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About the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
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UNITED
NATIONS
A

        General Assembly
A/AC.183/PV.283
29 November 2004

Official Records



General Assembly
Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
283rd meeting
Monday, 29 November 2004, 10.30 a.m.
New York

Chairman:Mr. Badji .............................................................................................................................................(Senegal)



The meeting was called to order at 10.45 a.m.


International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

The Chairman (spoke in French ): Today, the Committee is holding a solemn meeting to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, in accordance with the provisions of General Assembly resolution 32/40 B of 2 December 1977.

It is my honour and pleasure to welcome Mr. Jean Ping, President of the General Assembly; Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations; Mr. Bernard Goonetilleke, Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization and representative of Palestine at this ceremony, and Mr. Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

I also wish to welcome representatives of Member States, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations and all those who have accepted the Committee’s invitation to participate in this solemn meeting.

The recent passing of the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, has deeply saddened us. His death is a tragic loss for the Palestinian people and for all suffering peoples and whose profound aspirations for dignity and freedom he personified. I would now like to invite everyone present to rise and observe a minute of silence in memory of President Arafat and all those who have given their lives for the cause of the Palestinian people and for the return of peace in the region.

The members of the Committee observed a minute of silence.

The Chairman (spoke in French ): Allow me to make a statement on behalf of the Committee.

It is my great honour, for the first time in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to welcome on this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, representatives of Member States, United Nations organs and bodies, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations. I sincerely thank all of you, who have responded in such great numbers to the Committee’s invitation. Your sizeable presence at this commemorative ceremony is proof that the international community remains determined to work towards the achievement by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights.

This year the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People takes place in particularly trying times for the Palestinian people. In addition to the extremely difficult situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, the Palestinian people mourn the loss of their leader of long standing, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority. P alestine has lost one of its best sons, and the Palestinian people have lost one of the most fervent militants for their just cause, an invincible fighter, an exceptional strategist, a convincing orator and a charismatic and visionary leader who, for many decades, was a living symbol of their courage and of their tenacity, resistance and unity. At the same time he embodied their legitimate aspirations for self-determination , freedom, sovereignty and national independence.

Yasser Arafat’s life was closely related to the very reason for which we have gathered today in this Chamber. As the Committee is well aware, it was on this same day in 1947 that the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II), which terminated the Mandate for Palestine and stipulated the formation of two States — one Jewish and the other Arab, with Jerusalem to be placed under a special international regime. The State of Israel was proclaimed without delay the following year, in 1948, but the Arab State, which was to be home to the Palestinians, has still not come into being.

The Palestinian people have had to endure long years characterized by warfare, expulsion and occupation. It was Yasser Arafat who emerged, in the course of the 1960s, as a Palestinian leader and gave the disenfranchised Palestinians an identity the world could no longer ignore. As the leader of his people, he made known the tragic plight of the Palestinians, which became a source of great concern for all peace-loving peoples.

The Palestinian leadership is determined to continue along that path and can rest assured that the Committee will support all efforts to resume the political dialogue with Israel and to pave the way for the implementation of the measures laid out in the road map.

Unfortunately, the realities on the ground and the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory show no sign of improvement, and the crisis has reached alarming proportions. In the course of this year, the Government of Israel has intensified its military raids, particularly in the Gaza Strip, resulting in an unprecedented level of destruction of homes and infrastructure, and in a rapidly rising number of civilian deaths and injuries.

Every day Palestinian civilians living under Israeli occupation face harassment, violence, deprivation and humiliation. Severe restrictions on their day-to-day activities hamper their ability to make a living and take care of their families. The severe damage inflicted on Gaza’s agriculture, the main source of income for the population there, will take years to reverse.

The death toll since the start of the intifada is now more than 4,000. Most of those killed have been Palestinians, but hundreds of Israelis have also lost their lives. Tragically, the number of victims among Palestinian women and children, the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society, is increasing. More than 670 children have been killed in the past four years of the intifada, of which over 570 were Palestinian and over 100 were Israeli. Palestinian women, in particular, bear the heavy responsibility of taking care of their families. Many of their menfolk have been killed or put in prison, or are stranded in long queues at checkpoints when they try to get to or return from work.

The Palestinian economy remains in a dismal state. Restrictions on movement have increased substantially this year. Unemployment in Gaza and in the West Bank remains high. Unless protective measures are taken without delay, poverty is likely to increase further. Food security, health and educational standards, water quality and sanitation all have deteriorated.

