10th Emergency Special Session Resumes to Address

Illegal Israeli Actions

As the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, continued to deteriorate following the Israeli provocation at Al-Haram Al-Sharif on September 28th, the tenth emergency special session (10th ESS) of the General Assembly resumed on 18 October 2000 to consider the ongoing Israeli military campaign against the Palestinian people. The escalation of violence by the Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian people that led to the resumption of the ESS included the use of tanks and helicopter gunships against Palestinian targets in the cities of Ramallah and Gaza, casually referred to by Israel as so-called "pinpoint attacks".

The continuing loss of human life and grave injuries on the Palestinian side, as well as the destruction of property, compelled the delegation of Palestine at the United Nations to once again call for an urgent meeting of the Security Council to address the situation. This call was made in a letter from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N. to the President of the Security Council on 12 October, the date of the Israeli bombing attacks in Ramallah and Gaza. The call followed the convening of the Council less than a week earlier, which culminated with the adoption of resolution 1322 (2000) on 7 October, with which the Israeli side did not comply, instead continuing its excessive and indiscriminate use of force against Palestinian civilians. At the same time, the Israeli side declared a "time-out" in the peace process, eliminating any possibility for a resumption of negotiations or reaching an understanding to cease Israeli use of force against the Palestinian people. Regrettably, however, the Security Council failed to convene due to the refusal of a permanent member and its threat to veto any proposal brought before the Council.

In response, the delegation of Palestine sought to resume the 10th ESS under the "uniting for peace" formula provided for in General Assembly resolution 377 (V) of 3 November 1950 for instances when the Security Council fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. On 13 October, the Member States of the Arab Group met at the U.N. and, under the chairmanship of Iraq in October, determined to request the resumption of the 10th ESS. That same day the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) also met and sent a letter conveying the support of NAM for the request by the Arab Group to resume the session. As a result, the 10th ESS was convened by the Assembly on 18 October. (The most recent prior resumption of the 10th ESS was in February 1999.) This session was convened on the heels of the 5th Special Session of the Human Rights Commission at U.N. headquarters at Geneva to address the current situation. The session was chaired by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Mary Robinson, who recently visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and culminated with the adoption of a resolution on the matter.

Ambassador Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., was the first speaker to address the resumed 10th ESS. His statement clearly presented the reasons for the resumption of the ESS as well as details of the continuing deterioration of the situation on the ground in the Palestinian territory due to Israel’s persistent violations and escalating use of lethal force. He stressed the point that the Israeli occupation itself is the central violation of international law by Israel and the source of all other violations committed by the occupying Power on the ground. Addressing the current situation, he stated that, as of 18 October, the occupying Power had killed more than 90 martyrs and injured more than 3,000, many of whom remained in serious condition and more than a third children of whom were under the age of 18 years, in the 3 weeks since the start of the recent tragic events. (The full text of the statement before the 10th ESS can be viewed at www.palestine-un.org.)

On the first day of the resumption of the ESS, only 3 additional speakers - Israel, Senegal on behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and South Africa on behalf of NAM - addressed the session. The decision to limit the number of speakers was a compromise reached with the European Union (EU), hesitant to resume the session in light of U.S. pressure to postpone it until the U.N. Secretary-General returned from the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit and briefed the Assembly. From the Palestinian point of view, the formal engagement by the General Assembly and the holding of such a briefing by the Secretary-General was seen as a very positive development.

As noted, the Israeli representative to the U.N. addressed the Assembly on the first day of the ESS resumption, and his statement was full of distortions, false statements and even personal attacks and misquotes of Ambassador Al-Kidwa among others. In response, Ambassador Al-Kidwa exercised his right of reply, calling the attention of the Assembly to the misinformation and distortions presented by the Israeli representative and his attempts to divert attention from the real issues at hand - the Israeli occupation itself and the current dangerous situation on the ground due to the occupying Power’s illegal practices, policies, and actions.

The second meeting of the 10th ESS was convened on Friday, 20 October 2000. The first speaker was the Secretary-General, who briefed the Assembly on the results of his efforts during his visit to the region as well as on the results of the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit. The Secretary-General was followed by 54 speakers, bringing the total to 58 speakers. The overwhelming majority of speakers expressed their grave concern over the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, particularly the extensive loss of life and injury among Palestinian civilians. Moreover, they denounced the continuing Israeli occupation, denounced the Israeli provocation and actions in Occupied East Jerusalem, and condemned Israel’s excessive use of force against a civilian population and its blatant disregard for international law, international humanitarian law and the resolutions of the U.N. The applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention to all the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem, was also reaffirmed repeatedly by the representatives addressing the session.

Following the conclusion of the debate on 20 October, the Assembly voted on a draft resolution, entitled Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which was adopted as resolution ES-10/7 with a vote of 92 in favor, 6 against, and 46 abstentions. The 6 negative votes were cast by Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Tuvalu, and the U.S. The negative votes remained the usual ones, in addition to the new Member States of Nauru and Tuvalu, but the abstentions were relatively high due to unusual American pressure until the very last minute in the Assembly Hall itself. Linked to that was the failure of the EU to maintain its unified position in support of the resolution. Actually, in spite of the serious negotiations in good faith that took place with the EU presidency, some Members, especially the U.K., indicated in the last minute their unwillingness to support the resolution, leading to abstentions by 6 of the 15 EU members.

Resolution ES-10/7, inter alia, condemned the violence that began on 28 September, resulting in the death of over 100 people, the vast majority of whom were Palestinian civilians, and many other casualties; and demanded the immediate cessation of violence and use of force, as well as that Israel abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the 4th Geneva Convention. Moreover, in the resolution the Assembly called for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1322 (2000) in fulfillment of the Council's primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. (The full text of resolution ES-10/7 appears below.)