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The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
Agenda item 21 (continued)
Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
Report of the Secretary-General (A/57/300)
(c) Assistance to the Palestinian people
Report of the Secretary-General (A/57/130)
Mr. Cappagli (Argentina) (spoke in Spanish ): ...
At the same time, we would like to reiterate our concern about the dangerous safety and security conditions that humanitarian personnel continue to face in the field. The Government and people of Argentina strongly condemn the attacks against humanitarian personnel and wish to extend their condolences to the families and friends of those humanitarian workers who have paid the ultimate tribute of their lives when serving populations affected by humanitarian crisis.
In this regard, Argentina deplores the death on 22 November of Mr. Iain Hook, who had been working for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Likewise, we are concerned by the fact that the ambulance that was summoned to assist Mr. Hook was refused immediate access. In addition to this grave incident, vehicles and staff of UNRWA have also been attacked on several occasions in recent months.
Mr. Siv (United States): ...
Finally, the United States concurs with the Secretary-General on the need to follow emergency relief with a transition to development strategy. Strengthened by transparent and accountable systems on the part of the host country, the international community can accomplish much in this area, as evidenced by the relief and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. In addition, President Bush and Secretary Powell have stated the commitment of the United States to respond to the Palestinians’ economic plight and to address humanitarian needs in the West Bank and Gaza. In the past year, the United States has refocused its assistance programme for the Palestinians on what is most urgently needed in the current crisis, without losing sight of longer-term infrastructure needs.
We have learned much over the past decade that now serves us in good stead in the work of alleviating human suffering in the wake of disaster. Let us continue to work together towards that end.
The Acting President: ...
I shall now call on those representatives wishing to speak in exercise of the right of reply.
May I remind members that statements in the exercise of the right of reply are limited to 10 minutes for the first intervention and to five minutes for the second intervention and should be made by delegations from their seats.
Mr. Shacham (Israel): I would like to begin by expressing Israel’s profound sorrow over the death of Mr. Ian Hook, who was killed in an exchange of gunfire between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin on Friday. Israel also extends its sincerest condolences to his family. Mr. Hook, Project Manager of the Jenin Camp Rehabilitation Project of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, was a dedicated humanitarian whose work for others was unselfish and admirable. Israel is continuing to conduct a thorough investigation of the events that led to his death.
Israel supports efforts made by the donor and international community to alleviate the hardships of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is sensitive to the humanitarian and economic needs of the Palestinian population and views the addressing of these needs to be a fundamental Israeli interest.
In today’s debate, the Palestinian Observer referred extensively to the deteriorating economic and humanitarian condition of the Palestinians, blaming Israel’s security measures for this situation. While the increasing hardship of the Palestinians is a sad truth, the presentation of Israel’s actions as the cause of this suffering is disingenuous. It is like beginning a story in the middle.
Following the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords, Israel made substantial efforts to facilitate Palestinian-Israeli economic cooperation in the context of the peace process. As a result, there had been a marked expansion of Palestinian trade and employment in Israel as well as other forms of economic cooperation from 1994 until the outbreak of the present violence.
Israel, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, had taken a broad range of actions since 1994 in order to promote and improve the free movement of goods and labour from the Palestinian Authority areas into Israel. In addition, industrial parks have been set up in the Palestinian Authority involving substantial Israeli investment and economic incentives. These measures have had a significant positive impact on the Palestinian economy.
However, the Palestinian leadership’s decision, following the Camp David summit of July 2000, to employ violence as a political tool, sabotaged Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation and left Israel with no choice but to implement essential security measures in order to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism. The acute security threat presented by Palestinian terrorism makes these measures unavoidable if Israel is to fulfil its duty as a sovereign State to safeguard the lives of its citizens. It must be stressed that the purpose of the security precautions is not to unduly burden the Palestinian population but rather to ensure the security of Israeli citizens facing daily threats to their lives.
The donor community recognizes Israel’s legitimate concerns, as duly noted in the Secretary-General’s report in document A/57/130. The challenge that Israel faces is to do its utmost to protect its citizens while doing as much as it can to minimize the impact of tightened security on the Palestinian population. This is not an easy job, and Israel has taken upon itself calculated risks in order to try to close the gap between security and humanitarian needs. It is therefore Israel’s policy to differentiate as much as possible between those perpetrating, aiding and directing terrorist activities and the civilian population which is not involved in terrorism. If calm prevails in particular areas, improvements can be implemented there, independently of other areas.
Unfortunately, terrorists have used every Israeli attempt to ease restrictions on Palestinian daily life as an opportunity to renew their attacks on Israeli citizens. For example, they have taken advantage of the eased freedom of movement to infiltrate Israeli cities and carry out attacks, and have exploited expedited passage for ambulances to smuggle fugitives and even suicide bombs. A case in point is the attack on an Israeli naval vessel which took place on Saturday off the coast of Gaza. Following an easing of security measures regarding fishing vessels, the Gaza fishing zone was extended out to 12 miles. The terrorists exploited this improvement in order to attempt to dispatch suicide bombers by sea. The boat was intercepted and the terrorists detonated themselves, wounding four Israeli sailors. Needless to say, following that attempted infiltration, Israel was forced to re-apply security restrictions to the Gaza coast.
