Assembly Work Programme
The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its consideration of “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the special session of the General Assembly in this regard: report of the Secretary-General” (document A/55/344).
AHMAD AL-HARIRI (Syria) ...
The Israeli foreign occupation was a great impediment to the social integration and development of Syria. Half a million people were displaced as a result of the occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights. The negative social and economic effects of the occupation must not be underestimated. He urged the Assembly to pressure Israel to accept the relevant United Nations resolutions. Only a total withdrawal could ensure peace and security and provide an enabling environment for sustainable development.
SOMAIA S. BARGHOUTI, Observer for Palestine, said the World Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1995 had taken up key issues, particularly the eradication of poverty, unemployment, as well as the promotion of women’s rights. However, developments following Copenhagen showed that the situation in the world community had not improved as expected. In fact, most problems had become worse: poverty had quintupled; unemployment had risen; and foreign occupation, religious strife, and marginalization were seen in many areas of the world.
Her country, occupied Palestine, had been undergoing grave social suffering since 28 September when Israel had begun using deadly weapons against the Palestinian people, she said. The Israeli aggression had led to the deaths of 140 martyrs as well as thousands of injured Palestinians. Israel had decided to wage bloody war because the Palestinian people would not accept occupation and colonial rule, the desecration of religious houses of worship, and the attempt to judaize their religion.
Palestine, she continued, faced a tragic existence because its economic growth was weak, there was no investment in its economy, and because there was too much dependence on the Israeli economy. The Israeli efforts to build a colonial settlement were in violation of various United Nations resolutions. Until the Palestinian National Authority could establish its own independent State, the United Nations must support implementation of its resolutions. She urged more assistance for Palestine in its just struggle. The United Nations must show increased support for the Palestinian people, she concluded.
Rights of Reply
Mr. SHACHAM (Israel), speaking in right of reply, said he regretted that the debate on an issue of such importance as social development had been used as a platform to level accusations at others. The Palestinian speaker had chosen to politicize the issue, which only served as a distraction from everyone’s developmental goals. Social development entailed the moral obligation to protect the weakest in society.
For years, he said, Palestinian children had been told that Jews were demonic, had been taught to praise the death of the martyr and had been sent to camps where they were taught how to shoot rifles and attack soldiers. This meant that they had been deprived of education. Even worse, Palestinian gunmen would use children as cover and then accuse the Israelis of brutality when they got caught in the crossfire.
He regretted the suffering of the Palestinian people, he said. However, the Palestinian leadership had chosen violence instead of negotiation. The peace process had already had tangible economic benefits for the Palestinians when the situation had been one of peace and calm. In 1998 the gross domestic product (GDP) had increased by 8 per cent and more than 10,000 Palestinians had worked in Israel in a variety of sectors. Unfortunately, Palestinian violence had undone much of the economic gains. Perhaps this time the Palestinians would learn that violence did not pay. Had the Palestinians been willing to compromise at Camp David, things would be different. Seeing as there was no will for peace, they could hardly blame Israel for their economic predicament.
Ms. BARGHOUTI, Observer for Palestine, in right of reply, said that the Israeli delegation wanted to convince the Assembly that there was a benign occupation in Palestine. There was no such benign occupation. Occupation was a devastating factor both economically and socially. In response to the Israeli delegate’s remark about Palestinian children, she said that it was a fact that all the occupied territories were under siege, and Israeli policies and practices were the main factor preventing Palestinian children from going to school. With regard to the peace process, it was common knowledge that it was the Government of Israel that had stopped the negotiations. Her delegation was committed to peace and would use all its efforts to strive for a successful peace process.
Also in right of reply, Mr. AL-HARIRI (Syria) said that foreign occupation was one of the foremost obstacles to development. The Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights had deprived many of their homes and livelihoods. As for the other statements the Israeli representative had made, all could witness Israel’s actions on the television screen. Israel’s arrogance did not stop and it refused to accept the rule of international law. Commitment to United Nations resolutions was a sine qua non for anyone wishing to sit in this forum.
Mr. SHACHAM (Israel) said it seemed that the natural logic of cause and effect continued to elude the Palestinian speaker. Many speakers had pointed out that conflict had a negative impact on social development. The Palestinian decision to resort to violence would clearly not lead to development. He reminded the Palestinian speaker of the proverb “He who lives in a glass house should perhaps not throw stones.”
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