Press Release

31 March 2003


Commission Continues Consideration of Question of Violation
Of Human Rights in Occupied Arab Territories, Including Palestine

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 31 March (UN Information Services) -- ...


Also this morning, the Commission continued its consideration of the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, with speakers expressing concerns over the ongoing cycle of violence and counter-violence in the region; condemning indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force and collective punishments, as well as terrorism and suicide-bombings; and urging parties to the conflict to resume negotiations in order to protect innocent civilians and ensure peace and security in the region in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions. 

Some speakers also pointed out that recent debates within the Security Council concerning the disarmament of Iraq had revealed a newfound determination by its permanent members for the implementation of, and compliance with all these resolutions.  This momentum must not be lost, especially with respect to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.  The application of international standards, including Security Council resolutions, must be carried out without double standards or bias.

Addressing the Commission this morning were representatives of Algeria, India, Russian Federation, Libya, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), Cuba, Palestine, Norway, Egypt, Switzerland, Iraq, Bangladesh, Yemen, Iran, Oman, Tunisia, Jordan, Indonesia, Qatar, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Cyprus and the League of Arab States. 

Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also addressed the Commission on the question of human rights in the occupied Arab territories:  World Jewish Congress (on behalf of International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists), International Federation of Human Rights League (on behalf of the World Organization against Torture - OMCT, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights; Al-Haq – Law in the Service of Man); Federation of Cuban Women (on behalf of Women’s International Democratic Federation; Movimento Cubano por la Paz la Soberania de los Pueblos), and Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru (on behalf of General Arab Women Federation, General Iraqi Women Federation, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Union of Arab Jurists).

Representatives of Israel and Syria exercised their rights of reply. 

The Commission will reconvene this afternoon at 3 o’clock when it is expected to conclude its debate on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories and begin its consideration of the violation of human rights in any part of the world. 


Statements on Question of Violation of Human Rights
in Occupied Arab Territories, Including Palestine

LAZHAR SOUALEM (Algeria) said that last year two special United Nations sessions and two resolutions calling on Israel to stop its war machine had remained without effect.  Since the last session of the Commission, the Israeli army had carried out three major operations against the Palestinian people with impunity and without having to answer to the international community.  The Israeli army had occupied eight major urban centers in the West Bank, killing hundreds of civilians, interrogating thousands of others and detaining more than 1,000 in humiliating and unhealthy conditions.  The army also intentionally demolished Palestinian houses and infrastructure which was partly financed by the international community, especially by the European Union.  All international condemnations, including by the Vatican, were to no avail.

In August 2002, the Israeli Supreme Court considered as legal the destruction of Palestinian houses, a move which had accelerated the rate of house demolitions.  While the attention of the international community was focused on the Iraq crisis, Israel continued to build the “wall of shame”, which annexed de facto Palestinian olive groves and agricultural land.  The wall, which would be 330 kilometres long, three times longer than the Berlin Wall, would be surrounded by electrical fences, as well as deep trenches and observation posts every
200 metres.  The wall would imprison the inhabitants of the West Bank and recalled the concentration camps of the Second World War. 

HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said India had historically been unwavering in its support for the Palestinian cause ever since India became independent in 1947.  India had voted against the partition of Palestine and recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.  India had extended its full support to the vision contained in United Nations resolution 1397 of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side within secure and recognized borders.  During the last decade of the Middle East peace process, India had executed a number of projects and programmes worth several million dollars, aimed at capacity-building and institutional support.  The tragic cycle of violence and counter-violence that had engulfed the region in the last couple of years had been damaging to peace and security.  This was a matter of global concern.  This spiral of violence and counter-violence reinforced the international community's conviction that there was no military solution to this essentially political problem.  Both sides must cease all acts of violence and fully cooperate with the efforts of the international community.  There must be immediate, parallel and accelerated movement towards tangible political progress and a defined series of steps leading to permanent peace involving recognition, normalization and security between the two sides. 