It is a matter of utmost concern that the expansion of settlements goes on. The international community has been particularly critical of the continued construction of the wall, which is asphyxiating and dividing Palestinian communities and where the majority of residents have lost homes, farmland and easy access to jobs, schools and medical care.

Once again, the Committee welcomes the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which found that the construction of the wall being built by Israel, which encroaches to a very large extent on occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regimes were contrary to international law, and that the construction of the wall severely impeded the exercise by the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination.

Our Committee strongly urges Israel to comply with international law, including all relevant United Nations resolutions. Adherence to the rules and principles of international law is a sine qua non condition for a negotiated solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Committee expresses the firm hope that the Quartet and the international community will intensify their engagement to help the parties to commence implementing their obligations under the road map, which provides for a practical way to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. Such a settlement must be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003) and on the principle of a permanent two-State solution to the conflict, based on pre-1967 borders, the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the right of all States to live in peace and security. The international community must now insist that Israel take the necessary measures to enable the full participation of the Palestinian from the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, in the upcoming Palestinian elections.

On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, let me welcome the participation in this solemn meeting of all of the senior officials of the United Nations, especially that of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to whom I would like once again to express the Committee’s deep appreciation for his unwavering support of the peace process. Mr. Secretary-General, I express to you once again my most positive appreciation of your active role in relaunching and revitalizing the work of the Quartet.

I also warmly welcome Mr. Jean Ping, President of the General Assembly at its fifty-ninth session, and sincerely thank him for honouring today’s meeting with his presence.

To the representatives of United Nations Member States and observers and to the representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States, the African Union and the Non-Aligned Movement, I express my deep appreciation for their presence at this solemn meeting and for the unwavering support of their organizations for the Committee and for the search for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.

I also take this opportunity to express the Committee’s appreciation for the remarkable work accomplished by the devoted personnel of the agencies, bodies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system, such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the United Nations Development Programme, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Children’s Fund, among others.

Finally, I wish especially to note the presence among us of Ms. Jennifer Butler, Chairperson of the Non-Governmental Organization Working Group on Israel/Palestine, who is representing the International Coordinating Network on Palestine. Through her, I thank the numerous civil society organizations for their effective voluntary work in support of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause.

May we all find in this demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinian people the motivation and the strength needed to persevere in our search for a peaceful, comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine, based on international law.

I now have the honour and the pleasure to give the floor to the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Jean Ping.

Mr. Ping (Gabon), President of the General Assembly (spoke in French ): This year, the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People takes place in an atmosphere of sadness because of the passing of Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority, to whom the General Assembly paid solemn tribute on Thursday, 11 November.

A man of humility and courage, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a beloved leader of his people, Yasser Arafat bequeathed a great heritage: his passion and ideal to create an independent Palestinian State. Now it is incumbent upon the Palestinian people and the entire international community to continue his efforts to create an independent Palestinian State in the spirit of the Oslo Agreements. Today, 29 November, is thus also a day of hope. As Yasser Arafat once stated, peace, and the choice of peace, are the objective of our struggle because it is impossible to resolve this conflict by military means. Today, it is useful to bear those words in mind, because violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to destabilize the entire Middle East region, with its heavy toll of innocent victims on both sides.

In order to bring both sides back to the negotiating table and find a political settlement to a conflict that has been dividing them for more than half a century, we must break this vicious circle of violence, vengeance and despair. It is generally acknowledged that the road map remains the only way to break the current impasse and to resume political dialogue in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions and based on the principle of land for peace and a solution providing for two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, within secure and internationally recognized borders. I should like to recall that the General Assembly continues to encourage both sides to carry out their obligations under the road map.

I should also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, and the other members of the Committee on your tireless efforts to promote the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and to work to find a just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine, of which the General Assembly will begin its consideration this afternoon.

The General Assembly reaffirms its position that the United Nations should continue to support efforts to relaunch dialogue between the parties. That objective requires determination and, in particular, real and strong political will. Israelis and Palestinians can be certain that the international community will support them in this crucial and courageous endeavour finally to establish peace in the Middle East. We must ensure that this objective is attained. I believe that would be the best possible tribute we could pay to President Arafat.

The Chairman : I now have the honour and the pleasure to give the floor to the Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan.

The Secretary-General : I am pleased to join the Committee on this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and take this opportunity to express, once again, my sympathy to the Palestinian people, who are mourning the loss of their leader, the late President Arafat. Let us hope that his memory will be an inspiration to the Palestinian people at this difficult time so that they may remain united and strengthened in their efforts to realize their national aspirations for statehood and self-determination though peaceful means.

