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SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 3rd MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Tuesday, 19 March 2002, at 3 p.m.
Chairperson : Mr. JAKUBOWSKI (Poland)
STATEMENT BY MR. MICHAEL MELCHIOR, DEPUTY MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF ISRAEL
STATEMENT BY MR. JAVIER SOLANA, HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE COMMON FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
STATEMENT BY MR. BILL GRAHAM, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF CANADA
STATEMENTS IN EXERCISE OF THE RIGHT OF REPLY
8. Mr. MELCHIOR (Israel) said that the past year had been marked by many tragedies that had caused unspeakable suffering to large numbers of people, but two dates stood out in particular. The first was, of course, 11 September 2001, when the worst terrorist attack in history had been perpetrated, striking the United States of America, but threatening the whole of humanity. In Israel, innocent children, women and men were killed every day by terrorists who were praised for their heroism by leaders who had promised to settle disputes through negotiation. More chillingly, the parents of suicide bombers said they hoped their other children would do the same.
9. The second date was 9 September 2001, two days before the New York attacks, when the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance had closed in Durban after being the scene of the most racist speeches ever heard at an international gathering since the Second World War. Anti-Semitism, the oldest and most persistent of hatreds, had shown it was capable, like the most dangerous viruses, of adapting to new circumstances. At the Durban Conference, anti-Semitism had taken the form of the demonization of an entire nation, in the form of anti-Zionism. The two atrocities of terrorism (11 September) and anti-Semitism (9 September) were the antithesis of human rights and were contrary to the fundamental principles defended by Israel and Judaism, namely, the sanctity of human life and tolerance. Terrorism denied that sanctity and saw human life as a means to a political or ideological end, while anti-Semitism sought to deny others’ humanity, to delegitimize, dehumanize and ultimately destroy others.
10. As far as tolerance was concerned, it should be remembered that Israel welcomed immigrants from every continent and of every colour, saw that diversity as a source of richness and strength and strove to ensure equality among all the various components of Israeli society. Israel believed that criticism, including of the Government, played a vital role in safeguarding human rights. In fact, the freest Arab press in the Middle East was to be found in Israel. In contrast, the fundamentalists and nationalists who fuelled international terrorism had no respect for others and thought only of conquest and destruction. A new anti-Semitism was spreading like the plague throughout Europe, while in the Middle East newspapers were publishing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Arab leaders were accusing the Jews of deicide. Only recently, official Arab newspapers had again claimed that Jews used the blood of children to make the unleavened bread for Passover, a lie that had led to countless pogroms and great loss of innocent life. Palestinian school textbooks and children’s television programmes were full of hatred.
11. Terrorism and anti-Semitism, both of which were supported and financed by rogue States and regimes, must be fought by reaffirming the value of all human life and remembering that Israel’s greatest asset was not its military strength, but its belief that its actions were just. Israel had not chosen the terrifying situation in which it found itself; the previous Israeli Government had made far-reaching peace proposals that recognized that, without secure borders for the Palestinians, there could be no secure borders for Israel, that, without dignity for the Palestinian people, there could be no true dignity for the Israelis and that, without peace for the Palestinians, there could be no peace for Israel. The Palestinian leadership had rejected those proposals and responded with a wave of violence that continued to escalate. It had never been so difficult to strike a balance between protecting the lives of innocent Israelis threatened by terrorism and the lives of innocent Palestinians living in the areas from which the terrorist attacks were launched. Given the support of the Palestinian authorities for the violence, it had never been as difficult to defend the concept of dialogue and tolerance between Jews and Arabs and to believe that peace was possible.
