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        General Assembly
27 October 2004

Official Records

General Assembly
Fifty-ninth session
43rd plenary meeting
Wednesday, 27 October 2004, 3 p.m.
New York

President:Mr. Ping ......................................................(Gabon)

The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.

In the absence of the President, Mr. Vohidov (Uzbekistan), Vice-President, took the Chair.

The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.


Agenda item 40 (continued)

Follow-up to the outcome of the special session on children

Report of the Secretary-General (A/59/274)


Mr. Mekdad (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic ): ...


At the international level, Syria has acceded to the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to ILO Convention No. 138 concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment. The employment age in Syria has been raised to 15 years. Syria has also acceded to ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. In that context, we would like to commend the work of UNICEF, its Executive Director Mrs. Carol Bellamy, the UNICEF Offices in the Middle East and the Damascus office for their efforts in the interests of children.

In spite of the achievements made in the area of children’s rights and care, my Government can not provide for all of the children of Syria, since thousands of Syrian children are still living, since 1967, under Israeli occupation in the Syrian Golan. Those children, just like their Palestinian brothers and sisters, suffer daily from the arbitrary actions of the occupation authorities, such as the closing and destruction of educational institutions. There are also many instances where Arab textbooks and curricula have been prohibited and Israeli curricula have been imposed, in an attempt to erase the national identity of younger generations.

We hope Mr. Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, will follow the situation of those children so as to familiarize the international community with their tragedy and to compel Israel to respect their rights, especially their right to life.

Acting in the best interest of children and keeping up with the challenges that this involves, in order to arrive at appropriate solutions to the problems of children without selectivity or double standards, is an endless task. We would like to affirm that the United Nations and its specialized agencies are quite capable of coordinating our efforts and mobilizing our potential to secure a better tomorrow for posterity and for humanity in its entirety.


The President (spoke in French ): We have heard the last speaker in the general debate for this meeting. I call on the representative of Israel, who wishes to speak in exercise of the right of reply. May I remind members that, in accordance with General Assembly decision 34/401, statements in exercise of the right of reply are limited to 10 minutes for the first intervention and five for the second and should be made by delegations from their seats.

Mr. Shacham (Israel): It is regrettable that I am forced to reply to the statement made by the Syrian representative, who has unfortunately exploited today’s debate on this vital global issue in order to advance a narrow and partisan political agenda. It is puzzling that the Syrian delegate chose to attack what he called Israeli occupation just one day after the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, voted to approve the disengagement plan, according to which the Israeli military and civilian presence will be removed from Gaza and the northern West Bank in the coming year. Before the vote on that issue, Prime Minister Sharon stated,

The same cannot, however, be said for Syria — a dictatorship that continues to occupy a neighbouring State, an occupation with no end in sight. Just last week, the Security Council “noted with concern” in a presidential statement that the requirements of resolution 1559 (2004), such as the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon and the disarming of armed groups there, have not been met. In reporting on Syrian non-compliance in his report, S/2004/777, the Secretary-General made clear that, “to the best of our ability to ascertain, the only significant foreign forces deployed in Lebanon, as of 30 September 2004, are Syrian” and that, “The most significant remaining armed group is Hezbollah”.

The continued murderous presence of the Hezbollah in Lebanon, under the watchful eye of the Syrian occupation, is not a mere coincidence. Syria is known for sponsoring, financing and harbouring terrorism — in violation of the most basic norms of international law. It allows Hezbollah to operate in Syrian-occupied Lebanon and allows Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups to maintain their headquarters in its capital, Damascus.

Let us not forget that scores of Israeli children and youth have been killed by such terrorists in buses, restaurants, private parties, and even during religious celebrations, while hundreds more have been permanently injured and disabled. In each instance, they were the tragic, innocent victims of brutal, indiscriminate terrorism. The Syrian speaker has voiced his sympathy with the plight of the Palestinian children. Perhaps the Syrian delegate can explain to me why the hundreds of Israeli children killed or maimed in brutal terrorist attacks deserved less sympathy and attention? Why did the suffering of those victims and their families in trying to cope with loss and tragedy deserve no mention? Perhaps the cause of the silence lies in the fact that Syria has a direct stake in that wanton murder.

Take, for example, Tomer Almog, aged nine, who was killed along with his grandparents, his father and his cousin in the Islamic Jihad suicide attack on the Maxim restaurant in Haifa on 4 October of last year. He was butchered together with 16 other civilians, including four children. That attack was planned and orchestrated from Islamic Jihad headquarters in Damascus. Aviel Atash, aged three, was another victim of Syrian-sponsored terrorism. He was one of 19 civilians killed in a double suicide bus bombing in Bersheba on 31 August of this year. He was returning home with his mother from a trip to the mall to buy supplies for his first day of nursery school, which was to start the next morning. Sixteen other children were gravely wounded. That gruesome massacre was carried out by the Hebron branch of the Hamas, which receives its instructions directly from the Hamas command in Damascus.

