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        General Assembly
21 October 2003

Official Records

General Assembly
Fifty-eighth session
39th plenary meeting
Tuesday, 21 October 2003, 3 p.m.
New York

President:The Hon. Julian R. Hunte .................. (Saint Lucia)

The meeting was called to order at 3 p.m.

Agenda item 40 (continued)


(e) Assistance to the Palestinian people

Report of the Secretary-General (A/58/88 and A/58/88/Corr.1)


The President: We have heard the last speaker in the debate on agenda item 40 and sub-items (a) to (e).

One representative and one observer have requested to exercise the right of reply. May I remind members that statements in the exercise of the right of reply are limited to ten minutes for the first intervention and to five minutes for the second intervention, and should be made by delegations from their seats.


Mrs. Barghouti (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic): The least we can say about the statement made by the representative of Israel with regard to this item during this morning’s meeting is that it was full of mistakes and distortions of fact and replete with flagrant lies. Because of the limited time allotted, we shall not go into detail concerning that statement.

However, according to the claims of the representative of Israel, the cause of the Palestinian crisis is terrorism and corruption on the part of Palestinians. The fact is that the main cause for the deterioration of the situation in occupied Palestine, the suffering of the Palestinian people and the strangling economic crisis afflicting our people is the continuation of the ugly occupation of our land and Israel’s, the occupying Power, escalation of its bloody expansionist racist campaign against our people, institutions and elected leaders.

I would merely like to indicate that the occupying Power yesterday arbitrarily bombed the Gaza Strip, leading to the killing of 11 Palestinian civilians, including two children, and the wounding of scores of Palestinians and the destruction of many houses. That criminal act is yet another in a series of war crimes by Israel’s occupying forces, crimes akin to crimes against humanity. That criminal act has even led to objections by some Israeli Government officials because of its horrendous nature. Israel covers up such crimes by saying that they are simply security measures. Now they are saying that they are steps taken against terrorism.

In that regard, my delegation would like to reaffirm what we stated yesterday during the resumed tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly. The Palestinian leadership has a crystal clear position of principle in that respect. Let it be clear that it is Israel’s policies and actions that have led to suicide bombings, and not the other way around. That deplored phenomenon has emerged 27 years after the occupation and after our people have lost hope in a better future. Israel is responsible for ruining the lives of three generations of Palestinians, as well as for tearing the fabric of our society and for the morbid phenomena that have afflicted our society, including suicide bombings. Israel must understand that there will be no security solution to that phenomenon under any circumstances. While all parties must act to end the phenomenon, we should not allow Israel, the occupying Power, to exploit the war against international terrorism or its civilian victims in order to provide cover for its illegal policies and practices of continued occupation, settler colonialism, expansionism and rejection of peace.

With regard to Israel’s assertions of corruption, I would simply like to say that financial matters are purely internal Palestinian matters. Before talking about corruption, Israel should return to Palestinians the money it took from them. That money belongs to the Palestinian Authority, not to Israel. Palestine’s Minister for Finance is commended by the international community for his integrity and honour. We cannot allow Israel, which is the source of corruption and a fundamental reason for Palestine’s economic deterioration, to make allegations about corruption.


Mr. Shacham (Israel): I asked to take the floor in exercise of the right of reply in order to set the record straight with regard to the current counter-terrorist operations being carried out by Israel in Gaza in exercise of the basic right of all States to self-defence.

Since the beginning of this month, over two dozen Kassam artillery rockets have been fired by Palestinian terrorists at cities in sovereign Israeli territory — 10 such rockets in the past 48 hours. Since the Palestinian Authority is doing nothing to curtail these flagrant acts of terrorism in its own midst, Israel was forced to take action to stop those attacks.

Israel’s response was measured, focused on legitimate terrorist targets and carried out in such a way as to minimize as much as possible any harm to the civilian population, which the Palestinian terrorists have exploited as shields for their extensive terrorist infrastructure. Israel struck with precision munitions against the following legitimate terrorist targets.

Its first target was a clandestine Hamas arms factory in Sajaiyeh, in which explosive charges and arms were manufactured. That target had to be attacked twice due to the number of weapons found in the factory.

Its second target was a warehouse on the outskirts of Gaza in which weapons and explosives belonging to Hamas were stockpiled. The secondary explosions following the attack indicated that the warehouse was filled with ammunition.

Its third target was a pick-up truck transporting two terrorists — Khaled al-Masri and Iyad al-Hilu of Hamas, who were responsible for the infrastructure manufacturing the Kassam rockets, along with mortar shells and explosives used in terrorist attacks.