Over the past four years, bloodshed and chaos in the Middle East have continued without respite. Palestinians have endured a dismal existence of grinding poverty and dispossession. But they have not been good years for Israelis, either. They too have borne great loss. They too need security. The past four years have demonstrated all too clearly that violence only begets violence and pushes farther away the prospect of a peaceful solution to the conflict.

However, we must not give way to despair and pessimism. Today, throughout the world, people hope that a new chance for peace may be around the corner. We must not let it pass by. The international community must gather its strength and renew its commitment to work for a reinvigorated peace process. Following the recent Quartet meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, I am hopeful that it will be so.

The Quartet’s Road Map still embodies a path to peace that is accepted by both Palestinians and Israelis and is strongly supported by the international community. It is high time that it be given a chance to succeed, and that the parties begin to live up to their commitments under it. And I have expressed my hope that Israel’s disengagement plan will revive peace efforts based on the Road Map, leading to the end of the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, and paving the way for a sovereign, democratic and contiguous Palestinian State, living side by side in peace with a secure Israel.

For my part, I pledge to continue my work to support the parties and to continue our work with all the parties for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine, based on Security Council resolutions and on the principle of land for peace.

The President (spoke in French ): I thank the Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, for the important statement he has just made. We are grateful to him for the efforts he personally has been making in order to promote a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine and for his constant concern for the work of the Committee.

I now call on the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, His Excellency Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, who will read a message from the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Al-Kidwa (spoke in Arabic ): For many years I was honoured to convey messages to this meeting from the President and leader of the Palestinian people, Yasser Arafat. I would like here to express the deep gratitude and appreciation of the Palestinian people for the kind words that we have heard today from the international community.

After the passing away of our leader, peaceful transfer of power is occurring in accordance with Palestinian law and the principles of democracy. Part of that process has already taken place, while other parts of the process have yet to be carried out, namely, the holding of presidential and legislative elections.

Today I am pleased and honoured to convey to the Committee the message of Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Before I read that message, I would like simply to express my appreciation for the presence of the President of the Security Council in this meeting in conformity with a tradition established in 1978. We consider the presence of the President of the Security Council as a representation of the Security Council and not of his country’s national authorities. We thus look forward to the arrival of the President of the Security Council. Allow me now, Sir, to read the message from Mr. Mahmoud Abbas to this meeting:


The Chairman (spoke in French ): On behalf of us all, I wish to reiterate to Mr. Abbas our solidarity with the Palestinian people during this time of trial. I also assure him and, through him, the Palestinian people of the firm commitment of our Committee to pursue its efforts, as mandated by the General Assembly, to promote a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.

I now call on the President of the Security Council.

Mr. Danforth (United States of America), President of the Security Council: First, I would like to thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for inviting me, in my capacity as President of the Security Council for the month of November, to participate in the annual commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This is a day of remembrance and compassion for all those who suffer from the terrible conflict and a day when the international community renews its commitment to relentlessly pursue efforts for a comprehensive and lasting settlement in the Middle East. Above all, this is a day of hope that peace will prevail and that the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security will be realized.

Over the past year, the Security Council has continued to support a comprehensive and just settlement in the Middle East, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002), the foundations of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace and the agreements already arrived at by the parties. The Security Council has also continued to follow the work of the Quartet and to advocate implementation of the performance-based road map, which was officially submitted to the parties on 30 April 2003. On 19 November 2003, the Security Council adopted resolution 1515 (2003), endorsing the road map for a permanent two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Council called on the parties to comply with their obligations pursuant to the road map in cooperation with the Quartet.

The Security Council keeps the situation in the region under constant review. We have monthly briefings by the Secretary-General and by his Personal Representative and Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. The Council has noted with concern the ongoing violence, terrorism and destruction, which has resulted in a tragic loss of life on both sides. It has also been concerned with the stalemate in the peace process and the economic and humanitarian situation on the ground. The deterioration in the security situation — particularly suicide bombings in Israel and military operations on Palestinian territory — is one of the main preoccupations of the Council. In its resolution 1515 (2003), the Council expressed grave concern over the continuation of tragic and violent events in the Middle East and reiterated its demand for an immediate cessation to all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction.

