Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service ·
Fifty-first General Assembly
21st Meeting (PM)
25 November 1996
ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS, VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ENDANGER
PEACE PROCESS AND MUST END, FOURTH COMMITTEE IS TOLD
Israel Says Report Ignores Palestinian Attacks Which Killed
Many and Horrified World; Debate on UNRWA Operations Concludes
The systematic violation of human rights in the Israeli occupied territories had endangered the peace process and stability of the Middle East, speakers told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon, as it began consideration of the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices.
Introducing the report, covering the period from 18 August 1995 to 20 September 1996, the Special Committee Chairman said it documented practices that reflected "a culture of sadism". The observer for Palestine said Israel must "end its manoeuvres aimed at destroying the agreements reached, and comply with its contractual obligations under those agreements". She said there obviously could not be a peace process and Israeli settlements at the same time.
The representative of Israel said Israelis and Palestinians had assumed responsibility to bring an end to conflict through dialogue and face-to-face negotiations. The report of the Special Committee represented the "needless involvement of outside actors". The report did not even mention Israeli citizens murdered during its reporting period by Palestinian suicide bombers -- actions which had taken the lives of 56 Israeli citizens. "The world was horrified, and this Committee disappeared", she said. Despite those events, her country continued to be committed to achieving peace in the region.
The representatives of Syria, Japan, Bangladesh, Sudan, Libya, Brunei Darussalam and Tunisia also spoke during the Committee's consideration of Israeli practices.
Also this afternoon, the Committee concluded debate on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with statements from the representatives of Qatar, Lebanon, Indonesia, Australia, Bahrain, Malta and Papua New Guinea. The UNRWA Commissioner-General also spoke.
The Committee will meet again at 10:00 a.m., on Wednesday, 27 November, to continue consideration of Israeli practices and other matters.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue consideration of matters related to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). (For information on reports before the Committee, see Press Release GA/SPD/100, of 22 November.)
The Committee is also scheduled to take up the three-part report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories and other related reports on the matter.
The report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices (documents
) covers the period from 18 August 1995 to 20 September 1996. The report is based on information received from governments, organizations, the Israeli and Arab press, and oral testimonies from persons from all walks of life having first-hand experience of the situation in the occupied territories. The report notes cooperation received from the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and various Palestinian representatives, adding that the Special Committee had not received cooperation from the Government of Israel. Addendum 2 to the report includes the Special Committee's conclusions and recommendations on the situation in the territories.
The Special Committee report covers the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Oslo II), and the elections for the Palestinian Council and chairmanship of the Palestinian Authority. It states that, contrary to expectations, the human rights situation in the occupied territories has deteriorated remarkably since the beginning of the peace process.
The report reviews the general situation in the occupied territories, as well as incidents resulting from the occupation, and lists Palestinians killed by troops or Israeli civilians, and other incidents and human rights violations. It addresses matters such as the administration of justice, including the right to a fair trial, and contains information on the treatment of both civilians and detainees. On the treatment of civilians, it deals with incidents of harassment, physical ill-treatment and expulsions, and incidents of collective punishment, including houses or rooms demolished or sealed, the imposition of curfews and the closing of areas. It also reviews the economic and social situation in the territories, settlers' activities affecting the civilian population, and measures affecting the fundamental freedoms of movement, education, religion and expression.
The Special Committee emphasizes the disastrous consequences of the closure of all parts of the occupied territories, particularly in the absence of a developed economic infrastructure after 28 years of occupation. The closures, imposed in response to the suicide bombers of February and March, constitute a form of collective punishment, it states. Medical clinics were unable to function, and the movement of health workers and medical personnel came to a standstill. Large percentages of students and teachers were unable to reach their schools. Palestinian detainees were cut off from their families and also from their lawyers. The closures also resulted in shortages in staple goods, as well as materials necessary for industry and construction. Palestinians from the territories who work in Israel were not able to travel to their jobs. With an estimated 10 persons dependent on each worker, that fact had great impact.
