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SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 59th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Thursday, 22 April 2004, at 10 a.m.
Chairperson : Mr. SMITH (Australia)
Statement by the representative of Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference
The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m.
Statement by the representative of Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference
1. Mr. UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that only a month previously, Israel had extrajudicially executed the Palestinian leader Sheikh Yassin in his wheelchair. The Israeli leadership had congratulated the military team that had carried out the assassination for its bravery and heroism. Killing a blind elderly man bound to a wheelchair in the final years of his life from the safety of a helicopter gunship was indeed some heroism.
2. The Commission had convened a special sitting on the occasion and had condemned the assassination and called on Israel to respect international humanitarian law and desist from further human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel, in response, had killed Sheikh Yassin’s successor, Mr. Abdalaziz Rantissi, in a similar manner and continued to spill Palestinian blood in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank, thus plunging the Palestinians into a state of endless mourning.
3. The killings demonstrated total disregard for all principles of human rights and international humanitarian law and illustrated Israel’s contempt for the Commission’s resolution, adopted during the special sitting, which condemned the extrajudicial executions and called on Israel to cease those practices. Regrettably, Israel instead proceeded in the same fashion, to the detriment of the already precarious situation in the Middle East, with total impunity. Its policies warranted condemnation by any fair-minded nation.
4. The report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 stated that between October 2000 and April 2003, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had killed more than 230 Palestinians, including 80 children, women and innocent bystanders, in assassination actions. In the period 10-14 June 2003, the IDF had killed 27 Palestinians in a series of extrajudicial killings carried out by helicopter gunships in the Gaza Strip.
5. Since the start of the second intifada, over 2,700 mostly civilian Palestinians, among them some 500 children, had been killed and 28,000 had been injured. Such acts were in no way conducive to creating peace, but instead only caused further bloodshed.
6. The OIC called again on the international community to take concrete action to stop the Israeli violence, which was in clear contravention of international law, and to encourage Israel instead to show respect for the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.
7. Israel needed to be compelled to return to the negotiating table and act on the proposals made by the Quartet to further the cause of peace. The only way to bring peace to Palestine was to desist from trampling on the fundamental rights of its people, because such acts only fomented anger, hatred and more violence. The erection of walls would not bring security so long as the occupation persisted. History had shown that forcible acquisition of territory could only be reversed if the political, economic, and military cost for the occupying power became intolerable.
8. Israel took pride in being a democratic State wedded to the ideals of due process and the rule of law. By no standard, however, could occupation and assassination be held to constitute the hallmarks of a law-abiding State.
9. The United States had inherited the powerful legacy of Abraham Lincoln, who had delivered the nation from slavery, underlining that the republic could not survive “half slave, half free”. He called on the United States to apply the same precept to the situation in the Middle East, where no durable, peaceful solution could be found in conditions of half freedom and half bondage.
10. The OIC did not wish to hamper the expeditious conclusion of the work of the Commission and would thus not request a special sitting on the latest developments in the occupied Palestinian territory. Instead, he asked for his statement to be circulated as an official document of the Commission.
11. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that after excessive time and efforts had already been invested in attacking Israel for human rights violations during the current session of the Commission, the OIC had seized yet another opportunity to attack Israel.
12. The Commission should be reminded that Hamas was internationally recognized to be a terrorist organization, and that Rantissi had been one of the organization’s most extreme leaders. He had clearly stated on numerous occasions that the organization’s aim was the destruction of Israel. Under his leadership, Hamas had sent over 100 suicide-bombers into Israel, killing 378 Israelis and injuring and maiming thousands.
13. In a suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv discotheque in June 2001, 21 young people had been murdered and 120 injured. In the Seder massacre in Netanya in March 2002, 30 Israeli civilians had been murdered and 144 injured. The list of atrocities was endless, and hundreds more Israeli civilians had fallen victim to ruthless terrorism at the hands of Hamas.
14. Rantissi, like other Hamas leaders before him, had personally approved dozens of major suicide bombings, sending the children of others to carry out the bombings in which hundreds of Israelis had been murdered. He had often taken personal credit for those despicable acts, which was, to use the words of the previous speaker, some heroism. Rantissi had openly declared himself not only an enemy of Israel, but also of peace, the Roadmap and any effort to attain a ceasefire.
