Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., before the Tenth Emergency Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly, "Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory", 24 April 1997: (Original: Arabic)

Mr. President,

Yes, Uniting for Peace. Uniting against the violation of international law and United Nations resolutions. Uniting to confront the arrogance of power and the mentality of occupation. Uniting to oppose misuse of the veto and attempts to neutralize the Security Council. Uniting in order to rescue the Middle East peace process. Yes, Uniting for a just solution to the question of Palestine and the establishment of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region.

Mr. President,

Allow me to extend to you our gratitude and our highest consideration. Allow me also to especially thank H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, for his valuable efforts and his wise leadership. I would like also to convey, on behalf of the Palestinian people and their leadership, sincerest thanks and appreciation to our Arab and Islamic brethren and the fraternal members of the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as to all those who have extended their support, enabling the international community to take such a firm stance and enabling the General Assembly and Member States to carry out their responsibilities to confront the continuing illegal actions by Israel, the occupying Power, which threaten the Middle East peace process, and hence threaten international peace and security.

We strongly hope that the General Assembly, in this Tenth Emergency Special Session, will adopt the necessary recommendations for Member States to take appropriate collective measures to guarantee respect for international law, contractual obligations and relevant United Nations resolutions, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Mr. President,

The Middle East peace process heralded an end to a long era of conflict and became the harbinger of a promising future for the region and its peoples. The famous handshake on the lawn of the White House in 1993 became a symbol of new hope and of the ability to achieve the peace of the brave. This peace was pursued on the basis of the mutual recognition of legitimate rights of both peoples and the desire to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security and achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process. These are the words of the Declaration of Principles, which also stated that the permanent settlement must be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). It was upon this basis, and within this context, that the two sides agreed on a transitional period of five years for interim self-government arrangements and also agreed to postpone negotiations on a number of important issues, including the future of Jerusalem and the settlements, until a time not later than the beginning of the third year of negotiations.

This is the agreement that led to the significant changes we have witnessed in our region and in the world. Israel has gained great benefits as a result, and the Palestinian side began to accomplish some goals, most important of which was the holding of a democratic general election for the Palestinian National Authority and its President. The process continued and endured numerous difficulties and problems, some of which were expected but which were overcome through the general commitment of both parties to fulfill their contractual obligations under the Declaration of Principles of 1993 and the Interim Agreement of 1995.

Then the current Israeli government came to power, adopting basic political guidelines which contradicted the agreements signed, and regression to the mentality of the occupier overwhelmed the dealings between both parties. The government has fervently pursued the continuation of settlement activities and the judaization of Occupied East Jerusalem. The situation has thus deteriorated dramatically. The only exception to this trend of reversal from the peace process was the conclusion of the agreement on, and the redeployment in, Hebron on 15 January 1997. This agreement was the result of an intense and long American effort. It was, however, followed by a series of dangerous Israeli actions, constituting a direct threat to the whole peace process and to its actual continuation. The most dangerous of such actions has been the commencement of construction of a new colonial settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim to the south of Occupied East Jerusalem, intended to absorb approximately 25,000 new colonial settlers. Prior to, and following this, there have been many other dangerous steps taken, such as the opening of the tunnel adjacent to Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the attempt to redeploy from only an additional 2% of the West Bank.

Three years since the peace process began, the Palestinian people look and see, along with the Arab people, that the promised benefits of peace have not been realized and that the commitments of the interim period have not been fulfilled and, worse, that the basis of the peace process itself is being destroyed.

The Palestinian people look and see the drastic deterioration of their national economy and decline in their living conditions as a result of the policies of the Israeli government, which persist in keeping the Palestinian market hostage and in preventing any viable development of the Palestinian economy, in violation of the economic part of the agreement, using all means, the ugliest of which is the enforcement of siege and closure, preventing the freedom of movement of persons and goods, not only between the Palestinian territory and Israel, according to the Israeli security pretext, but also within the Palestinian territory itself and between it and the outside world.

