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        Security Council
S/PV.4312 (Resumption 1)
23 April 2001

Security Council
Fifty-sixth year

4312th meeting
Monday, 23 April 2001, 10.15 a.m.
New York

      Sir Jeremy Greenstock ...............................
    (United Kingdom)
    Mr. Chowdhury
    Mr. Wang Ying
    Mr. Valdivieso
    Mr. Levitte
    Mr. Ryan
    Miss Durrant
    Mr. Ouane
    Mr. Neewoor
    Mr. Kolby
      Russian Federation
    Mr. Lavrov
    Mr. Mahbubani
    Mr. Mejdoub
    Mr. Kuchinsky
      United States
    Mr. Cunningham


Protection of civilians in armed conflict

Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (S/2001/331).

The meeting resumed at 3 p.m.

The President: I should like to inform the Council that I have received letters from the representatives of Indonesia, Israel and Nepal, in which they request to be invited to participate in the discussion of the item on the Council’s agenda. In conformity with the usual practice, I propose, with the consent of the Council, to invite those representatives to participate in the discussion, without the right to vote, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter and rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.

There being no objection, it is so decided.

At the invitation of the President, Mr. Thayeb (Indonesia), Mr. Lancry (Israel) and Mr. Sharma (Nepal) took the seats reserved for them at the side of the Council Chamber.


Mr. Al-Ashtal (Yemen) (spoke in Arabic): ...


The report of the Secretary-General examines the general situation prevailing in cases of conflict between States or between a State and armed groups in which civilians fall victim. The report also refers to conflict scenarios and humanitarian situations that make it imperative for Governments to intervene, or for the international community, as represented by this Council, to do so when Governments are unable or unwilling to carry out their duties.

The report does not, however, address another situation: that of a State in direct confrontation with unarmed civilians. This is exactly the case of the tragic situation prevailing in the occupied Palestinian territories. There, an armed conflict is being waged by one party — the Israeli State, with its full military machinery — against unarmed Palestinian civilians and their children, who are armed only with stones as a means of expressing their rejection of occupation and of the violence committed by the Israeli State.

What is striking — indeed, baffling — to us is that the acts of killing, demolition and siege, the levelling of homes, the destruction of grazing land and farmland, and all the attendant devastation and displacement of civilians, have not been adequately addressed in the Security Council. There has been no effort to put an end to the massacres that undermine the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. The bitter irony is that all international norms and humanitarian laws — including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the two Additional Protocols and other relevant international instruments — apply fully to the Palestinian situation.

But the Security Council continues to be unable to shoulder its responsibility. We are concerned that, unless the situation is properly addressed, the crisis could spiral out of control and become a region-wide conflict posing a threat to international peace and security.

Public opinion in my country, Yemen — indeed, in all Arab countries — is closely following the scenes of massacre, destruction and displacement that are unfolding in Palestine. The public wonders why the Council has failed to fulfil its obligation to protect Palestinian civilians. Absent that role, and given the Council’s failure to shoulder its responsibility, the conviction is growing among the public in our region that the Security Council’s practice in this regard is a blend of double standards, selectivity and a lack of objectivity.

Let us now ask the question: will the Council take action to protect Palestinian civilians and to salvage the peace process, which is now all but dead? We await the Council’s response.


Mr. Al-Hussein (Jordan) (spoke in Arabic): ...


We believe that this category of vulnerable civilian population must be covered by the rubric of our discussion. For our delegation, the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied territories, which has continued for decades, is a clear case in point. This has been recognized by relevant Security Council resolutions, and here we have civilians who are legally protected by virtue of two realities — that is, the Council’s own determination in recognizing in its own resolutions the prosecution of a belligerent occupation, and the existence of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, to which the occupying Power has, of course, acceded.


Mr. Kumalo (South Africa): ...


Secondly, the Security Council’s failure, so far, to protect the Palestinian civilians caught in conflict in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, remains an indictment against this body. The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War outlines the collective responsibility of the High Contracting Parties. It is incumbent upon the international community, including the Security Council, to undertake resolute action against States bearing responsibility for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.


Mr. Aboul Gheit (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic): ...


