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About the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP)
30 June 1997

June 1997

Volume XX, Bulletin No. 4


    Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
    marks 30th anniversary of occupation by Israel of the Palestinian territory
    United Nations North American NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine
    held at United Nations Headquarters from 9 to 11 June 1997
    Secretary-General issues statements calling off Special Envoy’s mission to occupied territories,
    and calling for an immediate end to violence in Hebron; submits report in accordance with
    General Assembly resolution ES-10/2
    Special Committee on Israeli Practices undertakes field mission to Egypt, Jordan and Syria
    Donors pledge $4.1 million for UNRWA in 1997
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On 9 June 1997, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held a special meeting at the ambassadorial level, to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the occupation by Israel of the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories. All Member States of the United Nations, specialized agencies, observers as well as non-governmental organizations were invited to attend (See GA/PAL/758; GA/PAL/759; and GA/PAL/761).

At the meeting, statements were made by: Ibra Deguène Ka (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee; Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General; Sergey Lavrov (Russian Federation), President of the Security Council; and Felipe Mabilangan (Philippines), Vice-President of the General Assembly and representative of the President of the General Assembly.

The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations read out a message from Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization. A message received from the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories was circulated by the Secretariat to the members of the Committee.

Also, Julio Londoño-Paredes, the representative of Colombia, read out a message from Ernesto Samper Pizano, President of Colombia, in his capacity as Chairman of the heads of State and Government of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries. Arizal Effendi, Chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of Indonesia, read out a message from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, in his capacity as Chairman of the twenty-fourth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers.

In addition, Machivenyik Tobias Mapurunga, representative of Zimbabwe, read out a message from the President of Zimbabwe, in his capacity as Chairman of the Organization of African Unity. Ali-Al-Salfi, Deputy Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States, read out a message from Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. A further statement was made by Larry Ekin, representative of the International Coordinating Committee of NGOs on the Question of Palestine.

The texts of the statements of the Chairman of the Committee, the Secretary-General, the President of the Security Council, and the message from the President of the General Assembly are reproduced below. The following is the text of the Chairman’s statement:

Allow me, on behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to thank all of you for joining in this commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the occupation by Israel of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and other Arab territories. Your participation in this event is a clear demonstration of the great concern the international community continues to have over the present and the future of the Palestinian people, their rights, and their homeland, occupied since 1967.

From the very first days of the 1967 occupation by Israel of the Palestinian and other Arab territories, and Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, the Security Council, the General Assembly and the entire international community have repeatedly expressed concern at the lack of a just political solution of the problem and the need to find ways to bring about a peaceful, just and comprehensive settlement of the Middle East conflict and, in particular, the question of Palestine. Our Committee, in its first report to the General Assembly in 1976, described the plight of the Palestinian people at the time and referred to it in the following terms:

Well, we are in 1997 now. As we meet here today we have to state that, regrettably, 21 years later, the situation on the ground is far from satisfactory. In fact in many respects, it has grown worse. Israel is still occupying large areas of Palestinian land. Perhaps, the most worrisome is the fact that, while withdrawing from some Palestinian areas, as called for by the bilateral agreements, Israel leaves enclaves of Jewish settlements that continually expand in size and population. Thousands of Palestinians are still scattered all over the world, not being able to return to their homes and claim their property. The Palestine refugee problem has been made even more serious by the addition of 1967 refugees who fled their homes as a result of Israeli occupation. With the Palestinian economy in a state of devastation and many Palestinian households still living under the poverty line, truly sustainable Palestinian national economic institutions are yet to be created. Jerusalem is occupied and annexed by Israel with Jewish settlements in and around it.

The first signs of hope for the Palestinian people were heralded by the Middle East Peace Conference held at Madrid in 1991. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People fully supported the conference. As the framework of the conference was founded in Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 339 (1973) and the land-for-peace principle, the Committee was of the view that it could set in motion a new era in the quest for peace in the Middle East. Guided by the co-sponsors of the peace process, the Russian Federation and the United States, with a crucial catalytic role played by Norway, Israelis and Palestinians were at long last able to face each other at the negotiating table. We have all welcomed a number of landmark bilateral agreements that have been initiated since.

The Middle East peace process was and remains laborious, intense and difficult. From its very start, a hope was expressed by the international community that a just and comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict would finally be brought about. This has not happened so far. The Palestinian people is living surrounded by the thicket of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Declared Israeli plans for new settlements jeopardize the livelihood of the present and future generations of Palestinians. Since 1967, the United Nations has repeatedly emphasized that the construction and expansion by Israel of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories is in violation of its obligations under the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. This also grossly contradicts the agreements already signed as part of the current peace process as it predetermines the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.

