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24 November 2008






INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE COMMEMORATED AT THE PALAIS DES NATIONS

24 November 2008

The United Nations Office at Geneva today held a Special Meeting to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Special Meeting was organized in observance of General Assembly resolution 32/40 B of 2 December 1977.

Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, read out the message of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, which underlined that the Palestinians had been deprived of their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and statehood, for more than 60 years. Israelis lived with an ever-present sense of insecurity. There was only one way to address such legitimate rights and fears: a peace agreement that resulted in an end of occupation, an end of conflict and the creation of a State of Palestine living side by side in peace with the State of Israel.

Also providing statements at the Special Meeting were representatives of the following organizations: the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; the League of Arab States; the Organization of the Islamic Conference; the Non-Aligned Movement; the African Union; and a Representative of the non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The Permanent Observer of Palestine also made a statement.

Messages or statements for the Day were received from the Presidents of Turkey and Senegal and from the French Presidency of the European Union. The following countries also indicated their support of the European Union statement: Turkey, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Armenia.

Statements

SERGEI ORDZHONIKIDZE, Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, read out the message of BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations which underlined that the Palestinians had been deprived of their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and statehood, for more than 60 years. Israelis lived with an ever-present sense of insecurity. There was only one way to address such legitimate rights and fears: a peace agreement that resulted in an end of occupation, an end of conflict and the creation of a State of Palestine living side by side in peace with the State of Israel.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders had re-launched bilateral negotiations a year ago at Annapolis. They had agreed to try to reach a peace treaty by the end of 2008. This goal appeared unlikely to be achieved. However, the parties had succeeded in creating trust and a framework where none existed only two years ago. The world must not diminish that achievement.

The Secretary-General commended the commitment made by President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Foreign Minister [Tzipi] Livni at Sharm el-Sheikh earlier this month to continue talks into next year, and to seek a full and final settlement. This process must resolve the permanent status issues of Jerusalem, settlements, borders, refugees, security and water. The Secretary-General said his biggest concern in the immediate period ahead was the situation on the ground. He strongly called on Israel to cease settlement activity, remove outposts, open Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem and refrain from unilateral actions in Jerusalem, such as demolitions and evictions, which altered the status quo. He recognized Israel’s security concerns, but the improved environment of security cooperation must lead to an easing of closure in the West Bank, in order to increase stability and to bring about a much needed boost to the Palestinian economy.

Mr. Ban said the situation in the Gaza Strip also remained of major concern. He called for immediate measures to ease the near blanket closure of Gaza, which led to worrying deprivations of basic supplies and undermined human dignity. And he unreservedly condemned rocket fire. The way forward was for all parties to respect the calm brokered by Egypt. They had seen many difficulties in the past year. But it had been a crucial time in setting the stage for peace. The year 2009 must be the year that these preparations bore fruit. The Secretary-General urged all to work constructively, tirelessly and consistently for a just, lasting, comprehensive and urgent settlement of the question of Palestine.

A Representative of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, reading out the message of the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, as defined by the General Assembly, were the right to self-determination without external interference; the right to national independence and sovereignty; and the return of Palestine refugees to return to their homes and property, from which they had been displaced and uprooted. This year’s observance took on particular meaning in view of its convergence with the sixtieth anniversary of the dispossession of the Palestine refugees. Over the years, the principal organs of the United Nations had adopted innumerable resolutions relating to the question of Palestine, most of which had yet to be implemented. In Gaza, they were on the brink of a major man-made humanitarian disaster where even the United Nations was prevented from delivering emergency humanitarian aid. The situation in the Gaza Strip placed peace in ever-greater danger. In the West Bank, some 630 checkpoints and the separation wall impeded the free movement of Palestinians and eroded the Palestinian Authority institutions. Palestinians in the West Bank were also subjected to daily raids and arrests by Israeli troops. The Committee had repeatedly condemned acts of violence, in particular against civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli. The question of Palestine should be topmost on the peacemaking agenda of the world community.

A Representative of Malaysia, reading out the message of the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said the Committee remained deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian economy continued to shrink in the West Bank as a result of the closures, checkpoints, the ongoing construction of the Separation Wall and the increase in the number of settlements and settlers. The effects on the population were worrisome. The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, with more than 70 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, was deeply distressing. The policy of isolation and sanctioning of Gaza had resulted in an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis, not only increasing dependence on humanitarian assistance in the short-term, but also creating an environment of physical destruction and psychological scars that would deprive the enjoyment of human rights by Palestinians for generations to come. The questions remained whether the political procedures would lead to tangible results for the enjoyment of the human rights of the Palestinian People.

A Representative of the League of Arab States, reading out the message of the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said the commemoration of the International Day in Solidarity with the Palestinian People came as the occupation and various forms of siege against the Palestinian people continued, especially the siege of the Gaza Strip. In addition there was an intensification of the settlement policy, the seizure of more Palestinian lands, a continuation of the building of the apartheid wall, collective punishment measures and daily incursions into West bank cities and villages. The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States had reiterated on many occasions that the negotiations had to be serious in order to result in a serious peace process, and that as long as Israel continued to build settlements and carry out excavations in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and its surroundings, creating changes in the demography and geography of the Palestinian lands, then the building of a Palestinian state was under serious threat. What the Arab side was seeking was a complete peace, a peace which returned the legal and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and it was this peace which would ensure stability and security for all. The responsibility of the international community, and especially the Security Council, in resolving this conflict was a big responsibility.

A Representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, reading out the message of the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said this year, the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People came at a time when the Israeli aggressions had gained further intensity and had spread to all the Palestinian areas. Israel had indeed escalated its aggression against the city of Al-Quds/Jerusalem in a drive to alter its Arab-Islamic identity through a continued judaization attempt and through repeated aggressions against its sanctities, disfiguration of its history and efforts to alter its demographic structure by emptying it of its indigenous inhabitants through the forcible dispossession of Palestinians of their land and evicting them from their homes for the establishment of foreign settlers. Israel also continued to lay an oppressive siege on the Gaza Strip and to deprive the people there of fuel, electricity and vital commodities in terms of medicine and food, so much so that a humanitarian catastrophe could be in the offing. The international community must act seriously and urgently to impress upon Israel to discontinue its violations and to abide by the terms and conditions of the peace process. The Organization of the Islamic Conference launched an appeal to the incoming American Administration to accord the Middle East conflict the interest it deserved.

A Representative of Cuba, reading out the message of the Foreign Minister of Cuba on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Non-Aligned Movement once again wished to demonstrate its solidarity with the Palestinian people. The Non-Aligned Movement reaffirmed its decision to multiply its efforts to resolve in a peace, just and comprehensive manner the Palestinian issue, including the adverse situation of the Palestinian refugees, in accordance with the norms and principles of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions. Last year, the Palestinian people solemnly commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the resolution in 1947 which divided historical Palestine and gave rise to the injustice and subsequent tragedy which had afflicted its people since 1948. During Al Naqba, more than three quarters of historical Palestine was seized by force. As a result, some 4.6 million Palestinian refugees still lived dispersed in the Middle East. Over the course of four decades, Israel had implemented deliberate illegal policies and practices directed at modifying the demography, the nature and the character of Palestinian lands. In practise, they had annexed those lands through the implementation of their illegal policy of settlements, and since 2003, the illegal building of the wall on the West Bank, including around East Jerusalem. Today, the Non-Aligned Movement must reaffirm its support to the Palestinian people in their struggle to recover their inalienable rights. The Non-Aligned Movement continued to be concerned about the continued deterioration of the political, economic, social and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory as a result of the continuing illegal policies and practises implemented by Israel, including grave violations of human rights and ongoing war crimes. There was an urgent need to put an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of all territories occupied since 1967 and to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