Allow me now, in addition to everything I have just mentioned, to move from the theoretical to the practical. In this context, I would like to refer to the situation of the Palestinian people. The report of the Secretary-General contains not even a single reference to the situation of the Palestinian people. Our sole consolation in the absence of such a reference may be the legal view that the situation of the Palestinian people has to do with an occupation in which international conventions and agreements apply, the Fourth Geneva Convention being foremost among such agreements. Given that perspective, it follows that the situation of the Palestinian people differs from others in which a Power is engaged in armed conflict and in which there is some sort of balance between that Power and another Power.

The reality is that, in both its civilian and military aspects, occupation is the imposition by force of the will of one party on another. It is therefore only logical that such an occupation would represent the beginning of a cycle of violence in which the civilians under occupation are the second party. The violence resulting from such an occupation would of course be the responsibility of the occupying Power.

Given that scenario, I find it very difficult to see any real difference between what Palestinian civilians are suffering and what other civilians suffer in situations to which the Council gives special attention in an effort to render protection. As a matter of fact, the situation in the Palestinian territories is much worse than many other situations. The balance of power in the territories is completely uneven. Not only does the occupying Power utilize military weapons against Palestinian civilians, it also employs an economic blockade that deprives civilians of income and undertakes political assassinations, trials without evidence, the demolition of homes and razing of farms, and restrictions on civilian movement. It even uses military operations against purely peaceful civilian demonstrations. I do not think there is a single place in the entire world where civilians experience what Palestinians are now experiencing. The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is, in fact, the sole case in which members and non-members of the Council have made repeated requests for the Council to take action to assume what we believe is its primary responsibility under the Charter, namely, to adopt measures to provide protection for Palestinian civilians under occupation.

What has the Council done? Since last November the Council has been at a standstill in the debate on this subject. In this debate we have heard flimsy arguments and wholly irrelevant politicking. Regrettably, we have heard only silence from many of those who are champions of human rights and who talk about the need to protect human rights and to adopt the doctrine of so-called humanitarian intervention in cases of severe violations taking place in a given region. We have also heard talk of human security and the responsibility of the international community to provide the elements and conditions for all to enjoy that security. Regrettably, the majority of those who talk about this either abstain in the voting on draft resolutions brought before this and other forums of the United Nations, or simply ignore many of the principles they advocate for political reasons totally outside the scope of the question.

An important legal point raised by some delegations during the debate on the Arab request to protect Palestinian civilians concerned the acceptance by an occupying force of the deployment of an international presence in the occupied territories. We detect an obvious confusion in those views and approaches, which we must now correct. The question of consent to the deployment of any personnel by the Organization to the territory of a Member State with a view to maintaining international peace and security, under Chapter VI of the Charter, is a condition that has to do with territory under the sovereignty of a given country. But a State occupying territory that is not under its legal jurisdiction cannot be said to have sovereignty over that territory, and there is therefore no requirement to seek the acceptance of that country in order to deploy troops on that territory. This is perfectly clear to us, and I hope it is now as clear to everyone else.

With regard to all the talk about so-called cooperation by the occupying Power, that is a different matter altogether. That cooperation is not a prerequisite to the adoption of a resolution by the Council. If the occupation force refuses to cooperate with the Council in the implementation of its resolution, then it is in violation of the Council’s resolutions, thereby adding another resolution to the series of resolutions that have been violated by that Power — a matter that should make it subject to international accountability.

The truth of the matter is that for the last six months the Council has failed to live up to Arab expectations and to the expectations of many Member States of the United Nations and the international community. It has failed in its mission to defend Palestinian civilians. It has failed to assume the responsibilities mandated to it by the general membership of the Organization. It has failed to understand the nature of what is asked of it. It has also failed to understand its role, both politically and with regard to security, in providing an appropriate climate conducive to restoring peace and security in the occupied Palestinian territories and to protecting Palestinian civilians. Consequently, it has up to now failed to fulfil its role.

Despite that continuing failure, we will not waver in demanding that the Council assume its responsibility. We have yet to find a single convincing reason why the Council should remain silent on the issue of the Palestinian civilians who are being subjected to acts of aggression. Those acts make it imperative that appropriate protection be provided to them. Will we be able to do this, or will the Security Council remain a useless organ as far as the protection of Palestinian civilians is concerned? That is the question we pose to the Council.


Mr. Samhan (United Arab Emirates) (spoke in Arabic): ...


In this context, we wish to express our profound concern about the ignorance and silence of the international community, represented by the Security Council, with respect to the suffering of the defenseless Palestinian civilians at the hands of the Israeli occupation, which is committing criminal acts, blockading and destroying homes and the economic and social infrastructures. Israeli forces are violating the rights of civilians and taking hostages, including children, who are thrown into Israeli prisons, in addition to building more illegal settlements. All of those practices on the part of Israel are incompatible with the most fundamental principles of human rights and international law.

