Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

English (pdf) ||Arabic||Chinese||Français||Русский||Español||

Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS


        Economic and Social Council
1 April 2005

Original: ENGLISH

Sixty-first session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Friday, 18 March 2005, at 3 p.m.

Chairperson: Mr. WIBISONO (Indonesia)


The meeting was called to order at 3 p.m.

THE RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION AND ITS APPLICATION TO PEOPLES UNDER COLONIAL OR ALIEN DOMINATION OR FOREIGN OCCUPATION (agenda item 5) ( continued ) (E/CN.4/2005/13, 14 and 23; E/CN.4/2005/NGO/2, 77, 89, 92, 148, 165, 203, 210, 212, 238, 253, 260, 279, 293, 296, 306, 308, 339 and 346)


7. Ms. CHE Ying (China) ...


9. The restoration of the political rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of self-determination, the ending of foreign occupation and the establishment of an independent State in Palestine were the key to lasting peace in the Middle East. China welcomed the positive steps taken by the Palestinian Authority and Israel to end violence and hoped for an early resumption of comprehensive peace talks. It further hoped that the international community would play an even more active role in bringing about a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement in the Middle East on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace. China stood ready to continue playing a constructive role in that regard.

10. Mr. REYES RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba) ...


13. Cuba also demanded the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from all occupied Arab territories, particularly Palestine and the Syrian Golan, as well as full respect for the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own State with its capital in East Jerusalem.


15. Mr. BOSCHWITZ (United States of America) said that the fundamental process that people used to exercise the right of self-determination, as guaranteed in article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, was free and fair elections. The commitment to self-determination had been reflected in the past year in an inspiring worldwide movement towards democracy. ...


17. In December 2004, municipal elections had been held in the West Bank for the first time since 1976. International observers had deemed the elections for President of the Palestinian Authority to have been generally free and fair.


22. The Roadmap for Peace in the Middle East, sponsored by the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States (the Quartet), envisioned two States - Israel and Palestine - living at peace side by side. Reformed democratized institutions were a necessary foundation for the future State of Palestine. The election of Mahmoud Abbas as President was a sign of hope in that regard, and opinion polls in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel reflected a sense of optimism. But although peace and stability appeared closer than at any time in living memory, the Arab Group in the Commission had tabled a resolution that was both intemperate and unhelpful to the peace process. He hoped it would be firmly rejected.

23. Attempts by some leaders to block free and fair elections would eventually be defeated. The United States called on all leaders to allow their citizens to exercise their right of self-determination through free and fair elections.

24. Mr. SINGH PURI (India) said that the right of peoples under alien subjugation freely to determine their political status had been recognized as a result of initiatives in which India, as a founder member of the Non-Aligned Movement, had played a leading role. The fact that a majority of States Members of the United Nations were former colonies demonstrated the success of the historic struggle for self-determination.

25. One glaring exception was Palestine. India remained steadfast in its solidarity with the people of Palestine as they struggled to achieve their goal of a sovereign independent State, with well-defined and secure borders, living at peace with the State of Israel.


28. Mr. YIMER (Ethiopia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the Group’s position on the right of self-determination was influenced by its experience of colonialism and based on the provisions of instruments such as the Charter of the United Nations, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), which viewed the denial of the right of self-determination as a threat to international peace and security.

29. The African Group welcomed positive developments in recent months, including the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, the London meeting on Palestine and the presidential elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. According to recent opinion polls, public opinion in both Israel and Palestine supported efforts to resolve the issues comprehensively once and for all. The leadership on both sides thus enjoyed a clear mandate from civil society.

30. The African Group also welcomed the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice to the effect that the construction of the so-called “security wall” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regime were contrary to international law, and that Israel, as the occupying Power, was under an obligation to cease construction. The Court had also found that the wall adversely affected negotiations on a final settlement and the enjoyment by the Palestinian people of their right of self-determination. The infringements of the rights of Palestinians resulting from the route of the wall could not be justified by military exigencies or the requirements of national security or public order. The Court had placed States under the obligation not to recognize the illegal situation arising from its construction and not to render any assistance in maintaining it.

31. The African Group reiterated that only a just, comprehensive and lasting peace through negotiations and dialogue could end the crisis in the Middle East. It underscored the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to an independent State existing side by side with Israel and encouraged the efforts of the Quartet to ensure implementation of the Roadmap approved by Security Council resolution 1515 (2003).


