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UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · Geneva



1 December 2003

Press document

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN PEOPLE COMMEMORATED AT UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AT GENEVA

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was commemorated this afternoon at the Palais des Nations with a number of speakers condemning the construction of a separation wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which they said would hamper the creation of a viable Palestinian State.

Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, read out a message from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in which he said that he joined with those from around the world who expressed the deepest solidarity with the Palestinian people in their continued suffering. They remained stateless and oppressed. In expressing solidarity with them, he did not ignore the suffering of the people of Israel.

Israeli actions -- such as extrajudicial killings, use of heavy weapons against civilians, demolition of houses, continued expansion of settlements, and the building of a barrier that cut deep into Palestinian territory -- had enhanced misery and feelings of helplessness among Palestinians, Mr. Annan said in the statement. They had undermined efforts to curb violence and fuelled hatred and anger towards Israel. They had pushed back the day when Israel would live without fear within secure and recognized borders.

Mr. Annan’s statement concluded with his conviction that peace was possible, that an end could be achieved to occupation for Palestinians and security for Israelis. Let the international community resolve not to rest until the Palestinian people finally obtained what was rightfully theirs -- the exercise of their inalienable rights in a sovereign and independent State of Palestine.

Referring to the signing of the Geneva Accord in Geneva today, at the same time as the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Mr. Ordzhonikidze said that Palestinians and Israelis were gathered today in Geneva in search of peace. The United Nations fully supported the Geneva Accord event and appreciated and understood the notable role that the Government of Switzerland had played in realizing the initiative.

Other speakers emphasized that the construction of a separation wall by Israel in the Occupied Territories would establish a new border with land taken from the Palestinians, while others said that if the wall was allowed to be completed, it would create an obstacle to the establishment of a viable and independent State of Palestine. Speakers also condemned the Israeli practices aimed at eliminating the people of Palestine and the expansion of Jewish settlements.

Contributing statements were representatives of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; League of Arab States; Organization of the Islamic Conference; Non-Aligned Movement; African Union; Non-Governmental Organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; and The Permanent Observer of Palestine.

In addition, Turkey, Senegal and Iran sent messages of solidarity.

Statements

SERGEI ORDZHONIKIDZE, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, read out a statement from United Nations Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN in which the Secretary-General said he joined with those from around the world who expressed the deepest solidarity with the Palestinian people in their continued suffering. They remained stateless and oppressed. In expressing solidarity with them, he did not ignore the suffering of the people of Israel. They remained insecure and terrorized. The terrible events of the past three years, and the dire situation on the ground today, should be proof to all that the more each side harmed the other, the more it wounded itself, and the more it jeopardized chances for a peaceful settlement.

Israeli actions -- such as extrajudicial killings, use of heavy weapons against civilians, demolition of houses, continued expansion of settlements, and the building of a barrier that cut deep into Palestinian territory -- had enhanced misery and feelings of helplessness among Palestinians, Mr. Annan said in his statement. They had undermined efforts to curb violence and fuelled hatred and anger towards Israel. They had pushed back the day when Israel would live without fear within secure and recognized borders.

Palestinian suicide bombings, on the other hand, had indiscriminately killed innocent Israeli civilians in acts of wanton and deliberate terrorism, the Secretary-General’s statement said. Those heinous acts could have no justification and should be consistently and unreservedly condemned; they had destroyed efforts at building bridges of reconciliation and trust between the two peoples; and they had pushed back the day when Palestinians would live in peace and security within their own State.

The violence over the past three years had claimed thousands of lives. The majority of them had been Palestinians, but there had also been many Israelis. Many of those killed had been children. However, there was no military solution to the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The only solution lay in a political process -- one that would result in a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement based on two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace within secure and recognized borders, Mr. Annan’s statement said.

Recent initiatives of civil society had made that point with courage and clarity, the statement said, referring, in particular, to the Geneva initiative in which Palestinians and Israelis had negotiated and agreed to a detailed plan to comprehensively resolve the conflict, and to the Ayalon-Nusseibeh statement of principles. Those efforts showed the capacity of Palestinians and Israelis to act with reason and restraint, and to agree on terms to live side-by-side in peace. They had caught the imagination of both peoples. They should inspire in all the burning conviction that a settlement could be achieved.

Great efforts were needed to address the humanitarian emergency and economic devastation experienced by the Palestinian people, Mr. Annan’s statement said. Abject poverty, unemployment, children out of school, and a strong overall sense of frustration and despair -- all those were part of the day-to-day life of Palestinians under occupation. So too was the hardship caused by the severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods, closures and curfews, roadblocks and checkpoints, and the construction of the separation barrier about which he had just reported to the General Assembly. The Palestinian Authority's institutions and its capacity to work with its people had been seriously undercut since September 2000.

