Question of Palestine home
1 December 2000
Summary record of the 28th meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Thursday, 16 November 2000, at 3 p.m.
Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative
and Budgetary Questions:
Agenda item 116: Review of the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations (
Agenda item 123: Human resources management (
Agenda item 124: United Nations common system (
Agenda item 125: United Nations pension system (
Agenda item 138: Financing of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Middle East (
(b) United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (
In the absence of Mr. Rosenthal (Guatemala), Ms. Diniæ (Croatia), Vice-Chairman, took the Chair
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
Agenda item 138: Financing of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Middle East
(b) United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
(Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), speaking on behalf of the Arab group, expressed concern that, despite the fact that the Secretariat had addressed four letters to the Permanent Representative of Israel on the subject, Israel had taken no action to comply with the resolutions of the General Assembly requiring it to pay the full costs resulting from the incident at Qana on 18 April 1996. The failure of Israel to pay the costs of its criminal aggression against the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) meant that the sum outstanding had been recorded as a debt against UNIFIL which reflected adversely on the financial status of the Force.
25. The Israeli aggression at Qana had resulted in the death of 102 Lebanese civilians, most of them women, elderly men and children, who thought that they had found a safe haven inside the headquarters of UNIFIL. Major-General van Kappen, who had been requested by the Secretary-General to report to him on the incident had clearly indicated in his report (
) that the shelling of the UNIFIL headquarters had been deliberate. Israel was clearly responsible for the deliberate violation of the sanctity of the United Nations headquarters and for the killing of innocent civilians and it should pay compensation and comply with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly. Such compliance was essential in order to give credibility to the resolutions of the General Assembly and to avoid setting a precedent that could increase the danger faced by peacekeeping forces under United Nations auspices and would place an unjustified financial burden on Member States.
26. The Arab Group called on the international community represented in the Committee to adopt a resolution, as it had done in each of the preceding four years, confirming Israel’s liability to defray the financial consequences of its deliberate aggression at Qana. The Group also requested the Secretary-General to take additional strong measures to oblige Israel to accept responsibility for its actions.
27. In the light of the particular importance it attached to the matter, the Arab Group wished to emphasize, once more, the importance of including the details of the costs of the Qana incident in the forthcoming summary report of the Secretary-General. The Group also requested ACABQ, in its forthcoming report, to explain the status of that sum within the UNIFIL account.
28. In conclusion, the Arab Group wished to express its thanks and appreciation to UNIFIL for the positive role it had played despite the difficulties it had faced and the sacrifices it had been called upon to make.
29. Speaking as the representative of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, he said that the cost of financing UNIFIL should be borne in full by the Israeli aggressors. It was unjust for the States Members of the United Nations to have to bear financial burdens as a result of acts of aggression. The Israeli Government had been committing, and was continuing to commit, massacres of civilians, destroying their homes, confiscating their property and engaging in mass killings in order to terrorize civilians and force them to flee from their own country. Many examples could be cited to prove that point: the Deir Yassin carnage of 1948, the Kafr Qasim massacre and those at Sabra and Shatila, as well as the Qana massacre in south Lebanon, which was probably the worst of all and in which many innocent civilians, including women and children, had died. The Israelis had challenged the international community, represented by the United Nations, by its barbaric and premeditated bombardment of the United Nations headquarters at Qana. The United Nations had not been spared by its international status, by the Charter of the United Nations to which all Member States had committed themselves, or even by the fact that it was the United Nations itself that had created the Zionist entity. The Lebanese civilians had taken refuge in the United Nations compound at Qana, believing that they had found a safe haven from the barbaric Israeli attacks. The majority of those innocent civilians who had taken refuge had been killed. The Israeli leadership had no respect for the international community or for international obligations, including resolutions of the United Nations, many of which had condemned Israeli acts of aggression. The leaders of Israel were war criminals just as much as those for whom the international tribunals had been established. The Israeli Government, however, enjoyed the protection of the most powerful country in the world, which provided it with lethal weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, and enjoyed immunity at the United Nations through the arbitrary use of the power of veto. For that reason resolution 54/267, which called on Israel to pay reparations for the damage caused by its premeditated bombardment of the United Nations headquarters at Qana, had not been enforced but had remained a dead letter.
30. His delegation wished the United Nations to take stern measures against the Israeli Government to force it to pay damages in accordance with the resolution. It was ironic that the Israeli Government should seek reparations for crimes committed against the Jews by the Nazis, while at the same time it refused to pay damages endorsed by the United Nations for crimes it had committed at Qana in full view of the whole world.
(Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, supported the statement just made by the representative of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and called for the implementation of
General Assembly resolution 53/227
without further delay.
(Israel) professed shock and amazement at the uncivilized words used by the representative of the Group of Arab States against Israel. It was regrettable that the deliberations of the Fifth Committee, a body that was concerned with administrative and budgetary questions, should be used for attacks against other Member States and for political statements that were extraneous to the Committee’s agenda. Since certain questions had been raised, however, he wished to apprise the Committee of the true situation.