One of the most serious sources of tensions, according to the report, is the expansion of Israeli settlements and the construction of bypass roads to link the settlements and connect them with Israel. The practice entails the confiscation of water resources, as well as large areas of Arab-owned land. Some 100 ancient olive trees were reportedly bulldozed in one morning in the area of Bethlehem to build bypass roads. The most serious land confiscation involves the area in and around Jerusalem. The current trend appears to be the expropriation of numerous small plots of land in Palestinian neighbourhoods. The report says the biggest threat to the peace process is the decision taken by the Israeli Cabinet on 2 August to put an end to the four-year freeze on constructing settlements, which had been imposed by the previous Government.
Tensions are further aggravated, the report says, by the aggressive behaviour of the settlers, including physical attacks against Palestinians, as well as damage to their property. Settlers have attacked Palestinians and vandalized their property in order to delay the army's withdrawal. The settlers fall under Israeli jurisdiction and the police, judiciary and army have enforced the law with disproportionate leniency. In addition to the social and political consequences of Israeli settlements, there are environmental consequences related to the intensive use of fertile land and water resources. Environmental degradation is also caused by the burial of Israeli industrial waste, the cutting of fruit trees and the use of pesticides, fertilizers and dyes in Israeli settlements.
The report notes that prior to withdrawing from West Bank towns, the Israeli authorities transferred all Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank to prisons inside Israel, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Currently, some 3,000 Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli detention centres, some 140 of whom are minors. Palestinian prisoners are subjected to methods of interrogation that amount to aggravated forms of torture, including the practice of shaking which can cause lethal brain haemorrhages.
Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem are under direct Israeli control and, therefore, subject to Israeli laws, which theoretically protect their rights, says the report. Nevertheless, they are subjected to systematic discrimination. Beatings, harassment and extrajudicial killings continue. The report terms the various policies pursued by the Israeli authorities, aimed at reducing the number of Arabs in Jerusalem, a form of "creeping ethnic cleansing".
During the voting for the Palestinian Council in January, the report goes on, the Israeli authorities are said to have placed a number of obstacles in the way of Palestinians, which would partly explain the low voter turnout in Jerusalem. Israeli security forces intimidated the voters by deploying in very large numbers around the polling stations.
The report recalls that the international community had hoped that the signing of the Oslo Accords would usher in a new era of peace for the people of the Middle East. However, the peace process appears to have lost momentum. The redeployment of the Israeli armed forces in Hebron, agreed to in the interim phase of the negotiations, has not taken place. Safe passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, also part of the interim phase, has not been implemented to date. Numerous other obligations stemming from the Oslo Accords remain unfulfilled and, according to the report, Palestinians feel that Israel still controls their lives. The report says the Palestinians suffer a "general sense of disappointment and despondency in the face of continuing violations of the human rights of the people in the occupied territories". The report states that the Special Committee's mandate remains relevant in the current situation.
Among the report recommendations are the implementation of specific measures which would safeguard the basic human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs in the occupied territories. The Committee recommends the full application by Israel of the relevant provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as its full compliance with all pertinent resolutions adopted by the United Nations system. It recommends the Government cooperate fully with UNRWA, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, and the Centre for Human Rights. Member States should renew their efforts to convince Israel of the need for increased human rights protection, including enabling the Special Committee access to the occupied territories.
The other recommendations, the Special Committee appeals to the Government of Israel to stop establishing and expanding settlements. The ongoing policy of land confiscation and the construction of bypass roads should be discontinued, and Arabs in East Jerusalem should not be pressured to sell their houses to members of the Jewish community. The Government should refrain from the destruction of property, such as the demolition of houses and the uprooting of trees, and cease its discriminatory practices concerning the use of water resources.
The Special Committee urges the Israeli Government to eliminate the practice of forced eviction, and to confer legal security of tenure on all persons currently facing the threat of forced eviction. Persons deported or expelled from the occupied territories should be allowed to return and, where applicable, have their properties restituted.