Under difficult conditions, the United Nations provided a wide-range of assistance to the Palestinian people, through the work of OCHA, WFP, UNDP, UNICEF and other agencies, the Secretary-General’s statement said. In spite of a funding crisis, UNRWA continued to play a vitally important role in addressing the critical needs of Palestinian refugees.

Mr. Annan’s statement concluded with his conviction that peace was possible, that an end could be achieved to occupation for Palestinians and security for Israelis. Let the international community resolve not to rest until the Palestinian people finally obtained what was rightfully theirs -- the exercise of their inalienable rights in a sovereign and independent State of Palestine.

NUGROHO WISNUMURTI, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that while both sides had taken conflicting positions since the beginning, it was Israel that had since occupied Palestinian territory and had built settlements in contravention of the Geneva Convention. It had annexed land, displacing the population, destroying homes and property, and causing the loss of lives. Consequently, the Palestinians lived in appalling circumstances under occupation. They were subjected to military raids and extrajudicial killings, individual and collective punishment, destruction of public infrastructure and the devastation of farmlands. The Palestinians had become refugees in their own homeland. They were deprived of their basic rights – the right to live a normal life; to go to work and make a decent living; the right to raise and educate their children in an atmosphere of peace and well-being; and to be able to contribute to the betterment and prosperity of their community and nation, as well as the region as a whole.

The continued and intensified construction of illegal settlements and outposts, as well as the demolition of Palestinian homes and property, had aggravated the situation and undermined the peace efforts. To make things worse, the Israeli Government had also embarked on an expansive project of building a separation wall in the Palestinian territories, which would swallow vast areas of Palestinian lands, separating Palestinians from Palestinians and predetermining the outcome of future negotiations.

OUSAMANE CAMARA, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Senegal, speaking on behalf of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said that the Special Committee had sadly emphasized that the fate and the human rights situation of the Palestinians and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories had drastically deteriorated during the year in review. This year, the Committee travelled just a few days after the launching of the Road Map by the Quartet which, while raising many hopes and fears, somewhat paved the way for a new path to peace.

Unfortunately, nothing good came out of the efforts undertaken to enhance the Road Map process. On the contrary, the truce agreed upon by armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas was soon broken through attacks, suicide-bombing, raids from helicopters and targeted killings resulting in the injury or killings of many innocent civilians, including women and children, as well as the destruction of infrastructure and basic facilities. The intensification of military operations against Palestinians had worsened the effects of Israeli occupation on the Palestinians and other Arabs in the Occupied Territories and had nurtured an ongoing process of terrorist acts, indiscriminate use of force, and retaliation measures by both sides in the conflict.

The military occupation of the Occupied Territories by Israeli forces should be brought to an end and Israeli forces should withdraw from the Occupied Territories; the erection of the separation wall should stop and the existing parts of the wall should be dismantled; the inalienable right of the Palestinians to a homeland should be recognized, with due respect to legitimate security concerns of the State of Israel; the present cycle of violence, attacks, suicide-bombings and reprisals by both parties to the conflict should come to a complete halt; and both parties should return to the table of negotiations and fully implement the Road Map. They were also encouraged to pay attention to recent efforts to develop peace plans such as the Geneva Agreement.

SAAD ALFARARGI, Representative of the League of Arab States, said that the meeting was taking place to remind everyone that the Palestinian cause was still searching for a solution and that the rights of the Palestinian people were still being violated at the hands of the Israeli occupying forces. The commemoration of the Day of Solidarity was an opportunity to assure support for the Palestinian people in their just struggle for freedom and independence to establish their independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. The racist wall that was being constructed had to be condemned. It aimed at confiscating even more Palestinian lands and cutting up the links between what remained, which was what the Israeli Prime Minister wanted, stopping any hope of establishing a viable Palestinian State.

Israel had continued its violation of the inalienable rights of Palestinians. The situation of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories was a humanitarian disaster. The Government of Israel was attempting to relinquish all the hope of living in peace and security as two States, Palestine and Israel. Resolution 1515 of the Security Council had sent a clear message as to the existence of two States side by side.

MAJTABA AMIRI VAHID, Deputy Permanent Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the Day of Solidarity came at a time when Israel continued to deny the Palestinian people their national rights, disregarded resolutions of international legitimacy and denied the United Nations, which represented the conscience of the international community, any role in the Palestinian question. The Day came at a time when Israel was committing the greatest kinds of violations of international agreements and treaties dealing with the situation of people living under occupation. Israel violated the principles of international human law and embarked on various and repeated practices that entered the realm of war crimes, without according the least respect to international public opinion which regulated and prohibited those affairs.

Israel remained persistent in its aggression, colonialist policies and violation of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions as well as in its non-compliance with the implementation of those resolutions or any international covenant and treaties. Besides, it continued to take advantage of the international circumstances, especially now that the American Administration and the international community were occupied with the situation in Iraq, as well as of the upcoming American election to create on ground new realities that would be difficult to change in the future.

