Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations before the United Nations Security Council, New York, 14 October 2003:

Mr. President,

Israel, the occupying Power, is committing an immense war crime against the Palestinian people, with the magnitude of a crime against humanity, as it builds an expansionist wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. This has involved the confiscation and destruction of thousands of dunums of Palestinian land, the destruction of the livelihood of tens of thousands of protected Palestinian civilians, and the illegal, de facto annexation of expansive areas of the occupied Palestinian land.

With the continued building of this expansionist wall - if the international community permits the continuation of such a crime - Israel will have effectively transferred large numbers of Palestinian civilians and will have constricted the rest of the Palestinian people in several walled Bantustans with additional secondary walls inside them. It will have, of course, also effectively destroyed the existence of an independent, sovereign State of Palestine and the potential for achieving a political settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in line with the two-State vision, based on Security Council resolution 242 (1967) and the armistice line of 1949, known as the line of 1967.

Mr. President,

Israel, the occupying Power, began building the first phase of its wall in the northwest areas of the Occupied West Bank in June 2002. For several months it succeeded in avoiding any real response by the international community to this action because of the secrecy surrounding the planning of the wall and the false impression it created about compliance, albeit relative, with the armistice line. In addition, of course, with the continuation of its bloody military campaign against the Palestinian people and the continuation of its media and political campaign against the Palestinian Authority and leadership, different immediate priorities were imposed on the Palestinian side and on the international community. Under this cover, Israel, the occupying Power, actually concluded what it refers to as the first phase. It declared in April 2003 the completion of 27 kilometers of the expansionist wall and then by the end of the summer the completion of the entire first phase of about 150 kilometers.

The wall is comprised of several components, including, in some areas, concrete walls measuring 8 meters high with fortified guard towers and, in others, several fences, including electrical, containing all or most of the following: trenches, dirt paths, two-lane paved patrol roads, barbed wire, sensors, and "no-go" areas, making the width of the wall anywhere from 70 to 100 meters. In its first phase, this expansionist wall has already resulted in the confiscation and destruction of approximately 15,000 dunums* of land for just the footprint of the wall alone, which also involved the uprooting of more than 100,000 trees and the destruction of 30 kilometers of water networks. Moreover, with the wall cutting deep into the Palestinian territory, up to 6 kilometers from the armistice line, it has isolated more than 105,000 dunums of Palestinian land, the fate of which, if the wall is not removed, is their illegal, de facto annexation by Israel.

The confiscation of Palestinian land on which the wall has been built and that which has been isolated between the wall and the armistice line has destructively impacted the lives of more than 200,000 Palestinian civilians in 65 villages and towns on both sides of the wall, including the partial or complete separation between those civilians and their land as well as their water resources and the separation between them and the rest of the Palestinian people. In addition there are severe prohibitions on the movement of some of them, such as the complete walling of the city of Qalqilya and the control of the entry and exit to the city through one gate, open for only a few hours a day for the city’s 40,000 inhabitants.

With regard to Occupied East Jerusalem, Israel, the occupying Power, has not been satisfied with just isolating the city from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the rest of the Palestinian people and has not been satisfied with its continued attempts to judaize the city and change its demographic composition. It has also built a similar wall that could be called the "northern wall" of Jerusalem, which measures up to 8 kilometers in length and has resulted in the confiscation of 800 dunums of Palestinian land from the villages of Al-Ram, Kalandia and Kufr Aqab. All of this comes as part of the plan for "Greater Jerusalem" that extends deep into the Occupied Territory to include the illegal Israeli settlement of "Maale Adumim".

The city of Bethlehem has been unable to escape similar plans. The city has become completely besieged, especially after the building of a wall 15 kilometers in length north of the city. This wall is totally suffocating the city in an attempt to provide for the expansion of the Israeli settlements south of Occupied Jerusalem.

Mr. President,

On 1 October, the Israeli government adopted plans for the second phase of the expansionist wall, which dwarfs the first phase in the extent of illegal expansion and conquest of Palestinian land as well as other dangerous consequences in this regard. The phase is to begin with the establishment of the wall east of the illegal Israeli settlements of "Ariel" and "Kedumim", which is to cut more than 22 kilometers deep into the Palestinian land and, thus, the ensuing consequences can only be imagined.

* 1 dunum = 1,000 square meters

If the international community would allow the implementation of this phase of such an Israeli crime, then the third and fourth phases will follow to make the length of the wall more than 500 kilometers at a cost of more than one billion dollars. After that, the establishment of the wall on the eastern side of the Palestinian territory will begin in order to isolate it from its international border with Jordan and allow for the conquest of the Jordan valley and complete the wall of the three or four Bantustans on half of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

To restate the obvious, the expansionist conquest wall, in its parts and its entirety, is illegal. Its construction represents a violation of Article 2, paragraph 4 of the Charter of the United Nations as well as of Article 1, paragraph 2. It violates the established principle of international law on the prohibition of the acquisition of territory by force. It violates Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, banning any annexation by the occupying Power of the whole or part of the occupied territory. It also violates Article 33 of the same Convention, prohibiting collective punishment of protected persons. And, finally, it represents a grave breach of the Convention under Article 147 as it involves extensive destruction and appropriation of property. All of this is in addition to its serious violation of relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 242 (1967), cornerstone of the peace process, as well as of the Oslo agreements. It is thus abundantly clear that the establishment of the expansionist conquest wall by the occupying Power is a war crime and, I reiterate, with the intensity of a crime against humanity.

Mr. President,

The establishment of this expansionist wall goes hand in hand with the Israeli settlement activities. Their nature is the same in terms of the colonization of the land, its conquest and its annexation. The wall is an immense war crime compounding the other war crime that is the Israeli settlement of our land in addition to the countless other war crimes committed by the occupying Power against the Palestinian people.