It is for this reason that we appeal to the Security Council and to the States concerned to shoulder their historical responsibilities, through, inter alia, the implementation of the Council’s resolutions and the urgent dispatch of observer forces. We also call upon the Israeli Government to abide by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.


The President: The next speaker inscribed on my list is the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations. I invite him to take a seat at the Council table and to make his statement.

Mr. Al-Kidwa (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic): I congratulate you, Sir, on your assumption of the presidency of the Council for the current month. I express the hope that, during the remaining period of your presidency, the Council will carry out important work relating to our region.

I should also like to pay tribute to your predecessor, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine, for his work last month.

I should like to make my statement in English.

(spoke in English)

We firmly share the belief that the protection of civilians in armed conflict is a matter of immense importance. The interest shown by the Security Council in this matter is appropriate and necessary, and we hope that it will continue until the protection of civilians in armed conflict is adequately ensured and taken seriously in all cases — and, I would add, without the selectivity caused by political considerations that leads to inaction.

We appreciate the second report (S/2001/331) on this subject, of 30 March 2001, presented by the Secretary-General to the Security Council upon the request of the Council, just as we appreciated the report (S/1999/957) of 8 September 1999. Both are important documents. However, we reiterate our comments during discussion of the first report; we are perplexed that the two reports fail to make any mention of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, or of the grave and serious breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Additional Protocol I and the Hague Regulations being committed by the occupying Power.

We agree with the report that the rising number of internal armed conflicts around the world is a phenomenon to which we must direct greater attention. Nevertheless, there can be no serious consideration of the subject of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and no serious attempt to apply international humanitarian law, without necessary attention being given to the case of foreign occupation. This is practically the entire sense of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I.

With regard to the specific case of Palestine, the Secretariat should also have taken into consideration the long-standing dealings of the United Nations with the case, from the issue of the Palestine refugees to the ongoing Israeli occupation since 1967. In this regard, I refer to, inter alia, the many Security Council resolutions reaffirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem; the existence of several resolutions specifically dealing with the need to provide protection to Palestinian civilians; and, finally, the convening, for the first time in the history of the four Geneva Conventions, of a Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on the situation, in accordance with calls made at the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly. In addition, significantly, the Statute of the International Criminal Court — including a part on war crimes — has now been concluded.

On the other hand, it is very difficult for the Council itself to assert credibility, or claim success, in dealing with the protection of civilians in armed conflict at a time when it has repeatedly failed to effectively respond to the need of Palestinian civilians for protection, including the dramatic and urgent increase in that need during the past several months, beginning on 28 September 2000. We, together with many States Members of the United Nations and the majority of Security Council members, have indeed been trying to achieve something in this regard, even in a gradual, initial form — but to no avail.

In this regard, we would like to express our deep appreciation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, the Special Rapporteur, and the commission of inquiry, for strongly underlining the need for a protection mechanism for Palestinian civilians in their recent reports — although, mysteriously, in her statement today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights did not even mention the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.

In his note regarding this debate, the President of the Council suggested that we remain focused on the subject matter and make suggestions. Our focus is clear. It can be summarized in one word: compliance — compliance with the relevant instruments of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and compliance with the Security Council’s own resolutions. I should like to add to that my earlier comments about the need to avoid selectivity, whether with regard to enforcing compliance or dealing with the matter as a whole. This includes ending what has become a culture of impunity in one specific case. Without this, we will be speaking honourable and strong words, but they will remain just that: words.


Mr. Hasmy (Malaysia): ...


Any meaningful discussion by the Council of protection of civilians in armed conflict cannot but also address the issue of the immediate protection of Palestinian civilians in the occupied Arab territories, including Jerusalem. The plight of civilians caught in conflict in the area, particularly Palestinian civilians, is germane to our discussion today. It is clear from the statement made just now by the Permanent Observer of Palestine, as well as from those of several other speakers such as the representatives of Egypt and of the United Arab Emirates, why that is so. The arguments are cogent and irrefutable, and my delegation fully associates itself with them.