Our people look and see that the most important purposes and commitments of the transitional period have not been fulfilled. Since our people have not been able, through their national authority, to control all aspects of their lives, they continue to endure many obstacles and hardships that are imposed and intensified by the occupation authority. The most important provisions agreed-upon remain unimplemented, such as the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the operation of the airport and the building of the port, as well as the return of hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians since 1967, all of which were to be implemented during the interim period.

Our people look and see flagrant violations of the basis of the peace process and its essence. They see the continued confiscation of their land and the exploitation of their natural resources and the continuing transfer of more colonial settlers. They see daily actions, taken unilaterally and imposed by force, aimed at creating new facts on the ground, preempting future negotiations and predetermining the outcome. Above all, they have been subject to the humiliation of their religious beliefs and the disdain of their deep national convictions by the incessant and vicious Israeli campaign to overtake Jerusalem. The bulldozers of Israel, the occupying Power, began to destroy Jabal Abu Ghneim to build those ugly colonial buildings, isolating the Arab quarters of Jerusalem and suffocating the eternal city of Bethlehem as well as undermining its commemoration of the 2nd Millenium.

What is left of the peace process? What is left of the mutual recognition and historic reconciliation, and how can peaceful coexistence be achieved? Not only do all of Israel's policies and actions represent violations of international law, relevant Security Council resolutions and the existing agreements between the two sides, but indeed they also represent the practical abandonment of the peace process and a declaration of the resumption of occupation.

Our people have the right to be angry and it is the right of the Arab nation to be angry. It is the right of the whole world to be angry. It is our right to oppose what is happening and it is our right to demand an immediate halt to such Israeli policies and actions and, in case of non-compliance, to demand from the international community the imposition of punishment, albeit in initial steps. It is our right and our duty to complain to the Security Council, and it is the duty of the Security Council to respond. We will continue to do so as long as this situation continues, and we expect the Council to fulfill its responsibility in accordance with the Charter.

It is our right and our duty to come before an Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly, as well as regular sessions of the General Assembly and all other international fora. The subject is of paramount importance and it does require all of this. It is the present and the future of our people; it is the present and the future of the whole region.

It is also the right of our people to take to the streets of their besieged towns and villages to express their collective rejection of Israeli actions; to express their determination to defend their land. It is regrettable that the absence of justice in our region forces us to say that it is at least their right to shout and to use their bare hands to confront the Israeli gun and tank. They who speak of instigation to explain the reactions of the Palestinian people, and they, who call the collective expressions against Israeli actions as Palestinian violence, either do not comprehend or have bad intentions bordering on racism and hatred. It is the Israeli government that bears total responsibility for each suffering and for every drop of blood spilled as the people confront the occupation army because of it policies and actions.

The bombings and acts of terror, from whatever source, are a different issue. We have an established policy in this regard, which was confirmed by the strategic decision to accept the peace process. We have suffered from such acts when committed by Israelis against our people, and they harmed our national interests when committed by Palestinians against Israelis. We have condemned these acts and acted against them, and we will continue to resist them. Nevertheless, we are convinced that the complete elimination of these acts requires real progress on both the political and economic levels and not only on the security level. A culture of peace and an environment of coexistence are the antithesis of violence and terrorism, and they who make no serious contribution to the building of peace and coexistence should bear greater responsibility for the consequences.

Mr. President,

As we witness the grave deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Middle East region as a whole as a result of Israeli policies and actions, new ideas are being proposed to us which call for setting aside the existing agreements and suggest moving to the final settlement negotiations and completing them in a specified time period, as though the existing agreements do not cover the final settlement negotiations. We caution of the dangers of attempting to shirk the existing contractual obligations, an attempt that we will never accept.

The right path is the implementation of the existing agreements, including, of course, the implementation of all overdue provisions and future obligations. The right path is the acceleration of the negotiations for the final settlement within the framework of the existing agreements and reaffirming compliance with those agreements.

We affirm that we are still committed to the peace process and the agreements reached between the parties within its framework. We are still ready to continue implementing our obligations in this regard. We are fully aware, however, of the real threats facing the process from the Israeli side, and thwarting these threats requires extraordinary efforts by the cosponsors of the peace process and from the international community as a whole. In any case, we will not accept Israel's continuation of its illegal actions under the cover of the peace process, and if Israel continues its settlement activities and the judaization of Jerusalem, we will have no other option but to continue with the state of political confrontation on this issue at all levels.

