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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
General Assembly
27 October 2005

General Assembly
GA/EF/3121

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixtieth General Assembly
Second Committee
13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)

ISRAEL ’S LAND CONFISCATIONS, HOME DEMOLITIONS, EXPLOITATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES

MAIN CAUSES OF CRISIS IN OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES , SECOND COMMITTEE TOLD

Delegates also Discuss Effects of Globalization,
Hear Introduction of Text on Humanitarian Aid for Guatemala, El Salvador


Israel’s continued confiscation of lands, destruction of homes, and exploitation of natural resources had remained the leading causes of the socio-economic crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories, a senior United Nations official told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today, as it discussed permanent sovereignty of occupied Arab peoples over their natural resources.

Introducing the report on that subject, Mervat Tallawy, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), stressed that agricultural losses in the occupied territories, especially the uprooting of more than a million olive trees, the demolition of homes and restrictions on the movement of goods and persons had deepened unemployment and poverty.  In the West Bank alone, more than 700 physical obstacles, including checkpoints, military observation towers, and gates had obstructed internal movement, disrupting commerce and access to schools, as well as health services.

She went on to say that Israel’s continuing construction of the West Bank barrier had severely restricted Palestinian access to thousands of hectares of olive trees.  The construction had also led to an increase in land confiscations, isolated water supplies, thwarted investment, contributed to the environmental degradation of flora and fauna and sparked a sharp decline in commercial activities.  Moreover, illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory was also continuing, with the number of settlers increasing by 6 per cent to 256,000 between 2003 and 2004.  In addition, about 20,000 Israeli settlers lived in 45 settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan, exacerbating the living conditions of the local Arab population, which was already suffering from a lack of access to natural resources and social services.

Reinforcing that point, the observer for Palestine said Israel had been exploiting and destroying Palestinian natural resources for 38 years, in violation of its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.  During the initial construction of the West Bank separation wall, Israel had confiscated 200 cisterns and 36 groundwater wells, and had threatened to demolish 14 other wells, forcing Palestinians to pay 12 per cent more for water.  The continuing construction of the wall and expansion of West Bank settlements would annex land containing Palestinian water resources, including the rich western aquifer.

The separation wall had also locked farmers behind randomly opened gates, while their crops withered and their poultry starved to death, he said.  Residents in nearby areas currently received running water for only two hours every three days, while Israeli settlers in the area consumed 348 litres a day -- 17 times more than Palestinians.  In addition, some 200 Israeli factories produced harmful chemicals and toxins that devastated land and underground water, while Israeli settlements used Palestinian land to dump untreated waste.

Similarly, Egypt’s delegate decried Israel’s disposal of nuclear waste in unsafe containers in occupied land close to the Syrian border and called for that country to submit all its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for inspection.  It should also adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a step that would reduce tension and create an environment that was conducive to peace.

Addressing the occupation of the Golan, Syria’s representative said Israel had used water taxes to further impoverish the area’s Arab residents, and decreased aquifer levels in Syrian villages by digging wells for the benefit of Israeli settlers.  It had also provided extensive subsidies to Israeli settlers and their farm products, forcing the Syrian Government to purchase apples from the Golan’s Arab cultivators to help market them.

Other speakers pointed to the occupation’s detrimental effect on women and children, especially through the imposition of closures and curfews, which curtailed access to schools and health services.  Jordan’s delegate noted that exam pass rates had declined by nearly 50 per cent between 2000 and 2004.  Immunization coverage had declined in some areas, while anaemia caused by food insecurity had struck 36 per cent of pregnant women, 43 per cent of nursing mothers and more than 60 per cent of children below 2 years of age.

Responding to those concerns, Israel’s representative described the report as a one-sided, biased account that set statistical parameters to suit its own convenience, changing them when the same parameters would discredit its arguments.  No effort had been made to corroborate those claims with other, more neutral sources, and the data sometimes conflicted with figures from the World Bank, and even with those from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Regarding poverty in the occupied Palestinian territory, he noted that it ranked seventh out of 103 developing countries in the human poverty index of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report 2005, on a par with countries like Singapore and Cuba, and higher than most States in the Middle East.  The adult literacy rate in the Palestinian territory was significantly higher than that in the rest of the Arab region, the infant mortality rate was lower than that found in countries like Brazil, Iran and Algeria, while Internet usage was higher than that of many countries around the world.