While a number of the Secretary-General’s recommendations, both in his first report and in his latest report, are applicable to the situation in the occupied Arab territories, I shall refer to only two of those recommendations. Recommendation 12 of his earlier report asked the Council to consider “deployment in certain cases of a preventive peacekeeping operation, or of another preventive monitoring presence”. (S/1999/957, para. 47) Recommendation 40 (e) of the same report referred to “The limited and proportionate use of force, with attention to repercussions upon civilian populations and the environment”. (Ibid., para. 67)

We strongly believe that the presence of a United Nations or international force to monitor the situation on the ground would have been a tangible manifestation of the Council’s concern about the protection of civilians in conflict situations. Indeed, such a presence would be an important confidence-building measure, which would contribute enormously to the search for a lasting solution. Malaysia would once again urge the Council to give serious consideration to the establishment and dispatch of such a force. Security for the civilian population in that area should be for all, not just for one group of people, and if the authorities of the occupying Power cannot or do not wish to provide protection, then it is incumbent upon the Council to do so.


Mr. Ahmad (Pakistan): ...


At the same time, it is also the obligation of the Security Council to take necessary measures to ensure the protection of civilians. But we have seen the Council fail so many times in meeting this obligation. Rwanda and Srebrenica are painful reminders of what the Council could have done but was unable to do. Again, its recent failure to protect Palestinian civilians reflects the paralysis that afflicts the Council. The deaths of valiant Pakistani and Belgian peacekeepers in Mogadishu and Kigali, respectively, testify to the unrealistic mandates which United Nations troops are often called upon to uphold, even at the cost of their own lives.


Mr. Buallay (Bahrain) (spoke in Arabic): ...


In several cases, the Security Council shouldered its responsibility with utmost ease by sending a force to protect civilians and minorities caught up in the conflict. However, this has not been the case for the defenseless Palestinians, who need protection from Israeli brutality. This is so despite the fact that the Council has, on several occasions, recognized the applicability of the Geneva Convention to the situation of defenceless civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories today.

The Council is dealing with the report of the Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which, we find, does not mention the situation of the Palestinians. We would ask the Secretariat the reason for this omission.

Our second question deals with the Council’s failure to shoulder its responsibility in implementing relevant resolutions aimed at putting an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab territories and those dealing with the protection of civilians in armed conflict. This is due to the Council’s inability to put an end to the occupation and to provide protection for civilians. We therefore wonder what the Council intends to do, in particular in the light of the killings that are taking place on a daily basis in Palestine. It seems that the Council has no difficulty dispatching protection forces to other regions of the world.


Mr. Wehbe (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): ...


A question therefore arises: if the primary objective of the Security Council is to remove threats to peace, why are civilian suffering and tragedy increasing? Why are we witnessing serious threats to civilians, as they are subjected to forced displacement, blockades and starvation and are denied access to humanitarian relief aid and even access to the dead bodies of their relatives for burial in their homeland? Today’s newspapers carry many examples of such stories in the occupied Palestinian territories.


Fourthly, my delegation had hoped that the scope of the response to hotbeds of tension and to violations of the rights of civilians in armed conflict, which covers areas of conflict in Africa, Asia and the Balkans, would be extended to cover the serious violations committed by Israel against the Palestinian civilians and all other civilians in the occupied Arab territories. It is clear that the current escalation of tension in our region, the resort to aggression, the use of force against the sovereignty of some Arab States and the continuous threat of the use of force, constitute a flagrant violation of the Charter, as well as of international humanitarian law.

We hope that in the future these benchmark reports will not disregard this chronic problem, which has been on the agenda of the Council for a very long time. Is there anything more important to the Council than the use of missiles, tank shells and bulldozers to destroy homes and evict the residents who are still inside? Is there anything more serious than striking terror into the hearts of children in order to drive them into perpetual misery and forcing peace-loving people to the brink of surrender? Is there anything uglier than collective punishment practiced against civilians, or the closure of entire cities? Is there anything uglier than the ethnic cleansing undertaken by Israel against the Palestinian civilians and other Arabs in the occupied Arab territories?

We do not understand this complete silence by the Security Council. Why is there such inaction and disregard for this grave humanitarian situation? We cannot understand the selectivity in appealing to human conscience on humanitarian grounds. We cannot understand why the Security Council has still not taken action, and what the humanitarian justification can be for the its failure to address the realities of this conflict and to respond to the need to protect Palestinian citizens in the occupied territories.