15. Yet, when Israel decided to strike back at the source of terror, out of concern for the lives of innocent civilians on both sides, or erected an anti-terrorist fence as a measure of self-defence, it received massive criticism, even from the ranks of the Commission.
16. The Commission had neither condemned the recruitment of women and children as suicide-bombers, nor the virulent incitement to hatred and calls for the destruction of Israel by Hamas leaders. It appeared that the right to life of one people was not as sacred as that of another. To deny Israel the right to take the necessary measures of self-defence when under constant terrorist attack was a clear illustration of the glaring double standards practised by the Commission.
17. While the Palestinian Authority was committed to taking action against organizations such as Hamas, it had neglected to do so, and thus forced Israel to defend itself. By targeting industrial zones such as Erez, Hamas not only attacked Israel, but also its own people, who depended on working in those industrial zones for their livelihood.
18. Hamas was not the only organization that espoused an uncompromisingly radical policy. As pointed out previously, the map on the letterhead of the Palestinian Authority Observer Mission in Geneva showed the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza and Israel in its pre-1967 borders. That illustrated the disparity between some of the statements and the formal policy of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which envisaged the establishment of a Palestinian State in place of Israel.
19. The opposition by the Palestinian observer to the relevant paragraph in the European Union (EU) draft resolution that had condemned acts of violence, including attacks on civilians, and urged the Palestinian Authority to concretely demonstrate its determination in the fight against terrorism and extremist violence, was indicative of that philosophy. For the first time, he had influenced the OIC members to abstain from voting on a resolution criticizing Israeli settlements.
20. Israel was nevertheless hopeful that its recent initiative for disengagement from Gaza and evacuation of all settlements in Gaza and of several settlements in the West Bank, as well as its continued commitment to the Roadmap, would put an end to the wave of violence and relaunch a dialogue.
21. His Government remained committed to the two-State solution and to the Roadmap as the only feasible means of achieving a long-lasting peace. In the meantime, however, it would spare no effort to defend its citizens against terrorist organizations and their leaders. The Commission should long ago have formally recognized the terrorist acts carried out against Israel as crimes against humanity and war crimes of the gravest form and condemned them as such.
22. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that, at its current session, the Commission had adopted a number of resolutions related to Israel’s violations of international law.
23. The first one, adopted on 23 March, had condemned the tragic assassination of Sheikh Yassin and the continuous human rights violations perpetrated by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Commission had noted with grave concern the targeted assassinations and liquidation of the Palestinian leadership by the Israeli forces, and their impact on the general situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Commission had called on Israel to fully respect international humanitarian law and to put an immediate end to all human rights violations.
24. In spite of that and other resolutions, Israel had failed to end its illegal practices. The systematic assassinations of Palestinian leaders constituted extrajudicial executions in flagrant violation of international law. Such practices were unprecedented and reminiscent of the behaviour of highway bandits, with the difference that Israel had a powerful military machine at its disposal for carrying out such acts.
25. By dint of the support it received not only from the United States, but also in international forums Israel was encouraged to persist in its course of action, which was the continuation of a policy that Israel had adopted since its creation. The systematic policy of targeted assassinations, as demonstrated once again by the execution of Mr. Rantissi was one of organized and systematic terrorism openly practised by the Israeli Government despite condemnation by the international community.
26. Most recently, Israel had taken its crimes against civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories even further, killing 15 Palestinian civilians and injuring hundreds during attacks on two villages in the north of the Gaza Strip, while international attention had been diverted by Israel’s announced intention to withdraw from Gaza. That political manoeuvre was in no way representative of the reality on the ground.
27. Israel was not held accountable for its crimes by the international community, and the declarations of some States that viewed Israel’s crimes as acceptable practices under the pretext of self-defence and a need to guarantee security further strengthened its position.
28. Israel must be held fully responsible for the ongoing violence in the occupied territories and the continuous bloodletting in the region. Such daily practices as extrajudicial killings, continued construction of the separation wall, harassment of Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints, and destruction of Palestinian homes had only planted the seeds of further violence.
29. His delegation called on the Commission and the international community to take action to stop the crimes committed against the Palestinian people, to compel Israel to respect international humanitarian law, to prosecute Israeli war criminals and to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory.