Israel, the Occupying Power, Continues to Brutally Repress the Palestinian People
Security Council Adopts Resolution 1322
Condemning Excessive Use of Force against Palestinians
On 28 September 2000, the leader of Israelís Likud party, Ariel Sharon, carried out a premeditated and provocative visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Occupied East Jerusalem while accompanied by an extremely exaggerated security protection. The visit caused a serious outcry among the Palestinian people, who felt that their most important holy site was being invaded, and led to serious clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in Jerusalem.
The following day, scores of Israeli forces stormed Al-Haram Al-Sharif after the Friday prayers and began attacking and shooting the worshippers. That event sparked Palestinian protests throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and at a later stage spread to Israel itself with demonstrations being held by Israeli Arabs.
From the start of these protests, the Israeli army and police forces used overwhelming and excessive lethal force, resulting in the willful killing of Palestinians and causing grave suffering, serious injuries and inflicting vast damage, all in grave violation of the 4th Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and some of which constitute war crimes according to the Convention. In its extreme response to the protests, Israel drastically increased the presence of its forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, using snipers, all types of bullets and ammunition, anti-tank missiles, helicopter gun-ships, and even tanks. As of the writing of this article, more than 80 Palestinians were killed and more than 3,000 were injured, many critically. Tragically, many of those killed by the occupying army were youths and children. The indiscriminate and inhumane use of force against innocent and unarmed civilians, including children, was immortalized for the eyes of the world by the stark photographs of the killing of a terrified 12 year-old, Mohammed Jamal Al-Durra, as his father desperately begged for his life yet could not protect him from the onslaught of Israeli bullets.
At a later stage, illegal armed Israeli settlers in the occupied territory joined the Israeli army in committing atrocities against Palestinian civilians, including the beating and burning to death of one man. The real shock for many, including Israeli officials, was the extreme brutality by the Israeli police against the Arabs in Israel, which led to the death of 11 and the injury of hundreds. In some instances, Israeli Jews attacked Israeli Arabs while the police did nothing, or later joined in attacking the Arabs as well.
With regard to the Palestinian police, it is important to recall that for the first 3 days of this Israeli campaign against the Palestinian people not one single bullet was fired by any Palestinian police officer or armed individual. Even after that, the Palestinian police responded in specific cases in which they were appalled by the intensity of Israeli fire and attacks. Up until this moment, it has been obvious that there was no attempt by the police to engage in confrontation with the Israeli army.
Attempts to stop this Israeli campaign of terror and killing and to restore the situation on the ground to its status prior to the provocation of 28 September were continuous yet yielded little success. These efforts included the convening of meetings in Paris on 4 October 2000, in which President Arafat, Prime Minister Barak, Secretary of State Albright, President Chirac, and U.N. Secretary-General Annan participated. A follow-up effort was the convening of a meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, the next day by President Mubarak, which was attended by Arafat and Albright, but boycotted by Barak.
With the continuous deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, the Arab region as a whole reached a boiling point, with massive demonstrations taking place in many Arab cities in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Such protests were also held throughout several capitals in Europe, Asia, and Canada, as well as in various cities across the United States. The international community gradually responded to the outcries and the outrage with clear condemnation of the Israeli violence against the Palestinian people, which culminated in the adoption by the Security Council of resolution 1322 on 7 October 2000. The eventual convening of the Security Council meeting and adoption of the resolution were, however, not a simple task.
The Palestinian side engaged the Security Council at a very early stage in the course of events. This began with identical letters regarding the situation to the President of the Security Council and the Secretary-General of the U.N. on 29 September, the day after Sharonís deliberate provocation, and on 2 October, following the bloodshed of that weekend as a result of Israelís extreme use of force. This was coupled with the convening of a series of meetings at U.N. headquarters of the Arab Group, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), all of which endorsed the Palestinian request for a formal meeting by the Council to consider the grave situation.
The U.S. attempted to prevent any movement by the Council on the issue and then tried to impose an unacceptable Presidential Statement to be issued by the Council in exchange for convening the meeting. However, the Palestinian side, supported by the NAM members of the Council, rejected the attempt and a Security Council meeting was held with the participation of more than 50 speakers over three days of meetings, from 3 to 5 October. The overwhelming majority of speakers, sans Israel, expressed grave concern over the situation, outrage at the senseless loss of life and injury, and condemnation over Israelís excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians. (The participants in the debate of the Security Council on the matter included the following: Palestine, Israel, U.S., France, Bangladesh, Netherlands, U.K., Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Jamaica, Malaysia, China, Canada, Tunisia, Mali, Namibia, Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Yemen, India, Iraq, Mauritania, Turkey, Libya, Sudan, Indonesia, Oman, UAE, Japan, Morocco, Lebanon, Nepal, Viet Nam, Spain, Malta, as well as the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Permanent Observers of the League of Arab States, the OIC and the Organization of African Unity. It should be noted that Palestine and Israel addressed the Council twice during its debate. Excerpts from the 2 statements of Palestine follow the end of this article.)
Following conclusion of the Councilís debate, the U.S. also unsuccessfully tried to block the adoption of any resolution and attempted, to no avail, to introduce major changes to the draft resolution that was introduced by the Palestinian side and sponsored by the NAM members of the Council. Finally, on 7 October, the Security Council adopted resolution 1322 (see full text below). The adoption of the resolution was in part the result of the determination of many of its members to follow the rules and fulfill the Councilís responsibilities, especially its President for October, Ambassador Andjaba of Namibia, and the NAM coordinator on the Council, Ambassador Agam of Malaysia. The full support of Arab countries and other friends increased the pressure on the U.S. and helped greatly as well.
Resolution 1322 contains various important elements addressing the events themselves, but also dealing with the legal basis of the situation, as well as the Middle East peace process. The Security Council deplored the provocation carried out at Al-Haram Al-Sharif on 28 September and condemned the acts of violence, especially the excessive use of force against the Palestinians, and called upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its obligations under the 4th Geneva Convention. The Council also stressed the importance of the establishment of a mechanism for a speedy and objective inquiry into the tragic events and invited the Secretary-General to continue to follow the situation and to keep the Council informed. The use by the Council of the term Al-Haram Al-Sharif, effectively refusing illegal Israeli claims in this regard, was significant, as were terms such as "throughout the territories occupied by Israel since 1967" and "the occupying Power" to describe Israelís status in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Following the adoption of the resolution, the Palestinian side expressed the hope that Israel would heed the calls in the resolution and cease its campaign of terror, which could lead to the revival of the peace process and possibly the necessary progress within its context for its ultimate success. As of this writing, a flurry of activity and contacts is being conducted by many leaders, including the visits of several international diplomats to the region, who are discussing different ideas for stopping the continuous and dangerous deterioration of the situation. However, the political posturing and irrational positions of Mr. Barak are not helping.
Where the Palestinian-Israeli relationship and the situation in the Middle East are heading now - whether we are going towards war or towards peace - is not clear. What is clear is that the present situation of escalating tension, instability, violence, conflict and bloodshed is not viable and cannot continue.
The following are excerpts from the statements, of 3 and 5 October 2000, made by the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., Ambassador Al-Kidwa, during the Security Councilís debate:
5 October 2000:
(The full texts of these statements can be viewed on our web site: www.palestine-un.org under the category of Palestine Mission-Work & Documents/Statements)