Will patience and caution be exercised here until all Palestinians have been liquidated through the use of the most lethal and advanced weaponry? I should like to remind the Council that in the Syrian streets as well as in other Arab streets the failure by some members of the Council to provide protection to the Palestinian civilians is construed as support and encouragement for the aggressor as it perpetrates its aggression. The continuation of that situation will indeed endanger regional and international peace.

Fifthly, in his report, the Secretary-General has focused on measures to enhance protection, especially through the prosecution of violations of international criminal law. In this regard, we would like to emphasize the need to prosecute war criminals and perpetrators of aggression as a means of providing protection, and to prosecute those who perpetrate the crime of the forced transfer of persons, replacing them with others. Again, this is typical of the situation in the occupied Arab territories, in which the people are evicted from their homes and settlements constructed for new settlers. In this regard, we would like to recall that the recent Arab summit in Amman reiterated what had been said earlier at the Cairo summit: there is a need to pursue the creation of an ad hoc court to prosecute Israeli war criminals who have carried out, and continue to carry out, massacres against Arab civilians in occupied Arab territories.

Sixthly, the Syrian Arab Republic stresses the importance of access to civilian populations in need, and of ensuring the safe delivery of relief aid. This requires that humanitarian assistance agencies and organizations act with objectivity, impartiality and humanitarian compassion in keeping with the provisions of the Charter, other international instruments and General Assembly resolution 46/182, and with complete respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and national legislation of States. Nor should such aid be used for political purposes.

All people — especially civilian populations caught up in armed conflict and subjected to foreign occupation — attach great importance to the existence of the agreements, recommendations and international instruments that have been created to protect them; but of even greater importance is the existence of sincere political will to respect those international instruments, covenants and resolutions.

Permit me in conclusion to express our appreciation for the contribution of the Security Council and its President, the Secretary-General and other effective Member States to enriching today’s discussion of the protection of civilians in armed conflict. It is our hope that it will be possible to enhance the protection of civilians everywhere, including civilians in the occupied Arab territories, and that special importance will be attached to this question, in the interest of the maintenance of international peace and security.

The President: The next speaker is the Permanent Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to the United Nations. I invite him to take a seat at the Council table and to make his statement.

Mr. Lamani (Organization of the Islamic Conference) (spoke in French): ...


I cannot conclude without speaking of the tragic situation of Palestinian civilians in the occupied Arab territories. Under the pretext of protecting their own civilians — who are by the terms of international law in those territories illegally — Israel is denying such protection to Palestinian civilians. Irrespective of the nature of the Power involved, of the State concerned or of the geographical zone in question, the protection of civilians must be total. The Security Council must not be paralyzed by considerations unrelated to the protection of civilians. Any effort to do this will only undermine the effectiveness of the international community’s efforts to bring about lasting peace and prosperity. Otherwise, the risk of failure is very real.


Mr. Al-Douri (Iraq) (spoke in Arabic): ...


It is ironic that at a time when the Council is dealing with the issue of the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the Palestinian people living in the occupied territories are victims of the most offensive form of oppression, perpetrated by the occupying Israeli authorities. That oppression has spared neither persons nor material goods. Nor has it spared values. Terrorism is accompanied by the murder of children, who represent the future of Palestine. The destruction of houses and property is also taking place, along with great flows of displaced persons and refugees and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and of human rights. All of this is perpetrated daily by the occupying forces, while nothing is done to deter them.

Members of the Non-Aligned Movement, which represents about two thirds of the peoples of the world, have for six months now attempted to convince the Security Council to adopt a resolution containing a provision to protect Palestinian civilians. But that effort is constantly opposed by the United States of America. I can only express my surprise here at the absence in the report of the Secretary-General of any reference to the suffering of the Palestinian people, although a number of examples are given in the report pertaining to the issue of the protection of civilians.


Mr. Lancry (Israel): ...


In our region, however, we see opposing forces at work. In the territories of the Palestinian Authority, convicted terrorists have been freed, released as part of the Palestinian effort to stoke the flames of confrontation and encourage violent terrorist activities. Those terrorists who once sat in Palestinian prisons are presently engaged in planning and implementing terrorist operations aimed at Israeli civilians. Even more distressing is the fact that official organs of the Palestinian security apparatus are now also engaged in the terrorist campaign against Israel, with no significant effort expended by the Palestinian leadership to bring such operations to a halt.