The Council is fully aware of the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis on the ground. Restrictions on freedom of movement continue to hamper everyday life for the people and strangle the Palestinian economy. Easing those restrictions on movement will enable humanitarian assistance to reach those people who desperately need it, and would improve living conditions for the Palestinians.

The donor community should be as generous as possible in its assistance to the Palestinians. The Council welcomes the commitment of the ad hoc liaison committee of the donor community.

The Security Council is also fully aware of the complexity of the task of achieving a lasting and just settlement of the decades-old conflict in the Middle East. That settlement will require constant efforts by the international community and by the parties involved. In this regard, the Council will continue to support the tireless peace efforts of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose political authority and moral prestige are invaluable assets for the international community as it continues to seek a peaceful settlement in the region.

The Council appreciates the constructive role played by the members of the Quartet and the international community. It also appreciates the quiet work of bilateral diplomacy in the quest for peace and stability in the Middle East.

Nevertheless, primary responsibility for the final settlement lies, above all, with the parties concerned. The elected Palestinian Cabinet and the Government of Israel must work together to overcome obstacles to the peace process. The Council stands ready to assist the parties in this challenging endeavour.

The Council notes that the Secretary-General has expressed condolences on the death of Yasser Arafat. We welcome the decision to hold presidential elections in January 2005 and support the Palestinians in their efforts to advance the democratic process.

In conclusion, I would like to assure the Committee that the Security Council will continue to shoulder its responsibilities under the Charter and will remain fully committed to the ultimate goal of achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and the fulfilment of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to a sovereign, prosperous and democratic State.

The Chairman (spoke in French ): I would like to thank the President of the Security Council, Mr. John Danforth, for his important statement.

I shall now suspend the meeting for several minutes to allow some of our guests to leave the Chamber.

On behalf of the Committee, I once again thank the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, the President of the Security Council and the Permanent Observer of Palestine for their statements.

The meeting was suspended at 11.40 a.m. and resumed at 11.45 a.m.

The President (spoke in French ): I now give the floor to Ambassador Bernard Goonatilleke of Sri Lanka, Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

Mr. Goonatilleke (Sri Lanka), Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories: On the occasion of this solemn meeting in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I have the honour to address this gathering in my capacity as Chairman of the Special Committee established by the General Assembly to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.

First of all, on behalf of the Special Committee, I wish to express our deep sympathy and sincere and heartfelt condolences to the Palestinian people upon the untimely passing of President Yasser Arafat on 11 November 2004. For decades, the late President Arafat steadfastly epitomized the inextinguishable quest of the Palestinian people for a sovereign and independent State: the State of Palestine. He will be long remembered not only by the Palestinian people, to whose service he devoted much of his life, but also by peoples of other countries both near and far, with whom he interacted closely in the pursuit of his lifelong mission. In these difficult days, it is the sincere hope of the Special Committee that the Palestinian people, as well as their leadership, will commit themselves to resolutely pursuing their objective peacefully through negotiations.

While the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was established by the General Assembly in 1975, the Special Committee was established in 1968, in the aftermath of the hostilities that took place in June 1967. Those two Committees, since their inception 29 and 36 years ago respectively, have carried out their mandates and submitted reports to the General Assembly on an annual basis. It is most regrettable that, just as the numerous resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council pertaining to the question of the Middle East have remained unimplemented, the recommendations of the two Committees have also shared the same fate. Meanwhile, despite the occasional silver lining which has appeared among the dark clouds, the situation regarding the Middle East conflict seems to be stagnating, with no sign of improvement on the horizon.

Unfortunately, this year, as in the past, the Special Committee was not allowed by the Government of Israel to visit the occupied territories to observe the human rights situation there or to have direct contact with the Israeli authorities. The Committee nevertheless undertook its annual field mission, from 25 May to 8 June, to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. It visited Lebanon for the first time with a view to broadening its knowledge and understanding of the problems that have been faced by the Palestinian refugees in that country for many decades. The Special Committee met with 84 witnesses in all — the highest number ever — in the three countries it visited. It gathered sufficient evidence to express its serious concern at the severely deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation and at the unprecedented level of destruction taking place in the occupied territories.

Most witnesses from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip highlighted the appalling and deteriorating living conditions resulting from the relentless military incursions by the Israel Defence Forces and from the construction of the separation wall in the northern West Bank. Palestinian land had been confiscated, cultivated fields had been destroyed, dwellings had been razed to the ground and families and communities had been split. Farmers had been denied access to their land, workers to their jobs, children and youth to schools, colleges and universities, and women and children to basic health and social services.