The Special Committee further recommends ending all practices of torture. Interrogation procedures should adhere to international human rights standards. Palestinian and other Arab prisoners, especially political detainees, should have their cases appropriately reviewed and their release facilitated. Conditions in detention, which are reported to have deteriorated since the signing of the Oslo Accords, should be improved, in conformity with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders.
The Government of Israel should protect the right to life and physical integrity, and carry out full and impartial investigations of acts of violence committed by settlers, the report goes on. It should provide all legal safeguards for the Arab population of the occupied territories and ensure the prompt, thorough and impartial administration of justice, with penalties for both Israelis and Arabs commensurate with the gravity of the offence committed.
Also before the Committee are four reports of the Secretary- General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 50/29 (documents
The report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 50/29 A (document A/51/514) recalls that paragraph 8 of that resolution had requested that the Secretary-General provide all necessary facilities to the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices, including those required for its visits to the occupied territories, so that it might investigate the Israeli practices and policies affecting the human rights of Palestinian and other Arabs of the occupied territories. The Assembly had requested that the Secretary-General ensure the widest circulation of the Special Committee's reports and of information regarding its activities and findings, through the Secretariat's Department of Public Information (DPI).
The Secretary-General's report says that all necessary facilities had been provided to the Special Committee. Two periodic reports and the twenty-eighth annual report of the Special Committee had been circulated to Member States. The DPI had continued to provide press coverage of the Special Committee's meetings, and to feature and distribute materials, documents and press releases on its activities to non-governmental organizations and the public at large. In a booklet published in September 1994 entitled "The United Nations and the Question of Palestine", the Department had devoted a chapter to human rights in the occupied territories, based on the Special Committee's materials.
The Secretary-General's report, in pursuance of General Assembly resolution 50/29 B (document A/51/516), recalls that, in its fiftieth session, the General Assembly had determined that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War was applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory and other territories occupied by Israel since 1967, and had demanded that Israel accept that applicability. It had called upon all States parties to the Convention to exert all efforts to ensure respect for its provisions by Israel. In view of his reporting responsibilities under the resolution, the Secretary-General had requested information from Israel on the steps taken or planned concerning the implementation of the relevant provisions. No reply had been received.
The Secretary-General's report, in pursuance of Assembly resolution 50/29 C (document A/51/517), recalls that information had been requested from Israel on the steps taken or planned concerning the implementation of the relevant provisions of the resolution. No reply had been received.
By resolution 50/29 C, the Assembly had reaffirmed that the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and other Arab territories were illegal and an obstacle to achieving comprehensive peace. Noting with satisfaction the return of deportees to the occupied Palestinian territory and calling upon Israel to facilitate the return of the remainder, it had further called upon Israel to accelerate the release of all Palestinians arbitrarily detained or imprisoned, and to respect the fundamental freedoms of the Palestinian people, pending the extension of
the self-government arrangements to the rest of the West Bank.
The Secretary-General's report, in pursuance of Assembly resolution 50/29 D (document A/51/518), recalls that, in its fiftieth session, the General Assembly had called upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and, in particular, to desist from establishing settlements in that area. Also by that section of the resolution, the Assembly had determined that all such actions violated international law. It had called upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, and called upon Member States not to recognize any of the legislative or administrative measures and actions referred to above. In view of his reporting responsibilities on the matter, the Secretary-General had requested information from Israel on steps taken or intended concerning the relevant provisions of that section of the resolution. No reply had been received, he states.
ALI BIN ABDULAZIZ BIN JASSEM AL-THANI (Qatar) expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). He said he could not imagine how the Palestinian refugees would survive without UNRWA. The Agency had continued to provide services, despite the difficult circumstances under which it worked.
He noted that the reports of the working group on the financing of UNRWA had expressed the group's serious concerns about the Agency's financial situation. Despite the Agency's efforts to balance income with expenditures, it had, for three consecutive years, faced budgetary deficits. It was a matter of concern that the Agency's financial shortages had become systemic, despite generous support by some States. Given the importance of UNRWA's work, it was unacceptable that 90 per cent of its funds came from contributions.