When it came to every-day well-being, he said the Palestinian Authority was responsible for stopping corruption, restoring calm and ending the utter anarchy that ruled Palestinian streets.  The pattern of corruption and incompetent leadership, wasteful spending of foreign aid and lack of transparency, internal quarrels, fragmentation and lack of internal stability were major factors in deteriorating living conditions for Palestinians.

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Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel and Syria, as well as the observer for Palestine.

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Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to take up its agenda item on occupied Arab territories.  It was also expected to begin its discussion of globalization and interdependence, and to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on humanitarian assistance and reconstruction for El Salvador and Guatemala.

Occupied Palestinian and Syrian Territories

The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the Economic and Social Council’s report on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem , and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/60/65-E/2005/13).

According to the report, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory continues to deepen economic and social hardships for Palestinians, as the Israeli army persists with arbitrary detentions, home demolitions, severe mobility restrictions and closure policies.  An estimated 7,600 Palestinians remain in Israeli prisons and detention centres, including some 848 held without charge or judicial procedure.  During the first nine months of 2004, the army demolished an average of 120 residential buildings a month in the West Bank and 77 homes a month in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

The report says that restrictions on the movement of people and goods continued in 2004, becoming more severe in the Gaza Strip, which remained severed into three segments, where new pass restrictions have especially affected isolated communities.  In the West Bank, over 700 physical obstacles, including checkpoints, military observation towers, concrete blocks, road gates and earth mounds obstruct internal movement, and city curfews are still imposed.

According to the report, economic indicators for the area continue to show high unemployment; greater dependency on food aid; and untold losses from physical destruction of Palestinian homes, public buildings, agricultural assets, infrastructure and private property.  The general economic state has exacerbated poverty, rendering more than 2.2 million Palestinians poor –- about 1.27 million in the West Bank and 945,000 in the Gaza Strip.  Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources for settlements, and the erection of the West Bank barrier accelerated during 2004.  Malnutrition and other health problems afflict a growing number of Palestinians at a time of curtailed access to needed services.  Over 60 per cent of children below 2 years of age, 36 per cent of pregnant women, and more than 43 per cent of nursing mothers in the Gaza Strip are anaemic, and an estimated 38 per cent of Palestinians are food insecure.

The report states that Israeli settlements, land confiscation and construction of the barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory, contrary to the Geneva Convention and other norms of international law, isolate occupied East Jerusalem, bisect the West Bank, curtail normal economic and social life, and continue to fuel the conflict.  The barrier is about 209 kilometres long, forming a complex of fences, ditches, razor wire, groomed trace sands, electronic monitoring system and patrol roads.  In the Syrian Golan Heights, Israeli settlements, with an estimated 20,000 inhabitants, continue to expand unabated.  Access to natural resources and social services remain inadequate for the Arab population, who also continue to suffer from unemployment and job insecurity.  Governmental and public institutions hire Israeli settlers exclusively, rejecting Syrian citizens on the pretext of Hebrew language criteria or for security reasons.

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Introduction of Report

MERVAT TALLAWY, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), presented the report on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/60/65-E/2005/13).

She said the report demonstrated that the Israeli occupation remained the leading cause of socio-economic degradation, especially by its uprooting of more than a million trees between 2000 and 2005.  The loss of agricultural output had continued, with harassment during the olive harvest particularly damaging.  Restrictions on the movement of goods and persons had exacerbated the economic crisis, deepening unemployment and poverty, and interrupting education.  In the West Bank, over 700 physical obstacles, including checkpoints, military observation towers and gates, obstructed internal movement.

Israeli settlements had been deemed illegal by the international community, but they continued to be built, she noted.  The number of settlers had increased by 6 per cent to 256,000 from 2003 to 2004.  In the occupied Syrian Golan, there were about 20,000 Israeli settlers in 45 settlements, and that figure was expected to increase by 15,000 over the next three years.  Settlement expansion had negatively affected the Golan’s Arab population, who were already suffering from a lack of access to natural resources and social services.

She said that Israel’s continued construction of the West Bank barrier, which was also contrary to international law, had severely restricted Palestinian access to thousands of hectares of olive trees.  It had also led to the confiscation of land; the seizure, destruction and isolation of water resources; the loss and withholding of investment; environmental degradation of flora and fauna; a negative impact on social relations due to movement restrictions; a sharp decline in commercial activities; and restrictions on access to health, education and other services. 

The destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure in the Palestinian territory had resulted in decreased availability of water, as well as contaminated drinking water, which had caused increased gastrointestinal infections, especially among children, she said.  About 15 per cent of children suffered from iodine deficiency, which exposed many of them to mental retardation and vitamin A deficiency.  Overall food consumption had fallen by 35 per cent since 2000, affecting the health of women and children.

Emphasizing that children were the most affected by the occupation, and that they were showing critical signs of distress, including aggressive behaviour, low achievement in school, bed-wetting, and nightmares, she said that their family life and health were threatened, with many showing signs of low self-esteem and loss of control.  The disruption of schooling in the West Bank had led to further deterioration in student pass rates. 

Discussion

When asked by the Syrian delegate why the report did not discuss the practice by Israeli factories of burying nuclear waste in the Golan, Ms. TALLAWY said ESCWA had not received any replies to queries on that subject other than from non-governmental organizations, whose responses were not substantiated by evidence.  For that reason, the report refrained from discussing the subject.  However, the Commission would continue to keep an eye on the matter.

Asked to elaborate on the occupation’s effects on the ability of the occupied territories to achieve its Millennium Development Goals, she said that was definitely made more difficult by the socio-economic hardships, and the report would deal more explicitly with that topic in the future.

The Observer for Palestine remarked that the ESCWA report did not use the agreed-upon term “Separation Wall” to describe the barrier erected by Israel.  The data presented in the report did not provide any points of reference to past years, so that time comparisons could be made. 

Ms. TALLAWY replied that time comparisons had been done in some parts of the report, but acknowledged that it had not been done consistently in all areas.  However, that would be considered for future reports.

Israel’s representative asked who ESCWA had communicated with in preparing the report and whether his delegation could obtain copies of allegations regarding the disposal of nuclear waste. 

Ms. TALLAWY replied that, ESCWA was not the source of information in itself, but had gathered information from 12 or 13 other United Nations agencies that were in a better position to comment on events on the ground, including the International Atomic Energy Agency.  She would be happy to share the letter with anyone since it was not secret. 

AMMAR HIJAZI, Observer for Palestine, said Israel had enforced a policy of exploiting and systematically destroying the natural resources of the Palestinian people for 38 years, violating its obligations as an occupying Power under international humanitarian law and international human rights law as affirmed by the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of 9 July, 2004.  Israel’s policy also violated the principle of permanent sovereignty of peoples and nations over their natural resources as established by a declaration adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution on that subject.  Ironically, Israel had voted in favour of that declaration.

Lone voices had attempted to derail the present debate by arguing that the topic and draft resolution were redundant and outdated, he said.  Since 1972, the Second Committee had repeatedly adopted resolutions affirming the Palestinian people’s permanent sovereignty over their natural resources and calling on Israel to cease its violations.  Unfortunately, Israel had disregarded those resolutions and intensified its abuse of Palestine’s natural resources.  Also, the construction of the illegal wall, as well as the continued expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank, would annex the land containing Palestinian water resources, including the rich western aquifer.  In addition, during the first phase of the wall’s construction, Israel had confiscated 200 cisterns and 36 groundwater wells, while threatening to demolish 14 other wells, so that Palestinians now paid 12 per cent more for water.

Other consequences of the wall included the locking of farmers behind randomly opened gates while crops withered and poultry starved to death, he said.  Residents of nearby areas currently received running water only two hours every three days, while Israeli settlers nearby consumed 348 litres a day, or seven times more than the Palestinians.  Israeli settlements used Palestinian land as a dumping ground for untreated waste and 200 Israeli factories produced harmful chemicals and toxins that devastated land and underground water.  Contrary to its obligations under international law, Israel had not cleaned up hazardous debris before exiting the Gaza Strip.  In terms of farmland, Israel had confiscated approximately a quarter of a million dunums, razed 73,613 dunums and uprooted over a million trees.

Subjecting the entire Palestinian population to water deprivation and environmental pollution was a policy of collective punishment, which amounted to a crime against humanity, he said.  Those who wanted peace should not hide behind flashy statements while committing against the people with whom peace must be made.  Peace in the Middle East hinged on the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian State.

