This afternoon the Commission concluded its consideration of the human rights situation in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, hearing a series of national representatives call upon Israel to cease human rights violations in occupied Palestine and to dismantle a security barrier built on Palestinian land.
Islamic countries, including Malaysia, the Syrian Arab Republic, Morocco, Algeria, and Jordan, said the “Wall”, as they termed it, was intended to intensify the difficulties of daily life in the occupied regions and would severely limit Palestinians’ freedom of movement, access to work and health care, and agricultural activities.
A Representative of Israel said his country was building the fence because it was the single most effective tool that had been found for fighting terrorism. With the current Palestinian leadership unable or unwilling to take any action to comply with its obligations to confront terrorists acting from within Palestinian towns, the security fence stood between the murderers and the civilians they targeted. The barrier was intended solely as a temporary, non-violent, defensive measure to guard against suicide and other attacks against Israel and Israelis, and had no effect on the status of the land it was constructed on.
A Representative of Palestine said Israeli crimes of killing Palestinians did not stop at killing men only, but, as witnessed by all the world, were also extended to children, and, as shown last Monday, to the elderly, the paralyzed, and the disabled. The Government of Israel was perpetrating all kinds of crimes against the Palestinian people, including the crime of State terrorism.
Representatives of several developed countries, including Norway, Switzerland, and Canada, said there was a need both for Israeli restraint and for the Palestinian Authority to take effective measures to prevent suicide attacks originating in Palestinian territory from being carried out against Israeli civilians.
Among those addressing the afternoon meeting were officials of Yemen, Kuwait, Malaysia, Norway, Oman, Canada, Switzerland, Senegal, and the League of Arab States.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) contributing to the debate were B’nai B’rith International (joint statement with the Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations); Franciscans International; International Commission of Jurists; International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; World Federation of Trade Unions; International Save the Children Alliance; Centro de Estudios Europeos; World Vision International; Women’s International Democratic Federation; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; International Association against Torture; Association for World Education; Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”; Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberania de los Pueblos; Amnesty International; United Nations Watch; Simon Wiesenthal Centre; North-South XXI; Hairiri Foundation; Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations; Norwegian People’s Aid; World Union for Progressive Judaism; and Caritas International.
The Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, the United States and Cuba spoke in exercise of the right of reply. The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 25 March, to continue its review of the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world.
MANAF AL SALAHI (Yemen) said Yemen supported the cause of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and rejected the occupation and annexation of the Syrian Golan. The Government of Yemen condemned the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, which was a serious violation of human rights. The occupation of the Palestinian territories and Israeli practices against the Palestinian people were flagrant crimes. The Government of Israel was destroying the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority and continued to do so in defiance of international law and United Nations resolutions. By doing so, Israel had denied the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The physical and mental afflictions that Israel had inflicted on Palestinian people were not without consequence. The Commission should condemn these Israeli practices and request it to withdraw from the occupied territories.
The representative of (Kuwait) said the Government of Israel had continued its policy of occupation and incursions into Palestinian territories and of the construction of the Wall, among other harmful policies. Thus, while welcoming the report of the Special Rapporteur, Kuwait also wished to express its deep concern over the lack of cooperation shown by the Israeli Government for the efforts of the Special Rapporteur. Support for the implementation of the relevant international resolutions, which among other concepts called for the establishment of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, should be provided by the international community. And there must be an immediate cessation of the Government of Israel’s policy of targeted assassinations.
NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said Israeli crimes of killing Palestinians did not stop at killing men only, but as witnessed by all the world, were also extended to children, and, as shown last Monday, the elderly, the paralyzed, and the disabled. Nobody in the Palestinian occupied territories was spared the Israeli Occupation Forces’ violations of the right to life.
While Israel was violating the right to life in this systematic way in front of the whole world, the Israeli occupation forces were violating all the provisions and principles of human rights, perpetrating to this end all crimes proscribed by international humanitarian law and international public law, together with other international bills and covenants. The report of the Special Rapporteur on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory gave a clear picture in this respect. This was how the Government of Israel was perpetrating all kinds of crimes against the Palestinian people, including the crime of State terrorism.