12. The Commission on Human Rights was the most suitable forum in which Israel could engage in constructive discussions and dialogue on those issues and yet the Commission had shown time and again that it put political considerations before the protection of human rights. It was virtually impossible to discuss calmly the measures that Israel should take in the face of the attacks launched by Hezbollah from inside Lebanon, despite the full withdrawal of Israel from southern Lebanon in implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978), when the Commission completely ignored those attacks and the plight of the Israelis captured by commandos from the other side of the border. It was virtually impossible to discuss the sensitive and difficult relations with the Palestinians when the Commission’s Special Rapporteur had a mandate that did not permit him even to consider the terrorist acts and human rights abuses committed by Palestinians and had pronounced Israel guilty even before he had undertaken his mission - a Special Rapporteur who in his latest report (E/CN.4/2002/32) vilified Israel for its security measures, but spoke of the determination, daring and success of the Palestinian terrorists. No frank and impartial discussion was possible when an entire agenda item of the Commission was devoted to Israel’s actions, thereby blatantly singling Israel out. If its agenda was dictated by political conside rations rather than by the needs of those who were suffering, the Commission was engaged in politics, not concerned with human rights; and if it did not show concern for the human rights of all human beings, it could not claim to be truly concerned with anyone’s rights.
13. Through its lack of impartiality, the Commission had deprived Israel of the possibility of engaging in a frank dialogue that might genuinely help advance the cause of human rights in the region. It had also prevented the victims of human rights abuses from being heard, as the States responsible for those abuses had arranged to turn the spotlight on Israel alone and away from their own violations. At a time when there seemed to be a possibility of putting an end to the bloodshed that had cost the lives of so many innocent Israelis and Palestinians, it would be a real tragedy if the Commission, which was entrusted with the task of protecting human rights and freedoms, were to take sides for political considerations. He therefore urged the Commission to put human rights at the very top of its agenda, to consider human rights violations impartially and to create the necessary climate of trust among all those who shared the values it was supposed to protect.
14. On a more hopeful note, he had attended the first Conference of Religious Leaders of the Holy Land, which had been held in Alexandria on 21 January 2002 and at which the Alexandria Declaration had been adopted. At the same time as a Palestinian was blowing himself upon in the heart of Jerusalem and Israeli tanks were entering the Palestinian town of Tulkarem, Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders had had the courage to declare publicly that their different faiths should respect each other’s historical and religious traditions and to call for an end to hatred and for the creation of an atmosphere in which present and future generations could live side by side in mutual respect and trust. In the past two months, he and his Palestinian counterpart had, in the course of their travels, received the support of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Catholic Church and other churches. That had strengthened their conviction that hatreds could be overcome and that, after so much blood had been spilled, the region could yet become a land of milk and honey. The members of the Commission should join them in their efforts.
27. Mr. SOLANA (European Union), ...
29. To tackle the root causes of conflicts was to defend the legitimate rights of all those involved, whatever their religion or ethnic origin. That was what the European Union had tried to do in the Balkans in particular. At the same time, it was working tirelessly to bring peace to the Middle East. However, peace did not mean just the end of violence, but also the establishment of democracy, security and freedom for everyone in the region. The massacre of innocents in the streets of Tel Aviv or Ramallah did not help the cause of freedom and the demolition of houses or the occupation of refugee camps did not improve security. Democracy was disregarded when human rights and humanitarian law were flouted on a daily basis. The European Union therefore welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 1397 (2002) and hoped that everyone would heed its call to respect the universally accepted norms of international humanitarian law immediately and unconditionally. Legitimate interventions to defend human rights, undertaken within the framework of the United Nations, must be followed up with enduring commitments. ...