33. Israel had already withdrawn its forces from south Lebanon as it had been called upon to do by the Security Council in
resolution 425 (1978)
. The withdrawal had been confirmed by both the Secretary-General, in his report on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and
), and the Security Council, in the statement by the President of the Security Council (
). For its part, however, the Government of Lebanon had taken no steps to prevent, restrain or discourage attacks against Israel from being carried out from its territory and had refused to disarm the military groups, including Hizbullah, that were launching attacks against Israel. Indeed, the Prime Minister of Lebanon had welcomed the announcement by Hizbullah that the group had kidnapped an Israeli businessman, who was being held in Lebanon. That kidnapping had followed the earlier abduction of three Israeli soldiers, who were also being held hostage in Lebanon. The conduct of the Lebanese Government violated the provisions of Security Council resolution 425 (1978), which had called for the restoration of international peace and security and the return of effective Lebanese authority to the area. Israel called upon the Government of Lebanon to fulfil its remaining obligations under Security Council resolution 425 (1978); it would hold Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic responsible for criminal acts committed against it. It would do its utmost, however, to bring peace to the Middle East, including Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, and would respond in like manner if the other parties chose to take the path of peace.
(Lebanon) reminded the representative of Israel that, in his report on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon contained in document
, the Secretary-General had stated that Israel’s refusal to withdraw from Lebanon impeded UNIFIL from fulfilling its mission. Israel’s recent withdrawal had been due to the courageous resistance of Lebanon.
35. In his interim report on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (
, para. 20), the Secretary-General noted that the report was being written at a time of high tension in Arab-Israeli relations and continuing confrontations in the occupied Palestinian territories and stated that, under the circumstances, he deemed it prudent not to submit suggestions for the reconfiguration of the United Nations presence in south Lebanon, as requested in paragraph 12 of
Security Council resolution 1310 (2000)
. Lebanon considered that Israel’s terrorist policy of occupation of Arab territories in defiance of United Nations resolutions was the main reason for the destabilization of the region. It was ironic and rude that the representative of Israel should be trying to tell Lebanon how to implement the Council’s resolutions when Israel’s courts allowed civilians to be taken hostage and to be deprived of a fair trial. The Israeli Government had even taken children as hostages and had ordered the bombing of Lebanese infrastructure. The United Nations was not the Supreme Court of Israel applying the decisions of the Israeli Knesset. The Charter of the United Nations called for respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all peoples.
36. Israel’s attack on the headquarters of UNIFIL at Qana had had no justification whatsoever and that State’s refusal to accept its responsibility and pay reparations would create a precedent that would further endanger the lives of UNIFIL personnel and add to the financial burden on Member States.
(Syrian Arab Republic) associated his delegation with the statement made by the representative of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya on behalf of the Arab Group and on behalf of his own country, and agreed with the statement made by the representative of Nigeria on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
38. The request being discussed by the Committee was for the payment by Israel of its financial obligations resulting from the deliberate attack on the United Nations headquarters at Qana in April 1996. There was no doubt that to ignore that request would constitute a grave precedent for the future of United Nations peacekeeping operations and would, in fact, amount to acceptance of a deliberate act of aggression against peacekeepers working for the United Nations, thereby endangering all such operations in the future. The fact that the attack on the United Nations headquarters was premeditated and deliberate required the international community to send a very clear and unequivocal message that it held the aggressor responsible for that crime.
39. His delegation was astonished at the statement that had been made by the representative of the occupying Power, who had tried to present Israel as an advocate of peace. Television programmes daily depicted the consequences of aggressive acts by Israel involving the killing of children and the elderly, the destruction of homes and the use of a wide range of military hardware, including missiles and aircraft, leaving no doubt as to the barbaric nature of the forces of occupation in the occupied Palestinian territories. The claim by the representative of Israel was particularly surprising in view of the threats that were regularly made by the leaders of his country against the Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon and Palestine, threats which were totally incompatible with his claim that his country sought peace.
40. Peace could only be attained through compliance with United Nations resolutions which called upon all parties to respect international legitimacy. That included the demand that Israel should withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967, which was a prerequisite for any progress in the efforts to establish peace.
41. It was very clear, however, that Israel’s claim to be seeking peace was totally unfounded. The time had come for the Government of Israel to commit itself to the resolutions of the United Nations, including the demand that it should pay damages arising from its bombardment of the United Nations headquarters at Qana.
(Iraq) said that it was just and equitable that the perpetrator of an illicit act should accept the obligation to pay compensation and that the damages should not be assumed by any other party. The damage had been committed by Israel and the victim was not only Lebanon but also the United Nations; it was therefore unacceptable that the United Nations, and therefore the Member States, should be expected to assume the burden. Accordingly, his delegation called on the international community to take the necessary measures to give effect to international law and to ensure that the relevant United Nations resolutions were implemented.