Of course the question of Jerusalem has been brought to the forefront recently due to illegal settlement activities by the Israeli authorities. As the Israelis and the Palestinians were gradually heading towards the most sensitive final phase of their negotiations, the peace process suffered a serious setback. Fully cognizant of the fact that the fate and the future of the Holy City will be the center of the permanent status negotiations, Israel, nevertheless, decided to proceed with plans to surround the city with a dense ring of Jewish settlements and a road infrastructure bypassing Palestinian villages. In dozens of resolutions, the Security Council and the General Assembly declared that any attempts on the part of Israel to change the demographic composition and status of the occupied territory is null and void. The resolution adopted by the recent emergency special session of the General Assembly has overwhelmingly reaffirmed this position.

Thirty years of occupation also had a devastating impact on the economic activity of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. For many years, the United Nations has been a major contributor to programmes of economic assistance to and rehabilitation of the Palestinian people. In the context of the multilateral process, launched by the Madrid peace conference, the international donor community accelerated the provision of substantial volumes of varied economic and technical assistance to the Palestinian people in practically every needed field. The international effort notwithstanding, the Palestinian economy remains fragmented, unstable and dependent on that of Israel’s. Much work is ahead of us in this respect.

The years of military occupation and denial of fundamental human rights to the Palestinian people have had a detrimental effect on the fabric of Palestinian society. Even today, with the peace process in place, Israel continues to violate individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people virtually on a daily basis. Arbitrary arrests and detentions of Palestinians by the Israeli authorities are well-documented. In many instances, beatings and torture of Palestinian detainees has been recorded by human rights organizations. In spite of the wide international criticism, forms of collective punishment are still practiced by Israel.

Meeting here today, we are recommitting ourselves to the goal of putting an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands and finding a just and comprehensive solution to the question of Palestine. Allow me to assure you that the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in keeping with the mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly, will continue to stand firmly by the Palestinian people and will leave no stone unturned in its endeavors to contribute to putting an end to the illegal occupation and to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.

The following is the text of the statement made by the Secretary-General:

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967. This meeting reflects the international community’s continued dedication to finding a permanent and peaceful solution to the Palestinian question.

The United Nations has always played a central role in assisting the parties in their efforts to reach a negotiated settlement.

The signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in September 1993 was a major breakthrough in those efforts.

The beginning of the Oslo peace process also opened major new opportunities for supportive action by the United Nations. Following the establishment of an elected Palestinian administration in Gaza and in parts of the West Bank, the United Nations increased its activities in the region in order to advance the economic and social development of the Palestinian territories.

A special mechanism for the effective coordination of international assistance was created in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. A United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories was appointed, based in Gaza, to serve as a focal point for all United Nations agencies and programmes operating on the ground.

Furthermore, in order to render the United Nations more effective, we decided to move the UNRWA headquarters from Vienna to Gaza last year.

Earlier this year, I was very much encouraged by the conclusion of the agreement regarding Hebron and other important issues, reached on 15 January 1997 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

I considered this to be an important achievement, I expressed the hope that it would pave the way for further progress towards the full implementation of the process envisaged in the Declaration of Principles agreed in Oslo.

Regrettably, there have been a number of setbacks in the peace process since then. There have been acts of violence, which I have condemned in the strongest terms, I have appealed to the parties not to allow the actions of a radical few to derail the peace process designed for good of the many.

I also expressed deep concern that, despite appeals from the international community, the Government of Israel decided to proceed with construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim/Har Homa. I called on the parties to do their utmost to find mutually acceptable solutions, and to proceed with the peace process.

The great concern of the international community for the future of peace in the area was manifested in two meetings of the Security Council and the General Assembly, including an emergency special session held in late April.

I sincerely hope that the parties will intensify their efforts to overcome existing obstacles to a speedy return to the peace process.

I will continue to do my utmost to mobilize the resources of the United Nations system to meet the humanitarian and development needs of the Palestinians, in support of the objective of achieving a just and lasting peace.

The following is the text of the statement made by the President of the Security Council:

Allow me, at the outset, to thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for having invited me to participate, in my capacity as President of the Security Council, in this special commemorative meeting.