While events in the Middle East had seemed to call for optimism, he said, the Israeli Government was now refusing to honour its commitments to the Palestinian people. The UNRWA had suffered from the Israeli Government's measures, particularly the closing of the occupied territories. Israel must face up to its responsibilities and promises.
ADNAN MANSOUR (Lebanon) said he appreciated the work of UNRWA in providing education, social services and health care and relief. The socio-economic conditions of the refugees posed a burden for his country. The continued assistance of the international community to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian refugees was necessary. The conditions suffered by the refugees were a consequence of Israeli policies.
He said Lebanon had spared no effort to cooperate with the international agency, and it was disturbed by the financial crisis it faced. That crisis could cause the living standards of the refugees to deteriorate. That represented a potentially destabilizing factor for the entire region. He urged participants to attend the extraordinary meetings on the finances of the Agency, which should be provided with the funds it needed.
He said he opposed the transfer of the UNRWA headquarters to the Gaza Strip, where Israeli restrictions had undermined the Agency's work. He opposed the Israeli closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees depended on the Agency. So long as a global, just and equitable solution was not achieved, the Agency should continue its humanitarian work.
SUDJADNAN PARNOHADININGRAT (Indonesia) said the work of UNRWA was essential for stabilizing the region and enabling the peace process to move forward. He was heartened by the first Palestinian elections, held in January 1996, which strengthened the partnership between the Palestinian Legislative Authority and the Agency. The Agency's commitment to alleviating the refugees' plight was reflected in its Peace Implementation Programme, which had transformed the goals of the peace process into tangible benefits for the people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under the Programme, $159.4 million would be allocated to projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and $33.1 million for its programmes in the region.
Since February 1996, he went on, the Agency had faced setbacks as a result of prolonged closures by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It was disturbing to note the atmosphere of tension and insecurity that now prevailed there. He was gratified to note that the Agency was considering a number of innovative initiatives to expand its traditional donor base. At that critical moment in the peace process, the Palestinian refugees deserved greater assistance until a just, lasting and comprehensive peace was achieved.
ANASTASIA CARAYANIDES (Australia) said that UNRWA's social and humanitarian work had been a significant factor in helping to reduce social and economic frustrations, thus, diminishing the potential of those frustrations to exacerbate political tensions in the area. While security concerns must be respected, she hoped that the restrictions on movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be lifted by the Israeli Government as quickly as possible, so that the Agency could carry out its important tasks, and limits on economic and social development could be lifted.
She encouraged countries which had not been traditional donors, particularly wealthier countries in the region, to examine the implications of not extending financial support to the Agency at such a crucial time in its operations. She welcomed the Agency's willingness to pursue reforms. Despite growing demands on limited funds, she said her country had managed to maintain its contributions to UNRWA's budget. It was important that the Agency be able to continue its activities at this important time. She urged continued determination among the parties for progress towards a secure and lasting peace.
FAISAL IBRAHIM AL-ZAYANI (Bahrain) said the world was beginning to achieve its aspirations for security and peace, now that the walls of isolation which followed the Second World War had been torn down. The world was now working towards resolving outstanding problems, including implementing the guarantee of fundamental freedoms and rights for all. Beginning with the Madrid Peace Conference, there had been hope that the Middle East problems would be resolved. The problem of the refugees was the core and substance of the Palestine issue. It was the humanitarian aspect of the problem.
Over the years, he continued, UNRWA had become the primary service provider to the 3.3 million Palestinian refugees. Its structural deficit could cause the shrinking of those important services. In the past, the Agency's financial difficulties had been addressed creatively, with the aim of avoiding detrimental long-term effects. After years of deficits and austerity measures, however, it had become increasingly difficult to find such alternative money- saving methods. Pledged contributions must be paid and moral support be accompanied by financial support. He was confident that the Agency could face its present challenges with the support of the international community. Until a just and lasting peace was implemented, support for UNRWA's humanitarian efforts should be an international priority.
