arafat in the city of Ramallah. The occupying forces bulldozed some buildings in the compound then blew up others. They dug trenches around the only remaining and now unsound building in which the President, a number of Palestinian officials and guards are staying, and they encircled the building with barbwires. Throughout all of this, the Israeli occupying forces opened fire and shelled the area, killing at least one person and injuring an unknown number, and of course, directly endangering the personal safety of the President and those with him. For days, explosions, bulldozing and other forms of threats and pressure have not ceased.
These dangerous, criminal and illegal actions which constitute yet another attack on the whole Palestinian people were accompanied by a barrage of statements by Israeli officials on deporting the President from Palestinian land. This was also accompanied by statements on the wish of Israel, the occupying Power, to arrest a number of officials staying with the President. Needless to say, all those statements are absolutely unacceptable and they constitute escalation of the aggression and an attempt to further humiliate our leadership and our officials. In this regard, any party that repeats the Israeli lies and allegations will be practically encouraging the aggression.
Following the above mentioned, the inhabitants of the city of Ramallah, as well as in many other Palestinian cities, challenged the curfew imposed upon them and demonstrated to express their rejection of this new Israeli crime and aggression. The reaction of the Israeli occupying forces was typical, as they shot directly at the demonstrators, resulting in the martyrdom of five civilians and wounding tens of others.
It is clear there are no limitations for the criminal acts committed by Mr. Sharon, his government and army, in a series of war crimes and systematic State terrorism, which they commit against the Palestinian people. This unfortunately is taking place with impunity while the international community, represented by the Security Council, is unable to exercise its responsibilities as a result of the position of one of its permanent members.
We, in spite of everything, formally call on the Security Council to adopt a clear resolution demanding that Israel withdraw immediately from the headquarters of President Yasser Arafat, in addition to what the Council may deem appropriate to end the current humanitarian crisis facing our people and the tragic confrontation between the two sides. It is not too late to do that, in spite of the unfortunate and unjustified delay of the meeting of the Council from last Friday until today. I do express this position not only in my national capacity, but also in my capacity as Chairman of the Arab Group for this month. The Group that called for an immediate meeting of the Council to consider the current grave situation.
The Palestinian people throughout the years have been subjected to uprooting, exile, and denial of its existence, destruction, death and confiscation of their lands and properties. They have been subjected to massacres from Deir Yassin and Kafr Qassem up to the Jenin refugee camp. During the last two years, and particularly since the assumption of power by Mr. Sharon, Israel, the occupying Power, has not ceased acts of extrajudiciary executions, imposition of collective punishment such as home demolitions, willful killings of civilians, inflicting severe harm and pain on the population, abduction and detention, and the vast and deliberate destruction of property and agricultural land. It has not ceased acts of severe restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, including United Nations and humanitarian organizations, closures and more recently the imposition of curfew on hundred of thousands of the inhabitants.
In short, Israel, the occupying Power, has not ceased, even during the periods of calm on the Palestinian side, including the last six weeks, its destruction of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions and the destruction of the life of the Palestinian people. Israel has reoccupied the areas under the Palestinian control and almost reverted the situation to what it was before the peace process.
The political goals of the Israeli side, in particular Mr. Sharon’s, behind all of this are very clear. These goals are to liquidate the Palestinian Authority and to break the Palestinian leadership, thus creating a situation of vacuum and anarchy and ultimately to subjugate the entire Palestinian people. The aim is not only to prevent a final settlement that would lead to the withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territories, but rather ensuring the continuation of the occupation and settler colonialism. In reality, Mr. Sharon, and unfortunately some of his supporters, do not want a different leadership, but the absence of any leadership. He does not want a solution with the Palestinian people, but to force the Palestinian people to abandon their rights.
The above mentioned is not an analysis, Mr. Sharon has been very clear of what he wants and his public statements have been sufficient enough for those who want to listen and understand. Mr. Sharon has repeatedly said that he rejects any final settlement and that he wants a long-term transitional arrangements. He repeatedly said that pain and suffering should be inflicted on the Palestinian people and they should be completely defeated. Mr. Sharon opposed the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations until he was able to bury them. Mr. Sharon also publicly said that he wished he had killed President Arafat when he was in Beirut. Mr. Sharon rewrote the meaning of Security Council resolution 242 in a direct challenge of the Security Council and all those who support the peace process, and then he reached the ultimate clarity when he said that Oslo agreements do not exist anymore. This is the same Mr. Sharon, the hero of the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, Qibya and Khan Yunis. He is the responsible person for the war crimes and State terrorism that have been committed by the Israeli occupying forces during his term of office as the head of the Israeli Government and the person who is pushing the whole region to a grave catastrophe.
On its part, Israel is trying to deny the above mentioned political goals. It wages psychological warfare against our people and leadership, in addition to waging a vigorous international campaign of systematic lies and misinformation. One of the elements of such a campaign is the attempt to present the situation as if all of the atrocities it commits against our people are just a reaction to the suicide bombings. The attempt to present the conflict as if it started with these bombings. There is nothing further from the truth.