RAJMAH HUSSAIN (Malaysia) said Malaysia denounced the continuing abuse of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel. Malaysia remained strongly committed to the creation of an independent State of Palestine and to the quest of the international community to find a just and durable peace in the Middle East, consistent with United Nations resolutions and the principles of international law. Israel had taken a major step backwards by the construction of a Wall which violated the rules and principles of international law, and Malaysia was of the view that it was illegal and should be dismantled. It clearly violated the basic principles of human rights of the Palestinian people, and increased their already immense suffering and misery. The Commission should, without any hesitation, denounce its construction. No amount of counter arguments by Israel could justify what was blatantly an illegal act that only served the interests of the occupying power.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syrian Arab Republic) said Israel continued its occupation of Palestinian territories and continued to refuse to implement relevant international resolutions. In its behaviour, it stood alone among Member States of the United Nations. How should the United Nations and international community enforce its resolutions? For its part, Syria had cooperated with United Nations missions and had answered their questions relevant to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and in the occupied Syrian Golan.
Many international resolutions had appealed for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories and for the halting of violations of human rights there. Instead, Israeli authorities continued to provide support to settlers in the occupied territories, among other actions. The international community had condemned Israel’s expansionist activities. Israel had no right to quote the pretext of security as a justification for the building of the Wall. The Palestinian people were assured of Syria’s full solidarity with their cause.
SVERRE BERGH JOHANSEN (Norway) said the intifada was well into its fourth year and breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights had become a regrettably common occurrence in the occupied territories. Heavy-handed military operations and terrorist attacks were violating the right to life – the most fundamental of all human rights –and innocent civilians on both sides were the main victims. Israel’s right and need to protect its population from terrorist attacks did not legitimize the disproportionate use of force in densely populated areas, house demolitions, closures and curfews or the use of administrative detention.
Similarly, Palestinian attacks on innocent civilians were morally repugnant and unacceptable. There was no justification for such attacks and they must stop. In Norway’s opinion, the continued construction or extension of Israeli settlements and the erection of a separation barrier on occupied land not only contradicted relevant provisions of international law but could also prejudge future negotiations and make a two-State solution physically impossible to implement. Reiterating again its call for a halt to the meaningless cycle of violence and for a return to the negotiating table, Norway urged the parties to proceed with the implementation of the “Road Map” as soon as possible.
AHMED MOHAMED MASOUD AL-RIYAMI (Oman), endorsing the statement made by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the situation was still marked by Israeli killings and assassinations. Israel was denying the right to life of the Palestinian people by carrying out assassination missions and through its continued occupation of the land.
Israel’s violation of human rights and its escalation of violence had culminated in its construction of the separation Wall. The international community should strengthen its protection of the Palestinian people. No authority was above the law; and the occupation of the Palestinian and Syrian territories by Israel should be condemned vigorously. The people and Government of Oman stood behind the people of occupied Palestine and the people of the occupied Syrian Golan.
PAUL MEYER (Canada) said there could be no justification for terrorist acts, nor any excuse for failure to combat terrorist networks. The Palestinian Authority should use all available means to fight terrorism; such acts were unacceptable means for advancing political aims. Violence and indiscriminate attacks, the killing and injuring of innocent civilians, and the resulting normalization of an environment of fear and mistrust throughout Israeli society should be condemned by all those who supported the most basic principles of humanity, and all those who sought peace in the Middle East.
Neither peace nor justice could be served by a policy of extrajudicial assassination. The construction by Israel of the barrier on territory inside the West Bank prejudiced the prospects for a negotiated solution and exacerbated the dire humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinian people. Israel should help improve the basic humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people. The Commission should address these issues in a manner that was both fair and constructive. The two sides should engage in negotiations with a view to reaching agreement on a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement, whereby the human rights of all peoples could be realized.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) said the violations committed by both parties to the conflict and the extremely difficult humanitarian, economic and social conditions which faced the Palestinian people were clearly documented. The separation barrier, insofar as its path did not follow the Green Line and was built on Palestinian territory, was illegal with respect to international law. The humanitarian consequences resulting from it, for the Palestinians on both sides of it, were grave.
Israel was not respecting its obligations as an occupying power. All solutions to this conflict required compromises, and the Geneva Initiative, given birth to by Israeli and Palestinian civil society, showed the necessity of dialogue to find a way out of the violence in the Middle East. Only the resumption of the negotiations, in conformity with the “Road Map”, could in the long-term guarantee a durable peace in the region.
