6 June 2017
(Issued as received)
Distinguished President of the Council,
Excellencies, Colleagues, Friends,
Fifty years ago, this was the day I first heard the sound of war. I was three and a half years old and, while fragmentary, I can still remember military men milling around our home in Amman, an armoured car stationed nearby and later, planes that flew overhead. It was a war that shaped my life, and forged my later desire to understand the depths of Palestinian suffering but not only that, Jewish suffering too – the latter spanning over two millennia, and which culminated in that colossal crime, the Holocaust.
I grew up not far from the massive Palestinian refugee camp in al-Baqa’a. I worked across the street from the al-Wihdat refugee camp. In the past thirty years, I have been to Auschwitz-Birkenau, visited Dachau, seen Buchenwald. I have studied in depth the trials at Nuremburg and elsewhere, the long and painful history of anti-Semitism in Europe, Russia and later, Arab countries – which remains still present in far too many places around the world.
Some will respond, mechanically almost, that the experiences of the two peoples are not equivalent, how could I mention them in one breath? Indeed, I agree – the Holocaust was so monstrous and so mathematically planned and executed it has no parallel, no modern equal.
Yet it is also undeniable that today, the Palestinian people mark a half-century of deep suffering under an occupation imposed by military force. An occupation which has denied the Palestinians many of their most fundamental freedoms, and has often been brutal in the way it has been realized; an occupation whose violations of international law have been systematic, and have been condemned time and again by virtually all States.
The Palestinians deserve freedom, as all peoples do. They deserve to bring up their children safe in their homes, on their land, exercising their rights in their State, free from this long and bitter occupation.
The Israelis also deserve freedom – a different sort of freedom, for they have long had their State, but they too have suffered grievously. The Israeli people have long endured unlawful attacks against their own civilian population – attacks which are often vicious, in clear violation of international humanitarian law, and also worthy of condemnation. Israelis too need to be free from this violence, from any existential threat posed to them.
The sine qua non for peace – the end of the occupation – must now be brought about, and soon. Maintain the occupation, and for both peoples there will only be a prolongation of immense pain, the endless flow of ‘azzas and shivas, the weeping by loved ones for loved ones, the prayers, the curses, the hatreds and vengeance, the impossibility of a secure life for all. This can be ended.
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