Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, New York, 24 July 2002:
(Original: Arabic – Check Against Delivery)
Israel, the occupying Power, continues to commit and escalate war crimes and State terrorism against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. In the pre-dawn hours, Palestine time, of yesterday, an F-16 warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on a three-story apartment building in northern Gaza City. This air strike killed 15 Palestinian civilians and wounded more than 150 people. Among those killed in the attack were nine infants and children, ranging between the ages of two months and 13 years old. In addition to the human devastation, the building that was hit, and at least four other homes, were destroyed and several other nearby buildings sustained serious damage in the attack on this densely populated civilian neighborhood.
Israel, the occupying Power, declared that this military attack was in fact carried out as a targeted killing. This repugnant practice of extrajudiciary execution has been repeatedly condemned by the international community and constitutes a war crime. Yesterday, however, the occupying Power took this practice to a new, extreme level, as the occupying forces knowingly and deliberately killed innocent civilians - children, women and men, many belonging to the same family - in the attack along with the targeted person, Mr. Salah Shehada. Clearly, there was no way that such a military strike would not cause such tragic results in terms of civilian deaths and injuries and physical destruction.
This Israeli assault represents the first blatant war crime committed by the Israeli occupying forces since the entry into force this month of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This action definitely falls within the jurisdiction of the Court and, as such, measures to bring the perpetrators to justice should be taken. At the same time, this latest Israeli war crime was committed at a time when serious, and apparently succeeding, efforts were being undertaken to curb the violence and restore some cooperative measures between the two sides. Obviously, the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Ariel Sharon, who labeled the crime as a "great success", is once more trying his utmost to prevent any progress towards restoring a meaningful, peaceful process. Mr. Sharon and his lieutenants must be held responsible for such actions and the ensuing results.
The above-mentioned Israeli war crime comes after the recent demolition of the homes of families of suspected Palestinian suicide bombers as well as a series of threats by Israeli officials to deport some or all of those family members. Such actual or threatened measures are illegal and prohibited under 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. Further, they represent a collective punishment as well as a war crime under international humanitarian law and the statute of the ICC, and again the international community is obligated to take measures against the perpetrators of these crimes.
All of this is happening while the Israeli occupying forces continue with their second wave of reoccupation of most Palestinian cities and population centers in the occupied West Bank, which has now continued for over a month. 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 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, the continuous confinement of the people and other Israeli collective punishment measures against the Palestinian people have led not only to socio-economic devastation but to a real humanitarian crisis, for which Israel must be held responsible.
As of today, more than 1,705 Palestinians 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, by the occupying forces. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and thousands have been rendered homeless. Billions of dollars have been lost in Palestinian wages and income.
Further, 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, and essentially represents 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 and to rebuild itself.
All of the above is an escalation of the same Israeli military campaign against the Palestinian people, which began with the infamous visit of Mr. Sharon to Al-Haram Al-Sharif on 28 September 2000. There was, you will recall, another level of escalation prior to this recent period, which began on 29 March 2002, in response to which the Security Council adopted resolutions 1402 (2002), 1403 (2002) and 1404 (2002). Needless to say, Israel, the occupying Power, not only has not heeded those resolutions, but it has now created an even graver situation on the ground. We believe that the Security Council has a clear responsibility vis-à-vis the situation, including the necessity for implementing the Council’s own resolutions.
The government of Mr. Ariel Sharon has been trying to portray its policies and practices as simply a response to the suicide bombings. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the Palestinian side has condemned this practice that has undermined the Palestinian national interest. In fact, 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 maximum pain, suffering and loss on the Palestinian people. Only in this manner could he guarantee blocking any possibility for a serious peace settlement so that the occupation and the colonization and settlement activities could continue.
Unfortunately, some on the international scene have been trying to avoid the realities and to avoid confronting Mr. Sharon. Thus came the search for a solution that would show a lot of motion towards the situation, even without any real movement. The problem is that such an approach can only make matters worse. Obviously, avoiding the truth is not going to make it disappear.
At this time, some parties have decided to focus on the issue of reform of the Palestinian Authority, making this the central issue regarding the situation. While we believe that reform is in our national interest, we do hope that this focus does not represent another attempt to avoid the realities and divert attention from the imperative of confronting the illegal policies of the Israeli government of Mr. Sharon.
Two clarifications are necessary on this issue. First, the current system of the Palestinian Authority has its limitations and deficiencies as a result of the Oslo process and not as a result of a Palestinian choice. Second, any talk about restructuring, reform or free elections while important, remain meaningless while the Palestinian people are under Israeli occupation, let alone while Israeli tanks remain in the heart of Ramallah and Israeli warplanes fly above Gaza.
We do appreciate the established international consensus that has emerged on the two-State solution and the need for the establishment of the State of Palestine. Allow me, in this regard, to put forward some main Palestinian positions on the debate that is currently taking place on this issue.
First, the internal Palestinian situation will remain always the domain of the Palestinian people themselves to deal with. We hope that no one is trying to give free and democratic elections a new meaning.
Second, any initiatives or plans that would exempt the Israeli side, and particularly Mr. Sharon, from taking specific actions up front and from adopting different policies would only provide cover for further destructive Israeli actions. Such initiatives would lead nowhere and no one could even seriously believe in them.
Third, we reiterate our belief regarding the need for a comprehensive approach. This does not only mean dealing with political, economic and security issues simultaneously, but it also means agreeing on a final outcome or the end game from the beginning. Details, of course, would be left to the parties to negotiate, but the overall framework should be clear. We do believe that the Security Council can and should play an important role in this regard.
Finally, with regard to the political aspect, let me also say that the Palestinian side believes that the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967, including East Jerusalem, is not subject to negotiation. Palestine should be established in this territory with its borders based on the 1967 lines. We have already compromised more than our share and any expansionist Israeli designs shall not be accepted. Needless to say, this position is also versed in the Arab initiative adopted by the Beirut Summit, which was based on the initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
With all honesty, we feel that the international community needs to show more resolve and seriousness in dealing with the situation, whether on the ground or concerning the political aspect. The ongoing Israeli violations and crimes are suffocating and indeed killing any potential for peace between the two sides. This tragic situation is only being further exacerbated as the international community continues to stand idly by, while the Israeli occupying forces continue to wreak devastation and destruction against the Palestinian people. We will continue to cooperate with the Quartet and other interested parties, but we strongly believe in the need for decisive action, especially on the part of this Security Council, to prevent the worst from happening and hopefully to carry us forward to a different and better situation.
I thank you, Mr. President.