“Israel still destroying occupied territories”, says Second Committee delegates

Israel continued to destroy Palestinian territories through deforestation and the expropriation and erosion of agricultural lands, as well as by seizing lands, harvests and livestock in the occupied Syrian Golan, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) heard this afternoon as it concluded its debate on permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian and Syrian peoples over their natural resources in the occupied Arab territories.

Syria’s representative said that Israel continued to uproot trees and to allow factories to dump chemical waste in the occupied Syrian Golan. In addition, it had diverted some 90 per cent of Palestinian water and the Israeli military had destroyed reservoirs, keeping water from refugee camps. Israel’s illegal construction of a separation wall to cover a large part of the occupied Palestinian territory underscored its intention to strengthen its presence and cut off groups of Palestinians from each other.

Jordan’s delegate noted that that Israel’s continued illegal settlement activities and land confiscation were destroying the prospects for a viable Palestinian State, while the representative of Malaysia pointed out that the General Assembly had reaffirmed the inalienable right of Palestinians and Syrians in the occupied territories over their natural resources and to restitution if those resources were damaged.

A representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) noted that harsh economic conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where 60 per cent of the population lived in poverty and 31 per cent were unemployed, had contributed to anti-Israeli violence. Poverty in the territories had tripled between 1999 and 2002, with 60 per cent of the population living on less than $2.15 a day, up from 20 per cent in 1999.

Other speakers this afternoon were the representatives of Qatar, Lebanon and Tunisia. A representative for the Organization of the Islamic Conference also made a statement. The representatives of Israel and Syria spoke in exercise of right of reply, as did the Observer for Palestine.

As the Second Committee took up the question of globalization and interdependence, a senior official of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs introduced the Secretary-General’s report on that subject.

The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 11 November, to hear an address by the President of the General Assembly on the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development and to begin its debate on globalization and interdependence. It is also expected to begin considering the follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development.

Background

The Second Committee met this afternoon to conclude its consideration of permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources. It was also expected to take up globalization and interdependence.

Before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/58/394), which focuses on the effects of the increasing links among trade, finance, knowledge, technology and investment on poverty eradication and sustainable development, and recommends steps to promote development. It urges governments, international organizations, business institutions and all civil society actors to take steps to ensure that policies and programmes governing finance, trade, science and technology, population and migration support the Millennium Development Goals and the integration of developing countries into the world economy.

The report notes the General Assembly’s important role in keeping development goals at the top of the agenda of economic institutions. In that regard, it can guide the international debate on global governance at the highest level, following the conclusion of the work of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Commission on Globalization. The debate on globalization must focus more on specific aspects and next year’s report could focus on institutional and systematic issues, globalization’s social aspects and impact, or policy coherence.

Statements

ANA THERESA ROMERO, International Labour Organization (ILO), noting that poverty in the West Bank and Gaza had tripled between 1999 and 2002, said that 60 per cent of the population were now living on less than $2.15 per day, compared to 20 per cent in 1999. Unemployment had risen to 31 per cent in 2002, and almost 20 million people were now jobless. The Israelis and Palestinians were stuck in a vicious cycle in which violence created poverty and unemployment, while poverty and unemployment bred violence. It had even been acknowledged by high-ranking Israeli politicians that harsh economic conditions for the Palestinians had contributed to anti-Israeli violence.

The presentation of the Road Map for peace had raised hopes and had been accompanied by stabilization on the ground, she said. However, violence had resumed and so had the deterioration of the economic and social conditions in the occupied territories. The Road Map was technically alive, but many had lost hope it would achieve peace. However, if the Israelis and Palestinians decided to go forward with it, the ILO would be there to help strengthen employment, social protection, labour institutions and social dialogue.

RADZI ABDUL RAHMAN (Malaysia) said his country was deeply troubled by the serious detrimental impact of the continuing illegal Israeli occupation on the living conditions of people in the occupied Palestinian territory and in the occupied Syrian Golan. The inalienable rights of the Arabs in the occupied territories over their natural resources had been repeatedly reaffirmed by the General Assembly and Israel was under obligation not to exploit, deplete or endanger those natural resources. The Assembly also recognized the Arabs’ right to claim restitution if those resources were damaged.