Finally, it targeted a vehicle travelling near Nuseirat carrying a terrorist cell that was fleeing from an intercepted attempt to infiltrate Israel near Kibbutz Nahal Oz and to carry out a spectacular terrorist attack. The strikes against those targets were carried out, as I stated previously, with precision munitions. Military surveillance footage just released shows that no civilians were visible in the target area at the time of those operations. The footage shows that at least eight terrorists were killed in those pinpoint operations, while no civilian casualties were apparent.

The aim of those operations was simple: to impair Hamas’ capability to carry out acts of terrorism. Let there be no doubt: Israel deeply regrets the inadvertent loss of innocent life during its counter-terrorist efforts. However, as long as the terrorists choose purposely to position themselves and their infrastructure in the midst of the civilian population, shielding themselves behind civilians, and as long as the Palestinian leadership does nothing to prevent the terrorists from doing so, it must bear sole responsibility for these unfortunate civilian casualties.

I would remind the Assembly that all of these terrorist targets are located in the Gaza Strip, an area in which the Palestinian Authority has full security control. There is no excuse for the Palestinian Authority’s complacency regarding and complicity with these terrorists. These terror groups should have been dismantled long ago by the Palestinian Authority in accordance with international law and with the commitments that the Palestinian leadership repeatedly took upon itself, from the Declaration of Principles in 1993 to this year’s road map.

Having no alternative, Israel must do what the Palestinian Authority is obligated, but refuses, to do: fight Palestinian terrorism. Israel must protect the lives of its citizens.


Mrs. Barghouti (Palestine): It is highly regrettable that, regardless of the issue under discussion in the Assembly — in this case humanitarian assistance — the Israeli representative is able to present us only with a standard-issue statement. He delivers it “anywhere, any time”, always on terrorism, which is highly questionable and very insulting to the General Assembly.

Moreover, we regret that the Israeli representative forgot to mention that nearly 100 Palestinian civilians, including children, were wounded in the Israeli attacks against Gaza yesterday, which killed 12 civilians, including a doctor who rushed to assist the victims. Those are the facts.

Mr. Shacham (Israel): In my first reply I addressed the issues raised in the Palestinian Observer’s reply. However, since the Palestinian Observer has, in replying, provided me with the opportunity to address the Assembly for five more minutes, I would like to refer to the issue of suicide bombers, which the Palestinian Observer brought up in her first reply.

The morally abhorrent and patently false claim that suicide terrorism is caused by Israel must be rejected out of hand. Less than 2 weeks ago, 21 Israelis were killed by a female Palestinian suicide terrorist. Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old lawyer from Jenin, who carried out the attack, was the sixth such female suicide bomber in the past two years. Several other female bombers have been apprehended when about to blow themselves up, including one who was hiding a bomb under a maternity dress and another who was only 15 years old.

While the media has expressed surprise at Palestinian women acting as suicide bombers, it should surprise no one who has followed developments in the Palestinian Authority. Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority — not Israel — has regularly targeted women in its promotion and glorification of suicide terrorism. Immediately after the first bombing by a woman — Wafa Idris — on 27 January 2002, the Palestinian Authority undertook a very public campaign to indoctrinate Palestinian women to see themselves as potential suicide bombers. After the bombing, the Palestinian Authority immediately depicted her as a heroine and her murders as acts to be emulated. Within days, the Palestinian Authority held a demonstration in her honour, with young girls carrying posters with Idris’ pictures and the words, “The Fatah movement” — that is, Arafat’s movement — “eulogizes with great pride the heroic martyr Wafa Idris”.

The Palestinian Authority, seeing that women could more easily get past Israeli security, immediately created an operational framework for terrorist activity by women. The Palestinian Authority named this new brigade in honour of Wafa Idris. All of that promotion led to a string of unsuccessful suicide bombing attempts by women and, eventually, to a bombing in a Jerusalem supermarket on 29 March 2002 by Ayat al-Akhras, a 17-year-old girl, who killed two Israeli civilians and injured about two dozen others. The Palestinian Authority — not Israel — then turned those two successful killers into symbols for Palestinian girls. Palestinian Authority girls’ summer camps, for example, were named after Idris and Akhras, both last year and this year.

Sadly, this campaign to turn female suicide bombers into role models is succeeding. In an interview on Palestinian Authority television after the first two suicide bombings by women, young Palestinian girls discussed their feelings about suicide terrorism. Typical of the statements was one made by a girl name Sabrine, who stated, “Of course I support blowing up. It is our right. Maybe no one will sympathize with us when they hear that children blow themselves up, but that is called heroism”.

Women whose social standing is problematic, including women who have acquired a so-called bad reputation due to assumed promiscuity or extra-marital relationships, have often been convinced to take part in suicide operations as a means of rehabilitating their names. The strength of this type of persuasion can best be understood in the relevant cultural framework: a society in which women are often considered to embody the honour of the family. Any hint of impropriety, no matter how minor, can have serious consequences for the women involved, even prompting male family members to murder her in so-called honour killings.