PETR POPOV (Russian Federation) said that the situation in the Middle East continued to deteriorate.  The Russian Federation had been stressing the need for the peaceful settlement of the crisis and for the return of the parties in the conflict to the negotiating table.  The escalation of the violence did not help any one.  Israel should respect the relevant Security Council resolutions and should implement them.  Other peace initiatives designed to bring peace in the Middle East should also be implemented.  It was imperative to recourse to a political settlement of the situation.  The Russian Government had been supporting the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and their accession to statehood.  The recent measure of the Palestinian Authority to establish a post of a prime minister was one step forward in the direction of the creation of a Palestinian State.  The functioning of the Palestinian Government headed by a prime minister should be allowed by Israel.  The Israeli authorities should ease the tensions by permitting people to the right to the freedom of movement.  Although some individuals had been attempting to undermine the peace settlement through the use of extremist acts, more efforts should be made to strengthen peace and security.  The legitimate rights of all people in the region to live in peace and dignity should be respected.

FATEH BASHINA (Libya) said that Israeli violations of human rights in the occupied territories and the suffering of the Palestinian people was one of the worst humanitarian tragedies that the world faced.  The Intifada, which had now entered its third year, had left 2,000 persons killed at the hands of the aggressors, and 25,000 had been wounded, of whom 8,000 were permanently disabled.  Around 15,000 Palestinians were detained in Israeli prisons.  The international community had condemned the practices of Israel and recognized the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  However, it had failed to provide protection to the Palestinians.  The Zionist forces could not have continued with their pernicious plans and aggression without the unlimited and unconditional support that they received from certain members of the Security Council, in total disregard of the will of the international community and in violation of the United Nations Charter.  The international community should reflect on ways to revitalize the United Nations in order to enable it to fulfill its mission 

SIPHO GEORGE NENE (South Africa) said the recent events that had characterized the debate in the United Nations Security Council concerning the disarmament of Iraq had revealed a new found determination by the Permanent Members of the Council for the implementation of and compliance with all their resolutions.  This momentum must not be lost, especially with respect to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.  This was a challenge which carried the hopes of the ordinary citizens of the world.  The heightening of tensions and the increase in the level of violence between Israelis and Palestinians was a cause for concern to the region and beyond.  Violence begot more violence.  Disproportionate and excessive use of force by the Israeli Defence Forces could never be justified.  Equally, a response by the Palestinian suicide-bombers against innocent civilians was not acceptable.  The Palestinian struggle for self-determination was a legitimate struggle.  Both the Israelis and the Palestinians had the right to statehood.  In this connection, South Africa supported the universal vision of two States, namely Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in secure and recognized boundaries.  However, this scenario remained a mirage for as long as the Israelis continued with their intransigence.  The use of force in a manner that disregarded the distinction between civilians and combatants, the unrepentant continuation of measures that created a grave humanitarian crisis, the killing and inhuman treatment of children, and continued territorial expansion could not be qualified as a proportionate response to Palestinian actions or be justified on grounds of military necessity. 

ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) said that the lethal Israeli operations against the defenceless Palestinian people had engendered profound misgivings concerning any initiative on the part of the Government of Israel.  Israel had officially declared that it was seeking an Israeli peace that reflected the supremacy of Israel's overwhelming power as compared with that of the Palestinian people.  The Israeli people, who supported that policy whenever their Government embarked on acts of carnage, would find it extremely difficult to coexist with the Arab peoples who were observing those events in shocked dismay and drawing their own conclusions concerning the attitude of the Israeli people and what Israel's presence in the region really implied.  Israel might claim that the lethal operations in which it engaged -- in contemporary breach of the rules of international law and human rights -- were a reaction to resistance by the valiant Palestinian people.  However, that assertion was totally contradicted by the self-evident truth concerning the present situation.

The policy of double standards in dealing with the question of Palestine had led to a proliferation of extremist movements and had exacerbated the feelings of resentment, hatred, indignation and injustice.  That would inevitably have an adverse impact on the nature of relations between members of the international community.  Disregard of the humanitarian dimension, combined with an inequitable approach by the international community, and particularly by sponsors and guarantors of the peace process, would further intensify that hostile tendency and abort any attempts to reach a peaceful solution.  While reviewing some aspects of the Israel violations, one should not forget that those violations also extended to the Syrian people living under the yoke of Israeli occupation in the Golan Heights who were denied their rights to the freedom of movement, education and health.