The construction of the wall — in contravention of international law, as declared in the advisory opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice in July 2004 — was causing major changes to the social fabric of Palestinian communities and was one of the most visible signs of oppression. Some witnesses expressed the fear that the purpose of erecting the wall and the moving of its contours far away from the Green Line — in some areas penetrating as much as 22 kilometres into the occupied territory — went far beyond security concerns and seemed to be aimed at annexing Palestinian land for settlement purposes.

Witnesses also highlighted the fact that every movement from one village or city to another, or even within neighbourhoods, required a special permit. Frequent road closures and numerous checkpoints, numbering more than 600 between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, added hours of driving or walking.

Extrajudicial killings continued, taking the lives not only of the leaders of militant groups, but also of children — some while on their way to school or even while attending classes. During the military operations at Rafah, in particular, about 40 children died between January and May 2004. A number of witnesses asserted that children under 12 years of age were deliberately being targeted by the Israeli military or snipers. Testimonies also referred to the worsening detention conditions of Palestinians held in Israeli jails: no family visits; scarce legal assistance; persistent abuse — especially during the initial period of arrest; and an intensification of the methods of torture.

Owing to the construction of the wall, many villages in rural areas in the northern West Bank no longer had access to hospital facilities located in cities and did not have basic health care in their local communities. Several witnesses reported that ambulances ran great risks while waiting at the gates to cross through the wall. Medical personnel were abducted, beaten up or taken into custody by the Israeli military. During the Rafah incidents, 28 ambulances were reportedly destroyed by the Israeli military and a number of volunteer ambulance staff also died.

According to some sources of information, more than 1,100 houses were totally or partially demolished in the Gaza Strip during the period January to May 2004, especially in Rafah and the refugee camps near the Egyptian border. Some 29,000 people were allegedly forced to take refuge in temporary premises made available to them by United Nations agencies such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) or by international humanitarian institutions such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

People also suffered from a sharp increase in unemployment. The renewed policy of demolishing houses, combined with the heavy destruction of municipal infrastructure, roads and bridges, civilian institutions, such as government offices, police stations, prisons, banks, hospitals, clinics, schools and non-governmental organization properties, was perceived as a persistent collective punishment and a humiliation imposed on the Palestinian population. Those steps will impede recovery for a long time to come.

Finally, the Special Committee assessed the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan. According to official information, the current population of 20,000, inhabiting 44 Jewish settlements there, was expected to further increase by an additional 15,000 settlers over the next three years, following a decision taken by the Israeli authorities on 1 January 2004. The alleged storage of Israeli nuclear waste in a tract of land close to the Syrian border was another development of the utmost concern to the Syrian authorities.

Three positive developments are likely to bring a glimmer of hope to what has been seen as a very uncertain future for the Palestinian people. One is the renewed genuine interest taken by the international media in reporting on the harsh military occupation of the occupied territories and on the plight of its people. The second is the growing influence exercised by major segments of public opinion in some countries in alerting, and advocating among, their respective constituencies with regard to the complexity of the Palestinian issue and the need to resolve the situation now. The last development is the combined effects of the advisory opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice, the Israeli decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the evolving dynamic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, which have focused the world attention on the Palestinian issue once again.

Let us hope that the recent changes will encourage all parties concerned to seek a negotiated settlement in a spirit of compromise so that one day, as highlighted by some witnesses, Palestinians and Israelis will be able to live side by side in peace, security and dignity in their own independent and sovereign States.

The Chairman (spoke in French): I thank Mr. Bernard Goonatilleke for his statement.

I now give the floor to the Permanent Representative of Malaysia, Mr. Rastam Mohd Isa, who will read out a message from the Prime Minister of Malaysia, His Excellency Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in his capacity as Chairman of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.

Mr. Rastam (Malaysia): I have the honour to read out a message from The Honourable Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia and Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which we are commemorating today, 29 November 2004. The message reads as follows:


The Chairman (spoke in French): I thank Mr. Rastam Mohd Isa for his statement. I would ask him kindly to transmit to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mr. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in his capacity as Chairman of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, the sincere thanks of the Committee for his very important message.

I give the floor to Mr. Ersin Erçin, Deputy Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations, who will read the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mr. Abdullah Gül, in his capacity as Chairman of the thirty-first session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers.

Mr. Erçin (Turkey): On the solemn occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People I have the distinct privilege to share with this body the message sent by Mr. Abdullah Gül, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkey, as the Chairman of the Thirty-first Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. I shall now read, in its totality, Foreign Minister Gül’s message.