JOSEPH CASSAR (Malta) said UNRWA could not be viewed in vacuum; its achievements were heavily dependent on the environment in which it operated. The new reality in the Middle East since mid-1996, to which the Commissioner-General had referred in his report, was cause for concern. It had prolonged the affliction of generations of refugees.
He said that since the Agency's inception, it had been a beacon of hope for millions of refugees. Its educational, health and relief work benefited more than 3 million refugees, and had begun to benefit the consolidation of those services under the Palestinian Authority. Moving the Agency's headquarters to the Gaza had enhanced its role. Further cost-cutting and austerity carried grave risks. The Agency required adequate funds and the freedom to operate. Restrictions on its operations, or on the movement of its personnel, were detrimental to the well-being of the refugees. The closures imposed on the West Bank had impaired theinternational community's humanitarian work.
PETER WAIENG (Papua New Guinea) said the report of the Commissioner-General had highlighted critical issues in UNRWA's work. Its total deficit had risen since mid-1996 to $11.7 million. Working capital had deteriorated to the point that the Agency faced insolvency. He urged the international community to continue to support and aid the Palestinian people.
He said the holding of the Palestinian elections in January 1996 was an important step in legitimizing the rights of the Palestinian people. The attitude of Israeli authorities regarding the peace process could seriously jeopardize the progress achieved so far. He earnestly hoped that the Israeli Government would refrain from any provocative moves that would endanger peace, and that it would work within the principles and norms of international law. Given the delicate nature of the peace process, the international community should provide adequate resources to UNRWA to avert further deterioration of its services, which could affect the peace and security of the entire region.
PETER HANSEN, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, thanked the Committee for its debate on the agency. He particularly appreciated the constructive spirit in which the debate had been held. He was grateful that the Committee had welcomed the transparency he had tried to implement in the Agency's practices. The Agency was "not crying wolf" about its financial constraints. Although complaints about the Agency's financial condition were annually recurring, the present condition was worse than ever before. He hoped that increasing transparency might help convince the international community of the Agency's plight.
He said, during his time as Commissioner-General, he had learned that UNRWA's activities were always subject to numerous interpretations. For example, the Peace Implementation Programme was not an attempt to be a settlement solution to the refugee situation. It was, rather, an attempt to show the refugees that there was something for them to gain from peace. Distribution of food to hardship cases had been interpreted as beginning the withdrawal of the international community of the problem of the refugees. Cash payments instead of commodities was not a sign that UNRWA wished to withdraw its Programme.
In follow-up meetings with governments, he looked forward to continuing the present discussions. He noted the pledging conference to be held in New York in early December. He said he would return to Gaza in an optimistic mood based on the empathy he had sensed from members in the Committee's debate.
HERMAN LEONARD DE SILVA (Sri Lanka) introduced the report of the Special Committee on Israeli practices. He said that body had concluded that the situation of human rights had deteriorated since the beginning of the peace process. A principal cause was the virtually hermetic closure of the occupied territories in the wake of four suicide bombing attacks in Israel, in which hundreds had been wounded and 63 persons killed. The closure had had disastrous health, economic, and social consequences.
He said the Special Committee based its findings on reports appearing in the Arab and Israeli press, and written reports from organizations and individuals. It also took into account oral testimony from persons with first-hand experience in the territories. The Committee benefited from cooperation with the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and from Palestinian representatives. The Government of Israel continued to withhold its cooperation.
The Special Committee had examined the administration of justice, he said, as well as matters, including land confiscation and the expansion of settlements. It had also examined the situation in the Syrian Arab Golan. Land and water resources continued to be confiscated. Recalling the General Assembly's determination that Israel's occupation of the Syrian Arab Golan was illegal, he hoped negotiations concerning the Golan would be resumed.