NASSER SALMAN AL ABOODI (United Arab Emirates), speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, underlined the continuing serious and flagrant violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people by the Israeli Government.  There was a clear deprivation of human rights and a result of repressive regimes and the use of disproportionate violence that did not discriminate between innocent civilians and active combatants.  The situation had been seriously addressed by the Special Rapporteur who had stressed that the military measures and curfews imposed on the Palestinian people contravened all notions of human rights.  Movement had become increasingly difficult and dangerous; health services had suffered; education had been suspended; and children were suffering from the excessive use of force by Israel.  Other Special Rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, had raised concern about the activities of the Israeli Government.  The international community must continue to follow-up its work on the situation in the occupied Arab territories, including and specifically Palestine, in order to ensure the human rights of the Palestinian people.  The Israeli officials responsible for the indiscriminate use of violence must also be held accountable and enjoy no impunity for such crimes. 

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said there was no geographic region in the world like the Middle East which witnessed the cynicism, hypocrisy and double standards of the foreign policy of the United States regime.  With the unproven pretext of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the United States intended to justify an imperialist and colonial war against the Iraqi people.  On the other hand, to Israel -- which possessed hundreds of nuclear and mass destruction weapons and continued to use all its conventional war machinery against the heroic Palestinian people -- the superpower extended its accomplice and criminal support.  While allegations were being made in Washington that Iraq had disregarded 17 United Nations resolutions, nothing had been said about the fact that Israel had turned no less than 64 Security Council resolutions and more than 100 resolutions -- adopted by other United Nations agencies -- into dead letters.  While the United States had shamelessly used its veto power on countless occasions to block the action of the Security Council when it intended to condemn Israel, the same body was rendered irrelevant and put to rest just because France and other permanent members had announced their intention to do the same to impede an unjust war. 

It was not possible to passively accept that the Palestinian people continued to be massacred before the eyes of the international community. If someone had put international peace and security in permanent danger, and massively and systematically violated human rights, it was the Israeli regime. A just, lasting and global peace could not be achieved in the Middle East until the Palestinian people exercised their legitimate and inalienable right to self-determination, and until all the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan, were returned. 

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said that had he wanted to speak of the crimes committed by Israel, he would need more than 18 years, not just the 18 seconds that were allotted to him.  In the remaining seconds he therefore wished to express his gratitude to the Chairperson and the Special Rapporteur who had showed the truth to the Commission, especially when he said that Israel exercised State terrorism against the Palestinians. 

SVERRE BERGH JOHANSEN (Norway) said that more than 2,100 Palestinians and 700 Israelis had been killed during the Intifada.  Tens of thousands had been injured, some of them maimed for life.  The capacity for violence on both sides had been much higher than peacemaking abilities.  The human rights of the Palestinians were being directly affected by the Israeli occupation, settlement policy and military operations, as well as by Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.  Fifty per cent of the Palestinians were now living in poverty.  Israel had a legitimate right to protect its population from terrorist attacks, but protection of Israelis did not legitimize closures, extra-judicial killings, the disproportionate use of force in densely populated areas, or the demolition of houses.  The Norwegian Government welcomed the appointment of a Palestinian Prime Minister with real powers to make a decisive contribution to the reform process, and to enhance Palestinian democracy, rebuild the judicial sector and fight terrorism.

There could be no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Peace, security and human rights could only be achieved through a peaceful solution to the conflict.  Norway stressed the need for the international community to act in a concerted manner to realize the visions of two States:  Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.

NAELA GABR (Egypt) said the Israeli occupation of Arab lands in the territories, the Golan and Lebanon continued.  Israeli continued to defy the will of the international community by pursuing a policy of oppression and committing flagrant violations of human rights.  The Special Rapporteur had highlighted the many violations and acts of oppressions by Israel.  The international community must respond generously to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians, and Israel was called upon to stop the destruction of Palestinian property and infrastructure.  The continuation of the destruction was an affront to the international community and undermined all the resolutions adopted in this area.  This cycle of violence and the shedding of Palestinian blood could only give rise to protest and hatred.  An international presence must be deployed in the occupied territories and settlements must be dismantled.

JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) said it was deplorable that the crisis in the Middle East continued unabated and that the human rights violations committed by both sides in the conflict were occurring increasingly often and with increasing levels of violence.  The suicide-bombings, the collective punishments and indiscriminate violence were unacceptable and must stop.  Switzerland supported many of the concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur, including the right and duty of the Government of Israel to defend and protect its citizens.  However, the protection of one’s citizens did not excuse everything and Switzerland was becoming increasingly alarmed at the disproportionate use of force by Israel against the Palestinian people.  This disproportionate violence violated many, if not all human rights of the Palestinian people.  The Palestinian Authority must also ensure the respect of human rights, end the practice of extrajudicial executions and prevent acts of terrorism.  Switzerland appealed to the Government of Israel, being the occupying force, to ensure the respect of the human rights of the Palestinian people, including the safe delivery of humanitarian aid to the region. 

MAYA MAHDI (Iraq) said that the tragic situation in the Middle East was getting worse.  The pursuing of a policy of destruction and demolition of Palestinian infrastructure and the isolation of people had deteriorated the whole situation.  Since the Norway accord, the situation had deteriorated with Israel escalating its attacks on the Palestinians.  The occupying force had curtailed all rights to the freedom of movement, education and health of the Palestinian people.  The United Nations Secretary-General had to assume his responsibilities and oblige the Israeli occupying power to abide by the Security Council resolutions.  A large number of Palestinians were living in refugee camps.  At the same time, the US-led forces were attempting to make Iraq a colony by "freeing" the country.  They planned to establish a United States military government in Iraq.  While they claimed to "free" the country, they continued to kill innocent Iraqi civilians. The international community, including the Commission, should continue to condemn the illegal war of aggression against Iraq. 

TOUFIQ ALI (Bangladesh) said that atrocities perpetrated against innocent Palestinian civilians, excessive and indiscriminate use of force, resulting in extensive loss of life and injury, wanton destruction of properties, eviction, and economic blockades were all in contravention of internationally accepted legal norms, and had compounded an already dire situation into a more veritable humanitarian crisis.  With the crumbling of the peace process, and the systematic perpetuation and erosion of their basic rights, the Palestinian people languished in a hopeless situation.  Israel's occupation of Palestine and other Arab territories represented an utter violation and persistent disregard for fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law.

The international community must address the situation of the Palestinian people with greater urgency and commitment.  The human rights of the Palestinian people had been systematically trampled upon with impunity for far too long.  Bangladesh strongly endorsed the idea of the presence of an international monitoring mechanism in the area.  The Commission needed to demonstrate its genuine commitment to address this situation.

AHMED HASSAN (Yemen) said the international community was called upon to take a firm stance against the Israeli occupation which had been violating the human rights of the Palestinian people for over 50 years.  The former High Commissioner had confirmed the violations of human rights in the region. It was alarming that the violence was becoming increasingly worse and that the humanitarian situation was being ignored.  The infrastructure, education systems, and health services in the Palestinian region had been destroyed.  The destruction of the region was such that it compared with the destruction wreaked during the Second World War.  The implementation of all international conventions as well as all Geneva Conventions must be ensured by the international community.  This would be the test of the Commission and the United Nations as a whole -- ensuring the implementation of all relevant United Nations resolution without double standards.

ALI A. MOJTAHED SHABESTARI (Iran) said that the massacre of Palestinian people by Israel had become a daily practice of the occupying forces.  Repeated Israeli military operations in the West Bank and Gaza had left physical, economic and social devastation in their wake.  That devastation, coupled with the curfews imposed on the major Palestinian cities and the intensification of checkpoints that obstructed mobility between towns and villages, had brought about a humanitarian crisis which had added poverty to the woes of the Palestinian people.  The serious violation of economic, social and cultural rights had been accompanied by the continued violation of civil and political rights, including the excessive use of force against civilians and the collective punishment of innocent people. 

The appalling situation in the Palestinian territories was reviewed by the Commission last year, after which the Commission called for a mission to visit the occupied territories.  The Commission's request stemmed from its commitment to protect victims of violations of human rights worldwide.  That request was neglected by the Israeli authorities.  Israel did not believe itself bound by the Commission's decisions.  It continued to undermine the credibility and significance of the Commission.  The current events in the region should not overshadow the continued campaign of massacres, bloodshed and destruction being waged by the occupying forces in Palestine, nor the daily suffering of the Palestinian people, or the continued undermining of the Commission's resolutions on that issue.