34. Mr. AL-ASKAR (Observer for Kuwait) said that the right of self-determination was an inalienable right and all impediments to its full exercise should be eliminated.

35. The Palestinian people had for decades been denied the right of self-determination and to full enjoyment of political rights, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and successive declarations and resolutions, particularly Commission on Human Rights resolution 2004/3, which required the current session to consider the situation in occupied Palestine as a matter of high priority. Kuwait reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian State with its capital in Jerusalem, in accordance with the Commission resolution and relevant Security Council resolutions.

36. It was to be hoped that the current efforts by the international community to reactivate the peace process would bear fruit and that the aspiration of the Palestinian people to exercise all their legitimate rights would finally be realized.


40. Mr. ABU-KOASH (Observer for Palestine) said that his delegation was pleased to be in the presence of the representatives of a large number of countries that had thrown off the shackles of occupation and exercised their right to self-determination. The Palestinian people continued to be denied that right by the occupying power, Israel. In 1988, the Palestinian people had accepted a two-State solution that had left them with a mere 22 per cent of their homeland. Israel’s vigorous military and expansionist policies aimed at creating a de facto situation where Palestinians were left with only half of that already reduced figure and deprived of all sovereignty.

41. Israel’s continued retention of the Occupied Pale Israel’s continued retention of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its activities in that territory had no legal validity. Pursuant to international law, Israel was a belligerent occupying power and bound to observe the relevant provisions of that law. The concept of an “administrator” - a name chosen by Israel itself - was unknown in international law. Moreover, Israel did not limit itself to mere administration, but instead had proceeded to the illegal annexation of Jerusalem and acted as if it were entitled to full sovereignty over the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Israel had confiscated Palestinian lands in violation of international law and had built settlements for part of its population, in flagrant breach of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

42. The Palestinian people’s right to self-determination had been affirmed repeatedly by the Commission on Human Rights. Those who sought to promote and enforce freedom and respect for human rights throughout the world could no longer overlook the ongoing violations of that people’s rights. In spite of its continuous defiance of international law, Israel had been granted exemption from the rule of respect for the fundamental values enshrined in international instruments.

43. The Palestinian people were determined to free themselves from Israeli occupation and were grateful to all those who had supported them in that ongoing struggle, including Israeli citizens who opposed their Government’s anti-Palestinian policies. His people had demonstrated their capacity for independence in conducting fair and democratic presidential and municipal elections; legislative elections would be held in June 2005. They had worked relentlessly to restructure and rebuild their economy and institutions. However, those efforts had been undermined by an aggressive occupier whose daily practice on the ground engendered hatred and instability. Respect for human rights and recognition of the right to self-determination were crucial to peace and security, and the injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people precipitated instability in many parts of the world. While a comprehensive body of agreements recognized Palestinians’ right to self-determination, the status quo reflected the harsh reality of a people yearning for independence but forced to go through a lengthy and arduous process of negotiations with Israel.

44. Mr. AL-RIYAMI (Observer for Oman) said that the right of self-determination was a pillar of the international system established by the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a particularly important right for peoples suffering under the yoke of foreign occupation. The failure of the Government of Israel to apply those principles and its use of force against a people that were seeking to defend their national territory constituted a challenge to the international community, which aspired to promote security and stability for all peoples in the region. In defiance of that community, Israel continued to ignore the many resolutions adopted by different United Nations bodies, denying the Palestinian people the right of self-determination and to live in dignity like other peoples.

45. The right to resist foreign occupation was a sacred right enshrined in international law and custom. Oman supported the just and lawful struggle of peoples to exercise that right and joined its fellow Arab and Islamic States and other peace-loving countries in staunchly supporting the Palestinian people in their struggle to secure their legitimate national rights. It called on all relevant international bodies and, in particular, the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly, to take effective action to compel Israel to comply with international law, and to devise a mechanism to assist the Palestinian people in exercising their right of self-determination.

46. Oman believed that dialogue and negotiation were the best means of achieving a just and lasting peace in the region and establishing an independent Palestinian State living alongside the State of Israel.

47. Mr. LEVANON (Observer for Israel) said that Israel had recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people over 25 years previously and had entered into several agreements that focused on bringing an end to the conflict and implementing those rights. The new process launched on the occasion of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit held on 8 February 2005 envisaged the implementation of the two-State solution and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. It was regrettable that the members of the Commission had thus far ignored those positive developments and had failed to revise their attitudes.