WAN JUNAIDI TUANKU JAAFAR ( Malaysia) said the occupying Power in the Palestinian territory continued to undermine international peace and security through its policies, practices and measures.  The separation wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and the expansion of Israeli settlements were visible monuments that severely undermined the economic and social conditions of those living under Israeli occupation and affected the natural resources there.  The wall was a clear violation of international law as pronounced by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004.  Malaysia reiterated the call on Israel to comply with that advisory opinion and the General Assembly resolution issued in response.

He expressed concern about the pumping by Israel of 400 to 500 million cubic metres of water annually from the occupied Syrian Golan to supply water to Israeli settlers, which was seven times more water than that allocated to Syrian citizens.  Israel’s reported burial of nuclear waste in insecure containers close to the Syrian border in the Golan was also disturbing, and Malaysia called upon Israel to allow, without delay, the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor its nuclear reactors and nuclear-waste storage sites.

The inalienable rights of the Palestinians and the Arabs in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, including land and water, had been confirmed and reaffirmed by the General Assembly, he said.  Israel was urged not to exploit, cause loss or depletion of, or endanger those natural resources, and the claim to restitution in the event of damaged resources should be honoured.  Member States should not turn a blind eye to the plight of the Palestinians and must react with a sense of outrage to Israel’s brutal and harsh policies, practices and measures.  The occupation was a root cause of the dire situation of those living in the occupied territories.  Israel must be brought to the realization that it was not above the law.

KHALED AL-AMERI ( United Arab Emirates) said Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory was a direct cause of its deteriorating socio-economic conditions.  The occupation had exacerbated poverty, increased unemployment and contributed to the spread of illnesses.  Although Israel had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip and dismantled settlements in the north, the depressed economic situation had persisted, and the people were subject to continuous Israel attacks.  Living conditions had deteriorated due to Israel’s punitive policies, collective oppression, checkpoints and restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which had isolated territories and towns from each other.  Unemployment had risen to 32 per cent and poverty to 64.6 per cent while malnutrition in children had increased.

Israel was practicing a racist and expansionist policy by constructing the separation wall, he said.  The construction had led to additional land confiscation and the destruction of harvests, as well as houses.  The wall defied international law and resolutions, including a condemnation of its construction by the International Court of Justice.

Some 41.9 per cent of the West Bank had been covered with Israeli settlements, which had led to deteriorating living conditions for the Palestinians, he continued.  Moreover, Israel had continued to confiscate land and expand settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan.  The Arab population there suffered from Israeli oppression and restrictions to their freedom of movement, which had separated families and disrupted education and job opportunities, as well as medical and social services.  The international community should take urgent steps to force Israel to respect all international resolutions regarding the Occupied Palestinian territory.

AHMED AL-MUHARRAQI ( Bahrain) said the Israeli settlements changed the natural characteristics of the land and the make-up of the region’s population.  They also hindered economic development by tying the region’s economy to that of the Israeli economy and violated the rights of the Arab population in the face of several United Nations resolutions that demanded that Israel cease its settlement activities.

International human rights laws prohibited occupying States from claiming sovereignty over lands that they occupied and mistreating cultural property.  However, Israel had confiscated land and evicted Arab inhabitants, expanded their settlements and diverted the area’s natural resources to support those settlements, contrary to statements by the international community regarding the illegality of those actions, which limited the growth of the Arab community’s social and economic development. 

He said that in the Golan Heights, there were already 44 settlements, and the population was expected to increase by 15,000 over the next three years with Israel’s recent resolution aiming to expand and add nine more settlements.  Also, the existence of barriers like the separation wall, and the one constructed around Jerusalem, further aggravated the problem by partitioning land and preventing Palestinians from accessing services.  The policy of land appropriation prevented Syrian farmers from pursuing their livelihoods, as did the pumping of water away from the Golan Heights to feed Israeli water networks in the south, which provided seven times more water to Israelis than to Syrian populations.

MOHAMED EL-FARNAWANY ( Egypt) said the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory had negatively affected its security and sovereignty over its natural resources, which were huge hurdles to achieving development objectives.  The occupation had impeded the mobilization of natural resources, and the attraction of foreign investment.  It had also hindered the adoption of sound policies for good governance, the elimination of poverty and integration into the international economic system.  Continued conflict in the occupied territories had led to an economic slowdown that had resulted in difficulties in creating employment and accessing markets, as well as providing basic health care and education.

