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Agenda item 116: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued)
In the absence of the Chairman, Mr. Priputen (Slovakia), Vice-Chairman, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 3.20 p.m.
Agenda item 116: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued ) (A/58/115, A/58/180)
5. Ms. Porat (Israel) said that the need for a fresh working definition of racism was more urgent than ever for two reasons. First, the rapid expansion of cyberspace could be misused by extremist groups for incitement to hate crimes, and a clear definition would enable the passage of legislation against such crimes and its enforcement. Second, one of the lessons of the Durban Conference against Racism was that the indiscriminate labelling of conflicts, whether national, religious, territorial or military, as expressions of racism should be opposed, as the fear of the other — known as heterophobia — was being exploited by politicians and pressure groups.
6. Efforts to educate against racism had been ongoing since the Durban Conference and should be commended. She drew particular attention to the January 2000 Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust and the efforts to use it as a primary educational tool in the 45 countries which had attended. The experience gained could be used to form a parallel task force for education against racism within the United Nations system. Israel itself was a highly diverse country, with more than 100 languages spoken within its borders and significant and varied Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious communities. As part of the effort to eliminate discrimination, a collection of legislation against racism and related intolerance enacted by United Nations Member States had been compiled by Tel Aviv University. The process of updating that collection could take place under the aegis of the Committee, in order to provide a full picture of global legislation on those issues.
7. Turning to the issue of self-determination, Israel recognized the rights of peoples to self-determination throughout the world, including the Middle East. Israel’s founders had a vision of establishing a modern state in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, thereby realizing their right to self-determination while living in peace and security with their neighbours. Israel respected the rights of its neighbours, including the Palestinian people, to self-determination. It did not wish to dominate them or control their destiny, and was committed to a two-State solution. However, the right of self-determination could not be used to legitimize any action undertaken in its name, including violence. Some of the most severe disputes in history had occurred among groups of the same ethnic origin, as was the case in the Middle East. That conflict was not racist, religious or cultural, but political, and could be resolved only by political dialogue based on mutual respect and compromise. Instead, the Palestinian leadership had placed obstacles in the path of their own self-determination and had chosen the route of inaction and complicity in terrorism.
8. In March 1994, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights had taken a decision to the effect that anti-Semitism was a form of racism, along with other related forms of discrimination such as Islamophobia. Indeed, the final draft of the Durban Programme of Action repeatedly mentioned anti-Semitism alongside Islamophobia. In response to the concerns expressed, it was her delegation’s firm belief that both phenomena deserved to be addressed appropriately in the Committee and by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. After 11 September 2001, much attention in the Western world had been focused on the question of whether there was some kind of evil inherent in Islam. It was precisely that kind of false attribution of evil to various human groups that was the essence of racism.
9. Mr. Xie Bohua (China) said that, in order to eliminate racism and racial discrimination, both the phenomenon and its root causes must be addressed. Governments bore primary responsibility for advocating dialogue among civilizations and raising public awareness of the danger of racism and racial discrimination. The restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of self-determination, would provide the key to lasting peace in the Middle East. His Government deplored the decision of the Israeli Government to continue the construction of the separation wall and the expansion of settlements. The wall would not solve Israel’s fundamental security problems and would only deepen mutual hostility and hatred. He hoped that the parties concerned would take a long-term view and break the vicious circle of violence by returning to the negotiations.
10. The right to self-determination applied to peoples under foreign occupation, and must not be seen as authorizing any action to dismember a sovereign State or violate its territorial and political integrity. It was the common aspiration of all the Chinese people to maintain the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, but in recent years, under the pretext of national self-determination, some groups had been undermining its sovereignty and unity. That was a wilful trampling of the norms of international law, but his delegation was confident that truth and justice would prevail.
The meeting rose at 4.35 p.m.
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Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.