AHMED MOHAMED MASOUD AL-RIYAMI (Oman) said that the Middle East was the scene of tragic events and loss of life.  The root cause was Israel's occupation.  Israel was committing crimes against humanity which must be condemned. The Palestinians were defending their soil and their most basic rights such as the right to life.  Oman joined other delegations in calling for the implementation of United Nations resolutions and for international protection for the Palestinians.  The failure of the United Nations to provide protection for the Palestinians undermined the credibility of this body and made many believe that Israel was above international law.  It was Oman’s belief that stability and peace could not be achieved unless Israel complied with international human rights and humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and all relevant United Nations resolutions.  Oman reiterated is full support for the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination.

HABIB MANSOUR (Tunisia) said the occupied Palestinian territories were still suffering many violations of human rights which prevented the Palestinian people from fulfilling their inalienable right to self-determination.  The Special Rapporteur had expressed concern about the serious deterioration of respect for human rights in the region, as well as Israel's refusal to abide by international law and international humanitarian law.  Occupation, per se, was one of the worst violations of all human rights.  Tunisia called upon the Government of Israel to withdraw from all occupied areas since 1967 and called upon the international community to take action to ensure the protection of the human rights of the Palestinian people, to ensure the safe arrival of humanitarian aid, and to create an enabling environment for both parties to return to the negotiating table.  Tunisia reiterated its call for a just and long-term peaceful settlement of the issue, including the right of the Palestinian people to
self-determination and a State with Jerusalem as its capital. 

SAJA MAJALI (Jordan) said that Israel had not respected the successive decisions of the Commission, including the request for the visit of a mission to the occupied Palestinian territories.  A mission led by the former High Commissioner for Human Rights had not been able to visit the occupied Palestinian territories due to the refusal of the Israeli authorities.  Israeli military operations had continued in the occupied territories affecting people from enjoying their basic rights, including the right to health and freedom to movement.  Israeli had also continued to demolish Palestinian infrastructure, including houses.  The Special Rapporteur had expressed his concern about the situation, and had also concluded that the best way to achieve a peaceful settlement in the region was to re-start the negotiations.  People who had been deported from their homes should be allowed to return and they should be awarded with compensation for the loss of their properties.  The Government of Jordan supported the peaceful settlement of the situation.  The Israeli authorities should also cease their repressive activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

RAMADANSYAH HASAN (Indonesia) said the tragic and shocking events of the past week had somewhat overshadowed the festering problem which had been poisoning the lives of the Palestinian people for well over 50 years and which had been at the root, whether directly or indirectly, of every incident which had affected the region for decades, including the very war that was presently ripping through Iraq, as well as its appalling humanitarian consequences.  It was blatantly obvious that virtually every one of these incidents had its origin in the same cause -- the relentless and systematic denial of the Palestinian people's fundamental and inalienable right to self-determination, and the deliberate, massive and daily violation by Israel of virtually all their most basic human rights.  These acts of repression in all their forms wreaked on the Palestinian people were actions that the international community, and this Commission in particular, could not tolerate any longer.  Indonesia therefore added its voice to those of the delegations who urged this Commission to take every measure in its power to ensure that the human rights of every Palestinian in the territories were fully respected, and to facilitate the prompt implementation of the Humanitarian Plan 2003 for the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 

FAHAD AWAIDA AL-THANI (Qatar) said that the very dignity of the Palestinian people was being threatened by Israel.  Peace would not be achieved as long as Israeli continued to violate of the human rights of Palestinians, including the demolition of houses and property, establishment and expansion of settlements, uprooting of trees, killings and arrests.  This policy of aggression revealed the true face of the Israeli Government which rejected peace and refused to implement all United Nations resolutions.  Israeli disregard for human rights increased daily.  Qatar urged the international community to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from all occupied Arab territories and to provide protection to the Palestinians. 

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) said that yesterday, a Palestinian suicide mission in the Natanya cafe had wounded more than 50 Israeli civilians.  That act had shown once again the level of brutality and the crimes committed by the Palestinians.  Human rights and terrorism were both contradictory.  In the event of such terrorist acts, Israel had to act in self-defence.  In that case, it was normal to take measures, such as roadblocks.  The Palestinians should stop the sending of terrorists to kill Israel civilians in cafes.