He noted that the Secretary-General’s report illustrated Israel’s indiscriminate plundering of Palestinian natural resources, resulting in land degradation and water-resource damage, water pollution and a severe water crisis among the Palestinian population. At least 150 Palestinian communities had no independent water supply since Israeli closure and restriction policies had completely cut them off from all water sources. Armed Israeli settlers and uniformed soldiers destroyed cisterns, contaminated water collection tanks and damaged Palestinian pumps, while diverting natural water flows from Palestinian areas. The international community must pressure Israel to cease those inhumane practices and end its occupation of Arab lands.

ISSA AL-KAWARI (Qatar) said peace negotiations in the Middle East must lead to respect for Palestinian rights and sovereignty as dictated by the relevant Security Council resolutions. The signing of the Declaration of Principles between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel had highlighted the need for Israel to withdraw from all occupied territories.

He expressed regret over the developments that had occurred since 2000, which had severely affected the peace process. Despite the Council resolutions, Israel had flagrantly striven to preserve the status quo, destroying the environment by uprooting trees and ravaging land. All such actions had adversely affected the economic infrastructure, striking particularly hard blows at women and children.

BISHER AL-KHASAWNEH (Jordan) said that since the matter had last been deliberated, living conditions for the Palestinians and Syrians in the occupied territories continued to regress owing to the continued Israeli occupation and unlawful measures and actions. It was regrettable that the Israeli Government had ignored a whole array of resolutions adopted by various organs of the United Nations, a non-compliance that had become a chronic feature in Israel’s dealings with the Organization. Israel continued to unlawfully use and/or degrade water resources in the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Syrian Golan.

He expressed alarm over continued illegal settlement activities and land confiscation, which were destroying the prospects for a viable Palestinian State. Israel’s construction of the separation wall in the West Bank was yet another illegal action that had devastating socio-economic and humanitarian repercussions. The emergence of an independent viable Palestinian State and full withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan and other Arab territories was the cardinal component for a comprehensive peace in the region, he stressed, calling for an immediate cessation of settlement activities, an immediate freeze on construction of the separation wall, the demolition of the already constructed parts and an immediate return to the negotiating table.

MAJDI RAMADAN (Lebanon) said that Israel’s continued destruction of houses, expulsion of Palestinians from their land, uprooting of trees and razing of agricultural lands was proof of Israel’s continued lack of regard for international law and international agreements intended to bring peace. The Second Committee must make as its mission sustainable development and poverty eradication, using all available methods, particularly the rational use of natural resources.

Israel was to blame for the exploitation of natural resources in the Palestinian territories and the occupied Syrian Golan, he said. The Committee must approve the resolution since it was important to the sustainable development process. The wall Israel was building in the Palestinian territories was three times greater than the Berlin Wall, cutting across fields of hundreds of Palestinian farmers and cutting 141,800 people in 53 communities off from fertile lands, crops and water networks.

BASSAM SABAGH (Syria) noted that the Secretary-General’s report describe several destructive Israeli practices on Palestinian territories, such as deforestation, the destruction of homes, and the expropriation and erosion of agricultural lands. Israel was also flouting international law by carrying out assassinations and making arbitrary arrests. Some 90 per cent of Palestinian water had been diverted and the Israeli military had destroyed reservoirs, preventing water from arriving in refugee camps.

Israel had continued to seize lands, harvests and livestock in the Syrian Golan, removing trees and allowing factories to dump chemical wastes there, he said. It was also constructing a wall to cover a large part of the Palestinian territories. The construction of that wall was clearly racist, underscoring Israel’s intention to strengthen its presence and cut off relations between various groups of Palestinians.

FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia) said the Secretary-General’s report provided a wealth of insight into Israel’s continued violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, practised as part of its occupation of Palestinian lands. Israel had continued with its oppressive practices, including the destruction of major arable areas, the uprooting of fruit trees and olive plantations and the building of a separation wall.

Tunisia and the international community had condemned the construction of the “apartheid” wall, which constricted Palestinian freedom of movement, he said. Notwithstanding efforts exerted by the Quartet to promote peace in the Middle East, Israel had pursued expansionist policies that seriously threatened that process. Tunisia demanded the total and immediate withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories and appealed to the international community to guarantee Palestinians’ rights through a buffer zone of international force.

