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UNITED
NATIONS
E

        Economic and Social Council
Distr.
GENERAL
E/CN.4/2000/SR.4
4 April 2000

Original: ENGLISH

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Fifty-sixth session

SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 4th MEETING

Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on Wednesday, 22 March 2000, at 10.00 a.m.

Chairman: Mr. SIMKHADA (Nepal)

CONTENTS


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REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FOLLOW-UP TO THE WORLD CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS (continued)

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STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE OF ISRAEL

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The meeting was called to order at 10.20 a.m.

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REPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FOLLOW-UP TO THE WORLD CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS (agenda item 4) (continued) (E/CN.4/2000/5 and 12 and Add.1; E/CN.4/2000/NGO/3)

5. The CHAIRMAN said that the Bureau had recommended that item 4 be left open throughout the session in order to allow the High Commissioner for Human Rights to make statements and to present reports as appropriate, and to permit delegations to comment thereon. Statements relating to the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2000/12 and Add.1) should, however, be made prior to the consideration of item 5.

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STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE OF ISRAEL

50. Mr. BEILIN (Israel) said that the forthcoming meeting in Geneva between the Presidents of Syria and the United States could be the last opportunity for a long time to make peace between Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Talks between Israel and the Palestinians had already resumed with the aim of reaching a permanent solution. After 52 years of belligerence, there was a fair chance that peace agreements could be concluded in 2000, given that both sides viewed the situation more pragmatically than before: Arabs understood that Israel was there to stay; the Israeli Government understood that peace came at a price, sometimes a very high price.

51. The combination of peace and democracy was the best basis for the implementation of human rights. A rare opportunity had presented itself and must not be missed. Any failure to solve the main problems of the Middle East would be unforgivable.

52. One of the most important results of such a peace would be that Israel could become what its founding fathers had intended: a model of democracy, human rights and Jewish morality, a country that not only dealt with its own problems but also helped others. Over the last generation, Israel's role had been very different. Discussion of human rights had usually put Israel on the defensive. It had rejected all criticism, and the principal task of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been to deny the world’s accusations.

53. What had happened to the people of Israel would never, he prayed, happen to any other people. For in 1948, just two years after 6 million Jews had been exterminated, Israel had had to fight for the small State it had been offered, because others were not yet ready to accept it, and had thereby sacrificed another whole generation of young people. That was the main reason for the feeling in Israel that the world was full of hypocrisy and cynicism and would never be satisfied whatever Israel did.

54. After 1967, Israel had found itself occupying territory belonging to others, notably Palestinians. It had tried to convince itself that the occupation was benevolent but history showed that, no matter what occupiers tried to do, they would always in the end be hated, simply because they were there. Israel had perceived itself as a victim in a world where some countries were still prepared to destroy it; most of the world had perceived Israel as an occupying power that violated human rights. Israel had seen itself as a transparent democracy fighting for its life; the world had compared it to the most racist of countries and had even, for a 15-year period, regarded zionism as racism. Israel had wasted many years trying to convince the world of the gap between the reality in the country and the image that was portrayed of it.

55. As a democratic Jewish State, Israel's true role was to warn the world against any return to the dark days of the twentieth century, any hankering after nazism or fascism. Israel saw itself as part of the international effort to change the norm, to convince people that it was not nations, tribes, groups or peoples that counted, but human beings, and that anyone who promoted the rights of human beings by targeting groups was a criminal.

56. Israel had worked hard to develop the rights of women, children and the disabled, inter alia - rights that had become self-evident. He hoped that it would be possible for Israel and the Arab countries to say they had not missed the opportunity to make peace in the Middle East and that they had thus become free to deal with other important issues. Peace was not an end in itself, but only a tool with which to normalize life in order to begin dealing with the real issues. It was a shared responsibility.

/...


The meeting rose at 12.55 p.m.

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