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Agenda item 108: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued)
The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.
Agenda item 107: Elimination of racism and racial discrimination ( continued) (A/57/3 (Parts I and II))
(a) Elimination of racism and racial discrimination (continued ) (A/57/18, A/57/83-E/2002/72, A/57/204, 333 and 334)
(b) Comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (continued) (A/57/443 and 444)
Agenda item 108: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued ) (A/57/178 and 312)
12. Mr. Chowdhury (Bangladesh) ...
13. The Constitution of Bangladesh expressly forbade discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, caste, sex or birthplace. It guaranteed equality before the law and equality of opportunity for all citizens and provided for affirmative action for particularly disadvantaged groups. Bangladesh’s commitment to those fundamental values and norms had emerged out of its long struggle for independence. Bangladesh respected human rights and fundamental freedoms together with pluralism, democracy, good governance and the rule of law. Internationally, it had supported the fight against racist practices and racial intolerance and was party to all the major human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In accordance with that principled position, Bangladesh rejected and denounced racism and racist practices wherever and whenever they were perpetrated and unequivocally rejected the policies and practices of the occupying power in the Middle East. The Palestinian people were constantly deprived of their fundamental rights and persecuted. Eviction, complete blockade and excessive use of force against civilians were clear violations of international law and universally recognized human rights.
15. Mr. Tamir (Israel) said that Israel wholeheartedly supported the initiatives of the international community to eliminate racism and racial discrimination. It had successfully integrated the various groups of immigrants from around the world which it had received in the course of its history. It had worked tirelessly to protect and defend their rights and had codified their protection in an extensive body of law for the benefit of all Israel’s citizens. The diversity of Israeli society was a source of richness and strength to be celebrated, and Israel was proud of the role played by its civil society in giving voice to the country’s many and diverse groups — a vital means of safeguarding human rights.
16. The twenty-first century had begun with high hopes for democratization, greater equality for all peoples, and progress towards universal recognition of the centrality of human rights. Unfortunately, those hopes had not been realized. In the first year of the new millennium the United Nations had convened in Durban, South Africa, the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, but what had been intended to serve as a high-level forum for the advancement of human rights and elimination of racism had turned into a platform for singling out Israel and unjustifiably branding it as racist and an international pariah. The Palestinian delegation, its supporters in the NGO community, and some States had permitted the travesty of Durban to transpire. The proceedings at Durban had represented a step backwards in the efforts to eradicate racism and racial discrimination. Israel profoundly regretted that an important opportunity to advance the cause of human rights and take substantial action to combat racism and racial discrimination had been squandered on petty political objectives.
18. Although the United Nations had been hesitant in acknowledging it, anti-Semitism had made a startling comeback in the past year. Anti-Semitic violence and rhetoric had intensified and was on the rise around the world. One of the many frightening manifestations of that trend was the adoption by certain Islamic fundamentalists in Arab and Muslim countries of the brand of Jew-hatred previously the exclusive domain of European fascists. A category of anti-Semitic images and propaganda not seen in half a century was becoming increasingly common in parts of the Middle East. But hatred of the Jews was not limited to those with a distinct anti-Israeli political agenda: even in enlightened, progressive and liberal societies Anti-Semitism was no longer taboo and it was emerging into the mainstream in countries where it had long been marginal. If the international community could not bring itself to condemn such hatred fully and unequivocally, individual citizens could not be expected to do so on their own.
19. Israel fully supported international efforts to eradicate racism, racial discrimination and related forms of intolerance, but precisely because it was opposed to racism it was opposed to the politicization of the work of the Committee, where the agenda item on racism and racial discrimination was exploited as an excuse to attack Israel and attempts were made to recast the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a racial conflict. Israel’s dedication to peace, justice and equality was one of the cornerstones of its society and an unyielding objective of its Government’s policy. Israel would continue to act in earnest to ensure that those ideals were realized by all the peoples of the world and it hoped that the responsible members of the international community would join it in that campaign.
20. With regard to the right of peoples to self-determination, at the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly the Israeli delegation had stated clearly that Israel recognized that right throughout the world and in the Middle East. The story of the modern State of Israel was to a great extent the story of defending the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in its homeland and its right to live in peace and security with its neighbours. Israel respected the right of its neighbours, both the Arab States and the Palestinian people, to self-determination. It had no desire to dominate the Palestinians or control their destiny. That recognition went back to the 1978 Camp David Accords and had been reiterated in the context of the Oslo agreements. More recently, Israel had stated its support for the idea of two States living side by side in peace and security, as adumbrated in Security Council resolution 1397 (2002).
21. However, the right to self-determination could not be used to legitimize whatever action was taken in its name; its exercise must rather include respect for the right of others to self-determination. History had shown ways of achieving self-determination without terrorizing innocent people or spreading hatred. Israel would not yield to violence or alter its political positions as a consequence of violence. No nation should accept dictation of its political agenda by suicide bombers. Self-determination was a noble idea, but its nobility was debased when its exercise necessitated the denial of that same right to others. The right to self-determination, like any other right, must be pursued through common agreement, dialogue and respect.
22. Israel still hoped to return, with its neighbours, to a process of genuine negotiation conducted in an environment free from terrorism and violence and aimed at achieving a lasting settlement based on the right of all the peoples of the region to live in dignity, peace and security. That hope would not be advanced by more one-sided United Nations resolutions which ignored the context of the conflict and the right of the region’s other inhabitants to freedom from terrorism.