That is from Abdullah Gül, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey.

The Chairman (spoke in French): I thank Mr. Ersin Erçin and kindly ask him to transmit to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mr. Abdullah Gül, Chairman of the thirty-first session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, the heartfelt thanks of the Committee for his important message.

I now give the floor to the Permanent Representative of Nigeria, Mr. Aminu Bashir Wali, who will read a message addressed to the Committee from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, in his capacity as Chairman of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.

Mr. Wali (Nigeria): I have the honour to read this message from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Chairman of the African Union, on the occasion of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.


The Chairman (spoke in French): I thank Mr. Aminu Bashir Wali and request that he convey to Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Chairman of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, the sincere thanks of the Committee for his message.

I now give the floor to Mr. Yahya Mahmassani, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, who will read out a message from Mr. Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.

Mr. Mahmassani (League of Arab States) (spoke in Arabic ): I have the honour to read out a message from Mr. Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, on this day of commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The message reads as follows.


The Chairman (spoke in French ): I would ask Mr. Yahya Mahmassani to convey to the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Amre Moussa, the sincere thanks of the Committee for his important statement.

I now give the floor to Ms. Jennifer Butler, who will make a statement on behalf of the International Coordinating Network on Palestine, an international network of civil-society organizations that cooperate closely with the Committee.

Ms. Butler (International Coordinating Network on Palestine): I would like to begin by extending the gratitude of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Working Group on Israel/Palestine for the opportunity to address the Committee at this critical moment.

The NGO Working Group on Israel/Palestine is a dedicated coalition of non-governmental organizations. Our diverse membership draws individuals from three monotheistic faiths as well as from other traditions and secular organizations. We are not a think tank. We have no interest in proposing unrealistic or romanticized solutions. We have a real interest in promoting efforts that will bring about a just and lasting peace. Our member organizations have indigenous staff and local partners working on the ground, and individuals often visit the area.

It is on the basis of those experiences and our steadfast dialogue with our partners that we stand here. We bear witness to the daily reality facing the people of the land, both Palestinians and Israelis. It is easy to accept this conflict as chaos and confusion. It is easy to lose ourselves in reports and forget the daily reality in the occupied territories that is described. Reports — even ours — can only echo the painful reality that men and women expe It is on the basis of those experiences and our steadfast dialogue with our partners that we stand here. We bear witness to the daily reality facing the people of the land, both Palestinians and Israelis. It is easy to accept this conflict as chaos and confusion. It is easy to lose ourselves in reports and forget the daily reality in the occupied territories that is described. Reports — even ours — can only echo the painful reality that men and women experience day in and day out. For everyone on the ground, Palestinians and Israelis, their daily reality is much more insidious.

The facts are clear. The World Bank reports that at least 60 per cent of the Palestinian population lives in poverty, and that unemployment is higher than ever. Polls in the region tell us that children describe their lives as full of fear, violence and hopelessness.

As we speak, the walls grow even higher in the land: not just separation walls and security barriers, as they are called, but walls built from the fear, violence and hopelessness that plague generations. All such walls hide the humanity of those on the “other side”. We cannot forget that the trauma they have experienced and lived through for generations is quite real and devastating. Our Working Group knows the voices on the ground. We know the men and women who want to challenge those impediments to the realization of a just and secure peace.

Today, we stand in solidarity with those people and voice their challenge to all such walls. Mindful of the events of the past month, we note that this meeting takes place at a critical juncture in the peace process. President Arafat was a man dedicated to the realization of a nation for his people, based on self-determination and recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees. As Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in the General Assembly Hall on 11 November, President Arafat “symbolized in his person” ( A/59/PV.52) the longstanding struggle of the Palestinian people. We express our sincere condolences to his family and his community. We mourn the loss of his voice and his steadfast dedication to the search for self-determination.

Some tell us that the divisions are too deep and that there is no hope for reconciliation, but the facts say something different. There have always been people, individuals and serious organizations dedicated to finding common ground to work towards reconciliation. These movements are alive and growing in Israel and Palestine. More than ever, Palestinians and Israelis, Jews, Christians and Muslims are working together for peace. These partnerships, both in the region and around the world, are part of our Network. These groups renounce the culture of violence that has spread in our times. Why? Because when these men and women hear reports of a child killed — whether that child is in Jenin, Tel Aviv, Hebron, Haifa, Bethlehem or Jerusalem — they are outraged. We, too, are outraged. They look beyond the words, the politics and the justifications. They look to the truth: mothers weeping, siblings in fear, futures destroyed, human security obliterated. They see an innocent child who is lost in a conflict that has lasted too long. We echo their cry: “No more!” Those men, women and the next generation reach out, at times in spite of their communities, to work for a future for all children — a future that does not measure moral outrage in relation to the child’s nationality or beliefs.