Israel, the occupying Power, has illegally transferred more than 400,000 Israeli settlers to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and settled them in more than 200 settlements that have been built on more than 8% of the Palestinian land, apart from the land in their vicinities and the additional land they try to control. It has established a separate infrastructure and complete network of roads for those settlers and has enabled them to exploit and abuse our natural resources and our water and to terrorize our people. Now, with the building of its expansionist wall, the occupying Power is trying to annex the Palestinian land on which half of those settlers are living while leaving enough for the expansion of the rest of the settlements and at the same time destroying the Palestinian national presence.

Israel has carried out all of this in spite of the absolute prohibition of such colonization under the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol 1, which defines it as a war crime as does the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court. It has carried out all of this in spite of the fact that the United Nations Security Council has reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention in 26 resolutions that request the occupying Power to comply with its provisions and some of which specifically request the cessation of settlement activities and consider the annexation of East Jerusalem to be null and void.

Mr. President,

How can these Israeli war crimes be appropriately described? Is this classic colonization? We believe it is worse than that. Is this a new apartheid system? We believe it is worse than that. It is a combination that has drawn upon these two ugly phenomena, amounting to the lowest level thinking of racist colonizers to achieve expansion, colonization and negation of the national existence of the indigenous people, all in grave breach of fundamental laws and values – of the United Nations Charter, international humanitarian law and relevant Security Council resolutions.

Indeed, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, Professor John Duggard, in his report to the Commission on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 states, inter alia, with regard to the issue of the wall, the following: "Like the settlements its seeks to protect, the Wall is manifestly intended to create facts on the ground. It may lack an act of annexation, as occurred in the case of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. But its effect is the same: annexation. Annexation of this kind goes by another name in international law – conquest." He goes on to say that "The right to self-determination is closely linked to the notion of territorial sovereignty. A people can only exercise their right to self-determination within a territory. The amputation of the Palestinian territory by the Wall seriously interferes with the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people as it substantially reduces the size of the self-determination unit (already small) within which that right is to be exercised".

Mr. President,

Israel claims that it is building the expansionist wall as a security measure to prevent suicide bombings. This is not only incredulous and illogical but it is a repetition of the same lie and pretext that has been used by Israel over the years to commit all of its crimes against the Palestinian people, particularly its expansionism and its campaign of settler colonialism. Israel could build walls along the armistice line and it could raise them to 80 meters instead of 8. True, this would be a bad thing in terms of coexistence between the two sides, but no one could say that it is illegal. Indeed, Israel actually did do that to some extent around the Occupied Gaza Strip. If this were now the case with regard to the Occupied West Bank and the armistice line, then it could be possible to believe that Israel is actually building the wall as a security measure. It is imperative to recall in this regard that, in the past, Israel repeatedly used the same meaningless security pretext before this very Council to also justify its illegal settlement activities throughout the territories occupied by it since 1967. Indeed, over the years, the Council repeatedly witnessed the actual colonization of our land while the Israeli side continued repeating the argument that this was all just a "security measure".

In reality, the whole issue has revolved around one thing - land and the designs on the part of Israel to illegally expand and conquer more land at the expense of the Palestinian people and their rights. In the war of 1948, immediately after the declaration of its existence, Israel conquered almost half of the territory allotted by the United Nations to the Arab State when it partitioned Mandated Palestine under the pretext that it was attacked by the Arab States. In the war of 1967, it occupied the remaining half allotted to the Arab State, which represents less than a quarter of Mandated Palestine, and it has refused to withdraw for more than 36 years. When the Palestinian leadership made the unparalleled, historic concession accepting coexistence between the two States, with Palestine established only on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, Israel continued instead to colonize our land and to illegally transfer its nationals to that land. Even after the onset of the Oslo peace process, the occupying Power continued in this regard, actually doubling the number of settlers since the start of that process and until now, including after the launching of the Road Map.

Israel is doing all of this while it has not even solved the issue of the ownership of land in Israel itself. There are 5.5 million dunums of land privately owned by Palestine refugees - and I speak here specifically about private ownership and not public ownership - all of which were accounted for and documented by the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP), composed of the U.S., France and Turkey. In fact, the UNCCP record was recently modernized in a way that has made it available for practical use. These 5.5 million dunums constitute almost half of the land in Israel if we exclude the Negev desert. Apparently, for Israel, taking over these lands, instead of restituting them to their rightful Palestinian owners, was not enough. It has actually moved to colonize the land left to the Palestinian people in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, once more, in the biggest war crime of its kind in our contemporary history.

Absolute madness and compound crimes. The arrogance of power and the absence of morality. All have been sustained by the illegitimate protection, huge influxes of funding and the unlimited armaments, all provided by basically one source.

Mr. President,

The Security Council clearly bears responsibility for the prevailing situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. In addition, the Security Council, and I would say the Middle East region itself and the entire international community, are now approaching the moment of truth. Either Israel, the occupying Power, will be allowed to continue with all that it has been illegally doing - to continue colonizing our land, conquering it and denying the existence of the State of Palestine - with all the consequent grave results, not the least of which are the demise of the two-State solution and the emergence of a more radical solution or the continuation of perpetual conflict. Or Israel is to be stopped. Settlements must be stopped, the wall must be stopped and both be reversed. That will rescue the potential for achieving peace and achieving a final settlement based on the existence of two States - Israel and Palestine. Accordingly, the meeting of your august Council and its decision this time indeed has strategic and historic importance. We do hope that the Council will rise to the level of this challenge.

Thank you, Mr. President.