S. SHAHID HUSAIN, Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the Secretary-General’s report described a grim scenario in the occupied Palestinian territory, where unemployment continued to rise and per capita gross domestic product continued its progressive decline, down 24 per cent in 2002. The report also underscored the occupation’s damaging effect on Palestinian women; restrictions imposed on Palestinian men had left them to shoulder extra responsibilities while their socio-economic conditions worsened.

Regarding Israeli incursions, he said 10,000 Palestinians had been arrested, of which 4,000 remained in detention, including 38 women and 280 children. Israel’s construction of a separation wall was devouring Palestinian territory and creating unjust realities, with respect to the borders of the Palestine State. That further hindered any confidence-building measures in pursuit of the Road Map. The wall was unacceptable and its construction should end, he added.

The Committee then turned to the agenda item on globalization and interdependence.

Introductory Statements

SARBULAND KHAN, Director, Division for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), introduced the Secretary-General’s report, saying that, while migration issues could be looked at in their dynamic dimension, this year’s report focused on the effect of increasing links between trade, finance, technology and investment in poverty eradication and sustainable development. The collapse of investment flows and trade to developing countries, and the subsequent negative impact on them should be of concern to all governments. The report contained several recommendations that could guide global governance to advance the development agenda.

Rights of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he regretted that the Second Committee was once again using its debate as a political platform to accuse his country of wrongdoing. For the last three years, his country had suffered a campaign of violence endorsed by the Palestinian leadership and the Secretary-General’s report had failed to refer to that campaign’s destructive effect on Israeli lives. It simply echoed litanies from the Palestinian side at the expense of other important international issues, undermining the true spirit of the peace process. The report also ignored the fact that Palestinians already had jurisdiction over many of their resources.

The key to the situation between Israel and Palestine was an environment of peace and stability, free of terrorism and violence, he said. With the onset of terrorist acts, Palestinian economic growth had been reversed. Using imbalanced terminology would do nothing to further the cause of peace. As for the security wall, Israel was erecting it as a temporary measure to protect its citizens from continued threats. Once the acts of terrorism ceased, the fence would become superfluous.

He noted that Syria’s delegate had politically attacked Israel, especially with his reference to racism. Describing various anti-Semitic acts committed by Syria, and noting that its State-run radio had recently glorified suicide attacks, he said Syria should be the last country to lecture anyone about international law and the United Nations Charter.

Responding, the representative of Syria said Israel should have been ashamed to speak, when the Secretary-General’s report clearly described the horrors of the occupation, spelling out the savage acts carried out by the Israeli Government, which had ignored 37 Security Council resolutions and dozens from the General Assembly. The great Israeli terrorist Sharon had given orders to burn Palestinian children alive in their mothers’ presence, and ordered the massacre of Egyptian prisoners.

Describing several other killings the Israelis had committed, including those at the Jenin refugee camp, he said occupation was simply another label for terror, adding that Israel had been the first to introduce terror into the Middle East. Certain States were claming to fight terror while committing the same terrors and war crimes. They were displacing and expelling people from their homes and building a separation wall. Resistance was a right, a legitimate act of self-defence, not a form of terror.

The Observer for Palestine expressed regret that Israel could only refer to terrorism in a debate on Palestinian sovereignty, denying that it was responsible for actions in the occupied territories. Israel always issued a standard statement, regardless of the issue. The main cause of Palestinian suffering was not natural disasters or suicide missions, but military occupation and the continued bloody campaign against the Palestinian people. Over the years, the occupation had become a crude form of colonialism, denying Palestinians their freedoms and rights, imposing armed conflict, imprisonment and death. The frustration and exhaustion caused by the Israeli occupation were becoming intolerable, driving Palestinians to desperate stands.

In response, the representative of Israel deplored the Palestinian Observer’s claim that terrorism was a standard issue, only sometimes morally repugnant. As for Syria’s delegate, he should look again at the report and what had really happened in Jenin. Knowing the delegate was only acting on instructions from Damascus, Israel urged him to take advantage of information available in the United States or Israel and not to rely on the form that was available in Syria.

The representative of Syria said he would not respond to Israel’s absurd accusations, but only cite paragraph 42 of the Secretary-General’s report, which noted that Israeli troops were destroying Palestinian lands, homes and residents, and denying refugees their basic right to water. The next paragraph noted that people had been left on the streets of Jenin for two and a half days

The Observer for Palestine said she had not referred to terrorism as a standard issue, but had said that Israel always issued as a standard statement, always saying the same thing about Palestine, regardless of the issue.