|AHARON LESHNO YAAR (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, thanked Ms. Jahangir for her objective and balanced report on her mission to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. While Israel might not fundamentally agree with all of her conclusions, the report complied with the Code of Conduct and fairly addressed the issues under the Special Rapporteur's mandate. As Israel strongly supported the freedom of religion or belief, and took great pride in its religious pluralism, it highly commended the Special Rapporteur's recognition that there was no religious persecution by the State against religious minorities. Israel was proud to be the home to an array of Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and Baha'i religious communities. In Israel, the Supreme Court had broadly interpreted Israel's basic laws to develop an "Israeli-made" bill of rights, and in that regard the freedom of religion or belief was seen as being part and parcel of the right to human dignity. And, as noted by the Special Rapporteur, Israel's Supreme Court had, in practice, safeguarded the freedom of religion or belief.|
Israel had embraced religious pluralism and opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of Jews, Muslims, Christians and those of other faiths that made pilgrimages each year to holy sites within the Holy Land. In just a few months time, at the invitation of President Peres, Pope Benedict XVI would join the masses in a pilgrimage to Israel. It was asked what further steps the Special Rapporteur would take to secure visits to other countries in the Middle East?
IMAD ZUHAIRI (Palestine), speaking as a concerned country on the report of the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief, thanked the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Jahangir, for her well-prepared report. The report spoke of several violations made by the occupying power through its constant excavations of historic cites, including in particular the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. Those violations and consequent constraints to the freedom of religion and belief were also a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, given that all citizens had a guaranteed right for places of worship. The conclusions of the High Commissioner in her recent report to the Council asked the occupying forces to take off the screws for religious personnel to have access to religious places of worship. The recent violations that Israel caused in the recent events in Gaza were also an example of their continued violation of this right, as many places of worship had been destroyed.
Palestine stressed that in many cases historic mosques were transformed into either a military site or dance clubs. This reflected further Israel’s measures of total indifference to places of worship and to believers. With regard to access to places of worship as noted in the report of the Special Rapporteur, there was an agreement between Palestinian-Israel authorities which managed this in an agreement on places of worship; however this was no longer valid due to Israel’s invasion of all Palestinian territories. Despite this Palestine remained open to discuss this if Israel ended its occupation. Palestine called on Israel to respect the will of the international community and urged them to reconsider their claim that such acts were legitimatized on the basis of terrorism. Palestine also made this call Israel in this context following the killing of 40 Muslims during prayers in the Jericho mosque a few years ago. Palestine called for an end to the occupation, because it was the most atrocious violation of all human rights.