On our part, our position has been and still is very clear in regard to suicide bombings against civilians in Israel. We condemn them as terrorist acts and as harmful for the Palestinian national interests. In any case, they are being committed by groups that oppose the peace process and the signed agreements between the two sides. I do refer to the fact, however, that the first suicide bombings took place towards the end of the year of 1994. Twenty-seven years after the beginning of the ugly Israeli occupation, and after Israel, the occupying Power, had already transferred about 350,000 Israeli settlers to the occupied territory to colonize it and to take it over. No, the occupation and its ugly practices have not come as a result of suicide bombings and it did not continue because of them - actually it created them.
We can add to the above that the Israeli reaction to such bombings has been always governed by its political position and not vice versa. When the Israeli political position was one to continue the peace process and to try to reach final settlement, those actions were not allowed to derail the peace process. Actually, they led to improved cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. When the political position became the position of Mr. Sharon, the peace process was brought to a halt and those suicide bombings were used as pretext to strike the Palestinian Authority and to bring the situation to pre-Oslo conditions. Why is the Palestinian Authority being hit instead of the perpetrators of the suicide bombings? Why are the lives of the entire Palestinian people being destroyed instead of convincing these people that there is a peaceful way to achieve their goals? At any case, and even if we are to believe the Israeli version, how could a State, and how a State is allowed, to try to prevent attacks against its civilians by attacking and destroying an entire people. Had Mr. Sharon wanted a solution, he would have known that there is no military solution. He is pursuing a military solution and a path of oppression and persecution, precisely because he does not want a political solution.
If we are to put what Israel is committing in the context of international legality and Security Council resolutions we will find a clear case. It is a case of three decades of defiance of Security Council resolutions. Three decades, Mr. President, and not one decade. Twenty-eight resolutions were adopted by the Council only with regard to Israeli practices and measures in our occupied land. All were rejected by the occupying Power and none were implemented. These include: resolutions on the Israeli violations and breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949; resolutions on illegal Israeli measures in Jerusalem; resolutions on settlements; resolutions on deportations; resolutions on providing protection to the Palestinian civilians; and resolutions dispatching envoys and fact-finding missions. All were rejected and even challenged through continued Israeli violations.
Israel is the only State in the world that is officially recognized as an occupying Power by the Security Council. Israel is the only State engaged in colonialism after the era of decolonization. It is the only State that has systematically violated and breached provisions of international law and international humanitarian law, and the only State that has publicly rejected all relevant Security Council resolutions. If all of that is not enough, Israel is also the only State in the region that illegally possesses nuclear weapons, in addition to other weapons of mass destruction.
What has the Security Council done? Unfortunately, not much. What does the Council intends to do now? It is our hope that the Council will show the necessary seriousness in shouldering its responsibilities towards the implementation of its own resolutions.
Another classical element in the Israeli campaign is the attempt to shift the focus to issues other than the main issue. The attempt to put the burden on the Palestinian side. We see that now in the focus on the issue of reform. It is true that this is an important issue for us, but it remains a Palestinian matter that can not constitute the international agenda to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Unfortunately, some appear to want to implement Mr. Sharon’s plans through this angle. They try to give democracy new meaning that does not recognize free elections and try to impose the political system and even the election system that they want on our people. This vulgar interference in the affairs of our people is unacceptable. And in any case, this issue can not substitute the main issue, the first and the last, namely the presence of the Israeli occupation and the need to end that occupation.
We will proceed with our second national elections and we will do our best to rebuild our institutions and reform them. We welcome any international assistance in this regard. At the same time, we understand the limitation of this, we know there is no real and complete democracy under foreign occupation and we know that we cannot build a stable and effective institutions while killing, destruction and aggression continue.
Expecting the Palestinian side to fulfill its duties in the security field after the destruction of our security capabilities, expecting it to complete reforms and build real democracy under occupation and continued oppression is ludicrous and impossible to achieve. This practically provides, intentionally or unintentionally, a new cover for Mr. Sharon and his policies while blaming the Palestinian side for failure. All while peace will continue to become more distant and while the rise of extreme forces will continue on both sides. We must stop all of this madness and that begins with facing the realities. The realities of Mr. Sharon, his government, his army and their policies. Otherwise, we will be heading to a much worse situation in the region and beyond.
The only way to end the current tragedy and to go back to the road to peace is to adopt a comprehensive approach along with real international presence on the ground. What is meant by a comprehensive approach is not only to deal with political, economic and security dimensions at the same time, although it is important, but also the declaration a priori of the form of the final settlement. Not only on the basis of two States, Israel and Palestine, but also with identifying the borders between the two States, with the possibility that the two sides agree to limited adjustments. This border of course is the armistice line that became known as the border of 1967. In light of that, it will also be possible to have stages and specific steps that will lead us from here to reaching the final settlement. This is the only approach that is going to create a different dynamic on the two sides and that will surely lead to the support by the overwhelming majority of the two peoples of the settlement.
That approach also needs and naturally will be enhanced with a real international presence on the ground. This could be in the form of observers that officially exist in sufficient numbers and have a clear mandate. Or even better, the form that was proposed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, namely the establishment of a multi-national force under Chapter VII of the Charter.
The parameters of the final settlement are widely known and our direct experience has taught us that the only available way to achieve peace is the above mentioned one. What then prevents that from happening? I do not want to get into that out of my responsibility, because, like every Palestinian, I am angry and furious at everything that is happening in our country and in our region. But we, the Palestinian people, have not lost hope and we await your measures.