As you are aware, since the outbreak of the 1967 hostilities, the Security Council has been closely involved in efforts to defuse the conflict in the Middle East and find a just and comprehensive solution acceptable to the parties concerned. Its resolution 242 (1967), unanimously adopted at the Council’s 1382nd meeting, continues to reflect the United Nations position regarding the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East. Since that day, the principles inscribed in this, as well as in other resolutions adopted over the years, have served as a foundation for international action aimed at achieving peace and stability in the region.

On numerous occasions, the Security Council has directed its attention to various political and humanitarian aspects of the question of Palestine. In doing so, the Council has always been aware of the special importance of the Palestinian dimension in the quest for an overall peace settlement in the Middle East.

Since the Middle East Peace Conference held at Madrid in 1991, the Palestinian people have entered a new stage in their history. The Middle East peace process launched at that landmark meeting dramatically changed the climate in the region, for the first time making possible the face-to-face negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

In the years that followed, we have witnessed the signing of the Declaration of Principles, the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and a series of other important agreements initialed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Palestinians, under the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, are now in control of their daily life in some parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Assisted by the United Nations and the international donor community, the Palestinian Authority has embarked on a gigantic task of creating a new and viable Palestinian national economy and setting up new Palestinian national institutions. In this context, I would like to emphasize that the Council is much gratified by the wide-ranging economic and technical assistance rendered to the Palestinian people by international donors, including our Organization. We would also like to stress the need for a thorough and effective coordination of this assistance effort by the United Nations through mechanisms that are currently in place.

Today, as the Palestinian people are going through a crucial transition period, fraught with setbacks, it is of paramount importance that the international community continue to work hard to make the peace process a genuine success. The members of the Council are fully aware of the handicaps and hidden dangers in the way of the peace negotiations. We follow closely the course of the negotiations bearing in mind the many concerns and mutual claims of the parties. The Council appreciates the overwhelming international support for the agreements already reached and hopes that it will help the parties to achieve the goals set at the start of the Madrid peace process. We, in the Council, are also duty-bound to assist the parties in accomplishing their historic mission of reconciliation and peace. The Council members call upon the Israelis and the Palestinians to respect their commitments to the agreements reached and move forward with courage and resolve along the path of Middle East peace and to exercise maximum restraint in their actions on the ground so as not to break the fragile building blocks of the peace process.

For its part, the Security Council, guided by its responsibilities under the Charter, will carry on its endeavors to encourage the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine and bring peace to the Middle East, in the interest and for the benefit of all parties concerned, including the Palestinian people.

The following is the text of the statement of the President of the General Assembly as read by the Vice-President of the General Assembly:

This Special Meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People has been convened in order to observe the thirtieth anniversary of the occupation by Israel of the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories.

In the past few months, the Security Council twice held extensive discussions. The General Assembly was once resumed and then an emergency special session of the General Assembly was held. The discussions in the Security Council proved to be inconclusive, since it was unable to take action because of the lack of unanimity of its permanent members.

The convening of the emergency special session of the General Assembly in accordance with the provisions of General Assembly resolution 377 (V) of 3 November 1950, entitled “Unity for peace”, at the request of a Member State and with the concurrence of a large majority of Members, and the resolution that was adopted by the emergency session demonstrated clearly their gravest concern and awareness of the implications of the present situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular in Jerusalem.

The question of Palestine remains the most intractable conflict situation in United Nations history. More than five years ago, historic decisions were taken by courageous and far-sighted leaders of Palestine and Israel. Encouraged and supported by Powers from outside, those leaders overcame their fear of committing themselves to a common destiny, and took decisions to agree on mutually reinforcing steps that would lead to a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.

It is regrettable to note that the prospect of a just and durable peace for the peoples of Palestine and the Middle East is now seriously at risk and has been recently jeopardized due to actions taken by the Israeli Government.

The United Nations should be a vocal critic of those who want to derail the peace process. There are milestone United Nations resolutions that recognize the rights of the Palestinian people to manifest their aspirations for the achievement of their inalienable rights and yet the Palestinians are the people whose struggle for a homeland continues to be denied. The international community must continue to support its legitimate cause on the basis of international law, the principles of the United Nations Charter and United Nations resolutions.

The current construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim is merely an extension of an established Israeli policy of systematically altering the character, demographic composition and legal status of Jerusalem. The international community, which we represent here, cannot allow the continued violations of international law, the principles of the United Nations Charter and relevant United Nations resolutions, in particular Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978), and other United Nations resolutions including the recent resolution ES-10/2 adopted by the emergency special session of the General Assembly. These resolutions underscored the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and of changing the legal status of Jerusalem by altering the character and demographic composition of the Holy City.