Closure of the territories reflected an attitude of general hostility to a whole people which was inimical to the whole peace process, he continued. It had resulted in widespread unemployment, as well as shortages in staple goods. More than 10 persons had died as a result of not having timely access to well-equipped health institutions. Palestinians suspected of committing offences had been beaten by civilians, soldiers and policemen, indicating "a culture of sadism". Restrictions on freedom of movement impacted negatively on freedom of religion.
He said the Special Committee had paid special attention to the treatment of Palestinian prisoners. One of the most serious complaints voiced by prisoners was the persistent lack of medical care. Minors were reportedly subjected to the same treatment and conditions of detention as adults. Interrogation methods amounted to torture.
Extrajudicial killings and the destruction of property continued in the occupied territories, he said. There appeared to be a systematic process of eliminating the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem. Settlements caused political and social threats and further compromised the area's environmental integrity.
He expressed grave concern over the "spiral of violence of unprecedented proportions which may be regarded as the worst fighting between Israelis and Palestinians since the beginning of the peace process, which was triggered at the end of September by the decision of the Israeli authorities to open an archaeological tunnel beneath the Temple Mount". The opening of the "Western Wall Tunnel" had been viewed as a grave provocation by Moslems throughout the world, since it was perceived as violating the sanctity of Islam's third holiest shrine, the Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock Mosques. Demonstrations protesting the opening of the tunnel had deteriorated into clashes in several locations. The majority of persons shot were reportedly wounded in the head or upper parts of the body, demonstrating a clear intention on the part of the Israeli forces to kill or seriously incapacitate the demonstrators.
It was vital, he said, that both parties show respect for the spirit and letter of the peace accords, and show renewed commitment to the peace process by immediately resuming the peace talks. Confidence-building measures were necessary to maintain the peace process. Those should include the redeployment of the Israeli army in Hebron, the release of Palestinian detainees, and the lifting of the closure.
He said the report was "a remonstrance against the futility of merely talking about the protection of human rights while failing to ensure their effective realization in practice". The Special Committee found it distressing to come before the Assembly every year with a report that sounded like "a dirge at a never-ending funeral". Unhappily, that would seem to be its destined task until a brighter day dawned in that unhappy land.
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for Palestine, said that, at the beginning of the reporting period, there had indeed been some positive developments, including the redeployment of Israeli forces from six cities and approximately 250 villages in the West Bank, as well as the holding of general Palestinian elections. However, the peace process, like the socio-economic conditions of the Palestinian people, had deteriorated and fallen to dangerous levels.
She said that the Israeli Government was responsible for the current political impasse in the peace process. Its practices were the cause of a terrible and disturbing situation on the ground, which threatened the existence of the peace process and the stability of the entire region. "Today, we speak about a qualitatively different situation with increasing Palestinian frustration, humiliation and suffering as a result of Israel's punitive, harsh and illegal policies and practices", she said.
She said Israel's closure of Palestinian territory obstructed freedom of movement of people and goods within the West Bank, and between the Palestinian territory and Israel and the outside world. That was not only about reneging on economic agreements between the two sides. It was about suffocating the Palestinian people by destroying the economy and causing the dismembership of Palestinian territorial integrity. That "sick attitude" violated international law and humanitarian law and the agreements reached in the peace process.
"Israel, the occupying Power, has continued to carry out the whole set of practices and measures violating the human rights of our people, as it has done since the first days of occupation", she said. During the reporting period, harassment and physical ill-treatment, summary executions and assassinations continued. Collective punishment apart from the closure had been imposed. Political prisoners, many of whom were subject to torture, remained in Israeli jails, including female prisoners, contrary to agreements reached in that regard.
She said international law had been violated in the measures taken in Jerusalem, demolishing the Burj al Laqlaq Society in August, and the opening of the tunnel in the vicinity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. That had been kept open in violation of Security Council resolution 1073(1996).