He expressed deep concern over Israeli use of the occupied territories to dispose of nuclear waste in unsafe containers near the Syrian border.  The country should submit all its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for inspection, and adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which would reduce tension and create an environment conducive to peace.  Israel must end its hostile practices against the Palestinian people, its destruction of property, its closure policies in the West Bank, and all other measures limiting freedom of movement in the Gaza Strip.

PRAYONO ATIYANTO ( Indonesia) said the survival of the Palestinian people, as evidenced by documents such as the ESCWA report, was at issue.  Their economic and social hardships had deepened, making it difficult for them to achieve development.  The situation confirmed the need for greater commitment from the international community to find a solution. 

He underlined Indonesia’s support of the following three principles:  full withdrawal of Israeli forces, not only from Gaza, but from the rest of the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem; territorial integrity for the Palestinian people, including East Jerusalem, and guaranteed freedom of movement through the removal of restrictions to and from East Jerusalem; and full respect for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to their natural and economic resources.  Indonesia reiterated its full commitment to the Palestinian people’s aspirations to live in a secure and independent homeland, and urged the international community to work towards peace, as specified in existing road maps to peace.

ABDULLAH AL-THANI ( Qatar) noted that Israel had continued to expand its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, to exploit Palestinian resources, and destroy their economic rights and opportunities.  One of its worst practices was the punitive demolition of houses, without giving the residents more than a few minutes’ warning.  The total number of structures that Israel had destroyed in 2004 reached 2,990 buildings in the Gaza Strip and more than 12,000 houses in the West Bank.  It had also destroyed over a million orchard trees and agricultural lands.  Water and sanitation facilities had been affected, with serious consequences for human health.

He said that the socio-economic effects of occupation would be exacerbated once the separation wall had been completed, especially since many farmers would be blocked from their agricultural fields.   Israel had continued to build the wall, despite General Assembly resolutions against it and a condemnation by the International Court of Justice.

YUSSEF KANAAN, Observer Mission of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), noted that there had been much fanfare about Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip.  However, it was clear that military occupation would continue as Israel was bent on retaining complete and strict control over all borders and crossing points.  It was also exploiting the current situation by simultaneously continuing its construction of the separation wall, consolidating settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank, and completing the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories by cutting off more than 200,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites from their social and political environment, as well as their economic livelihood.

As for the Syrian Golan, he said that successive Islamic summits and ministerial conferences had strongly condemned the Israeli policy of refusing to abide by Security Council resolutions about that area, as well as its land annexation, establishment of settlements, confiscation of land, diversion of water resources, and imposition of Israeli nationality on Syrian citizens.  OIC member States were gravely concerned about the difficult situation faced by the Palestinian people and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.  Peace negotiations should resume while practical measures were taken and deadlines set to establish an independent sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to end the occupation of the Syrian Golan.

NAWAF ABU-SHIBA ( Kuwait) said his country was disturbed by the inhuman measures practised by the Israeli Government against the Palestinian people, as well as the demolition of buildings, harvests and private property.  Such acts isolated the Palestinian people, inhibited their free movement and made it difficult for international aid to reach people.  Other disturbing practices included deliberate assassinations and detentions.

He said the occupying forces continued to confiscate dwellings and demolish infrastructure, which affected the lives of 2.2 million people.  Those actions were exacerbated by the spread of illegal settlements throughout the occupied areas, built on top of 14,900 Palestinian houses.  Plans to settle 60,000 more Israeli people would divide the territory further and increase Israeli control over most of the surface water and watersheds.

The separation wall, which was currently 670 km in length, had been set up in cities like Bethlehem and others, despite the 9 July, 2004 advisory opinion condemning it as illegal, he said.  The deaths and injuries of thousands of Palestinians during the period from September 2000 to October 2005, and the fall in gross domestic product (GDP) by 20 per cent and per capita GDP by 37 per cent compared to the 1999 figures, had made it difficult for the region to achieve its development goals.  In the Syrian Golan, the taxes imposed on the population went beyond those imposed on Israeli people.  The increase in the poverty rate, the growing unemployment, as well as education and health problems must be halted, and Kuwait reaffirmed the international community’s efforts to bring aid to the region. 