Steps by the Israeli Government bent on taking action in defiance of world opinion erode the confidence and trust so necessary for peace to prevail in the region. Without doubt, the question of Jerusalem remains the crux of the efforts for a lasting peace. Given its critical importance, attempts to change its status cannot be condoned by the international community. The relevant United Nations resolutions on this issue must be complied with by Israel. The status of Jerusalem, the city holy to the three major religions of the world, can only be resolved in the permanent status negotiations, as agreed by the parties concerned.

Peace must be given a chance to take root and flourish in the region, but peace can only be meaningful and durable if the Palestinians are part of it. The international community must not only stand ready to help with words of encouragement, but by substantive action to ensure that peace, justice and stability prevail.

In conclusion, I would like to state that the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People has done much to contribute to the Palestinian cause by bolstering efforts to promote the decisions of the United Nations regarding the question of Palestine. I take this opportunity to express appreciation to the Committee for its untiring endeavors in the fulfilment of its mandate on the basis of General Assembly resolutions.

At the meeting, the Committee also adopted the following:

Today, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People calls the attention of the States Members of the United Nations and of the entire international community to the fact that three decades after the hostilities of 1967 and the adoption by the Security Council of resolution 242 (1967), Israel continues its illegal occupation of large areas of Palestinian land in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, as well as other Arab territories. By doing so, the occupying Power clearly defies the established norms of international law and violates the provisions of scores of relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and decisions.

On this day, it is of paramount importance to remind ourselves that as a direct result of the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian people is living a life of a hostage in its own home, on its own land. The Palestinian people has not been able to enjoy its inalienable rights under the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For too long, the Palestinian people has been denied human rights because its fate has been and to a large extent remains in the hands of the occupier. It has been denied economic rights because the occupier strangulated what could have become a national, independent economy. It has been denied housing rights because the occupier has been confiscating its land and building illegal settlements. It has been denied religious rights and freedoms because of the occupation laws. Palestinian refugees have been denied the right of return because of the restrictive Israeli legislation. The list of violations of the rights of the Palestinian people can be continued and Israel, the occupying Power, has carried these actions and policies for all these years with remarkable impunity.

The Palestinian people is due much credit. Throughout the entire occupation period and until this very day, the Palestinians have shown incredible, almost stoic, resilience, courage and persistence in overcoming the many challenges of their daily living. In 1991, its leadership brought the Palestinian people to Madrid. In the course of the peace process, the Palestinian people has demonstrated its strong desire to take full control of its life and of its future and pursue the right to self-determination and statehood.

Our Committee believes that the role of the United Nations and of the international community as a whole is to assist the Palestinian people in accomplishing this task. No less today than 30 years ago, we are dedicated to working towards the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People reiterates that the United Nations has a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until it is resolved in all its aspects. The United Nations has a crucial role to play in promoting the current peace process inasmuch as it is rooted in Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the land-for-peace principle. Today, we must recommit ourselves with resolve to pursuing the goal of ending the decades-long illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and other Arab territories and set out on a mission to bring a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine and with it - peace, stability and prosperity to the entire region of the Middle East.

Today, we must reaffirm our support for the peace process and the agreements already concluded and do everything possible to salvage the peace process in the interest of the peoples of the region and in the interest of peace and international security.


The North American Non-Governmental Organization Symposium on the Question of Palestine on the theme “Thirty years of occupation - looking ahead towards self-determination and statehood” was held at United Nations Headquarters from 9 to 11 June, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and in accordance with the provisions of General Assembly resolutions 51/23 and 51/24 of 4 December 1996.

The Symposium was attended by 10 Governments, 4 United Nations bodies and agencies, 65 non-governmental organizations, 55 of them accredited to the Committee. Ten experts presented papers on various topics for discussion.

The opening session of the Symposium followed the special meeting held by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (see section I above). A statement was made by Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, Committee Chairman; Mr. Nasser M. Al-Kidwa, representative of Palestine; and Mr. Larry Ekin, Chairman of the North American Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine (NACC). Mr. Haidar Abdel Shari, Member of the Palestinian Council, delivered the keynote address.

Three panel discussions were conducted, with the participation of experts, as follows:

I. Key issues of a just and comprehensive settlement on the question of Palestine; Mr. Geoffrey Aronson, Member of the Foundation of Middle East Peace and Editor of the Report on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories. Washington, D.C.; Reverend Naim Ateek, Director of SABEEL Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem; Mr. Eitan Felner, Executive Director of B’Tselem, the Israeli/Palestine Center for Research and Information, Jerusalem; and Mr. Elia Zureik, Professor of Sociology at Queens University, Ontario, Canada.