Time is of the essence. The United Nations and its General Assembly have been there since the beginning. Countless individuals have given their lives trying to find ways to create a secure, just and lasting peace in the region. The best way to honour them and their work is to take action. Here, again, are the facts: there is a timeline and a road map; there are political developments now that could bring people together. As NGOs, we work closely with various United Nations committees and divisions both in New York and in Geneva in order to bring to light realities on the ground. We seek to link this Organization to the people on the ground.

The General Assembly’s Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices in the Occupied Territories is one such body. At a historic meeting earlier this month, NGO representatives and members of the Committee met and exchanged vital information. We agreed to research together the many facts from the ground, including issues regarding human rights violations in all communities. Such a joint effort is a way to monitor realistic expectations as we move towards a just solution. All parties agree that now is another crucial moment for action.

This body does not concern itself with a vote today. Undoubtedly there are many diverse opinions on many of the details. Can we agree that there is a need for urgent, unified action to end the occupation as a means towards sustainable peace in the region?

We said before that the humanitarian situation is dire. Our partners point to a disturbing trend of increased violence where, intentionally or not, humanitarian workers, schools, clinics and other places that should be unquestionably safe are directly impacted by violence. Those violent episodes create profound instability, enormous human insecurity and a crisis of truth.

Like others, we struggle to find the core of those problems. Violence is a common threat that undermines efforts for both justice and peace. Our NGO Working Group condemns all forms of violence. The NGO Working Group on Israel/Palestine is seized of the issue. We are not new to those concerns; nor should we abandon them as hopeless. At the same time, we have no desire to stand here a year from now and ask the same questions. Peace will take a long time to achieve, but the process starts now. We will invest our time and our expertise in seeking ways to make a substantial difference.

Participants in this meeting know the issues. We do not need to repeat them. The question of the wall was answered at The Hague earlier this year. The question of settlements has been answered continuously: the expansion of settlements is an impediment to peace. The proposed disengagement in Gaza is not a simple matter. It requires comprehensive review.

We do not need more resolutions. We need to act on those already passed. More than anything, as always, we need to concern ourselves with the people who call the land their home. We need to concern ourselves with families: the 764 Palestinian and Israeli families that have lost children in this conflict since 2000. We need to concern ourselves with the millions of children who are living.

Today we stand in solidarity: we remember the past, the struggles, the hopes, the causes of this conflict. We remember all of the facts from the ground in order to stop ourselves from moving into positions of polarized and unchecked intolerance. It is a very long road — a road that requires careful and deliberate steps. We need to respect fears, but at the same time to commend action. As we move forward, our actions must bear witness to lives lost in this conflict. For one moment, we need to be silent.

Let us allow the people who are there — the people whose lives are defined by this conflict — to speak. We hear them. They spend their days walking and driving through checkpoints, past destroyed buildings. They are surrounded by the diverse effects of occupation — and of being occupied. They spend their evenings in fearful anticipation in emergency rooms and ambulances. Are we listening? We are here because we hear their voices. From every corner of the land we hear and share their cries for justice, their prayers for peace and their deep desire for security. That is why today we stand in solidarity, and why tomorrow we will continue working for a true and just solution to the question of Palestine.

The Chairman (spoke in French): Through Ms. Butler I thank all the civil society organizations working tirelessly throughout the world for a peaceful, comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine for their valuable contribution to the work of the Committee.

It is my honour to announce that our Committee has received messages of support and solidarity from many heads of State or Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Governments and international organizations. I recall that the texts of the messages will be published in a special bulletin of the Division for Palestinian Rights, but I would like to read out the list of those who sent them.

We have received messages from the heads of State of the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Guinea, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Mexico, Namibia, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam and Yemen.

We have also received messages from the heads of Government of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Lesotho and Thailand; and from the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Japan, Romania, the Syrian Arab Republic and Ukraine; and from the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The Committee has also received messages from intergovernmental organizations such as the Commission of the African Union, the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and from non-governmental organizations such as the Cyprus Solidarity Committee and the Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue.

Messages that we receive later will also be published in the bulletin to which I referred a moment ago.

