Right of Reply by Ms. Feda Abdelhady Nasser, UNRWA Debate at the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (4th Committee), 54th Session, 4 November 1999:

Mr. Chairman, 

I had hoped that it would not be necessary to take the floor in exercise of my right of reply, however, I must respond to certain comments made today by the delegation of Israel.

 
         The statement by the Israeli representative seems a measure aimed at absolving the state of any responsibility whatsoever for the upheaval and plight of the Palestine refugees.

           We found it difficult to understand the Israeli claim that the majority of Palestine refugees are under Palestinian control, and thus beyond Israeli control or the Israeli occupation.  This is not only untrue, but it is indicative of Israeli thinking which seems intent on establishing an apartheid-system in Palestine.

           All of the Palestinian territory remains occupied and the occupying Power is ultimately responsible for all of the ills facing the Palestinian people.  Whether the Israeli tanks are inside a refugee camp, for instance, or around it, does not make any legal difference.  Let me also note the fact that the Israeli occupying army actually remains in control of more than 95% of the territory occupied by Israel in 1967. 

         The danger of such an argument by the representative of Israel lies in the refusal to acknowledge Israeli responsibility, which is the starting point for any just and equitable resolution of the refugee problem.

           It is imperative to stress the fact that the Palestine refugees have not been allowed to return to their homes and properties solely because of Israel’s rejection, in spite of an international consensus and annual resolutions adopted by the United Nations in this regard.  Moreover, it is this Israeli intransigence that has severely compounded the enormity of this problem over the many decades.

 Mr. Chairman, 

         Israel has not only refused the return of Palestine refugees to the area allocated to the Jewish State in partition resolution 181 (II); it has also refused the return of those who fled from the territories allocated to the Arab State, which Israel put under its control by military means.

           Resolution 181 (II) will remain the legal basis for the existence of the two states, regardless of the position of the parties at any specific time.  Nevertheless, one of the common inaccuracies is that Israel accepted the resolution, while the Arabs rejected it.  In fact, Israel accepted the resolution only as far as it related to the legitimacy it bestowed upon the Israeli State.  In practice, however, it immediately and continuously violated the provisions of the resolution, whether in terms of borders, the status of Jerusalem, or any other aspect.

           While we welcome the indications that the Israeli side will be serious in addressing the refugee issue in the final status negotiations, we nevertheless maintain that, for wounds to heal, for peace to be achieved, Israel must recognize its moral, legal, and financial responsibility. 

Statement following the Vote on Item 88, UNRWA, and Item 89, Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices at the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (4th Committee) on 4 November 1999:

 Mr. Chairman,

              I would like to take this opportunity to express the delegation of Palestine’s thanks and appreciation to all of those delegations that have expressed their support for Palestine on these very important agenda items.

 Such consistent support for the resolutions of UNRWA serve as an important reminder of the centrality of the question of the Palestine refugees to the international community and the necessity of providing assistance for those refugees until the achievement of a just resolution of their plight.

 Unfortunately, with regard specifically two resolutions of UNRWA, Israel remains the only Member State casting a negative vote or abstaining, preventing their adoption by consensus.

 Mr. Chairman, 

            The support expressed by delegations for the resolutions under agenda item 89 is also indicative of the seriousness attached to this issue by Member States.   The annual reaffirmation by this Committee of the applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories is crucial, as is the weight attached to the criticality of the ongoing violations by Israel throughout the territories occupied since 1967, including illegal settlement activities.

              Once again, I thank the delegations, and I thank you, Mr. Chairman.