A representative of the African Union, reading out a message from the President of the African Union Commission, said unfortunately, the Palestinian question had not positively evolved since they last met. The situation had been further complicated by Israeli acts of aggression against the Palestinian people, the expansion of settlements, the continued building of the apartheid and separation wall and the intensification of actions to juadaise Jerusalem. These acts were flagrant violations of international law. The Israeli occupation forces had also proceeded to isolate the Gaza Strip and to impose a blockade on all access points which endangered the lives of thousands of persons. The mechanism of solidarity with the Palestinians people and decisions and resolutions of the Human Rights Council and other United Nations resolutions, including those of the Security Council, remained dead letters. Israel would undergo the Universal Periodic Review process in December 2008, and the contents of its published report showed no sign of its intention to recognize the rights of Palestinians and even less of measures to make progress in the struggling peace process. That meant that Israel would continue to ignore the international legality and legitimacy of the Palestinian cause. In light of this situation, the African Union renewed its appeal to the international community and to members of the Quartet to continue to deploy all efforts with a view to re-launching negotiations and saving the peace process.

A Representative of World Young Women’s Christian Association, reading out a message from the non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the undersigned non-governmental organizations remained gravely concerned about the situation of Palestinians whose suffering increased daily under the occupation. There was no evidence of an end to this. On the contrary, collective punishment, land seizures, the construction of the apartheid wall, the extension of Israeli settlements, closures and other oppressive and restrictive measures and human rights violations by Israel against Palestinians continued. Palestinians had suffered gross human rights violations for more than 60 years, and had borne a brutal occupation by Israel for more than 40 years. In recent months a crippling blockade against the Gaza Strip was causing the population severe hunger, in fact, near starvation. The non-governmental organizations said they were shocked and could not understand the silence of the world community in the face of this catastrophe. They called on Israel to immediately end the siege of the Gaza Strip and to respect its legal obligations under the United Nations resolutions and humanitarian law. They also called on the United Nations to, among others, take urgent, firm and practical measures to end the crisis situation in the Gaza Strip, and to put a rapid halt to military occupation and enforce the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all areas under the Palestinian territories.

An Observer of Palestine, reading out the message of MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of Palestine, said the Palestinian people continued to endure great and unbearable suffering. The continuation of the occupation did not only deprive the Palestinian people of their political rights to live in a free and secure homeland, but the brutal practices and measures denied them their human rights and deprived their children from their inalienable rights guaranteed by international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, especially those rights related to the rights to life, to protection of property, to livelihood, and to movement free of humiliation and deprivation. Israel, the occupying Power, continued with its expansionist policies with its pursuit of the settlement colonization of Palestinian land at an accelerated rate in addition to its continuing construction of the annexation and expansion Wall. The occupying Power also continued to carry out its brutal and inhumane policies through military incursions into cities, towns and villages, extrajudicial assassinations, killing the children of Palestinian people, in addition to imprisoning thousands of them in its jails. It also persists in its intensification of collective punishment with its punitive blockade of the Gaza Strip. As for Jerusalem - the capital of our future independent State and the cornerstone of any just and lasting solution - the occupying Power was doing all it can to Judaize the City by measures suffocating the population, compelling them to leave, and by surrounding their neighbourhoods with settlements.

The message from the President of Palestine said Palestine remained committed to the Arab Peace Initiative. Yet, it did not see from the other side a clear response to this courageous initiative. The Palestinians were also committed to the Annapolis process and had fulfilled our obligations in this regard and have worked very hard in cooperation with the Quartet to harmonize their situation with these principles. They had also undertaken substantive negotiations with the Israeli side to reach a settlement for all final status issues. Yet they had been unable to reach an acceptable solution for any of these issues, the result of intentional obstruction of the peace process and determination by the Israeli side to impose a solution that did not guarantee the return of our land and the rights of Palestinian refugees and the possibility of establishing a contiguous and viable State.

For use of the information media; not an official record

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