(Israel) said that the cynical allegations just made by a number of delegations representing dark, totalitarian regimes did not merit a response, but a number of facts needed to be clarified.
44. The unfortunate incident at Qana in April 1996 occurred after the Hizbullah terrorist organization had set up its ammunition base at a distance of 300 metres from the United Nations complex. That had been done deliberately in order to draw fire towards Lebanese civilians living in the United Nations complex, and entailed the possibility of damage to UNIFIL property. Israel had officially warned the United Nations of that dangerous situation but Hizbullah had held its position and had fired dozens of Katyusha rockets at towns and villages in northern Israel. His country, like any other sovereign State throughout the world, could not and would not tolerate such acts of aggression. After three consecutive days of bombardment by Hizbullah from the base alongside the Qana complex, and after numerous warnings from Israel, the Israeli Defence Forces had been forced to put a stop to the aggression by attacking the Hizbullah base.
45. The tragic loss of life had resulted accidentally from the crossfire. His country deeply regretted that, but pointed out that the incident had been started by Hizbullah, which bore full responsibility for the consequences. It should be recalled, in that connection, that United Nations peacekeeping operations had incurred damages in the past where they had been deployed as a result of armed conflict between States or parties. The resulting risk was one that the Member States collectively took upon themselves. The decision to place the burden of the cost of the damage resulting from the Qana incident on his country alone was an unprecedented, politically motivated initiative of a kind that had never been directed against any other Member State involved in a conflict in which peacekeeping forces had been deployed.
(United States of America) said that, in the view of his delegation, the issues currently being discussed were not directly related to the agenda item before the Committee, which had a mandate to consider administrative and budgetary matters. Those issues would be more appropriately discussed in other forums.
(Lebanon) disagreed with the representative of the United States. The discussion fell squarely within the purview of the Committee because it could not finance aggression perpetrated against the United Nations headquarters compound or against children who sought refuge under the United Nations flag.
48. The representative of Israel had claimed that the aggression against the United Nations headquarters at Qana had been accidental and that the claim that it was premeditated was no more than an allegation. In that connection, he pointed out that the person who had been requested by the Secretary-General to carry out an inquiry had indicated in his report that the action was premeditated. He reminded the representative of Israel that UNIFIL had been given the responsibility of protecting civilians against Israeli occupation, and not the other way around. The acts of terrorism were those perpetrated by the occupying forces. Not only was the callous and barbaric slaughter of civilians at Qana clearly deliberate, but there was an overwhelming body of evidence that showed that not only had Israeli jets dropped bombs on civilian houses, killing the occupants, but also that Israeli gunboats had subsequently fired on civilian cars and ambulances carrying victims of Israel’s attack at Qana. The claim that such actions were accidental was clearly refuted by the evidence.
(Syrian Arab Republic) referred to the arrogance on the part of the representative of the occupying Power, who had referred to totalitarian regimes and had also claimed that Israel was an island of democracy in the region. In fact, it was a regime that produced war criminals, killing the young and the old alike and perpetrating State terrorism. Referring to what the representative of Israel had said about the supposed aggression by Hizbullah, he pointed out that the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from south Lebanon had been forced on Israel by the so-called Hizbullah terrorists.
(Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) said that the statement made by the representative of the Israeli Zionist entity had included distortions of the truth intended to deceive the international community, which had repeatedly condemned Israeli practices in Palestine, south Lebanon and the Golan. Everybody was aware of the identity of the Zionist entity and its supporters and knew who had perpetrated the atrocities at Deir Yassin and at Sabra and Shatila, and who had destroyed the United Nations headquarters at Qana, killing many innocent Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge inside the United Nations compound thinking that, for once, the Zionist entity would respect the United Nations. In fact, it never had and never would respect the United Nations, which was applying a double standard in turning a blind eye to Israeli atrocities. Israel had always built its strength on the bodies of Arab victims and had never been interested in peace. It was ironic that the representative of Israel could speak of the kidnapping of four Israeli soldiers, ignoring at the same time the hundreds of Arab, Palestinian and Lebanese soldiers who had been kidnapped and taken hostage, to say nothing of the admission by the Israeli Government that it had buried Egyptian and Sudanese soldiers alive in 1967. The United Nations was now undertaking the trials of war criminals, but unfortunately the Security Council was doing nothing to bring Israeli war criminals to justice.
(Mexico) asked why the revised budget for UNIFIL for the period from 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2001 did not include the amounts for the support account for peacekeeping operations and for the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi.
(Director of the Peacekeeping Financing Division), replying to the question, said that paragraph 7 of the report of the Secretary-General on the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (A/55/482), which referred to the amounts that had been excluded from the revised budget, was intended to be read in conjunction with paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 of the same document. The reason for the exclusion would then become clear.
The meeting rose at 5 p.m.