JALILA HOUMMANE (Morocco) said the situation in the occupied territories had been growing worse over the past three years. In spite of multiple Security Council, General Assembly and Commission on Human Rights resolutions, Israel had persisted in its policy of repression, humiliation, targeted assassination, isolation and collective punishment of the Palestinian people, including through successive military incursions and the destruction of houses, goods and economic infrastructure, as well as attempts against legitimate institutions and symbols of national authority.
The construction of the illegal separation Wall would have grave consequences for all measures taken to ensure security and stability, and for the resumption of the peace process. Moreover, the continued economic and social isolation of the Palestinian people remained a source of concern. The international community was urged to take a firmer stand in support of the implementation of the “Road Map”. Morocco reaffirmed its commitment to peace and negotiation as the only path leading to an end to the conflict.
LAZHAR SOUALEM (Algeria) said it should come as no surprise that the current Prime Minister of Israel had been the architect of settlement policies while he was at the Ministry of Agriculture from 1977-1981 that had allowed 400,000 people to install themselves on Palestinian territories. His provocative action of September 2000, which had unleashed the second intifada, had been followed only one month later by the beginning of the construction of the apartheid Wall, which would imprison 300,000 people in 81 enclaves, separating families from their means of living, their villages and social services, among other negative effects.
For years, the international community’s attention had been focused upon the methodical destruction of the economic tissue of the occupied territories, the principle component of which was agriculture. Among its other negative effects, the construction of the Wall had led to the confiscation of land in the first phase of its construction. Moreover, the Wall affected access to water, which would have important effects on the quantity and quality of agricultural capacity in the region.
SHEHAB A. MADI (Jordan) said Jordan supported the statement made by Saudi Arabia on behalf of the League of Arab States. The Palestinian people were greatly suffering at the hands of Israeli forces in their own territories. Israel was not respecting international law, Security Council resolutions, or the resolutions of the Commission.
The building of the Wall was only meant to exacerbate the situation. The separation wall, the embargo and the blockades put in place by Israel had been detrimental to the lives of Palestinians. The wall had separated families and had curtailed the right to freedom of movement. The international community should exert further efforts to compel Israel to abide by international norms and to withdraw from the Palestinian territories.
PAPA DIOP (Senegal) said the many peace initiatives since the beginning of the conflict had all failed. The conflict would continue in the occupied Palestinian territories and the situation would worsen if a solution was not found. Excessive use of force, continued colonization efforts and exacerbation of the difficulties of Palestinians in gaining access to water were serious violations of the human rights of Palestinians.
The construction of the Wall in Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem, also constituted a serious concern, and violated United Nations resolutions. Respect for international law should be shown in order to end the compromising of peace in the region.
YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) said its vision for the region, and its relations with its neighbours, was one of building bridges and opening borders. The reason it was building the fence was because it was the single, most effective tool that had been found for fighting terrorism. With the current Palestinian leadership unable or unwilling to take any action to comply with its obligations to confront terrorists acting from within Palestinian towns, the security fence stood between the murderers and the civilians they targeted. It was intended solely as a temporary, non-violent, defensive measure to guard against suicide and other attacks against Israel and Israelis, and had no effect on the status of the land it was constructed on. It was not intended to prejudice the outcome of political negotiations on borders, Jerusalem, settlements or any other issue.
It would be better, before criticizing another country for actions of self-defense, to take proactive action to dismantle walls of hatred and separation, boycott and lack of contact, that had been erected by others. This would contribute in the long-term to calm in the area, would create better interaction and understanding, and remove the necessity for any kind of fences, including those Israel was obliged to erect for self-defense.
SAAD ALFARARGI, of the League of Arab States, said Israel’s violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people had continued, including through the construction of the separation Wall. Instead of following the course of the Green Line, the barrier was to occupy part of the Palestinians’ West Bank territories, thereby creating a new generation of refugees. Moreover, the Special Rapporteur’s report showed that there was evidence that the Wall was permanent and could allow Israel to annex portions of the Palestinian territories.
Israel also continued to restrict the mobility of Palestinians, thereby causing a humanitarian crisis in the occupied territories, and in spite of international agreements ensuring freedom of movement. The International Court of Justice should be asked to pursue and prosecute individuals responsible for such gross violations of human rights.
JOEL KAPLAN, of B’nai B’rith International, in a joint statement with the Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations, said that once again the Commission had allowed itself to be used to discriminate against Israel, by singling it out for special treatment, examination and condemnation without regard for the full circumstances.