34. Mr. GRAHAM (Canada) ...
36. The experience in Afghanistan had also shown, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations had said, that it was time to start taking the principles of conflict prevention seriously. The worldwide consultations held by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty set up by his Government had shown that State sovereignty entailed a responsibility to protect citizens. The final report submitted recently by the Commission to the Secretary-General described the nature and scope of that responsibility and made practical recommendations for action by the international community in extreme cases where States failed to assume their responsibilities. That new interpretation of the nature of sovereignty was a sign of the trend towards more effective international cooperation. It was more readily recognized that some problems that had once been matters for each State to resolve could benefit from a collective approach, as attested by the growing enthusiasm for the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
37. Those important changes had their origin in the aspirations of peoples around the world to recognition of their rights as human beings, and a response must be made to those aspirations, whether they concerned calls for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East or the right of the Zimbabwean people to free and fair elections and respect for the rule of law, demands for religious freedom in China or the need to protect the rights of minorities, refugees and displaced persons around the world, or the need to put a stop to flagrant violations of human rights in the Sudan and Iraq or to establish peace and security in Colombia. No country, including his own, was above criticism in human rights matters, as there were always problems to be resolved in one area or another. Canada had thus recognized in its statement of reconciliation in January 1998 the detrimental effects of the historical treatment of indigenous peoples and was beginning to renew its partnerships in such a way as to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
STATEMENTS IN EXERCISE OF THE RIGHT OF REPLY
46. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) pointed out that the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel had criticized others for terrorism and anti-Semitism when the Israeli Government itself was practising anti-Semitism against the Palestinians, who were also a Semitic people, and terrorism, as Palestinians were killed every day with weapons of all kinds. The fact was that Israel, whose representative appeared before the Commission without even mentioning human rights principles, which had never complied with any of the Commission’s resolutions for 30 years and which refused to cooperate with members of the Commission who might be sent to enquire into human rights violations in Palestine had nothing but disdain for the Commission. He asked who was more credible: the representative of Israel, who gave the excuse that the violence in the region made it difficult to dream of peace, or the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who pointed out that the occupation was at the root of the serious human rights violations taking place in Palestine.
47. Mr. NASR (Observer for Lebanon) said that the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, in claiming that his country was a victim, had forgotten that it was in fact the aggressor: Israeli forces had invaded the territory of neighbouring countries, including Lebanon, causing severe damage, and had fired on ambulances and bombed the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority. The human rights violations in the Palestinian territories had led the Secretary-General of the United Nations to talk of a kind of open warfare. National resistance to the occupation was therefore legitimate.
49. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) reminded the representative of Lebanon that Lebanon had not fulfilled its obligations under Security Council resolution 425 (1978) on maintaining security in southern Lebanon. On the contrary, it continued to allow terrorist groups like Hezbollah to infiltrate into Israel from its territory to carry out operations against his country.
50. With regard to the comments by the representative of Palestine, he said that the laborious preparations for the Durban conference should have sufficed to make it clear to anyone what anti-Semitism meant for those who had suffered from it down the centuries, particularly the Jews. Israel, by responding to the numerous terrorist acts against its population, was only reacting to the Palestinian Authority leadership’s choice of violence over negotiations. It was quite legitimate to dream of peace. Indeed, Israelis and Palestinians had a duty to dream of peace and tolerance and to renounce terrorism, which could never be justified in any circumstances. Perhaps the dream, if it was strong enough and accompanied by efforts like those currently being undertaken, would then become reality.
53. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine), speaking for the second time in exercise of the right of reply, repeated that the Palestinians were also Semites, whatever the representative of Israel said. He asked how Israel could occupy Palestinian land and dream of peace when the occupation and resistance to it were two sides of the same coin. As long as the occupation lasted, there would be neither peace nor security in the region.
56. Mr. NASR (Observer for Lebanon), speaking for the second time in exercise of the right of reply, said that his Government did not need Israel to remind it of its obligations. Lebanon’s borders were calm and the Lebanese authorities were in control of the situation. It was Israel that needed to be called to order for its attacks on other countries. The observer for Israel spoke of infiltration, and yet the Israeli Ministry of Defence had clearly stated that Israel had no proof that terrorists had entered Israel across the Lebanese border.
57. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) reminded the observer for Lebanon that Israel had withdrawn from Lebanon in May 2000 and pointed out that his Government knew exactly where the Hezbollah terrorists had crossed into Israel from Lebanon and who had sent them. In response to the comments by the observer for Palestine, he said that nothing justified terrorism, which was morally repulsive. If the two sides recognized each other’s problems they would undoubtedly be better placed to tackle them in a constructive way. There were two ways to end the so-called occupation: through violence and terrorism, the path chosen by the Palestinian Authority in September 2000; or through negotiations. He called on the two sides to focus their work, hope and dreams on negotiations.