In Lebanon, similar freedoms are granted to violent terrorist groups. The terrorist organization Hezbollah has long operated with near-complete impunity, launching Katyusha rockets from its bases in South Lebanon at towns and cities in northern Israel. Residents of communities that are within range of Hezbollah’s weaponry have learned to live with the persistent threat of rocket attacks and the reality of long days and nights in bomb shelters. Israel had hoped that its withdrawal from Lebanon last May, in full and confirmed compliance with resolution 425 (1978), would have halted these attacks and moved the Government of Lebanon to fulfil its obligations under international law to seize control of the area and restore its effective authority up to the line of withdrawal. Unfortunately, one year later, this has yet to occur.

As recently as 14 April, Hezbollah carried out an attack which killed an Israel soldier. This comes in addition to the killing of two other Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of three others since the completion of the Israeli withdrawal. The organization continues to enjoy virtually complete freedom of movement and action in South Lebanon. Not only have the Lebanese and Syrian Governments granted Hezbollah free rein, but they actively encourage and support their activities, permitting arms transfers from Iran to Hezbollah to pass through their territory and facilitating the growth of an elaborate terrorist infrastructure. It is the Governments of Lebanon and Syria which are preventing the full implementation of resolution 425 (1978) and subsequent resolutions and whose actions are directly endangering the lives and well-being of civilians in northern Israel.

In light of the actions of these Member States, which actively support terrorist operations against Israeli citizens, we deeply regret that an issue of such importance to all individuals of conscience, which affects the lives and well-being of so many innocent civilians around the world and which the international community is morally obliged to address with resolve and alacrity, has been appropriated by several Member States to launch biased attacks on my country.

Though one would never know it to listen to today’s speakers, Israelis and Palestinians alike have suffered from the current violence. And yet, many of the statements today have simply ignored Israel suffering. More significantly, they miss or perhaps have deliberately ignored a critical distinction. The Secretary-General’s report refers to civilians who have been harmed by either being targeted by or being situated in close proximity to violent and armed groups. This aptly describes the situation of Israeli civilians, who have been killed while travelling to and from work, riding public transportation or shopping for groceries in the market. Conversely, when Israel is compelled to respond to defend its own citizens from violence and terror, in many cases it gives prior warning to the Palestinian side so as to minimize any harm that may come to civilians. And while we deeply regret the suffering and casualties that have come to the Palestinians, it must be stressed again and again that they are suffering first and foremost as a result of their own misguided decision to engage in violent confrontation, rather than to continue with peaceful negotiations.

Many of the characteristics of contemporary conflicts described in the report apply directly to the current situation in Israel. We are in what the Secretary-General refers to as a “grey zone between war and peace”, with armed conflict erupting sporadically, intensifying and then subsiding. Concerns have also arisen regarding the use of children in armed conflict, the proliferation of small arms, the targeting of women and children, impunity for atrocities and the direct targeting of civilians. All these are covered in the Secretary-General’s report and all characterize aspects of the current hostilities. In light of the relevance to Israel’s particular situation, as well as of the broader descriptions of modern warfare which apply more generally, Israel endorses many of the recommendations of the Secretary-General in this regard.

In particular, Israel fully supports the Secretary-General’s focus on the misuse of information, the proliferation of hate speech and hate media and its role in fomenting conflict and igniting mass violence. Israel has repeatedly drawn attention to the role of Palestinian media incitement throughout the period of the current violence, and its contribution to fostering a culture of violence and hatred of Israel and Jews. The Egyptian press has also been a major promoter of anti-Semitic diatribes and cartoons that are disturbingly reminiscent of the anti-Jewish propaganda once prevalent in Nazi Germany. On 18 April, the day when Israel honoured the memories of the innocent victims of the Nazi Holocaust, Ahmed Rajib, a senior editor, wrote, in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Akhbar:
In Syria and other Arab nations, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, and calls for jihad and the murder of Israelis and Jews, remain the order of the day. President Bashar Al-Assad has no scruples about equating Israelis with Nazis. Even his late father, President Hafez Al-Assad, despite all the bitterness and frustration generated by the Syrian-Israeli conflict, never used such an unbearably heinous analogy.

We support the Secretary-General’s assertion, in paragraph 40 of his report, that the best antidote to hate speech and incitement to violence is the development of free and independent media serving and reflecting the needs of all parts of society. We further support the statement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, who remarked on the media’s ability to promote diversity and respect for others, and on how unfortunate it is that such powerful technologies are used to stir up hatred and violence instead. We join them, as well as members of the Council, in condemning this shameful practice.