Item 8 of the agenda was one-sided. While the situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had changed over the years, especially after the implementation of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Commission had not changed its treatment of the State of Israel. This agenda item did not recognize the campaign of terror that the Palestinians had unleashed against Israeli civilians, resulting in the deaths of over 900 Israelis, and permanent injuries to more than 5,000.
MARCO MANGOLA, of Franciscans International, said the organization fully understood Israel’s need to protect its citizens from indiscriminate terrorist attacks. However, several elements surrounding the construction of the wall caused grave problems. The wall did not follow the Green Line, and therefore did not respect the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. It separated more than 210,000 Palestinians from access to basic human rights, including freedom of movement and the rights to health, food and education. The wall would cause a profound humanitarian crisis.
Moreover, in incorporating half the settler population of the West Bank, it would entrench the position of the settlers. And its length and cost indicated that it would be a permanent construction. Israel was urged to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the establishment of settlements immediately, to refrain from pursuing the construction of the wall and to start cooperating fully with the Commission’s Special Rapporteur as a means of showing the Government’s commitment to internationally recognized human rights standards.
IAN SEIDERMAN, of International Commission of Jurists, said that despite the unequivocal call of the Commission last year, Israeli authorities had continued to construct the barrier inside the occupied Palestinian territory, and to applying an accompanying legal regime solely to Palestinians. Israel had justified construction of this invasive barrier by claiming it was necessary to ensure the security of Israelis.
However, Israel should do so in accordance with international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law. It was clear that the construction of the barrier gravely undermined the most fundamental human rights of the Palestinian population and was in violation of international humanitarian law. The Commission should call on Israel to stop construction of the separation barrier on Palestinian land, and to dismantle sections already built.
MAYA BEN-HAIM, of International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, said Special Rapporteur John Dugard’s report revealed a total lack of objectivity. Again, he had abused his mandate as a platform for advancing his own political views. He was so eager to attribute all blame to Israel that he ignored Israel’s legitimate rights in responding to terrorism.
The Special Rapporteur chose to describe the security fence as a wall, a misleading term since that description applied to less than 7 per cent of its entire length. He had arrived at the conclusion that the fence was permanent because it was expensive to build, while failing to consider the intolerable cost to the Israeli population in human lives due to the campaign of terrorist bombing attacks which the security fence was precisely intended to prevent.
The representative, of World Federation of Trade Unions, said that in the Middle East the prospect of peace and stability had retreated due to the actions of the Israeli Government, which had used brutal force. Attacks on other countries were also part of Israel’s policy. It was difficult to predict, given Israel’s approach, how a peaceful future in the Middle East would be possible. The crimes committed by Israel had led the Palestinian people into a bloody and unjust war.
As the occupying power devoured more and more land and inflicted more criminal actions on the Palestinian population, more pretexts were given for further atrocities. The world could not continue to allow the Israeli Government to carry out these acts with impunity. The creation of a humanitarian crisis and the inhumane treatment of children and property, the territorial expansion by the means of the Wall of Shame which would create ghettoes similar to those of South Africa under apartheid, should all be fought through implementation of United Nations resolutions already passed, and Palestine should be allowed to create an independent and sovereign State.
GHADA YASMIN, of International Save the Children Alliance, said Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories continued to have a negative impact on children’s lives. The levels of violence faced by children and an apparent increasing tendency for children to use violence for their own problem-solving should alarm all those with an interest in peace and security for all communities living in and around the occupied territories. Children saw the wall as an obstruction, a prison separating them from friends and family. It made it harder or impossible for them to lead normal lives. They felt less secure, leading to a growing sense of injustice and to a growing hatred of Israel.
Israel, as the occupying power and builder of the wall, bore the primary responsibility for the increase in violations of children’s rights. However, the Palestinian Authority and other Governments also bore certain responsibilities for the rights of children growing up in the occupied territories. As the current situation failed to provide for the protection of the rights of children, the Commission should ensure the implementation of United Nations resolutions and the application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, support the establishment of an international human rights monitoring process and ensure that present and future negotiations for a just peace settlement were based on international instruments for children’s rights, among other things.
LAZARO MORA SACADE, of Centro de Estudios Europeos, said the Israeli Government every day committed atrocious violations of human rights, massacring the Palestinian population and denying their rights to life, education, housing, health, food, access to drinking water and sources of employment.
With the brutal assassination of Sheikh Yassin, the Israeli Government was plunging the region into another cycle of brutality and death, which needed to be stopped before it was too late. The Commission should insist on the immediate withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories, as this was the main problem affecting the lives of Arabs and Jews in the Middle East.