Millions of Arab and Israeli children are growing up in a reality of conflict, hate, violence, incitement and bloodshed. Those children will design the nature of our coexistence in the next generation. The death of any child — Arab or Israeli — is a terrible tragedy. Our first goal is to ensure that children in our region will grow up in a safe and nurturing environment. In order to achieve that, terrorism must stop and those supporting terrorism, like Syria, must be brought to account and must be granted no immunity from the consequences of their actions.

Mr. Atieh (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic) : I am sorry for taking the floor at this late hour, but I would like to reply to the statement made by the representative of Israel in his attempt to pull the wool over our eyes and once again blot out facts before this Assembly. Today, we are discussing the question of children in armed conflict. It is our belief that occupation is the highest form of armed conflict. I have not heard or read in the reports from the occupied Arab territories — be it in the UNRWA report or the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, which includes the occupied Syrian Golan — that Israeli occupation forces bring welfare and prosperity to children under Israeli occupation. On the contrary, those forces violate the children’s rights, oppress them and deprive them of their most fundamental rights to life. In his briefing last Friday before the Security Council, Under-Secretary-General Prendergast stated that the Israeli occupation forces, during the past three years, had killed 3,800 Palestinian civilians, including 400 children. The most recent instance of that was the killing of two Palestinian children in their classroom. That is in addition to the ac ts of murder committed against Palestinian students at schools operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). If the representative of Israel intends to draw the attention of the delegations away from the truth of the terrorist practices of his Government, we would like to draw attention to the fact that Israel practices State terrorism in the fullest sense of the word. Israeli forces kill people and destroy houses with their inhabitants still inside, in violation of all norms of international law.

The representative of Israel also spoke of compliance with internationally binding resolutions. He is certainly the last person entitled to speak about compliance, given that the Security Council has adopted dozens of resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories and to work towards a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region. There are also hundreds of General Assembly resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from those territories.

The representative of Israel stated that the Council recently adopted a resolution on Lebanon, and he claimed that Syria was present in Lebanon as an occupation force. The entire international community knows that Syria has a presence in Lebanon under a bilateral agreement between the two countries to stabilize the situation in Lebanon — a situation created by Israel, one way or another.

I do not wish to speak at length, but I do not want anyone to be deceived by these Israeli allegations. The representative of Israel is attempting to divert attention from his country’s heinous practices in the occupied Palestinian territories and in the occupied Syrian Golan.

Our statement this afternoon deals only with the tip of the iceberg. We appeal to the international community and to the representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Olara Otunnu, to continue their efforts to expose such Israeli practices by drawing attention to the situation of children under Israeli occupation and to compel Israel to respect their rights, especially their right to life.
Mr. Shacham (Israel): It is regrettable that I am forced once again to reply to the statement made by the Syrian representative. Unfortunately, if we must talk about the situation of Palestinian children, let me say that, since the outbreak of the Palestinian terrorist intifada in September 2000, Israel has found itself facing a particularly difficult situation in which terrorist organizations, many of which are acting on instructions received from headquarters sheltered in Damascus, have made increasing use of children and minors in acts of violence against Israelis.

A growing number of children have been directly involved in carrying out such attacks. The average age of suicide terrorists is becoming ever lower. Palestinian children have also participated in violent incidents by serving as human shields for terrorists standing directly behind them.

We must ask, when a Palestinian child is, unfortunately, wounded or even — God forbid — killed, what We must ask, when a Palestinian child is, unfortunately, wounded or even — God forbid — killed, what that child was doing in such close proximity to terrorists. The cynical use of children as pawns in the conflict begins in the educational system. Palestinian textbooks, many of which have been recently published by the Palestinian Authority itself, openly teach hatred of Israel and Israelis. Materials published and broadcast in the official media reinforce these lessons, and much of such incitement is aimed at children. Such programmes are produced not only by the Palestinian Authority; recently, a series of programmes — now being screened, during the month of Ramadan — was produced by Syrian television.

Such programmes encourage Palestinian children to hate Israelis and to take part in the violence. Children are urged by television advertisements to “drop your toys and take up arms”. While Palestinian educational television programming glorifies martyrdom in the struggle against Israel, the latest children’s video, played at least 10 times last week on Palestinian television, has the following chorus:

Such exploitation and manipulation of children — sometimes as young as 7 or 8 years old — is a blatant violation of the basic principles of international law and of the basic rights of children. This phenomenon should be of great concern to the international community.

Mr. Atieh (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic ): I regret to have to take the floor once again, but I should like to make two points.

First, the representative of Israel referred to the presence of Palestinian headquarters in Damascus. Those Palestinians present in Syria are refugees, expelled by Israel from their homeland by force, who have found shelter in neighbouring States. Syria and other Arab States have received them and provided them with the means to make a living. They perform only information-related activities and are engaged in no other activities whatsoever. The representative of Israel is attempting once again to sell his allegations to the international community.

Secondly, regarding education, Syrian curricula call for tolerance and coexistence among all peoples and religions and in no way incite anyone to violence. Israel is the one that incites such violence by practising it and by committing murder. These Israeli allegations will fool no one.

I will not speak at further length at this late hour.


The meeting rose at 6.10 p.m.

This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.

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