II. Transition towards permanent status - the role of the international community; Mr. Gabriel Habib, Consultant to the National Council of Churches in the United States; and Mr. Gershon Baskin, Director of the Israeli/Palestine Center for Research and Information, Jerusalem.

III. Promoting joint action of Palestinian and North American NGOs in support of the transition to self-determination and statehood; Mr. Samir Barghouti, Director of the Arab Center for Agricultural Development, Jerusalem; Ms. Suha Indiyeh-Mani, Director and one of the founders of the Women’s Studies Center, Jerusalem; and Ms. Barbara Lubin, Executive Director and founder of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Berkeley, California.

Five NGO workshops entitled “Mobilizing action to oppose the Israeli policy of fait accompli; Palestine refugees; 30 years of occupation, 50 years of partition: Joint campaigns with International, North American, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs towards ending the occupation; Promoting sustainable development in the Palestinian territories; and North American public education on the question of Palestine” were conducted.

Following a decision to establish a rotating system for representation on the North American NGO Coordinating Committee, the participating NGOs elected the following six organizations for a two-year term: Friends of SABEEL - North America; Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Grassroots International; Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and United Nations Association in Canada.

A report on the Symposium will be issued as a publication of the Division for Palestinian Rights.


On 16 June, the Spokesman of the Secretary-General issued the following statement (SG/SM/6260):

In connection with the resolution adopted by the Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General proposed to dispatch as his Special Envoy, Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, to Israel and the occupied territories. Letters were exchanged between the Secretary-General and the Government of Israel and a number of consultations were held between the Chargé d’affaires of Israel and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs to discuss the scope of the proposed mission. The restrictions imposed on the scope of the mission by the Government of Israel were not acceptable to the United Nations. Regrettably, it now appears that the mission will not be taking place, since the Secretary-General needs to report to the General Assembly by 25 June.

On 18 June 1997, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General issued the following statement (SG/SM6263):

The Secretary-General is following with concern recent developments in Hebron. He calls for an immediate end to the violence and appeals for maximum restraint. In the Secretary-General’s view, the tragic events of the past few days underline the urgent need for confidence to be restored, for all sides to refrain from provocative acts, and for conditions to be created in which the peace process can be resumed.

On 26 June, the Secretary General submitted a report pursuant to resolution ES-10/2 adopted on 25 April 1997 which requested him to monitor the situation and submit a report on the implementation of that resolution, particularly the cessation of the construction of the new settlement in Jabal Abu Ghneim and of all other illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory. The report, which is contained in document A/ES-10/6-S/1997/494 and Corr. 1, was presented at the 10th Emergency Special Session held on 15 July 1997 (see July 1997 bulletin).


The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories undertook a field mission from 31 May to 8 June 1997 to Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Excerpts from a press release issued on 16 June 1997 (HR/97/38/Rev.1) are reproduced below:

The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories has conducted a field mission to Egypt, Jordan and Syria. After meetings in Geneva on 28 and 29 May, the Committee held meetings in Cairo on 31 May and 1 June, in Amman from 3 to 5 June, and in Damascus from 7 to 8 June, where it concluded its field mission.

The Special Committee believes that the peace process has reached a decisive stage and that if negotiations are not resumed and the agreements that have already been reached are not fully implemented, the cycle of violence and conflict would continue, thus threatening the peace and stability of the region.

The Special Committee expressed the view that the momentum of the peace negotiations has to be maintained and that the Oslo Agreement should be implemented in full by both sides. The repeated delays in the implementation of the Accords can only endanger the peace process further and could lead to its complete breakdown which would be dangerous for the whole region. The Special Committee indicated that the principle of land for peace underlying the peace agreements should be complied with.

The Special Committee comprises Ambassador Herman Leonard De Silva, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, as Chairman, Absa Claude Diallo, Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, and Dato' Abdul Majid Mohamed, Ambassador at large, Malaysia.


Meetings in Cairo, Amman and Damascus

In Cairo, the Special Committee met at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs with Mr. Kassem Sayed Al-Masri, Assistant Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, with the head of the Human Rights Department, Mrs. Naila Gabr, as well as with the head of the Department for Palestinian Affairs, Mr. Isham Shokeir. The Special Committee visited the Palestine Red Crescent Hospital where it heard the testimony of several residents of the occupied territories. The Special Committee also had the opportunity to hear witnesses from the West Bank and Gaza.