TOM GETMAN, of World Vision International, said this statement was for the over 600 children who remained voiceless in graves and for the thousands who were wasting away with awful injuries in hospitals all over the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel because of the short-sightedness of their elders. Many of the children were known to World Vision International through its efforts in the schools, clinics and villages where members of the organization were working with broken hearts. The message being offered on behalf of those innocents was for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and for all those from other countries.
The Israeli Representative had indicated that his Government had no intention of adding to the suffering of Israel’s Arab neighbours by an inappropriate placement of what he called a “fence”. The group had asked Israel to consider not separating Palestinians from their properties. The troubling fact was that 122 villages were indeed on the Israeli side of the barrier, and 280,000 Palestinians were destined to be forcibly removed or to become Israeli citizens. That meant a monumental disruption for the children of the region.
SANDRA ANGUILA, of Women’s International Democratic Federation, said the aggression of the Israeli Government against the Palestinian people had been condemned year after year, but the response had been only an increase in violations of human rights and killings. Her organization condemned the actions of the Israeli Government and called for respect for the rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination and to full control over their lands and resources.
It was no secret to anyone today that the United States’ policy in the Middle East was motivated by its desire to control oil. It was important to work for a world in which States worked together, without foreign occupation or separation walls.
ROGER WAREHAM, of International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, said the apartheid wall under construction by the fanatic Zionist forces in Palestine was clear evidence of the fascist and racist policies that had been fought by the international community all over the world. The wall would harm Palestinians and isolate them, which was the goal of Zionism.
Israel remained above the law and ignored the rest of the world because of the blind and unconditional support given the country by the American Administration. NGOs and members of the Commission would undoubtedly stand firm against this racist apartheid wall, and against double standards when dealing with Israel, since this approach violated all of the principles humanity had worked so hard to uphold.
The representative, of International Association against Torture, said the latest violation of international law exemplified the policy and conduct of Israel in relation to Palestine. Any analysis of the situation in the Palestinian territory began with the fact that Palestine was occupied, a situation which the occupier maintained by means of force and violence.
It was interesting to note that some of the same countries which used to condemn the Berlin Wall as a violation of human rights had remained silent on the issue of the West Bank Wall, and this was again the double standard of human rights which these countries employed when they found it politically expedient. Israel should be suspended from the United Nations, as was done in the case of South Africa under apartheid, and the United Nations should send an international protection force to the occupied territories until the conflict was resolved in conformity with the resolutions of the United Nations.
DAVID LITTMAN, of Association for World Education, said the Commission had last year reaffirmed that self-determination was a right of all peoples. Yet, in an increasingly globalized world, regional security and stability were of increasing importance. However, the “Road Map”, the Geneva Initiative, and other peace initiatives related to the Middle East failed to deal in a comprehensive way with the regional situation.
It should be recalled that the Association for World Education had put forward a regional peace initiative 14 years ago, which called for the creation of a United States of Abraham, a concept which would offer security and stability in an original grouping of Israel, Jordan and Palestine.
JEAN-PIERRE LAGNAUX, of Indian Movement “Tupaj Amaru”, said the organization had a dream: after having recognized the State of Israel, the Western powers, understanding the colonialist and racist nature of Zionism, would decide to compensate for that aggression against the Palestinian people and the Arab world by a commitment in favour of the Arab and Palestinian world.
Consequently, all children, including Israeli youth, would find themselves in schools where respect for others and tolerance were taught. The Western world, unfortunately, was responsible for a different history. While the Jewish settlers remained settlers, Palestinians remained excluded from their lands. Many countries had suffered from Western intervention and manipulation; Western countries had terrorized such peoples militarily. That history continued. Today, it was called the military occupation of Iraq, which was a violation of the international law.
BRAULIO BORIS CASTILLO BARROSO,of Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberania de los Pueblos, said that despite the constant pressure of international public opinion, there were constant violations of the rights of Palestinians. The occupation forces continued to commit massacres. This and other violations were a clear manifestation of the worse form of genocide by the Zionists.
These practices ran counter to the principles of human rights and should be halted immediately. The Commission had a duty to take an objective position as a matter of urgency. Another measure of repression was the construction of the so-called security wall, which would end up isolating a large part of the Palestinian population and would lead to further annexation of territory by Israel. It was urgent to end the Zionist aggression against Palestine.