SAAD ALFARARGI (League of Arab States) said the League condemned the consistent Israeli racist policies and violations of human rights and called upon the international community to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people.  The international community was also being called upon to begin investigations in order to try Israeli criminals of war.  It was sad and deplorable that the relevant United Nations resolutions had not even begun to be implemented, as confirmed by the Special Rapporteur.  The question of the protection of the Palestinians on their land was an urgent issue which must be acted upon without delay.  The measures of the Israeli Defence Force and the daily and systematic violation of the human rights of the Palestinians called for immediate international action.  Silence on this issue was a crime, and Israel must stop perpetrating crimes against international humanitarian law. 

WALID A. NASR (Lebanon) said that occupation was forbidden by international law.  The Israeli occupying authorities were committing flagrant violations of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, including the establishment of settlements, imposition of collective punishments, violation of the freedom of movement, destruction of infrastructure, excessive use of force and attacks with sophisticated arsenals. The violation of human rights of the Palestinians had worsened, as evidenced by the report of the Special Rapporteur and Amnesty International.  It was clear that occupation was the heart of the problem.  Lebanon called on Israel to put into effect relevant Security Council Resolution and implement the Arab peace initiative. 

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said that for two years, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories had continued to be aggravated with daily deaths and a tragedy of sufferings.  The grave, massive and systematic violations of human rights and the elementary principles of international humanitarian law had been committed daily by the occupying Israeli forces against the Palestinians.  Morocco remained concerned about the dramatic situation which was characterized by the disproportionate and excessive use of force against the Palestinian people and against their legitimate institutions.  It was also concerned about the continued violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilian populations in time of war.  The military occupation of the Palestinian territories, the continued blockade of cities, the destruction of houses, mosques and schools, and the collective punishments completely disregarded international humanitarian law.

The massive and systematic destruction of the Palestinian structures had resulted in the total halt of the economic activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, prompting a crisis which violated the elementary human rights of the population.

FRANCES-GALATIA LANITOU-WILLIAMS (Cyprus) said the recent exacerbation of the vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence had produced much pain and suffering through the killing and injuring of so many innocent lives and repeated human rights violations.  Cyprus added its voice to the many speakers who believed that the time had come to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process.

The international community had the responsibility and must exert every effort to put an end to this bloodshed.  Cyprus believed that the international community must ensure the full respect for international law through the lifting of the occupation; the reversal of the settlement policy; the reinstatement of the freedom of movement of people and goods; securing access to water, land and humanitarian aid; the securing of the exercise of the right to education and to a fair trial; and by guaranteeing the protection of humanitarian personnel.  There could be no military solution to the conflict and peace could only be achieved through dialogue aimed at the full implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

MAYA BEN-HAIM ROSEN, of the World Jewish Congress, speaking in a joint statement with International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, said that the report submitted by Special Rapporteur John Dugard was flawed in many respects and devoid of validity.  The report equated terrorist suicide bombings with remedial military preventive action against terrorist groups.  It made a moral equation between terrorism and its victims.  It failed to mention the sequence of the events in March 2002 leading to military action against terrorists.  Similarly, the report omitted to mention recurring incidents recorded in the presence of Red Cross authorities of Palestinians driving ambulances concealing terrorist passengers carrying explosive belts and other arms, in flagrant violation of humanitarian law.  The report also failed to mention systematic inculcation of hatred in the educational curriculum of Palestinian children who were encouraged to participate actively in combat.  More fundamentally, the report failed to make mention of the abandon by terrorist groups and the Palestinian leadership of any pretense to distinguish between combatants and the civilian population. 

VICTORIA METCALFE, of the International Federation of Human Rights League, speaking in a joint statement with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights; Al Haq -- Law in the Service of Man, said they strongly condemned the ongoing illegal Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including Jerusalem.  She noted with alarm the ongoing escalation in widespread and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated against the Palestinian civilian population throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, including war crimes.  Since March 2002, ongoing Israeli military attacks in civilian residential areas of the Palestinian territories had also resulted in large-scale destruction to civilian property, infrastructure and government institutions.  Such ongoing attacks deliberately dismantled the structures necessary for a viable functioning of a Palestinian State.  The groups condemned the unlawful killing of Palestinian civilians, in particular, the deliberate and systematic targeted killing of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories by the Israeli military.  Of further concern was the escalation in the Israeli military's policy of demolishing houses.

