Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

Fifty-eighth General Assembly
Second Committee
29th & 30th Meetings (AM & PM)
7 November 2003

Delegates Also Take up Permanent Sovereignty
Of Palestinians, Syrians over Natural Resources in Occupied Territories



The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to conclude its discussion of least developed countries (LDCs).  It was then expected to take up the Report of the Economic and Social Council.


Introduction of Report

SULAFA AL-BASSAM, Chief of the New York Office of the Economic Commission for Western Asia, introduced a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (document A/58/75-E/2003/21) 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.

She said that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory continued to aggravate the living conditions of Palestinians, and that the Israeli army persistently used excessive force, including arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, demolition of houses and the destruction of infrastructure and crops.  Moreover, Israel continued to impose severe mobility restrictions and closure policies that further oppressed the Palestinian people.  Quoting the August 2002 statement by the Secretary-General’s Personal Humanitarian Envoy, she said the crisis would continue to worsen unless political decisions were taken to lift the closures, curfews and other restrictions on the civilian population.

According to the report, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory continues to seriously hamper all aspects of Palestinian life, and is a principle cause of conflict between the two peoples.  The Israeli army continues its attacks, killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as the confiscation and bulldozing of productive Palestinian agricultural lands.

All told, the Israeli army has displaced 70,000 Palestinians and destroyed well over 1,275 Palestinian homes from late 2000 to 2002, private assets worth $233 million, Palestinian Authority assets worth $82 million and non-governmental and social service assets worth $56 million.  Moreover, the army has destroyed Palestinian water and electricity generation facilities, waste disposal stations and road networks, and confiscated equipment and machinery, generating $360 million in losses in April 2002.  As a result of the occupation, the Palestinian economy continues to accumulate losses equal to half of its annual gross domestic product.  Unemployment has risen threefold, and more than two thirds of the Palestinian population now live in poverty.  Palestinian children are increasingly exposed to violence and malnutrition, while medical services, public health, as well as educational services and performance, have fallen to sub-standard levels.

Similarly, the report says primary and secondary-level schooling, higher education and medical services are insufficient for the Arab population in the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.  Israel has expanded its 37 settlements and brought in more settlers during the June 2002 to May 2003 review period.  The occupation means heavy taxes, fixed low prices imposed on mainstay agricultural products, restricted access to water and unemployment opportunities, as compared with the settlers, and arbitrary arrests and detentions.  Israeli authorities have depleted the Golan environment by uprooting trees, burning forests and dumping untreated chemical waste from factories in the Israeli settlements.


MOHAMED ELFARNAWANY (Egypt) said Israelis remained unconvinced that the Middle East conflict could only be resolved by peace and the establishment of a Palestinian State.  Instead, the Palestinian economy was enduring terrific economic losses, high unemployment, poverty, and deteriorating levels of education and health.  The Israeli occupation was a violation of Palestinian territorial integrity and an exploitation of its natural resources.  Israel had now begun to build a wall, which would lead to even worse consequences for the Palestinian people.

Questioning how the international community could close its eyes to Israel’s continued aggression, he emphasized that Palestine must overcome poverty and attain prosperity for its people.  Israel’s aggression was a continued violation of Palestinian, as well as Syrian Golan economic and political rights.  It was time for the international community to show its respect for the rights of the Palestinian and Syrian people, and for the Israeli Government to end its occupation.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, Observer for Palestine, said the report before the Committee was an important review of the dire situation of the Palestinian people, on all levels.  The realization, by the Palestinians of their inalienable rights, including their right to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources, was the cornerstone for the creation of an independent Palestine and a fundamental prerequisite of the Palestinian economy and society, as a whole.  The Secretary-General’s report reflected the Palestinians’ worsening economic and social situation and the seriously detrimental effects of Israel’s occupation. 

The United Nations must continue to monitor the economic and social situation closely, to effectively end illegal Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, she emphasized.  Israel must respect its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law.  Serious attention must be paid to that issue and the international community must take urgent measures to halt Israel’s destruction of natural resources in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, as well as the Palestinian economy.  The Palestinian people had the right to live free from Israeli occupation, subjugation and destruction, and with permanent sovereignty over their natural resources and their own independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital. 

