Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the Resumed Tenth Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on "Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory," 20 October 2003:(Original Arabic - Check against delivery)
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.
The matter is thus of extreme importance. It is about our national existence and peace in the region. It is either the wall or the road map. It is either the wall or the peace. It is impossible to have both.
In spite of the strategic and historic importance of the matter, the Security Council has failed to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security because of the exercise of veto by one of its permanent members. The veto on 14 October prevented the Security Council from adopting a binding resolution declaring the wall illegal under relevant provisions of international law and demanding that Israel, the occupying Power, cease its construction and dismantle the existing parts. This was the second veto by the same permanent member in less than one month and its 27th veto since 1976 on draft resolutions dealing with the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The practical result of the veto is that the construction of the wall will continue with all its catastrophic results unless the General Assembly and the United Nations system do something about it.
* 1 dunum = 1,000 square meters
Against that background, we, the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, called for the resumption of the tenth emergency special session (Uniting for Peace) with a view to making appropriate recommendations to the Members for collective measures. At this point, I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for your positive response to the request for the resumption of this important session. I would like to affirm here that we must do what is necessary. We must stop the wall.
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.
This includes a wall with the length of eight kilometers north of Occupied East Jerusalem, a second wall to the east and a third with the length of 15 kilometers to the south-that is north of the city of Bethlehem. The three suffocate and wreck both occupied East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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, the latest being the crimes committed in the refugee camp of Rafah a few days ago. This, along with other Israeli war crimes, essentially remains the responsibility of Ariel Sharon, the war criminal, and his government, the war government.
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.
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.
It is my hope that you could refer to the report of Professor John Dugard, the Special rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of the human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, dated 8 September 2003, on the issue of the wall and the settlements.
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 on its land 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 the General Assembly and the Security Council to also justify its illegal settlement activities throughout the territories occupied by it since 1967. Indeed, over the years, the General Assembly repeatedly witnessed the actual colonization of our land while the Israeli side continued repeating the argument that this was all just a "security measures".
Israel, the occupying Power, is trying to repeat the same thing, in addition to security measures there is now measures against terrorism. Naturally, we are all against terrorism and there is a clear and unwavering position by the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian Authority in this respect. It must be clarified, however, that it is the Israeli policies and measures that led to the suicide bombings and not vice versa. In fact, this condemnable phenomenon started 27 years after the beginning of the occupation and after our people lost hope for a better future. Israel is responsible for the destruction of three Palestinian generations. It is responsible for tearing apart the very fabric of our society. It is responsible for the social ills that plague our society and specifically responsible for that ugly phenomenon. It must understand that there can be no security solution alone for that phenomenon. In all cases, and at the time when all parties have to take measures to end that phenomenon, Israel, the occupying Power, must not be allowed to abuse the battle against international terrorism and even abuse its own civilian causalities as a cover for its illegal policies and measures and for the continuation of its occupation, settler colonialism, expansionism and the obstruction of peace.
What could the General Assembly in its tenth emergency special session do to save hope and peace in the region? A clear position in line with the unanimous international opposition to the wall must be expressed in a way that could contribute to its cessation.
But, the General Assembly could also, especially in light of the dismal Israeli record of violating United Nations resolutions and even dealing with them with contempt, call on the International Court of Justice and request an advisory opinion on the obligations of the occupying Power with regard to the wall, its cessation and the dismantlement of the existing parts under relevant provisions of international law. We believe that this approach is rooted in upholding peace and complying with international law and we do hope that an advisory opinion of the Court will represent a decisive factor in the compliance by all with the provisions of international law and thus push them in the right direction towards a just peaceful settlement. We believe that peace loving nations committed to the rule of law, including international law, cannot but be supportive of this approach.
The real travesty is the indignant Israeli position against such an approach. Why would anyone be against the involvement of the principle judicial organ of the United Nations? Israel says that this will seriously harm the peace process. Can you imagine? According to this warped logic, the actual construction of the wall, the conquest of the Palestinian land, the illegal expansion are all fine for the peace process, but the advisory opinion of the ICJ seriously harms that same peace process. I wish not to comment any further because we have confidence in your judgment and in the international conscience in spite of the pressure and even threats in this regard.
Lets save hope and peace…uniting for peace.
I thank you, Mr. President.
A substitute text beginning with the first paragraph.
What could the General Assembly in its tenth emergency special session do to save hope and peace in the region? A clear position in line with the unanimous international opposition to the wall must be expressed in a way that could contribute in its cessation. A clear position on the illegality of the wall and a clear demand on Israel to cease its construction and to remove the existing parts must be adopted.
Then it is also possible in addition to the above to consider the issue of requesting an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on the obligation of the occupying Power under relevant provisions of international law with regard to the cessation of building the wall and its removal. We believe that such an approach will strengthen the necessity of compliance with international law, thus pushing all in the right direction towards a just settlement. Such steps could be taken to save the situation. We hope that they will.
Lets save hope and peace…uniting for peace.