In Amman, the Special Committee was received by the Director General of the Department for Palestinian Affairs of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ibrahim Tarshihi. The Special Committee also met with Mr. Salim Al-Zanoun, President of the Palestinian National Council in Jordan, with Mr. Zuhair, head of the International Organizations Department, and with other representatives of the Palestinian National Council. The Committee heard the testimony of witnesses from the West Bank and Israel. The Special Committee visited the King Hussein Bridge where it heard the testimony of Palestinians who had just crossed over from the West Bank.

In Damascus, the Special Committee was received by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nasser Kaddour, and by the Director of the Department of International Organizations, Mr. Clovis Khoury. The Special Committee visited Quneitra province bordering the occupied Syrian Arab Golan, met with the Governor of Quneitra and also heard the testimony of a number of witnesses.

During the mission, the Committee focused its attention on the development of the situation in regard to human rights since the adoption of its twenty-eighth report to the General Assembly in September 1996. It is with regret that the Committee records that many witnesses testified that the situation in regard to human rights in the occupied territories had deteriorated during the period under review.

According to witnesses, the most disturbing aspect of the current human rights situation in the occupied territories is the Israeli settlement policy and thereby the change in the demographic balance in the area. The most serious development in this regard was the beginning of construction on 18 March 1997 of the so-called Har Homa settlement on Jabal Abu Ghneim in East Jerusalem. This constitutes the construction of the first new settlement since the lifting of the freeze on settlement construction which had been imposed by the previous government of Israel in 1992. However, the confiscation of land, expansion of settlements, construction of bypass roads and of quarries has continued unabated during the period under review. The construction of the new Har Homa settlement is all the more serious since it completes the chain of Israeli settlements hermetically encircling Arab- populated East Jerusalem.

The overwhelming majority of witnesses drew the attention of the Special Committee to the extremely serious situation of the Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem whose identity cards have recently begun to be confiscated on a massive scale. Witnesses have described this policy as amounting to a silent deportation or even ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem's Arab population who are described as being treated like resident aliens. The policy is applied through measures regulating dual citizenship, the rights to family reunification, birth registration of children which has serious repercussions on health insurance and schooling as well as through restrictions imposed on the housing and the freedom of movement of Palestinians. It is estimated that 60 to 80 thousand Palestinian Jerusalemites are threatened with losing their residency rights, which has been conducive to a pervasive insecurity among the population. The attention of the Committee has been drawn to the fact that Israelis holding dual citizenship are not similarly affected.

The Special Committee has heard several persons who were seriously injured or were witnesses to the violent clashes in September 1996 between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the wake of the opening of an archaeological tunnel beneath the compound of the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The Special Committee heard the evidence of an ambulance driver from Gaza whose clearly marked vehicle was deliberately shot at by Israeli soldiers. They also heard the testimony of a person who witnessed the killing of a medical doctor and of a paramedic who had come to the rescue of wounded Palestinians. It was reported that live ammunition, including explosive and high- velocity bullets, was used and that helicopters and snipers were deployed. Witnesses stated that more than 70% of the injuries were sustained in the head or the upper parts of the body, clearly demonstrating a deliberate intent to kill on the part of the Israeli forces.

Closures of the occupied territories, including internal closures of Palestinian cities and their agglomerations, have continued to be imposed during the period under review. It is estimated that the standard of living of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories had declined by more than 30% since the signing of the peace agreements. The resulting restrictions on the freedom of movement of the population had serious repercussions on the health of the residents of the occupied territories. Patients suffering from life-threatening diseases and in serious condition have continued to be denied access to medical institutions in areas outside those in which they live. A number of women in advanced states of pregnancy were compelled to give birth on the roadside near checkpoints for lack of permits to cross into another part of the occupied territories or into Israel. The Special Committee's attention has been drawn in particular to the plight of the children in the occupied territories as a result of the closure. In addition to health, their education has also been seriously affected in a negative manner. As has been the case in the past, the population of the Gaza Strip continued to be the most seriously affected by the closures. In addition to shortages of medical supplies, medical personnel have encountered numerous difficulties in reaching their places of work.