25. Ms. Barghouti (Observer for Palestine) said that the realization of the right of many peoples to self-determination, and the achievement of freedom and independence for a great number of nations were among the most important accomplishments of the past century. Nevertheless, the world was facing even greater challenges which continued to threaten worldwide peace, stability and democracy. The emergence of new forms of colonialization, discrimination and injustice in many parts of the world required that the international community should exert even greater efforts to confront and eradicate those problems.
26. The occupation of Palestinian land since 1967 remained one of the worst forms of colonialism in modern history. In the current age of decolonialization, it was unacceptable that the Palestinian people should continue to languish under settler colonialism and the brutal and oppressive measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power. The international community, and the United Nations in particular, should take swift and firm measures to allow the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination, as embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, and in human rights instruments and reaffirmed in the declarations and plans of action of several conferences and special sessions. Every year that passed in which the Palestinian people continued to be denied their right to self-determination was another year of further suffering and deterioration in their living conditions. Attempts to merely calm the situation on the ground without addressing the core issue of the right of Palestinian people to self-determination did not constitute a genuine solution. The enjoyment of that right by the Palestinian people was essential for the achievement of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. The Palestinian people had a right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
27. Since September 2000, the Israeli occupying forces had unleashed a bloody military campaign against the Palestinian people and their leadership, which had already caused nearly 2,000 Palestinian deaths and at least 35,000 injuries. The occupying Power had continued applying its oppressive policies and practices, destroying every aspect of Palestinian life in order to strengthen its occupation. The plight of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons tragically persisted.
28. Recent Israeli action had undermined efforts aimed at fostering an environment conducive to the resumption of negotiations between the two parties. One of the aims of the escalation of Israeli violence seemed to be to undermine recent positive developments regarding the right of the Palestinian people to establish a State. The Palestinian people had made historic compromises in order to achieve their national aspirations, exercise their inalienable rights and live in peace and dignity. Israel must understand that the Palestinian people would not accept anything less than real freedom and would not give up the struggle for self-determination even though occupation was continuing, with the constant use of military force, and the humiliation and dehumanization of the Palestinian population. Despite the current difficult political, economic and dire humanitarian situation they faced, the Palestinian people remained confident that, with the constant support and solidarity of the international community and the exertion of efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement, they would finally be able to live in peace and dignity.
40. Ms. Al Haj Ali (Syrian Arab Republic) ...
41. The significant deterioration of the economic situation in the Middle East had stirred up racism and discrimination, which were aggravated by the practices of the Israeli forces against the Arab citizens of the occupied territories. There had been flagrant manifestations of racism, such as statements made by some Israeli leaders against Arabs and Muslims, the demand to relocate the Palestinians and the incitement to kill all Arabs. In addition to occupation, the expulsion of Arabs and the arrival of Jewish settlers from many countries had changed the geography of the illegally occupied Arab territories. Israel could not persist in that practice, which ran counter to international law and to the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, or continue to violate the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination despite the provisions of the United Nations Charter, the resolutions of the General Assembly, particularly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The United Nations had contributed greatly to the struggle of the peoples of the world seeking to exercise their right to self-determination and to free themselves from colonialism, but had not managed to end the arbitrary and oppressive practices of Israel against the Palestinian people, who were unable to achieve self-determination because, among other things, the international community did not exert sufficient pressure on Israel to respect international legitimacy and the relevant resolutions. In the course of history, many persecuted people had sought refuge in Syria, where t hey had the same rights and obligations as all other citizens. The Syrian Arab Republic had been one of the first States to adhere to the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and did not discriminate against anybody on the basis of race, religion or national or ethnic origin. It accordingly held that the United Nations had a fundamental role to play in the combat against racism and racial discrimination in the world. Security and stability in the Middle East could not be attained unless the Palestinian people were allowed to exercise their fundamental right to self-determination and to create their own State with al-Quds al-Sharif (Jerusalem) as its capital.
43. Mr. Roshdy (Egypt), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the Israeli representative’s affirmation that the 190 countries participating in the Durban Conference had been unjust in describing his State as racist demonstrated his peculiar notion of freedom of expression. The Israeli representative had also implied that the Palestinians should be ashamed of having initiated an intifada, living as they did in the paradise of Israel, where they enjoyed full equality of rights and freedoms. The Israeli representative had likewise branded all Arabs and Muslims as fascists and anti-Semites; obviously, his historical information was incorrect because the Egyptians were more Semitic than the Israelis, having lived in their country for 7,000 years. Lastly, the Israeli representative had said that his Government respected the right of neighbouring countries and the Palestinians to self-determination and that the exercise of that right should be the outcome of peaceful negotiations. If Israel really wanted to translate those noble words into deeds, his delegation should join the sponsors of the draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
45. Mr. Tamir (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the representative of Egypt had misinterpreted his statement. It was regrettable that some delegations still viewed racism as a weapon to be used against their political enemies and not as an outrage against humanity which must be combated with unanimous determination. The conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis had nothing to do with the debate on racism and racial discrimination; it was a political conflict between two peoples, each of which had its rights, claims and aspirations that could only be resolved by renouncing violence and negotiating in a spirit of compromise and mutual recognition. The use of the agenda item under consideration to promote the Palestinian cause made no contribution, either to that cause or to the attainment of the common objective of eradicating racism and racial discrimination.
47. Mr. Roshdy (Egypt), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Israel’s legislation was racist, since the legal age of majority was different for Palestinian children and Israeli children.
The meeting rose at 4.40 p.m.
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Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.