AHMED AL-HADDAD (Yemen) said that Palestinian suffering had reached an unimaginable level, due to the Israeli occupation.  The practices of the Israeli army totally ignored United Nations resolutions, which had reiterated time and time again the inalienable rights of the Palestinians.  Israeli occupation had continued to affect the lives of women, children, and youth, while Israeli settlements hampered economic and social development, as well as community growth.  Israel continued to expand its settlements and build new ones in violation of international law.  The settlements divided Palestinian land into separate territories, fragmenting the population.  Some 66 per cent of Palestinians lived below the poverty line, mostly in the Gaza Strip.

MOHAMMED AL-MEHAIRBI (United Arab Emirates) said the expansion of Israeli settlements and the destruction of natural resources and infrastructure in Palestinian and Syrian Golan territory in the last two years had devastated the lives of Palestinians and Syrians in those areas.  In the last three years, Israel had destroyed more than 2,000 homes, tens of thousand of hectares of agricultural land, almost half a million olive and fruit trees, water wells and agricultural facilities, to make way for illegal settlements and bypasses.  That had displaced thousands of Arabs, left thousands unemployed, and severely weakened the region’s environment, biodiversity and ecology.  As a result of closure policies and mobility restrictions, the Palestinian economy had contracted by 50 per cent; unemployment had risen to 50 per cent and poverty to 66.5 per cent. 

It was time to end the tragedies of the Palestinians and Arabs in the occupied territories, he said.  The United Arab Emirates called on the international community to compel Israel to cease hostilities immediately, withdraw from all territories occupied since 1967, end construction of its separation wall, end the exploitation of natural and economic resources, and apply the principle of land for peace, as indicated in the Middle East Road Map, which provided for the creation of the State of Palestine by 2005. 

ABDUL RAHMAN HASAN YUSUF HASHEM (Bahrain) said the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land had led to grave consequences, affecting all walks of life.  Many United Nations resolutions had condemned Israeli settlements as illegal, with their restrictions on economic and community growth in Palestine.  Israeli settlements also adversely affected the Palestinian economy, leading to high unemployment, low prices for agricultural produce, and the absence of health and social security.  Israel had persisted in constructing a racist separation wall, isolating 27 cities and towns with more than 95,000 citizens from the West Bank, which would threaten water resources and destroy arable land. 

SHAHID HUSAIN, Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the Secretary-General’s report described a grim scenario in the occupied Palestinian territory, where unemployment continued to rise and per capita gross domestic product continued its progressive decline, down 24 per cent in 2002.  The report also underscored the occupation’s damaging effect on Palestinian women; restrictions imposed on Palestinian men had left them to shoulder extra responsibilities while their socio-economic conditions worsened.  Regarding Israeli incursions, he said 10,000 Palestinians had been arrested, of which 4,000 remained in detention, including 38 women and 280 children.  Israel’s construction of a separation wall was devouring Palestinian territory and creating unjust realities, with respect to the borders of the Palestine State.  That further hindered any confidence-building measures in pursuit of the Road Map.  The wall was unacceptable and its construction should end, he added. 

SUMAIRA MALIK (Pakistan) said the illegal occupation of Palestine had not only hampered economic growth, but had also had a deep psychological impact on the social lives of the Palestinian people.  During two years, the Israeli occupation forces had killed 2,520 Palestinians, forcibly evicted 70,000 from their homes and demolished 1,275 homes.  The deterioration in the security situation had led to an increasing sense of hopelessness.  Continued growth in settlements and confiscation of land and properties had led to the confiscation of more than
70 per cent of the West Bank and one third of the Gaza Strip.  Settlements continued to pose a serious threat to the environment, water and natural resources.

The occupation and increasing violence had also had a devastating impact on Palestinian health and education, she said.  The lack of economic activity had resulted in a deterioration in living conditions, with almost 67 per cent of the Palestinian people living below the poverty line and a majority of the workforce unemployed.  The population in the Occupied Syrian Golan was facing similar conditions.

She said there could be no lasting peace in the Middle East without the attainment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including a return of all occupied territories to the control of the Palestinian Authority and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with holy Jerusalem, as its capital.  It was hoped that the faithful implementation of the Road Map and resumption of dialogue between the two parties would lay the foundations for a permanent peace.  A lasting settlement of the Middle East question must, by definition, also include the restoration of the Syrian Golan.


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For information media - not an official record