On behalf of the Committee, I would like to express our appreciation to the heads of State or Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Governments and organizations that I have just mentioned, and to all participants in today’s meeting, for their persistent efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian question, and for the support they have always given to the mandated activities of this Committee.

The statements that we have heard today and the messages of solidarity that we have received show once again the unwavering support of the international community for the renewal of peace in the Middle East and for the Palestinian people’s realization of its inalienable rights on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions and international law. I can assure participants that all the members of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will spare no effort in cooperating with all concerned parties and actors in order to assure that these goals are achieved.

I now have the pleasure to give the floor to Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Mr. Kaddoumi (Palestine Liberation Organization) (spoke in Arabic ): Mr. Chairman, I would like at the outset to extend my thanks to you and to the other members of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for your unremitting efforts to support the question of Palestine and to establish peace and security by finding a just solution to the question of Palestine. On this occasion, we would like also to express our deep appreciation to the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Jean Ping, and to the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, for their participation in this solemn meeting to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and for the statements they made regarding the Palestinian people, especially the condolences they extended to my people.

My thanks go also to all those who participated in today’s meeting on this Day of Solidarity through the statements that were read out or through their personal participation. Their presence and participation strengthen our hope for a future that will be better than the situation we are currently facing. That complete solidarity with the Palestinian people will undoubtedly help move the peace process forward and strengthen the hopes and national aspirations of the Palestinian people.

I would like to extend my thanks to all those who have voiced their condolences on the passing of the leader of our revolution, President Yasser Arafat. When we needed his leadership most, he — God bless his soul — was a courageous leader, a hero in this struggle, remaining true to his principles and beliefs. He respected his commitments and pledges, but his struggle was with an enemy which behaved and acted quite differently. That enemy completely did away with previous agreements, failed to fulfil its commitments and imposed a siege on our leader, hopin I would like to extend my thanks to all those who have voiced their condolences on the passing of the leader of our revolution, President Yasser Arafat. When we needed his leadership most, he — God bless his soul — was a courageous leader, a hero in this struggle, remaining true to his principles and beliefs. He respected his commitments and pledges, but his struggle was with an enemy which behaved and acted quite differently. That enemy completely did away with previous agreements, failed to fulfil its commitments and imposed a siege on our leader, hoping for his surrender. The siege only strengthened his beliefs. In order to break his will, the enemy intensified its siege, but this only increased his perseverance and his strength. The fire of the Palestinian revolution continued to rage against the occupation forces in response to the unjust siege under which our courageous leader lived for three long years. The cowardly enemy was angered by this and acted treacherously against him. The loss of our leader will not weaken us. He has left behind him our young people: stronger fighters and strugglers who will, with great perseverance and determination, continue to pursue the aspirations for which our courageous leader, President Arafat, struggled.

We highly appreciate the participation in this meeting. We value all the efforts that participants have made, and we will continue on the difficult road towards peace, security and justice. We pledge that we will continue on that path in loyalty to the legacy and will of our leader. I would like to thank participants once again for the condolences they extended to us. Peace be upon you all.

The Chairman (spoke in French): I thank Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi for his very important statement.

Before adjourning this solemn meeting, I wish to thank everyone who made this meeting possible, in particular the members of the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the Department of Public Information, the Office of Central Support Services and everyone who works behind the scenes.

I also want to remind participants that a Palestinian cultural exhibit, organized by the Committee in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, will open this evening at 6 p.m. in the public lobby of the General Assembly building. This year’s exhibit, entitled “Steadfast in Palestine”, will feature works by members of the League of Palestinian Artists. The opening of the exhibit will be followed by a reception, to which all are invited.

Immediately following the present meeting, two films will be screened in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library auditorium. One of these films is entitled In the Name of Security , and relates to a visit by a delegation of the United States National Lawyers Guild to the West Bank. The film documents what members of that delegation saw: destroyed cities and impassable checkpoints. The film describes a continuous occupation designed to prevent Palestinian statehood and tells the story of the courage of the Palestinian people. A second film, entitled The Wall , is about the barrier being built on Palestinian territory and its devastating effect on Palestinians being separated from their land. Participants are invited to now proceed to the film screening.

In conclusion, I would like once again to thank everyone for their participation, and to thank, in particular, the interpreters — who have given us a few extra minutes to finish our meeting in a proper fashion — the conference officers and all other conference services staff.

The meeting rose at 1 p.m.





This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued in a corrigendum.



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