The Israeli Government had resumed settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in Jerusalem. The frequent bellicose behaviour of illegal settlers remained a source of tension and an endangerment of human life. There obviously could not be a peace process and Israeli settlements at the same time. For the peace process to be salvaged, it was necessary to achieve Israeli redeployment from Hebron in accord with agreements reached.
She said, "What is needed is for Israel to end its manoeuvres aimed at destroying the agreements reached and to comply with its contractual obligations under those agreements."
FAROUK AL-ATTAR (Syria) said the Israeli Government had encouraged extremists and the settlers' movement to impose a policy of
. Those settler groups had murdered civilians and, in that regard, the massacre of more than 100 Palestinians in Al-Quds would be recalled. The expansion of settlements and beginning of new settlements was undermining existing agreements.
He said the Special Committee's report demonstrated that peace still had to be established. The report described the horrors that had been imposed on the Palestinian people. In its occupation of the Golan, Israel had taken measures to "Judaize" the area, and bring in settlers lacking any connection to the land. That policy of annexation, colonization and "Judaization" had not ceased since the occupation began. Arab citizens were still suffering conditions in violation of international law. Arab houses, schools and houses of worship were being destroyed.
In the Golan, Israel continued to build new settlements with the objective of "Judaizing" the largest part of the Syrian Golan prior to annexation. There were 200,000 residents who had been expelled from the Syrian Golan who still waited to return to their homes.
A series of laws had been promulgated aimed at annexing the land, he said. Eighty per cent of the territory had been seized under the pretext of abandoned land and property laws. More than 40 Israeli settlements had been established. The lives of the people in the Golan was becoming more harsh and unbearable. The fate of the peace process was in question.
YUKINARI HIROSE (Japan) said progress in the Middle East had been achieved, due to the persistent efforts of the Palestinian people. Recent developments, however, had not been encouraging. The clashes in September between Palestinians and the Israeli troops must be recognized as an expression of frustration at the lack of improvement in the situation of the refugees.
He hoped that existing agreements would be speedily implemented. The parties involved must refrain from any action that could spark further violence. Both parties must pursue the peace process in good faith. His country was determined to contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to peace. It had participated in multilateral talks for facilitating the peace process, and had extended assistance to the parties involved. Japan had contributed approximately $230 million to the Palestinians, and had today decided to extend $3.5 million in assistance to the Holst Fund of the World Bank in the hope that it would help the Palestinian Authority overcome its present difficulties.
He said it was important that the draft resolutions the Committee produced should not be provocative to any of the parties; rather, they should engender a spirit of cooperation for the achievement of lasting peace in the region.
YAEL RUBINSTEIN (Israel) said that in the past year significant progress had been made towards peace in the region. The Israel Defence Forces had redeployed from six West Bank cities, as well as additional areas. Israelis and Palestinians had assumed responsibility to bring an end to the conflict through dialogue and face-to-face negotiations. Together, Israelis and Palestinians had realized that the conflict would not be solved through armed conflict. "We chose the path of peace over that of confrontation", she said. "We chose to continue to go forward together, directly, without outside intervention, in the process that began in Oslo
She said the report of the Special Committee was an example of needless involvement by outside actors. The report only degraded the integrity of the Organization. It had not mentioned the Israeli citizens murdered during its reporting period by Palestinian suicide bombers. During the period under consideration, five terrorist acts had claimed the lives of 56 Israeli citizens. "The world was horrified, and this Committee disappeared", she said. Those acts had brought the virtual cessation of the peace process in March of this year. Yet, after a brief pause, her Government had decided to continue to advance the process.
Her country was committed to continuing its vital relations with Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, she said. Her Government appreciated and respected the efforts made by the heads of State of those countries towards peace and dialogue between the States in the region.
Regional economic summits were essential, she said, to create a network of economic relations throughout the region. The economic welfare of Palestinians was of concern to her country. Despite security concerns, some 50,000 Palestinian workers were, therefore, allowed to enter Israel from the territories. Israel was proud to be a donor nation to the Palestinian Authority.