The economic condition of the people in the occupied territories is alarmingly affected by the repeated closures. The majority of workers who used to hold jobs in Israel were unable to cross the Green Line. A number of workers described the harassment and hardships to which they were subjected on a daily basis on their way to work. Most of them had to get up at 2.30 or 3.00 am in order to begin work in Israel at 7.30 am, a trip that would take one-and-a-half hours under normal circumstances. They indicated that out of the existing 24 passages through which workers pass in order to have their permits and their documents checked by the Israeli authorities, a maximum of 8 to 10 operated on any given day and that the Israeli soldiers were often deliberately slow in processing the documents, thereby causing enormous hardship.

The Special Committee's attention was drawn in particular to the difficulties faced by a number of Palestinian farmers who were granted loans for agricultural activity. According to a witness, their land was confiscated by the Israeli authorities and declared a closed military zone precisely at harvest time since there was a surplus of the same type of crops they produce in the Israeli market at that time. Difficulties were also cited regarding the issuing of export licenses and it was alleged that perishable produce was often deliberately delayed at the border, leading to their spoilage.

The Special Committee was informed that, contrary to the Oslo Agreements, there is a still a high number of Palestinian prisoners, including administrative detainees, incarcerated in Israel, which is also in violation of international humanitarian law. Their conditions of detention are said to have deteriorated further in the course of the Committee's current reporting period and protests by the prisoners have on occasion been violently repressed, even to the extent of throwing of tear gas canisters into their cells. The number of administrative detainees whose periods of detention have been renewed several times is a source of great concern.

Witnesses have informed the Special Committee that Palestinian detainees continue to be subjected to measures which amount to torture or ill- treatment, especially during the period of interrogation. The Special Committee took note of the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture in pursuance of the special report submitted to it by Israel, indicating that interrogation which included the use of moderate physical pressure during interrogation of persons suspected to be in possession of information of imminent attacks against Israel constituted breaches of the Convention against Torture. The Committee against Torture, inter alia, recommended that the provisions against torture be incorporated by legislation into Israeli law, and that interrogation procedures pursuant to the so-called Landau rules in any event be published in full.

During its visit to Syria, the Special Committee visited once again the province of Quneitra and heard the testimonies of a number of witnesses originating from the occupied Syrian Arab Golan. The Committee observed that one of the most striking features of the occupation was the severance of family ties. The Special Committee was informed that the measures taken by the Israeli authorities against the citizens of the occupied Syrian Arab Golan who express nationalistic sentiments regarding Syria were repressed more harshly than before. Particular complaints were voiced in connection with the efforts of the Israeli authorities regarding education, the dismissal of qualified teachers and their attempts to alter the educational curricula regarding the political geography of the area and of the historical identities of the ethnic communities of the Golan.

The Special Committee was informed that land in the occupied Syrian Golan continued to be confiscated for the expansion of Israeli settlements and the construction of bypass roads and that agricultural produce and cattle were also subjected to confiscation. According to the witnesses, the Israeli authorities continued to exercise tight control over the water resources available to the inhabitants of the Golan, including rainwater. Complaints were also expressed against the environmental degradation caused by toxic waste from Israeli factories. Witnesses informed the Special Committee that high taxes were levied on the population of the Golan, that tuition fees had been increased considerably, that Syrian diplomas were not recognized and that unemployment in the Golan was widespread. In addition, tight control was also exercised by the Israeli authorities over the marketing of agricultural produce and of handicrafts manufactured by the population of the Golan. The witnesses also complained about the difficulties in obtaining proper medical attention by the inhabitants of the occupied Golan.

In conclusion, the Special Committee wishes to reiterate its view that occupation itself constitutes a violation of human rights. It would be futile to envisage the successful conclusion of the peace process that started with the Oslo Agreement until the basic fact of the illegality of the occupation is fully recognized and the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories are restored.

The Palestinian people are currently facing an unprecedented double challenge: a virtual breakdown in the peace process and an escalation of human rights violations on the ground, in the occupied territories. The signing of the Oslo accords had generated great expectations and hope among both the population of the occupied territories and the international community. Many believed that a new era of peace, security, understanding and hope for the people of the entire Middle East would be ushered in, enabling the peoples of the region to live in harmony, dignity and with mutual respect. A number of positive events such as the signing of the so- called "Oslo II" agreement, the elections for the Palestinian Council and chairmanship of the Palestinian Authority in January 1996, as well as the redeployment of the Israeli army from the West Bank cities of Jenin, Tulkarm, Nablus, Kalkiliya, Bethlehem and Ramallah and finally Hebron should, however, be mentioned. Unfortunately, the hopes entertained regarding the continuation of the peace process have virtually evaporated.