Unfortunately, in many neighbouring countries the media remain the sole purview of Government authorities, and as such are manipulated to dispense propaganda which reflects the interests of the authorities over the interests of the truth. In many instances, journalists attempting to photograph events are harassed and threatened, as was the case with several journalists who were on the scene during the lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah last October.

I wish to conclude by enjoining my colleagues and the Member States of the United Nations to look closely at the current report of the Secretary-General and to lend their full and unqualified support to international efforts aimed at minimizing the adverse effects of armed conflict on civilians, developing and strengthening international legal instruments to prosecute those who violate international law and basic humanitarian norms and contributing to a culture of protection, transparency and objectivity that will serve the noble and timeless aims for which this Organization was created.


Mr. Wehbe (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): ...

All representatives have called for an end to Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people; they have all demanded that Palestinian civilians be protected from repeated Israeli aggression; many pictures have been painted — enough to convince the Security Council today.

Israel must cease committing genocide, lest Israel itself fear genocide. Israel’s daily behaviour in the occupied territories; its actions in southern Lebanon; its actions today in the Syrian Golan: these are genocidal actions. There is no need for the world to unmask this; it is clear for all to see.

The fact of the matter is that Palestinians are trying to defend themselves with stones against the most advanced weaponry. The same is true of the Lebanese resistance, which is trying to liberate their occupied land. The occupier is Israel, but Israel blames others. In April, Israel and Hezbollah agreed on a memorandum of understanding; Israel and Hezbollah have traded secrets and information. Israel must withdraw from Shab'a Farms, whether it be Syrian or Lebanese. By Israel’s own admission, Shab'a Farms is not Israeli, so why is Israel there? Why does Israel remain there? Why does Israel subject its people to daily humiliation?

Ought not the aggression recently perpetrated by Israel against Syrian military elements inside Lebanon, approximately 40 miles from the “blue line” drawn by the United Nations, be called by its true name? That aggression took place in the heart of Lebanese territory, against Lebanese sovereignty and against Syria. It was a threatening message to peace and security in the region. My country has repeatedly affirmed the need for Israel to withdraw from all Lebanese territory, including Shab'a Farms.

Syria is not ashamed of the agreement on cooperation and brotherly relations between Lebanon and itself. The aforementioned aggression reaffirms the need for us to support Lebanon, to stand with it, especially following the civil war that had threatened to transform Lebanon into another Kosovo.

The country of Israel is based on occupation. It is a country that kills children daily. The picture of Muhammad Al-Durrah is but one of many pictures that can be seen on television screens all around the world. Is that not genocide? Israel must realize that security can be achieved only through peace. Peace can be achieved only through a full Israeli withdrawal from all Arab occupied territories to the lines of 4 June 1967. If the representative of Israel cites statements made angrily in the face of Israel’s behaviour, are we to reply in kind? If many Israeli parties, including Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a so-called man of religion, described Arabs as snakes to be beheaded, are we to reply in kind? Israel is built on such racist myths.

Does he expect President Assad to respond to aggression, Israeli settlements and the killing of Arab children in occupied Arab lands with rose petals? I do not think so. I really do not think anybody would accept that. Israel has to realize that peace is the only path. A just, comprehensive peace is the preferred means to achieve security, freedom and dignity for all peoples of the region.

The President: The next speaker on my list is the representative of Israel, who wishes to make a further statement.

Mr. David (Israel): We regret the statement made by the Syrian representative, who insists on paying mere lip service to the principles of international humanitarian law and respect for territorial integrity. The Syrians must respect the lesson they are espousing. Syria itself is the occupying Power in Lebanon. Today it is the sole occupying Power in Lebanon. Israel, on the other hand, has fully fulfilled its responsibilities under Security Council resolution 425 (1978) and has fully withdrawn from southern Lebanon, according to all United Nations verification mechanisms and documents.

Syria itself must respect the territorial integrity of Lebanon, as well as other countries in our region, Israel included. Syria is a major supporter of Hezbollah, feeding instability along our northern borders and endangering the lives of innocent Israeli civilians.

As far as genocide is concerned, it should be remembered that Syria is responsible for having targeted Israeli civilians for two decades. I shall not refer in detail to its own genocide policy against its own people. Hama is only one example. The Syrian representative had better check his own record and selective memory before launching a baseless verbal attack at the expense of the Security Council members’ time.


The meeting rose at 7.30 p.m.

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