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

Press Briefing
3 February 2004


The Permanent Observer for Palestine, M. Nasser Al-Kidwa, this afternoon took issue with the statement by the Permanent Representative of Israel that Secretary General Kofi Annan’s response to a 29 January suicide bombing in Jerusalem was “biased” and “insufficient”.  During a press conference at Headquarters, Mr. Al-Kidwa also asked the Secretary General to investigate whether Israel’s knowledge of statements submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was the result of leaked information.

He said comments made by the Permanent Representative of Israel, Dan Gillerman, during a press conference on 30 January were baseless, as well as ironic.  The criticism of the United Nations came as part of Israel’s traditionally negative campaign against the United Nations.  Moreover, such critical remarks were part of the Israeli effort to discredit the United Nations in the lead-up to oral hearings to be held by the International Court of Justice, which are scheduled to begin on 23 February.

[On 8 December, the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly had adopted a resolution asking the ICJ to issue an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank.  See Press Release GA/10216.]

Regarding Mr. Gillerman’s comment that papers filed by the Secretary-General’s office last Friday with the ICJ showed bias that “borders on the absurd”, Mr. Al-Kidwa said Mr. Gillerman was either pretending to know the content of the statement, or had illegitimately obtained and disseminated that knowledge.  The Secretariat should investigate whether there had been a leak.

He said Israeli officials had been publicly discussing the contents of other statements submitted to the Court in violation of the rules of the Court.  They had falsely characterized some of the statements submitted, abusing the fact that States, out of respect for the rules of the Court, did not disclose the contents of their statements to the media.  “Clearly”, he said, “Israel’s typical manoeuvring to distort, mislead and even lie to its advantage has now taken on a new illegal dimension, which must be vehemently rejected by the international community.”

Responding to Israel’s comments, he affirmed the Palestinian side’s belief that a majority of the submitted statements would be positive.  And, while disappointed with a minority of negative statements, he said the Palestinian side would not discuss them publicly out of deference to the ICJ and its rules.  Palestine would do so in the appropriate forum -– before the Court –- when statements and arguments became public.

He said the Palestine side had assembled a “solid team” of lawyers, including external lawyers, all of whom had agreed to work on a “pro bono” basis or for a symbolic amount of money.  On 29 January, before the deadline of 30 January, Palestine had submitted a substantial statement to the Court, including annexes with pictures, maps and satellite images, as well as other documentary evidence.  Today, Palestine, along with others, had received copies of 48 statements submitted by States and international organizations, including the United Nations statement.  A minority of those statements were negative.  Obviously, Micronesia and Marshall Islands had come “to the rescue”, which made the argument of “democracy supporting Israel” a real mockery.

He added that media reports that Israel had “stolen the main idea” presented by the Palestinian side were not true.  He said part of the Palestinian team had been stopped at the Tel Aviv airport on their way back to Palestine.  Their documents had been illegally taken, but only for 90 minutes.  Moreover, those documents did not contain Palestine’s main statement and did not represent the main idea presented by the Palestinian side.

Asked what remedy he was seeking if a leak had taken place, he said the Israeli representative had made comments on what he called “the statement submitted by the United Nations to the ICJ”.  That required some kind of investigation by the United Nations to determine whether there had been a leak or not.  Maybe Mr. Gillerman had just pretended to have seen the statement.  He was not asking the United Nations to take action against Israel.  There might be action against somebody who might have violated the rules within the Secretariat.  The Palestinian Observer Mission would issue a press release and discuss the matter further with United Nations officials.  At this stage, he would not submit a formal request for an inquiry to the Secretary-General.

Answering other correspondents’ questions, he said he did not make charges, but had just quoted what Mr. Gillerman had said.  The question was, how did Mr. Gillerman know about the statement?  There had also been an avalanche of statements made by Israeli officials on statements submitted to the Court which were supposed to be confidential.  In violation of Court rules, Israel had made characterizations in an inaccurate and “straightforward lying” way -– for instance, where South Africa would have opposed jurisdiction of the Court, which was “complete baloney” -- and distributed the submitted statements.  This time, he said, spinning the facts would not work, because one was dealing with the Court.

Responding to another question, Mr. Al-Kidwa said the Palestinians would like the ICJ to respond to the request made by the General Assembly to urgently render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of constructing the wall by the occupying Power in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around Jerusalem, considering relevant instruments of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  He was confident the Court would help the General Assembly deal with that legal question.

Asked about the Israeli statement to the Court, he said the Palestinian delegation had received the statement, but he would not get into the statement’s substance until authorized by the Court.  However, reacting to public statements that the Court had no jurisdiction, he said that was an unreasonable suggestion.  Israel’s statement that the wall was a defensive measure was also unreasonable, because the wall could have been built on the Israeli side along the armistice side.  If that had happened, nobody could have had any quarrel with it.  It would not have been illegal.  He did not think Mr. Gillerman’s statement would have any impact on the United Nations or the Court.  “When it comes to professionals who know the issues, such comments do not have any bearing”, he said.

Asked whether he felt Secretary-General statements after incidents on either side had not been balanced, he said the Secretary-General had always strongly condemned suicide bombings, but often had not expressed sufficient condemnation of Israeli military attacks against Palestinian civilians, some of which had constituted war crimes.  The Palestinian leadership had consistently condemned and stood against suicide bombings and had never issued a complaint to the Secretary-General about his remarks in condemnation of such acts.  Yet, the Palestinian side had actually conveyed to the Secretariat on prior occasions its perception of unequal treatment by the Secretary-General in expressing similar outrage to Israeli military assaults against the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.
For information media - not an official record