In the light of the above, it is vital that a dialogue between the parties be maintained and the peace process continue. All parties concerned should respect the spirit and letter of the Oslo accords and show renewed commitment to the peace process by an immediate resumption of the peace talks. The frustration and despair of Palestinians have almost completely eroded their trust in the peace process, which is at a standstill. Only tangible progress in peace talks with consequent changes on the ground can bring about a just, comprehensive and lasting peace to the Middle East. All parties concerned must work together to safeguard the peace effort.

The repeated delays in the implementation of the accords can only endanger the peace process further and could lead to its complete breakdown, which would be dangerous for the whole region. The international community cannot be indifferent to the current situation and must take an active and positive role in safeguarding the peace process and give it a new impetus. The climate of strife and bitterness of the past would then lead to the beginning of a new era of peaceful coexistence in the whole region, the Committee concludes.


On 12 June 1997, following a two-day meeting attended by donors and host governments, UNRWA issued the following press release (PAL/1838):

Gaza, 12 June (UNRWA) -- The aim of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was to maintain services for some 3.4 million Palestine refugees and identify ways of doing so for as long as it was required, according to an agreed statement by delegates at an informal meeting of major donor and host governments in Amman.

The two-day meeting, which concluded yesterday, was attended by representatives of 28 of the Agency's major donors, including the European Union, host governments and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

In the absence of major contributions in the short term to substantially decrease the Agency's current financial deficit, the donor community was urged to re-examine positively their contributions in the light of the discussions at the meeting, with a view to ensuring the continued provision of essential services to the refugees at existing levels.

Several donors used the occasion of the meeting to announce additional contributions. Saudi Arabia pledged an additional amount of $2.4 million to the Agency for 1997. Added to its earlier contribution of $1.2 million, that represents a tripling of Saudi Arabia's contribution to UNRWA's General Fund over 1996 levels. Sweden announced an additional pledge of 10 million Swedish kronor (around $1.2 million) for education in Lebanon, while the Netherlands announced a new contribution of 1 million Dutch guilders ($520,000) -- for a total of $4.1 million in new contributions for the Agency's General Fund in 1997.

In addition, the United States announced a new pledge of over $1.4 million for new projects in the Agency's Peace Implementation Programme (PIP), which directly support UNRWA's core services in education and health. Denmark announced its regular 1997 pledge of 50 million Danish kroner (around $7.7 million), including $3.4 million for the Agency's General Fund and $4.3 million for specific projects. Belgium pledged 20 million Belgian francs (around $600,000) for PIP projects, payable in 1998.

In an opening address, His Royal Highness Crown Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan said UNRWA was facing a "dire situation after decades of remarkable service to a large displaced Palestinian population in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza." Many major donor countries were "disengaging too soon from an agenda of relief and recovery that has not yet run its course. Given the proper backing, UNRWA may yet provide the necessary socio-economic infrastructure to pave the way for the transition to a just and comprehensive peace in the region." He said the Agency had an "invaluable role to play in educating and training Palestinians to administer their own future".

The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Peter Hansen, told participants that "UNRWA was established to provide services to Palestine refugees, and not to take them away". He expressed his hope that delegates would understand the magnitude of the financial crisis facing the Agency and begin the process of formulating strategies to resolve its continuing structural deficit. He pointed out that since Palestine refugees were unique, as they had no homes to which they could return, it was essential for UNRWA to be enabled to fulfil its mandate to alleviate their sufferings, not to increase their hardship.

As'ad Abdul Rahman, member of the Executive Committee of the PLO and head of its Refugee Department, delivered a personal message from Chairman Yasser Arafat. Mr Arafat urged the international community to continue and expand its support for the Agency and reiterated the full support of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority for UNRWA.

"The refugees see the strength of UNRWA's programmes as a direct reflection of the commitment of the international community to a just and comprehensive outcome of the peace process", Mr. Arafat said. "At this sensitive time, it would be disastrous for the international community to send a negative signal by cutting back on UNRWA's services."

During the meeting, delegates reviewed the Agency's current financial deficit and cash-flow difficulties. There was strong support for intensive dialogue between UNRWA, donor countries and host authorities in the preparation of the Agency's biennial budget for 1998-1999.

In their agreed statement, delegates acknowledged the linkage between regional peace and stability and the maintenance of UNRWA's role. Their statement said that "there could be no question of premature phasing out of UNRWA's mandated responsibilities for the Palestine refugees."

In a closing statement, the Commissioner-General said UNRWA continued to play "a vital and indispensable role in the region", and expressed his hope that "the spirit of cooperation at this meeting will be carried forward into the future."


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