48. Israel supported the right to self-determination of peoples worldwide, including the Palestinian people, and in turn expected full recognition of the right of the Jewish people to de facto and de jure self-determination. The recent positive developments in the region showed that violence and terrorism had failed, and both Palestinians and Israelis had embarked on a new path. He urged the Commission to encourage those efforts by sending a clear message of support and hope. It was surprising that no attention had been paid to progress in the region. The relentless condemnation of Israel threatened to undermine that progress and could only serve the cause of extremists. He appealed to the Commission to silence the negative voices in its midst and work towards true change.

49. Mr. AL-FAIHANI (Observer for Bahrain) said that the encouraging developments in the political environment in the Middle East had thus far had no concrete impact on the implementation of the right to self-determination of the Arab people under occupation. His Government was hopeful that the current positive developments would provide an opportunity for putting an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people. Peace in the Middle East could only be achieved by granting the Palestinian people their legitimate rights, and his Government strongly supported all efforts towards that goal.

50. He appealed to the Commission to focus on promoting the rights of the Arab people under occupation, including the Palestinian people. The denial of those rights constituted a violation of international norms and principles and would result in further instability. Israeli violations committed against the Palestinians must be halted. The absence of peace and stability would only strengthen extremism, hinder economic development and prevent the development of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

51. Attaining peace in the region required international action, in which the Commission had an important role to play. The occupation authority must cooperate in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. The time had come to overcome the hatred and instability caused by the occupation and to ensure that future generations in the Middle East could live in peace.

52. Mr. JAAFARI (Observer for the Syrian Arab Republic) said that the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights law guaranteed all States an unfettered right to self-determination. Moreover, the history of the General Assembly was closely bound up with the implementation of that principle since the adoption of landmark resolution 3236 (XXIX) on the question of Palestine in 1974.

53. The right of return, as set forth in General Assembly resolution 194 (III), was an indivisible part of the right to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. Moreover, the path to a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East did not require any roadmaps but only Israeli compliance with United Nations resolutions and with the framework established by the Madrid Peace Conference and the Arab Peace Initiative. However, Israel did not want peace but sought to fragment the peace process and to reduce it to talk about clearing away individual road blocks while maintaining the occupation. It had no respect for international law, as witnessed by its attitude to the recent Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. It persisted in building the separation wall and annexing large segments of East Jerusalem, thereby depriving the Palestinian people of their rights and dashing all hopes for peace in the region.

54. The international community must now, more than ever before, take stock of the manoeuvres of the Israeli Government, which was seeking to conceal its continued occupation of Arab lands in Palestine, Lebanon and the Golan by using duplicitous language to divert attention from the expansion of Israeli settlements and the erosion of Palestinian land and rights.

55. He reminded the observer for Israel, who had referred to the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, of General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 1947, which had partitioned Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish State.

56. Mr. JAZAIRY (Observer for Algeria) ...


60. Mr. NEUER (United Nations Watch) said that his organization supported peoples’ right to self-determination, but was doubtful that those States which used the Commission on Human Rights as a forum to attack Israel were motivated by a true concern for human rights.

61. Israel had officially recognized the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination on numerous occasions and had once again taken to trading land in the hope of peace. The resolutions and rhetoric asserting what had already been accepted thus served only to perpetuate a long-standing campaign to demonize Israel and the Jewish people and squandered precious United Nations resources. Proceedings such as the exclusive scrutiny of Israel under a separate agenda item cast Israel as the world’s leading human rights violator, and the automatic annual adoption of anti-Israel resolutions gave that false image a veneer of international credibility. Singling out Israel in such a way violated the provision of the Charter of the United Nations that guaranteed equal rights for all nations.

62. The Secretary-General had recently confirmed that the bias preventing full and equal participation by the Jewish State in the work of the United Nations must be corrected, and Human Rights Watch had recently criticized the Commission for its failure to condemn Palestinian terrorism. States and non-State actors must join their voices and publicly oppose such selectivity. One-sided resolutions encouraged extremists and thus undermined the Middle East peace process. It would be impossible to restore the Commission’s credibility if its human rights agenda remained captive to an anti-Israel political agenda. He called on the Commission to use the reform process to address urgent human rights situations around the world and to stop subverting the principles of equality, peace and human rights.