MAGALYS AROCHA, of the Federation of Cuban Women, speaking on behalf of Women's International Democratic Federation; Movimento Cubano por la Paz la Soberania de los Pueblos, said that recently hundreds of women had raised their voices against wars and conflicts, particularly the unjust and inhuman violation of the rights of the Palestinian people.  It had been noted that the Israeli Government had not changed its policy of human rights violations and indiscriminate repression for the last 20 years.  Women and children in the occupied territories had seen their schools reduced to ashes as a result of Israeli indiscriminate and disproportionate violence.  Israel must adhere to Security Council resolutions.  In addition, the organizations deplored the war with Iraq that the United States had undertaken with the excuse of disarmament, even though everyone knew it had political and economic motivations.  It was stressed that violence begot violence, and the international policies must be based on respect.  Women were sick of such conflicts, wars and bloodshed and wanted a peaceful future for their children.  Her organizations said no to war and yes to peace.

JEAN-PIERRE LAGNAUX, of Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, speaking in a joint statement with the General Arab Women Federation, General Iraqi Women Federation, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Union of Arab Jurists, said Palestine was a subject of numerous resolutions by the Security Council, but these resolutions had never been implemented by Israel.  On the other hand, Israel possessed biological, chemical and nuclear arms of mass destruction and occupied foreign territories.  This situation had never prompted the United States to treat Israel as Iraq was being treated today.  The question of Palestine had been on the Commission’s agenda for a long time and the Commission’s resolutions and declarations had remained without effect.  Today, despite an unprecedented mobilization of world public opinion and opposition by the Security Council, the world’s superpower had decided to start a war.  How could one place any hopes on the Commission, a body without power, if the will of Security Council was defied?  What was the point of passing resolutions that would be simply buried?  What was the point of speaking of Palestine when the world would soon have only one master who would settle all issues according to his will?

Rights of Reply

A Representative of Israel, speaking in a right of reply in reference to the address of Syrian delegate who had made allusions to the Saudi peace plan, asked how did that plan square with the call of his Palestinian colleague, quoted in Friday's verbatim:  "put an end to the racist Zionist movement", "Zionism, should be brought to an end".  Was that part of the plan?  How did the plan square with the statement by President Assad on 27 March 2003 in an interview to the Lebanese newspaper Al Safir "the existence of Israel is a continuous threat" and "as long as Israel exists, Syria is threatened".  At the conclusion of the morning debate on item 8, several representatives had spoken today, criticizing the defensive and preventive measures which Israel had been forced to take in light of the continuous wave of violence thrust upon her by the Palestinian Authority.  The nature of the use of force was deemed by some as disproportionate or excessive.  Israel called on the Commission to negate and condemn this explicit call for genocide and the elimination of a national movement.

A Representative of Syria, exercising his right of reply in response to a statement made by the Representative of Israel, said truth was clear and absolute and unchanging however repressed.  The movements of national liberation had not stopped just because they had been put on lists of terrorists of some countries.  The recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a national liberation movement was not what made the PLO a national liberation movement.  Truth remained.  It was undeniable that national liberation movements were responsible for what they did -- they must respect human rights.  Israel had been founded on the work of national liberation movements as well.  He stressed that the Representative of Israel had said he wanted Israel for Jews.  This was racist, and Israel must end its racist policies. 

A Representative of Israel, speaking in a second right of reply, said that it seemed that whatever the item on the agenda, the focus of the Syrian Ambassador was always on Israel.  In his view, none of the worldwide issues could be addressed without Israel being at center stage.  Israel was dedicated to gathering together in an equal, open and democratic society, Jewish exiles from around the world.  The differences of opinion the Syrian Ambassador might discern in Israel, his selective quotes from Israeli leaders were all part and parcel of the democratic legacy of Israel, which was an open, transparent and self-critical society.  This society was constantly struggling against the violence initiated against it, most recently by Palestinian terror.

A Representative of Syria, speaking in a second right of reply, said that he had already invited the Israeli Representative to look at the various Arab initiatives in order to avoid bloodshed.  The Israeli Representative was talking about democracy in Israel but it was exercised by certain groups.  The Israel citizen of Arab origin did not have the same rights as Jewish citizens, and was not that racism?

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For information media - not an official record