RAJMAH HUSSAIN, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Malaysia, speaking on behalf of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia and Chairman of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, said that the international community was once again observing the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people in an atmosphere of great uncertainty. As did others and the Palestinians in particular, one hoped for the noble forces of peace and justice to prevail over the arrogance of power and the purveyance of violence, hatred and despair. The Movement reaffirmed its steadfast support for and longstanding solidarity with the Palestinian people and their leadership, in the quest for the full realization of their inalienable rights. The Movement remained firm in its commitment towards ensuring that a just and lasting peaceful settlement was achieved on the question of Palestine.

The Movement condemned the continuing and escalating Israeli military campaign against the Palestinian people, particularly the reported perpetration of war crimes and the wilful killing of civilians, including extrajudicial executions. All Israeli settler colonialism activities should immediate stop, including the halt to further construction of Israel’s expansionist wall in the Occupied Territory. It should be dismantled immediately. There was no military solution to the conflict. Israel and its supporters should realize and be convinced of that too. So should the Palestinians. The cycle of violence, repression and intimidation would bring no advantage to either side. The key to a just and durable solution lay in the willingness on the part of Israel to end its occupation of Arab lands, and the fulfilment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty and to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced and uprooted.

LAABAS MOHAMED LAMINE, Acting Permanent Observer of the African Union at Geneva, paid homage to the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people to obtain their independence and dignity, and to their resistance and exemplary courage. Africa, which had suffered occupation for a long time could easily understand the suffering of the Palestinian people. While many conflicts created after the Second World War still sought political solutions, the issue of Palestine was marked by its dramatic intensity and with a hope to search for more solutions. Palestine had been a hostage of a historical and political context whose causes were foreign to its people and to the region, and it was for that fundamental reason that original injustice should be repaired as a priority.

It was that denial of justice for the Palestinian people that had pushed them to this desperate situation. The political courage of the two leaders, President Yasser Arafat and the late Prime Minister Itsaak Rabin, had largely contributed to the birth of hope for a peaceful solution of the conflict. Their courage had been recognized by the international community. The killing of Mr. Rabin and the threat to physically liquidate or expel Mr. Arafat had made the hope for peace short lived. The African Union reaffirmed its solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for independence and their right to a viable Palestinian State.

EDITH BALLANTYNE, Special Advisor on UN Matters, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on the Question of Palestine, said the Israeli construction of a so-called security wall was regarded with horror. Israel had not constructed it on its territory, but on the territory it had illegally occupied, making deep cuts into it. By that act, Israel would establish a new border for itself, a border that, if allowed to stand, would, by all accounts, make the establishment of a viable independent state of Palestine impossible. The part of the wall that had already been constructed had ruined the lives of numerous Palestinians.

Palestinians’ call for international protection continued, it seemed, to go unheard by the international governmental community. However, members of the community of non-governmental organizations had heard the call, and they did what they could. Women and men from many countries had gone to the occupied territories to take a stand in front of Israeli bulldozers to prevent them from demolishing homes, uprooting olive trees and clearing stretches of land to extend the infamous wall.

NABIL RAMLAWI, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said that the Day of Solidarity with the people of Palestine had become an occasion to recall and confirm those inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Those rights had to be reintroduced because people in the world were unaware of what happened in 1948 with the coming of Jews to Palestine. So far, all attempts to bring peace had ignored those rights. The occupation forces and the leading world power had been imposing their visions against the Palestinian people. The recognition of Palestinian rights should be a prerequisite to any achievement of peace and security. The region had been suffering from blood shed because of Israeli denial of those rights. Palestinians had been resisting repression and would never despair, and they were committed to their land.

Israel had turned its back to peace, while the Palestinian Authority had accepted the Road Map and the existence of Israel. Israel had been aiming to eliminate the Palestinian people through its daily practices. The Israel military machinery had been engaged in destroying Palestinian infrastructure; it bombed innocent civilians, including medical workers, and even journalists. The acts committed by Israel in Jennin had been termed as acts of genocide against humanity. The Palestinian people had no tanks and helicopters to defend themselves, while the Israeli army was provided with the latest weapons of destruction by the United States. With regard to the Road Map, Israel had made about 30 reservations on the document and would only accept it if the reservations were incorporated.

Upon the completion of the wall under construction, 48 per cent of the West Bank would be taken away. The water resources were also included within the wall thus depriving the Palestinians of the right to water. The wall was built in a manner to allow more Jewish settlements to be built. The wall was also meant to punish the Palestinian people collectively through the division of families. Since the wall would divide the Palestinian territories, the establishment of a Palestinian state would be undermined. The international community should shoulder its responsibilities with regard to Israel and bring to an end the rebellion of Israel against international norms. The European public opinion had asserted that Israel was a threat to world peace and security.


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