PETER SPLINTER, of Amnesty International, said the humanitarian crisis in the occupied territories had been exacerbated by the construction of a fence/wall as documented by the Commission’s Special Rapporteur. Israel’s legitimate need to secure its borders and prevent access to people who could constitute a threat to its security did not justify the building of the fence/wall inside the occupied territories.
Security measures which complied with international law, including the building of the fence/wall, could be carried out on Israeli territory. Israel had consistently failed to implement the Commission’s resolutions and to cooperate with its mechanisms, and words of concern and condemnation were hollow in the face of the inaction of the international community. The Commission and individual member States had a responsibility to take measures to ensure that both sides to the conflict complied with their obligations under international law.
HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, called upon the Commission to act immediately to end the systematic and severe violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law by 20,000 Syrian forces now occupying Lebanon. Syria’s denial of the Lebanese nation’s right to self-determination and its suppression of fundamental freedoms was symptomatic of the regime’s overall disregard and disdain for human dignity and human rights. That approach had been underscored in recent weeks by police crackdowns against peaceful human rights protestors in Damascus and by the killing of Kurds in Qamishli.
Just as the Syrian delegate had stood before the Commission today and said his Government welcomed and cooperated with the Commission’s Special Rapporteurs, United Nations Watch now called upon the Syrian Government to welcome an independent Rapporteur into Syrian-occupied Lebanon to investigate grave violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law.
SHIMON SANREES, of Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that despite the special sitting of the Commission, the terrorist acts of Hamas should be condemned. Palestinian mothers had lost their children because of the use of children by Hamas for its suicide bombing missions against Israeli civilians.
Hamas had the objective of killing Jews and it was promoting a policy of hate against the Jewish people. Hamas had been engaged in acts designed to kill Israeli children and civilians, and to disseminate hatred against the Jewish people in general. When Hamas was created, its main purpose was to promote acts of assassination and the elimination of the State of Israel, as stated in Hamas’s constitution.
LYNA AL TABAL, of North-South XXI, said that since its creation Israel had constantly violated international law, treaties and agreements. In the context of Israeli practices since 2002, many Palestinians had been arrested and subjected to practices which could be described as torture, and had had their rights violated in other ways, including through improper judicial procedures.
The situation which was being imposed by Israel against Palestine was a flagrant violation of international law.
MARZ MOURRA, of Hariri Foundation – The Islamic Foundation for Culture and Higher Education, said the effectiveness of all human rights instruments and institutions would be measured not only by how eloquently they articulated their principles, but by how effectively those principles were put into practice. The Commission should call on Israel to make reparations to the victims of human rights violations it had to committed, and to the families of non-surviving victims.
For over 20 years, Israeli forces had illegally occupied a significant portion of Lebanon. Despite Security Council resolutions, Israel continued to commit egregious violations of the human rights of civilians in Lebanon. In 1993 and in 1996, Israel had conducted massive, indiscriminate military offensives in Lebanon, sending hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing to the north of the country. During those offensives, grave violations of the human rights of Lebanese civilians had been committed by Israel.
DAVID MATAS, of Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, said the Jewish community came to the Commission with a purpose unlike any other group. It came not to complain of human rights violations elsewhere, but to complain of the Commission’s own role in one-sided attacks on Israel. By providing a platform for unending speeches and resolutions criminalizing Israel, the Commission also criminalized the Jewish people worldwide. This promoted genocidal sentiment worldwide.
The Jewish community today was suffering from an upsurge of anti-Semitism, the like of which had not been seen since just before the Holocaust. The exaggerated criticism and rhetoric heard within the Commission was directed against Israel’s existence. Every effort by Israel to defend itself had been termed illegitimate. Every year, the focus of the Commission’s attention was Israel. It became necessary to ask why there was no special session held on the terrorism committed by Hamas.
GUDRUN BERTINUSSEN, of Norwegian’s People’s Aid, said the human rights situation in the occupied territories had deteriorated significantly over the last year. Palestinians in the occupied territories and Israeli citizens in Israel had the right to be protected from armed attacks whether those attacks came from the Israeli army or from Palestinian groups or individuals.
However, Israel’s right to protect the security of its citizens in its territory should be exercised in accordance with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. The Commission should press Israel to end the occupation and illegal settlement of Palestinian land; to support the establishment of an international human rights monitoring presence to be deployed in the occupied territories; and to affirm its support of the right of return of refugees.