Mr. President,

Since its occupation in 1967 of Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, Israel has, over the years and in a systematic and planned manner, worked to change the legal status and demographic composition of Jerusalem and the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a whole through the colonial settlement of the land. This has been done in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and The Hague Regulations of 1907 and in blatant defiance to relevant Security Council resolutions. In 24 of those resolutions, the Security Council affirmed the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to all occupied territories, including Jerusalem, which was reaffirmed in many resolutions of the General Assembly and other United Nations organs. This has also been done in spite of the position taken by every one of your countries against such measures.

In Jerusalem, immediately after its occupation, Israel demolished Al-Magharba quarter in the Old City and built a Jewish quarter in its place. It arbitrarily expanded the boundaries of the municipality of East Jerusalem to more than ten times the original area to include lands totaling approximately 7000 hectares. It declared the applicability of Israeli law on these lands. Later, it declared the annexation of this land in 1980. Throughout the years, Israel has confiscated about 74% of the annexed lands, practically leaving only 14% for the Palestinians. It has built 9 colonial settlements and brought in 180,000 Jewish colonial settlers.

From the very start, Israel considered Palestinian Jerusalemites as foreigners and it issued them "permanent residence" permits. Those Palestinians, now numbering approximately 180,000, were compelled to pay all Israeli taxes and received no services in return. They were systematically subjected to a slow eviction campaign, which recently intensified, to force them to leave the city of their ancestors. In the last few years, Israel has isolated East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank despite the fact that the city is the religious, economic and cultural center of the Palestinian people. The Security Council rejected each of these Israeli actions, as did the General Assembly, which adopted very clear resolutions in this regard. Yet, all of this has continued to take place despite the fact that there is not one single nation that has recognized Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem, not to mention over East Jerusalem.

All of this has taken place in the Holy City of the three monotheistic religions, the first qiblah and third of the Holy Sanctuaries where Prophet Mohammed ascended on his night journey and the burial place of Jesus. Jerusalem is the crux of the question of Palestine. It is the key to peace and to war in the region.

Israel has also imposed its colonial settlement system throughout all of the occupied territories, which is a distinct system combining colonialism and apartheid-like arrangements. It is a system involving many dimensions, including the transfer of citizens of the occupying Power to the occupied territories, the illegal acquisition of lands and the theft of available natural resources, as well as the establishment of a separate structure of life than that of the indigenous population.

Throughout the years, the Israelis have built 166 colonial settlements, aside from the ones built in Jerusalem, and brought in 150,000 colonial settlers. All of this was done despite many Security Council and General Assembly resolutions opposing such acts.

All of these horrible acts have been committed against the will of the international community. Somehow Israel has succeeded in acquiring protection for itself from the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, especially the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This happened despite the clarity of its goals, which have, of course, been the colonization of the land, the isolation of the rightful owners of the land in separate cantons and the prevention of the realization of the inalienable rights of our people, including their right to establish their independent state. But then came the peace process and its binding agreements for the two sides.

The world, which is guilty because of its failure to halt Israeli actions, especially with regard to Jerusalem and colonial settlements, before the peace process, should not allow this to continue, at least not in the era of the peace process.

We must succeed in achieving this because so much is dependent upon that success. There must be collective measures within the meaning of General Assembly resolution 377 (V), which will at least guarantee the prohibition of assistance to those who violate international law, preventing them from receiving finances and rewards. The provisions of Articles 1 and 148 of the Fourth Geneva Convention should be effectuated. The United Nations and the Secretary-General should become engaged in observing the situation.

All of this should lead to the immediate cessation of the construction in Jabal Abu Ghneim and of all other settlement activities. It is the continuation of this illegal construction that has brought us here today and our goal is to stop it. Our collective success in achieving this during the Tenth Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly will be a success for justice and peace and an impetus to work for a better future in the Middle East. I thank you, Mr. President.