65. Ms. MASSAGEE (Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man) said that ongoing Israeli actions would preclude the Palestinians’ ability to realize their right to self-determination. The continued unlawful construction of the separation wall on Palestinian land was resulting in the annexation of more of the West Bank. Israel was also providing aid and assistance for the expansion of settlements there, in breach of international law. Those settlements served as a means for the appropriation of Palestinian land, water and other natural resources. Several hundred kilometres of link roads to settlements cut through the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but the Palestinians were not allowed to use them. All those measures would in practice prevent the Palestinians from exercising the self-determination crucial to the enjoyment of other fundamental human rights. They also jeopardized the territorial contiguity of any future Palestinian State and would hamper the Palestinians’ economic, social and cultural development. The Commission should call on all parties to the negotiation process to ensure that any political solution was consonant with international law, so that the fundamental right of the Palestinians to self-determination could become a reality.


81. Ms. ENAV (Women’s International Zionist Organization) said that, although it was true that the State of Israel had risen from the ashes of the Holocaust, the wings that had carried it out of the dust had been the wings of Zionism. That movement, which incarnated the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their ancient homeland, had come into being because of anti-Semitism. The opening of the new Holocaust museum in Berlin was simultaneously a reminder of the tragedy that had beset the Jews of Europe because they could find no refuge and a timely warning at a time when there was a frightening upsurge of anti-Semitism reminiscent of the early Nazi era. Hence an attack on Zionism was equal to an assault on the Jewish people’s right to self-preservation and to have a refuge from the hostility of the world.

82. It was imperative for the Commission to find ways and language to encourage the resumption of the peace process. It was not enough to demand the Palestinian people’s right of self-determination, while attempting to deny the Israeli people that right.


87. Mr. MARIASHIN (B’nai B’rith International), also speaking on behalf of the Coordinating Body of Jewish Organizations, said that, on the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, the international community should reaffirm its commitment to the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Self-determination was one of the most fundamental of those rights. The Holocaust could have been prevented if the Jewish people’s right to self-determination had been realized all those years ago. In fact, the Zionist movement had been born in response to anti-Jewish discrimination, prejudice and violence. Nazi treatment of the Jews demonstrated how vital it was to protect their right to self-determination and how much they needed a State of their own, especially in view of the resurgence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in various intellectual circles. Anti-Zionism was dangerous, for it sought the destruction of the Jewish State and, as such, ran counter to fundamental human rights principles and a number of Security Council resolutions.

88. The Commission should reassert the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, for only then would it demonstrate that it had learned the lessons of the past by upholding a basic right of that people.


91. Ms. GRUNFELD (Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos) welcomed recent developments in Israel and Palestine, but expressed concern that resumed negotiations might set aside the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Any such negotiations must be based on respect for and compliance with United Nations resolutions and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. Although Israel had announced that it was pulling out of the Gaza Strip, it was pursuing its expansionist policy in the West Bank and was still building the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, where the perpetual humiliation and isolation of the Palestinian civilian population constituted nothing short of apartheid and open defiance of the international legal order. Hence it was imperative that the international community should take the requisite steps to persuade Israel to fulfil its obligations as a State Member of the United Nations. The Federation was eager to see the advent of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, which respected the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and ended the occupation.


Statements in exercise of the right of reply


99. Mr. SARAN (India) said that the statement made by the representative of Pakistan had given a perverted view of the notion of self-determination in order to advance Pakistan’s agenda for territorial aggrandizement. Pakistan must begin by ensuring that its own people enjoyed the right to self-determination, a right that had been denied to them throughout most of the country’s history. Jammu and Kashmir was an integral and inalienable part of India, and India had repeatedly and systematically granted the people of that State the right to exercise democratic choice. The statement made by the Pakistan delegation had contained half quotes from United Nations resolutions. Those resolutions also contained provisions that required Pakistan to abandon its illegal occupation of one third of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan was still in breach of that obligation.

100. Turning to the statement made on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), he said that by equating the historic struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination with the situation in one of the states of India, OIC was making a mockery of the rights of the Palestinian people. He called on the OIC to reject attempts by one of its members to misuse that organization for narrow and partisan foreign-policy objectives.


The meeting rose at 5.30 p.m.

This record is subject to correction.

Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Official Records Editing Section, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Any corrections to the records of the public meetings of the Commission at this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter