Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., before the Resumed 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", 17 March 1998:(Original: Arabic)
Member States of the United Nations are obliged today to reaffirm their commitment to "Uniting for Peace" in a resumption of the Tenth Emergency Special Session for the third time. The reason for this is clear and simple- Israel has refused to comply with the provisions of the resolutions of the Tenth Emergency Special Session and has even expressed its contempt for those resolutions. Israel continues to violate them and to violate relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. Indeed, it continues violating the Charter of the United Nations and international humanitarian law, in addition to the agreements signed between the Israeli side and the Palestinian side within the framework of the Middle East peace process.
In addition to this primary reason, there is also another reason, namely that the mechanism recommended by the Emergency Special Session for insuring respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilians in the Time of War, through the convening of a conference for the High Contracting Parties on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and also a meeting of experts of the High Contracting Parties, which should have preceded the conference and been convened by a target date no later than the end of February 1998, has not been implemented. The adoption of a new resolution is thus required to reaffirm the recommendations of resolutions ES-10/3 and ES-10/4 with the extension of the target date of the meeting of experts until, for instance, the end of April 1998. Serious follow-up of United Nations resolutions, at least those adopted by Emergency Special Sessions of the General Assembly, and respect for those resolutions, are essential.
Article 1 common to the four Geneva Conventions affirms the treaty obligations of the High Contracting Parties, that is to say-all of you, without exception, to undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances. Article 148 states that no High Contracting Party shall be allowed to absolve itself or any other High Contracting Party of any liability incurred by itself or by another High Contracting Party in respect of grave breaches referred to in article 147. Article 147 enumerates those grave breaches, including, inter alia, unlawful deportation or transfer of protected civilians and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. To complete the bleak picture of the existing situation, I will only refer to section 3, and specifically to article 49 of the Convention, which clearly states that "the occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
Needless to say, Israel, the occupying Power, has committed grave breaches of the Convention and has violated many of its provisions on a daily basis, for a period exceeding thirty years. Israel has committed all kinds of oppression against the protected Palestinian civilians, ranging from killing, detention, and administrative detention to deportation. It has perpetuated extensive destruction of the properties of the Palestinian people, destroyed homes and farms, and exploited natural resources, including water, and confiscated private, communal and public land. Israel has also transferred approximately 350,000 of its civilian population to the occupied territories, settled them there, 25,000 of which represent an increase in the last year alone, armed many of them, and established a structure of living for them separate from that of the Palestinian people. All of this has taken place and has continued on our land for thirty years, and has been witnessed by the whole entire world. It is high time to put an end to all of that in a decisive way, through the mechanism recommended by the Tenth Emergency Special Session.
Israel claims innocence and occasionally asks- Why Israel? Why was a conference not held for other cases? The answer is simple. The Israeli occupation is a unique case that is unparalleled in our world today. Israel is the only State officially considered by the Security Council to be an occupying Power. It has been as such, until now, for a period of over thirty successive years. Israel is the only party in the world that refuses the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to all the territories it occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem. It rejects this applicability, in spite of the international consensus on that matter, and it continues to violate the provisions of the Convention, claiming that it abides, de facto, by the humanitarian provisions of the Convention, a claim which is absolutely preposterous. Israel is the only Member State of the United Nations which has publicly and continuously rejected the relevant Security Council resolutions. The Council, as you know, reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied territories since 1967, including Jerusalem, in 24 resolutions. Some of these called specifically upon Israel to abide by the provisions of the Convention and in one of them, called upon Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Convention. Israel rejected all of those resolutions. Israel is the only country in the world that is engaged in settler colonialism at the end of the Twentieth century. Is there any other name for the system through which Israel confiscated the land of our people, pushed the people onto isolated islands, established settlements for Jewish settlers, and placed our natural resources at the disposal of those foreign settlers? What else could such system be called other than settler colonialism? It is a system that negates the national existence of the Palestinian people, and even their human existence, one which reflects an expansionist ideology that should be condemned, ceased, and reversed.
At the beginning, Israel used to claim, before the international community, that settlements were being established for security reasons. Do you still remember that claim? Now, Israel does not even bother to claim that, relying instead on the imbalance of power on the ground and upon the automatic protection available to it by a superpower on an international level. It would have been an act of justice for the International Community to take steps to ensure respect for its will during all these years. It was necessary for the Security Council to have invoked chapter 7 of Charter of the United Nations and to have adopted enforcement measures to ensure respect for its resolutions, all that large number of its resolutions. However, it did not happen in our case, despite the fact that it did happen in other cases from South Africa to Iraq. It did not happen in our case- not because of the lack of need, or the lack of a just case, but for another single reason. You know it and we know it, but there is no need to expand on it at this time.
We are now then, at this late time, and after such a lengthy passage of time, at the last defense line. Defense line for humanity, for the values of right and justice, for the value of human beings, for international humanitarian law and for the Fourth Geneva Convention. Do not let us down. We continue to seek the implementation of the resolutions of the Tenth Emergency Special Session in this regard. We continue to seek the convening of the conference of the High Contracting Parties on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. We continue to seek the convening of the meeting of experts of the Parties within the time frame that will be determined in todays resolution. We can not bargain with this and we will not be party to any moves at the account of that. Let me also say, however, that we are not against, and we do not object to, any contacts or consultations prior to the meeting of experts which might contribute to its success. We are not even against any consultative meetings among any number of parties, provided that those meetings are held in the framework of the implementation of the recommendations of the General Assembly with regard to the meeting of experts and within the recommended date, and do not constitute a meeting of experts or a step which would undermine it.
Clearly, there is no Party that has the right to ignore the will of the overwhelming majority of the High Contracting Parties, as expressed in the relevant resolutions of the Tenth Emergency Special Session and in the inquiries conducted by the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the depository of the Geneva Conventions, on the convening of the conference, following the adoption of resolution ES-10/3. At this time, I wish to remind everyone that we are not in the first year of the occupation. We are not even in the tenth year. We are in the thirty-first year and we are not about to test the occupying Power in order for us to understand its intentions. The Israeli intentions and practices are very clear. At this stage, either there is serious change in the Israeli position, which we would welcome warmly should it happen, or the implementation of the recommended mechanism and the consideration of necessary enforcement measures to ensure respect for the Convention, whether Israel likes it or not. I would like, at this stage, to express our appreciation for the efforts of the Government of Switzerland. In this regard, I would like to reaffirm our full readiness to cooperate with it, in its capacity as the depository, towards the implementation of resolutions ES-10/3 and ES-10/4, in addition to the resolution which will, God willing, be adopted today.
Israel also says that the Palestinian-Israeli agreements, concluded within the framework of the peace process, allow for it to continue with its settlement activities. Nothing is more ludicrous. First, the agreements reached can not and do not negate or supercede international law, and they definitely do not substitute it. The agreements do complement it. International law and Security Council resolutions are very clear in this regard. Second, the crux of the agreements reached is the mutual recognition of the legitimate and political rights of the two sides. The Declaration of Principles states that the aim of the process is the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. How could anybody reconcile the recognition of the legitimate and political rights of the Palestinian people on the one hand, and the continuation of the settler colonialism campaign, which is based on negating these rights, on the other hand? How could anyone reconcile between compliance with the implementation of resolution 242 and its crux- the principle of land for peace- on the one hand, and expansionism and land confiscation aimed at preventing the realization of that principle, on the other hand? Third, the continuation of settlement activities represents a direct violation of basic components and concepts of the agreements reached, such as that the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority and the elected Council will be extended through the transitional period to cover all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, except Jerusalem, the existing settlements, and the military locations, and such as recognizing the territorial integrity of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as one unit. Fourth, the agreements provided for the postponement of negotiations on the fate of settlements, among other important issues, to the final settlement negotiations. This, of course, prohibits the parties from creating new facts on the ground aimed at preempting the forthcoming negotiations on the fate of settlements and the other important postponed issues.
In spite of all of the above, the Israeli government continues with its settlement activities, which, as clearly indicated, violate the agreements between the two sides. Further, the government continues in its attempts to change the legal status and demographic composition of Jerusalem. We are reminded here, of course, that the government almost completed the first stage of the construction of the settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim, to the south of occupied East Jerusalem, in spite of the resolutions of the Tenth Emergency Special Session. It continues deporting Palestinian Jerusalemites from the city of their parents and forefathers, and it continues isolating the whole city from the rest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Israeli government also continues to insist on circumventing the implementation of the three agreed-upon Israeli redeployments, which should have resulted in limiting the Israeli presence in the West Bank to only the existing settlements and the agreed military locations. It continues to insist on not implementing the requirements of the transitional agreements through the prevention of the establishment of the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the prevention of the operation of the Gaza airport, and the prevention of the start of construction of the Gaza seaport. In addition, of course, is the closure and prohibition of freedom of movement for persons and goods, the continuous undermining of the living conditions of the Palestinian people, and the destruction of any possibility for economic development.
The problem here obviously is not the existence of limited numbers of Israeli violations of the agreements reached, or even the existence of many Israeli violations, whether for security reasons or on the basis of so-called reciprocity, or for reasons of any other Israeli invention. It is much bigger than that. The problem is the ideological position of the current Israeli government, which is in direct contradiction to the essence and texts of the agreements reached, and which, in turn, has lead to the systematic and continuous violations of those agreements by the government, with the aim of casting them aside and imposing a new framework on the Palestinian people, or what the Israeli Prime Minister called to lower the expectations of the Palestinian side. I did address several letters in the recent month to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to the President of the Security Council, which were distributed as official documents, including of this Tenth Emergency Special Session. The letters included public statements of Israeli officials. Not rumors or analysis, but public statements, which, at the very least, destroy the basis of the peace process.
In spite of all of the above, we have not lost hope yet. But we call upon the international community, particularly upon the co-sponsors of the peace process, the United States and the Russian Federation, and all other interested parties, including the European Union, to intensify their efforts to save the peace process, which is on its last breath, and to impose respect of the agreements reached and compliance with their provisions, before it is too late. In the coming few days, our region will receive the Secretary-General of the United Nations. It is our strong hope that his visit will reflect positively on the situation as a whole.
The Tenth Emergency Special Session decided in its resolution ES-10/4 that, "in case of the continuous lack of compliance by Israel, the occupying Power, with the provisions of resolutions ES-10/2 and ES-10/3, it shall reconsider the situation with a view to making further appropriate recommendations to the States Members of the United Nations in accordance with its resolution 377A (V) of 3 November 1950." The draft resolution before us today reiterates the same decisive position. We hope that this will not be necessary because we are looking for solutions, not confrontations. But we will definitely not hesitate, if the need arises, because of the continuation of Israel in its same positions and practices, in asking you to put this paragraph into effect, as we will not hesitate to request other organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council, to discharge their responsibilities in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
Let us always remember that the League of Nations placed Palestine under the mandate system and that the United Nations partitioned mandated Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state with a special international regime for Jerusalem. Let us always remember that the United Nations has a permanent, legal, moral, and political responsibility towards the question of Palestine until the question is effectively solved in all its aspects.
Thank you, Mr. President.