Palestine Emphasizes Important Positions at 54th Session of U.N. 

            In carrying out its work at the United Nations throughout the 54th Session, the delegation of Palestine has striven to emphasize and reaffirm several important Palestinian positions.  These positions have been affirmed in the statements made by members of the Mission, on various issues of direct concern to Palestine, before the different committees of the U.N. General Assembly.  The statements have been made under agenda items such as the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, and the General Debate of the General Assembly.   

            The following is an outline of some of the important positions and principles that the Palestinian side reaffirms and adheres to:

 The Right of the Palestinian People to Self-Determination: 

            The realization of the right of peoples to self-determination is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in human rights instruments.  It is the responsibility of the international community, mainly the U.N., to guarantee the enjoyment by all peoples of this fundamental right. Combating inequality, oppression and securing the right of peoples to self-determination should be among the international community’s top priorities.  More serious actions are required in this regard, especially for people living under foreign occupation or alien domination.

            Real engagement in the peace process requires the recognition by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  It is inconceivable to recognize your adversary as a people, while at the same time refusing to recognize their right to self-determination.  The peace process cannot reach its normal, logical, and successful conclusion without such recognition. 

The Palestinian State:

 The establishment of the independent State of Palestine, in exercise of the right of Palestinian people to self-determination, cannot be subject to any veto – neither within the peace process nor outside of it. This is a natural and inalienable right, which cannot be negated or supplanted. 

The realization of by the Palestinian people of the right to establish their independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital, will provide the definitive guarantee for the establishment of a permanent peace in the Middle East. It will also be a validation of the Charter of the U.N. and its numerous resolutions for over fifty years, beginning with resolution 181, which called for the establishment of two States in Palestine, one Jewish, which is Israel, and one Arab, which is Palestine. The time has come for the international community, represented by the General Assembly, to reaffirm this right and seriously work toward its realization. 

The coming Millennium Summit, with all the renewed hope it represents for the people on earth for a new and promising beginning for all of us, must represent a decisive deadline for the achievement of peace in the Middle East.  We look forward to the participation of Palestine as a Member State in the U.N. in the deliberations of this Millennial Summit, and we trust in your support of this Palestinian determination to achieve independence so that Palestine will take the position it deserves within the family of nations.

 The Palestine Refugees:

 It is imperative to reaffirm basic and constant principles regarding the 3.6 million Palestine refugees.  In establishing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the General Assembly recalled its resolutions 212 (III) of 19 November 1948 and 194 (III) of 11 December 1948, affirming in particular the provisions of paragraph 11 of the latter, in which the Assembly “resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

 The Palestine refugees, like any other refugees in the world, have natural established rights to their homes and their properties.  Beginning with resolution 194 (III), the General Assembly has annually reaffirmed this right for over five decades.  It is an inalienable individual right, which cannot be diminished or supplanted with the passage of time.  This right should not to be confused with the right of displaced persons to return to the territory occupied by Israel since 1967, which was affirmed in Security Council resolution 237 (1967) and which should have already been effected during the transitional period of the peace process.  Further, the rights of the Palestine refugees to return to from where they fled should not to be confused with the right of every Palestinian to come to the Palestinian State and become a Palestinian citizen.  This is a sovereign right of the future Palestinian State and is part of its responsibility towards the Palestinian people everywhere.

UNRWA:

 The international community should not let the refugees feel as though it is abandoning its responsibility towards the Palestine refugee issue in the absence of a just solution, as they continue to languish in what were set up as temporary camps and shelters over a half century ago.  It is imperative that the important and essential work of UNRWA continues in all its fields of operation, namely Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, until a definitive solution to the refugee problem is reached with the implementation of the relevant U.N. resolutions.  There is no way to achieve peace, stability and security in the Middle East without a solution for the question of the Palestine refugees and the implementation of resolution 194 (III).

 Jerusalem:

 The goal of the current peace process is the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 425 and the principle of land for peace – that is the total Israeli withdrawal from all the Palestinian and other territories occupied in 1967, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif, the Holy City of Jerusalem, the first of the two qiblahs and the third holy sanctuary of Islam, the place from which the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) ascended to heaven, and the cradle of Jesus Christ (PBUH).

 Jerusalem, the Holy City, is at the heart of the question of Palestine.  This is the city that does not accept exclusive ownership and that demands a just solution, which takes into consideration the legitimate interests of the two peoples and the three great monotheistic religions, with all the necessary guarantees.  On that basis, the Palestinian side maintains that Arab Jerusalem must be the capital of Palestine.

 Israeli Violations and the 4th Geneva Convention:

The existence of the peace process requires urgent changes on the Israeli part, not on the part of the international community, upholding international law and the principles of the U.N. Charter.  The existence of the peace process requires, for example, that Israel cease its violations of international law and accept the applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention to all of the territories occupied in 1967 and abide by its provisions.  It certainly does not require that the international community abandon international humanitarian law. 

There exists an established international consensus on the applicability of 4th Geneva Convention to all the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, as well as to all the other Arab territories occupied by Israel in 1967.  This applicability has been reaffirmed in 25 U.N. Security Council resolutions and in a multitude of resolutions of the General Assembly and other bodies of the U.N.  The crux of the 4th Geneva Convention is to protect the civilian population, individually and collectively, “who at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or occupying Power of which they are not nationals” (Art. 4) and is applicable “in all cases of partial or total occupation” (Art. 2).

 The Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, remains occupied territory – all of it.  Whether Israeli tanks and Israeli soldiers are inside the city of Ramallah, for example, or surrounding that city, does not make any real legal difference.  Israeli claims that the majority of Palestinian people are not subject to Israeli occupation under the present circumstances are untrue.  Such claims, however, are indicative of Israeli thinking which contemplates an apartheid-system as a solution.  That is totally unacceptable.  The Israeli occupation of all the territory occupied since 1967 must end. That in itself is the historic comprise being made by the Palestinian people towards achieving peace in the Middle East.

Israeli Settlements:

 Among the most incessant of the violations being committed by Israel are those involving its illegal colonial settlement campaign in the occupied territory. As we speak, illegal settlement activities are being carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, by the Israeli authorities. These illegal practices and measures encompass innumerable violations of international law and international humanitarian law, such as the confiscation of land and property for the building of settlements and bypass roads, the exploitation and theft of natural resources and the transfer of more Israeli settlers into the occupied territory. The violence perpetrated by extremist settlers is another outgrowth of these illegal activities.

 Settlement activities are not only illegal, contravening international law and resolutions of the United Nations, they are also in violation of the agreements reached between the two sides and their continuity will destroy the peace process.