She hoped the international community, including the Arab States, would contribute to the development of the areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Council. Economic prosperity would eliminate radicalism and violence. United Nations agencies could bring about a real improvement in the quality of life for Palestinian people. Unnecessary political resolutions did nothing to create dialogue and progress for peace in the Middle East.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the report of the Special Committee catalogued systematic violations of human rights in the occupied territories. He called on the international community to do its best to rectify that situation. Practices such as harassment, torture and loss of resort to legal measures had fostered resistance. As a result, the peace process had begun to fade.
He said the expansion of settlements and creation of new settlements in the occupied territories had created a situation that could explode at any moment. The subtle campaign to brand the residents of the occupied territories as terrorists must also stop. He urged Israel to cooperate fully with the Special Committee.
DAFA'ALLAH ALHAJ ALI (Sudan) said he had followed with grave concern the reports of deterioration of peace in the Middle East. The report of the Special Committee indicated violations by the Government of Israel of basic human rights, including the displacement, detention and murder of Palestinian and Arab citizens, as well as occupation of places of worship. The recent imposition of economic blockade had had disastrous consequences in the Palestinian territories. The report showed that the letter and spirit of the Madrid Conference and the Oslo agreements now faced an uncertain fate.
He said Israel was reneging on prior agreements and violating United Nations resolutions. The Security Council had not pursued enforcement of its resolutions to secure compliance by Israel. The Sudan felt that peace must be based on the principles of justice and the full preservation of the rights of the Palestinian people in the region.
ALI A. BERBASH (Libya) said the entire world had seen the practices inflicted by Israel on the residents of the occupied territories. Those practices were inhuman. They were designed to distort the character of the occupied territories, particularly that of Al-Quds. Those distortions might undercut efforts to make peace. Arbitrary actions against the Palestinian people must be halted.
He said he rejected the Israeli settlement policy of
, of expanding settlements in the occupied territories. He supported the establishment of a Palestinian state with Al-Quds as its capital and open to Arab and Israeli residents. He called for condemnation of the Israeli practices, and hoped that practices that had continued for more than a half a century would be ended.
PEHIN MOHAMMAD (Brunei Darussalam) said Israel's repressive and inhuman policies towards the Arabs in the occupied territories demanded concerted action by the international community. Much concern had recently been expressed about the new Israel leadership's willingness to fully commit itself to peace and adhere to its obligations. Recent developments had demonstrated Israel's territorial ambition and its determination to retain its position as an occupying Power on Arab lands, defying all international efforts to find a peaceful settlement.
He said the Palestinian people continued to be subjected to suppression and discrimination. Collective punishment, destruction of property and other actions described in the Special Committee's report were acts of repression. The policy to resettle Jewish citizens and new Jewish immigrants in the occupied areas was a serious violation of the peace agreement. The Israeli leadership had shown its disrespect to holy places when they opened the entrance to a tunnel located close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
He urged the Israeli Government to comply with the provisions set out in agreements and work towards achieving a comprehensive settlement. He supported the state of Palestine, and the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.
WALID DOUDECH (Tunisia) said there had been hope for a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Regrettably, the peace process had been disrupted by the new Israeli Government. Human rights violations had worsened against the Palestinians, particularly with regard to closing the territories. Numerous investors had halted their activity. Many Palestinians had been denied access to their places of work, and now lived in extreme poverty. Israel had restricted freedom of movement in the occupied territories, thus, interfering with health and education.
The new Israeli Government had revised policies on settlements and confiscation of land, he continued. The Government was still stalling its redeployment in Hebron. It continued to impose collective punishment. The Israeli Government had no qualms about opening the tunnel entrance, and took actions aimed at changing the legal status of Jerusalem, in violation of internationally accepted norms.
He said that commitment to implementing agreements was imperative in order to save the peace process before it was too late. Israel must subscribe to international agreements. He reaffirmed the need for the Special Committee to continue its work.
* *** *
For information media - not an official record