JAVAD AGHAZADEH ( Iran) said the occupying Power had turned a blind eye to the relevant resolutions and ignored the call of the international community to end the occupation and recognize the sovereign rights of the Palestinian people, and others living in the occupied territories, over their natural resources.  According to the Secretary-General’s report, Israel continued to deepen the economic and social hardship of Palestinians, where high unemployment, greater dependency of Palestinians on food aid and losses from the physical destruction of their homes continued to rise.

Israel also continued to construct barriers, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on 9 July, 2004 deeming it illegal, he said.  The confiscation of land, seizure and destruction of water resources, environmental degradation, investment losses, sharp decline in commercial activities and negative impacts on social relations and family ties were among the consequences resulting from the barriers.  Education, health, agriculture and the environment had also suffered, as illustrated by the decrease in immunization coverage, poor waste-disposal infrastructure and damage to water networks caused by Israeli military activities.  Furthermore, villagers in the Syrian Golan had few health centres and clinics, Syrian farmers suffered from taxes and the population in general suffered from job insecurity and problems of access to water.  Such setbacks required adequate attention from the international community.

MAJDI RAMADAN ( Lebanon) said the Economic and Social Council had affirmed in several resolutions that Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan were illegitimate, constituting an obstacle to economic and social development.  Israel’s settlement policy envisaged the development of settlements in more than 41.9 per cent of the West Bank, linked by a network of roads cutting through Palestinian territory and depriving the Palestinians of vast areas of rich agrarian land.  In the Syrian Golan, most of the territory was earmarked for military use and settlements, leaving the Arab population with control over only 6 per cent of the land.

He said the wall that Israel was building inside the occupied Palestinian territory would annex around 16 per cent of Palestinian territory.  Construction of the wall was eroding and degrading fertile soil and denying access by Palestinian farmers to their land.  With its completion, the Palestinians would have lost most of their internal water resources.

BASHEER ZOUBI ( Jordan) said the Israeli occupation, illegal settlements and the separation wall, inflicted major setbacks on the people living there.  The World Bank estimated that Palestinian GDP had declined by 20 per cent between 1994 and 2004, while per capita GDP declined by 37 per cent over the same period.  The overall food consumption of Palestinian households had fallen by 25 to 30 per cent since September 2000, and approximately 38 per cent of the Palestinian population was food insecure, with 26 per cent at the risk of becoming so.

Owing to continuing closures and curfews, more than 226,000 children in 580 schools found it risky or impossible to attend school, and exam pass rates had declined by nearly 50 per cent between 2000 and 2004, he said.  In spite of high-level education attainments, women remained marginalized in the labour market.  Immunization coverage had declined in some areas of the occupied territories, and, due to food insecurity, anaemia affected 36 per cent of pregnant women, 43 per cent of nursing mothers and over 60 per cent of children below two years of age.  The destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure, combined with continuous power and water cuts, had resulted in contaminated drinking water and increased the number of diarrhoea cases and infections.

In addition, he said, Israeli settlements disposed of liquid, gas and solid wastes, causing pollution to the environment, agriculture and water, while the Israeli army had buried rubble in sand dune areas, which were a natural filtration for the Gaza aquifer.  Industrial waste was often discharged into Palestinian land without treatment, and raw sewage caused health problems and long-term contamination of the aquifers.  Jordan called upon Israel to cease all settlement activities in the occupied territories, end its construction of the separation wall, return seized properties and pay compensation for the damage incurred.

MOSHE SERMONETA ( Israel) said the report was the same one that had been discussed during the Economic and Social Council meeting less than four months ago.  It had not reflected reality when it was issued, or when it was discussed earlier this year, and did not reflect the real situation on the ground today.  Not only was the Committee discussing a political issue that was irrelevant to its agenda, but it was doing so through a repetitive and counter-productive exercise that contradicted any effort to rationalize or improve the General Assembly’s work.  Moreover, the report examined the impact of Israeli actions on Palestinian living conditions, without considering important factors pertaining to the Palestinians themselves.