So, in steps Yasser Arafat and his Fatah Tanzim terrorist group. They recently embarked on a campaign to recruit as suicide terrorists those young women who find themselves in acute emotional distress due to such social stigmatization. This method of coercion is characterized by the seduction of young women into illicit relationships or, failing that, the arrangement of their rape. Subsequently, overwhelming emotional pressure is brought to bear on the women in order to convince them to end their lives in an admirable manner, since public revelation of their impropriety will constitute an intolerable disgrace to the honour of their families.


Agenda item 41

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


Mr. Mekdad (Syria) (spoke in Arabic): The issue of the rights of children occupies a special place of interest and importance to the Syrian Government. This can be seen through carefully implemented national plans that have been followed up by the highest political authority in Syria. The President of the Republic has personally given this issue a great deal of attention and has followed up on the projects and activities that provide services to children, either in the countryside or in the cities. In this vein, a higher Committee for Children was established in 1999, in which all Governmental and non-governmental organizations participate in following up on all issues concerning children, including the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Syria in 1993, and the implementation of the twenty-seventh special session of the General Assembly on children, held in 2002.

On the regional level, Syria effectively participates in all Arab conferences concerning issues relating to children. An Arab plan of action on children will be adopted at a high-level conference that will be held early next year. At the international level, Syria this year joined the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which deal with the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Syria also acceded in 2001 to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 138 concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment. The minimum age for employment in Syria has been raised to 15 years of age. Moreover, Syria acceded to ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. It also cooperates with many international agencies in combating child labour, including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Syria submitted its periodic national report this summer after its accession to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and it will carefully consider all the recommendations made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. After discussion of the report, the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva decided, in cooperation with the Syrian Government, to hold a workshop in Damascus from 22 to 24 October 2003 to discuss all issues regarding children and to shed light on the achievements of the Government in that regard. Syria takes pride in its achievements so far with regard to implementation of the objectives of the World Summit for Children of 1990, particularly in education and health care, and following-up the implementation of the outcome of the special session of the General Assembly on children in 2002.

Given the shortage of time, we would like to mention just a few of these achievements. Our national health strategy relies on expanding the sphere of primary health care to reach the countryside and to achieve equality between urban and rural areas. Health care and compulsory education are available to all citizens free of charge. Females comprise 48 per cent of all students in pre-college levels. In the education sector, the Ministry of Education is working on developing a curriculum for students that will introduce the concept of the rights of children.

The “Healthy Village” programme in Syria is a pioneer programme that considers the well-being of the human being a development objective and a means to improve the quality of life of citizens. The programme pays great attention to the development of the child and the enablement of women and to improving the environment and the workplace in order to increase the income of all sectors of society. Many international and non-governmental organizations contribute actively to that programme.

Despite these achievements, the Syrian Government cannot reach all children in Syria, since thousands of those children have been living under Israeli occupation in the Syrian Golan since 1967. Those children suffer from the daily coercive actions of the occupying forces; for example, the closure of educational institutions, the prohibition of Syrian books and curricula, and the imposition of Israeli curricula and Israeli citizenship in an attempt to erase the national identity of the younger generation. Also, we must not forget to mention the thousands of families that have been displaced and whose property has been confiscated since the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan.

My delegation has carefully reviewed the Secretary-General’s report on the follow-up to the outcome of the special session of the General Assembly on children and we express our appreciation of the efforts made in the preparation of such an important document. It is the first report to describe the progress achieved at both the regional and global levels in the follow-up to the special session on children, and in particular the measures taken in the implementation of the four main objectives of the Plan of Action entitled “A world fit for children”. We would like to state that the next report on the issue should be a little more detailed, particularly when addressing the issues of protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation, in particular children in armed conflict and under foreign occupation. The final outcome of the special session of the General Assembly on children specifically mentioned such children. Children in the occupied Palestinian territories suffer daily at the hands of Israel owing to the continued repressive measures of the Israeli occupation forces, which the entire world can see on television screens everyday. The international community must put an end to all practices that violate the rights of children.

We would also like to stress the importance of paragraph 74 of the report concerning the study being prepared on violence against children. We believe that this study should be more factual when describing the violence that children are exposed to during armed conflict and under foreign occupation, so that the report will be more reliable and more objective. We look forward to progress in this study.

Finally, we would like to stress the importance of addressing children’s issues without selectivity or double standards, if we are to prepare a sound generation for the future. Human beings are both a goal and a means of development, and as such should be part and parcel of the social development process.

In spite of all the achievements of the past decade in the field of caring for children, we stress that there is need for more work and intensified efforts to attain a better standard of living for all children. We believe that we have a strong foundation to go forward towards reaching our objectives as embodied in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the outcome of the General Assembly’s special session on children.


The meeting rose at 6.50 p.m.

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

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