DAVID LITTMAN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, said the newly nominated Hamas leader, in a published newspaper article, had called on Iraqis to create squads of suicide bombers. He was also in favour of sophisticated devices that could kill the maximum number of Israeli civilians.
The mind-set of the new leader was already clear, since he had long been known for advocating terrorist acts.
JEAN CLAUDE MICHELCOD, of Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), said the organization wondered how the world had arrived at a situation of such devastation, destruction and meaningless loss of Palestinian and Israeli life. The international community could no longer afford to remain passive in the face of such injustice. The failure of the peace process and the failure of the international community to intervene to implement international law and United Nations resolutions meant that alternatives to acceptable tools and measures of conflict resolution had been adopted by an increasing number of individuals, not only in Palestinian and Israeli society, but worldwide.
The situation today, however, proved the futility of violence, of terrorist attacks and of occupation as means of problem-solving. Neither the separation wall nor thousands of roadblocks and checkpoints would achieve security for either side. A sustainable peace would only be achieved if the root causes of the conflict were addressed within an acceptable framework.
Right of Reply Under Item 8
MIKHAIL WHEBE (Syrian Arab Republic), speaking in a right of reply with regard to the statement by United Nations Watch, said that the views expressed had been listened to carefully. The Representative of that organization had not been addressing the agenda item, and Syria wished to ask how a reference could be made to Syria when it was not the topic of the agenda item. It was hoped that the Commission would not be used as a platform for jokes. The Syrian forces in Lebanon were there as part of fraternal relations between the two nations, and at the request of the fraternal people of Lebanon to help them and protect their security and peace. Syria did not intend to stay permanently, but would remain as long as Lebanon needed this help for its security. With regard to the Kurdish issue, Syria was one of the best countries in the world for peace, and the NGO was welcome to visit to assure himself that all peoples, regardless of ethnicity, lived there in peaceful coexistence.
GEBRAN SOUFAN (Lebanon), speaking in a right of reply in reference to the statement by United Nations Watch, said Lebanon did not ask anyone to speak on its behalf on the matter of occupation, and it did not engage any person as a spokesperson. The only occupation of concern to Lebanon was that carried out by Israeli forces. Lebanon thanked the NGO for its concern.
YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), speaking in a right of reply, said “unnecessary roadblocks”, “arbitrary arrests”, and “fence” were some of the terms heard today. But there were reasons for these steps, for example a recent event when a suicide bomber had attempted to kill Israeli soldiers at a border point near Nablus. It was expected that the attempted bomber would, due to his age, be interrogated and sent home, although those who had sent him would be arrested. This successful prevention of a terrorist attack proved the need for roadblocks and the need for a fence to protect Israelis from those who would send a child to perpetrate an atrocity. The abuse of children by the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinian organizations, the ongoing incitement in schools and camps for children to take place in the armed conflict were a flagrant violation of international law and of the norms of the Commission. It was hoped that those who did such things would bear these violations in mind in the future.
NABIL SHEHADA (Palestine), speaking in a right of reply, said thousands of children had been used by Israel for intelligence purposes. The people of Palestine were having great trouble going from one village to another because of roadblocks and checkpoints that interfered and often resulted in people having to return to their homes. The relationship between Arabs and Israel had not improved and it might take quite some time for any improvement was possible. The situation created by Israel in the occupied territories had pushed people to acts of suicide.
JEFFREY DE LAURENTIS (United States) said in a right of reply that it was abundantly clear that this agenda item was unfair and biased. In the view of the title of the item, it did not do a disservice to the Commission to let the representative of United Nations Watch speak.
YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), in a second right of reply, said with regard to the query in the statement of Palestine, that the reason for roadblocks and bag checks was the simple one that cars and bags could conceal bombs. It was not thought that the majority of those who passed through would carry such horrendous charges, but the risk could not be taken to let those who did intend bombings get through. It would still be possible to continue the peace process once terrorism and violence disappeared, as the Palestinian leaders had vowed during the Oslo Accords. Should they end terrorism, they would find honest partners on the Israeli side and everyone would once again sit together and build trust, putting the spirit of violence behind.
NABIL SHEHADA (Palestine), in a second right of reply, asked his Israeli counterpart to stop his propaganda in the Commission. The Israeli leadership had promised to dismantle the various settlements and to release prisoners, and it had not done so. How could the Palestinians cooperate with Israel under those circumstances?