He said the report was a one-sided, biased account composed by a United Nations body in Beirut that did not even acknowledge Israel’s existence in some of its publications, yet cited Israeli sources when those seemed to support its political agenda.  The report set the parameters for the statistics it used to suit its convenience and changed them just as conveniently when the same parameters would discredit its own arguments.  No effort had been made to corroborate those claims with other or more neutral sources.  In some cases, the data did not correspond with those provided by the World Bank, and sometimes even with those of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Citing the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report 2005, he noted that the Palestinian population received the second highest rate of assistance, or $288.6 per capita.  Further, the Palestinian Authority was ranked seventh out of 103 developing countries in the human poverty index, on a par with countries like Singapore and Cuba, and higher than most States in the Middle East.  The adult literacy rate in the Palestinian Authority was significantly higher than that in the rest of the Arab region, while the infant mortality rate was lower than that in countries such as Brazil, Iran, and Algeria.  Internet usage was higher than in many countries around the world.

He stressed that when it came to the every-day well-being of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority bore principle responsibility.  It was responsible for stopping corruption, restoring calm and ending the utter anarchy that had ruled the Palestinian streets.  The pattern of corruption and incompetent leadership, in addition to the wasteful spending of foreign aid and lack of transparency, inner quarrels, fragmentation and lack of internal stability, were major factors in the deteriorating living conditions of the Palestinians.  First and foremost, the Palestinian Authority must confront the terrorists within its midst, cracking down on the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an offshoot of Chairman Abbas’ own Fatah party, as well as Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

HAYDAR ALI AHMAD ( Syria) said Israel continued to violate the rights of the Palestinian people and those of residents of the Syrian Golan, who did not have access to large areas of their own land.  Also, Israel continued to violate international laws and norms by confiscating additional property belonging to Syrian citizens in order to expand Israeli settlements.  In addition, Israel used water taxes as a further way of impoverishing residents of the Golan, and decreasing the aquifer levels in Syrian villages by digging wells for the benefit of Israeli settlers.

He said Israel provided extensive subsidies to Israeli settlers and their farm products, leading the Syrian Government to purchase apples from Golan cultivators in an effort to help market those apples.  In obtaining those apples, Syria was supervised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations agencies.  The occupying authorities also planted mines across vast areas resulting in injuries to cultivators.

Furthermore, the presence of many checkpoints hindered the movement of Palestinian people on their way to work, study, seeking medical care or travelling for social purposes, which added to their humiliation, he said.  Barriers such as the racist separation wall added to the fragmentation of Palestinian land, despite the illegitimacy of the wall in the eyes of the International Court of Justice.  In 1981, the Israeli Knesset had expressed its desire to ignore and challenge international resolutions and law; the international community should intensify its efforts to compel Israel to put an end to such actions.

Rights of Reply

The representative of Israel speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said it was unfortunate that a tiny initiative that was meant to serve as a tiny confidence-building step had received a warped description in the statement of the previous speaker.  He also thanked Syria’s delegate for the lesson he had given in respect for human rights, tolerance for religions, and respect for Security Council resolutions.

The observer for Palestine said it was easy for Israel’s representative to use red-herring arguments in drawing attention away from international law and relevant United Nations resolutions under discussion.  The denial of sovereignty over natural resources, and the destruction and depletion of them, were the direct result of a clear policy by Israel, and it would require creative thinking and mental gymnastics to politically wriggle out of that.  The occupation had continued to result in major violations of human rights; the treatment of detainees in jails was well below accepted standards, military checkpoints violated social and economic rights, half the Palestinian population lived below the official poverty line, health and education in the occupied territories had suffered, and housing was a serious problem. 

The representative of Syria said Israel had failed to understand what he had said about Syrian farmers in the Golan and the suffering of the Arab population.  The report showed quite clearly that Israel had violated those farmers’ rights through economic and military steps that had prevented them from selling their produce.  How could the representative of an occupying force talk about United Nations resolutions generally when he represented a Government that was proud of violating international law and resolutions?

MS. TALLAWY, responding to the Israeli delegate’s concern that the ESCWA report might be biased because the Commission that had authored it was based in Beirut, said the five United Nations regional commissions were based in Santiago

Bangkok, Beirut and other places.  Regardless of their geographic location, they were directly linked to ECOSOC and were part and parcel of the United Nations system.  Furthermore, the ESCWA report was based on information from 13 or 14 United Nations agencies, as well as the World Bank, and comments seeking to discredit it essentially served to discredit those agencies as well.  ESCWA had no political agenda; rather, it had been instructed by the General Assembly to submit a report in accordance with its mandate.

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