This shows that the impact of the events on the local civilian population is due, more than to any other factor, to the abuse of the population by the terrorists themselves. This terrorism hurts Israelis and Palestinians alike, and an end to the situation is dependent upon an end to violence and terrorism. Consequently, the Palestinian claim, made here today, that the economic and humanitarian plight of the Palestinians is due to Israeli security measures, ignores the connection between cause and effect. If there were no terrorism, there would be no need for tightened security, with the negative economic and humanitarian effects that it engenders. If the concern of the Palestinian observer for the population in the territories is sincere, she should be confronting the terrorist organizations operating within the Palestinian Authority so as to stop their violence, rather than blaming Israel for having to protect itself.
Mrs. Barghouti (Palestine): Once again we have heard a statement by the Israeli representative that was full of lies and distortion. I will not at this point go into detail about the content of that statement. I want to make just three comments. The Israeli representative endeavoured to accuse our leadership of taking a decision to use violence in the occupied territories. In spite of the Israeli delegation’s attempt to distort the facts, the real cause of violence and of the deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is Israel’s continued military occupation and its escalation of the military campaign against the Palestinian people. That is a fact.
The occupation is the main cause of the deterioration of the situation in the occupied territory. That is not the claim of my delegation or the Palestinian Authority. I would like the Israeli representative to go and read all the documents and reports from the Secretary-General’s envoy and the Special Coordinator relating to the occupied territories. They all indicate that the main cause of the hardship and the deterioration in the economic situation is the Israeli military action.
The Israeli forces have resorted to committing the most heinous war crimes in modern history. Those crimes, which include State terrorism, are committed under the banner of “security”. Using excessive force, they have demolished many houses, restricted movement and closed the occupied territory. All of those actions have had a devastating impact on our economic situation.
On the issue of terrorism, it is shameful for the representative of a Government that throughout its history has committed the most heinous crimes and acts of terrorism to talk about terrorism.
The Palestinian Authority has condemned all forms and manifestations of terrorism, by whoever commits them and whether they are against Palestinian civilians or Israeli civilians. But we should not confuse the issue. There must be a difference between terrorism, which is a heinous crime that we condemn officially and in all our statements, and the right of people who live under oppression and foreign occupation to defend themselves and to resist occupation. That right comes not from us, the Palestinian Authority. That right comes from the international community and from international law, which legitimizes the use of any means to resist occupation and oppression.
Mr. Shacham (Israel): In my first reply I addressed most of the issues subsequently raised by the Palestinian observer in her reply. However, since by replying the Palestinian observer has given me an opportunity to speak before the Assembly for five more minutes, I wish to elaborate on one particular issue that was raised in the statement made from the rostrum today, and that is the death and injury of Palestinian children in the violence. A few hours ago, an 8-year-old boy, Jihad al-Faqih, was killed in Nablus while trying to hurl two pipe bombs at Israeli soldiers. That abhorrent use — exploitation — of children in armed conflict is not unique. From the earliest days of the renewed violence, the Palestinian Authority, aware of the propaganda value to be gained, has actively promoted the participation of children in the anti-Israeli violence. Its schools, summer camps, mosques and official media have engaged in incitement specifically directed at young audiences. Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority has trained children in the use of weapons and has created an atmosphere that extols death in battle and encourages children to become suicide bombers. The cynical use of children as pawns in the conflict begins in the Palestinian educational system. Instead of educating children about peace, as Israel does, Palestinian textbooks, many of which have been recently published by the Palestinian Authority itself, openly teach hatred of Israel and Israelis. Materials published and broadcast in the official Palestinian media reinforce these lessons, aiming much of their incitement at children, encouraging them to hate Israelis and to take part in the violence. Children are urged by television ad vertisements to “drop your toys and take up arms”, while Palestinian educational television programming glorifies martyrdom in the struggle against Israel.
Youth groups and official Palestinian Authority summer camps teach children to be holy warriors in the jihad against Israel and the Jews, actually training young people in the use of firearms. Educational facilities are used to inspire hero worship of suicide bombers, psychologically preparing Palestinian children to follow in their footsteps.
With the passage of time, as the Palestinian Authority intensified its incitement and expanded its use of children in the violence, young Palestinian boys and girls were increasingly exploited to be used as suicide bombers. The age of suicide bombers is dropping by the day, and attacks carried out by teenagers have become the norm. In addition, younger children, some no more than toddlers, have been used to provide cover for the transportation of weapons and explosives.
The Palestinian Authority’s manipulation of children, which has been extensively documented in the media, constitutes a reprehensible violation of every international treaty and convention meant to protect children in situations of armed conflict. The Palestinian Authority’s heinous exploitation of children is both profoundly immoral and fundamentally illegal.
It should also be remembered that hundreds of Israeli children have been killed or wounded in terrorist attacks. These were not just incidental victims of the violence, but the intended targets of terrorists. They have been deliberately targeted and killed by Palestinian sniper fire and in drive-by machine gun ambushes. Palestinian roadside bombs have maimed children in school buses, and Israeli youngsters were bludgeoned and stoned to death by terrorists while hiking near their homes. Suicide bombers have murdered dozens of Israeli young people, choosing to strike at places where young people are known to congregate: discos, bus stops, fast food restaurants, shopping malls.
Although the suffering of every child is tragic and regrettable, a basic difference exists between the two sides. Most Palestinian children have been hurt due to their direct participation in violent confrontations, while a minority of casualties were the unfortunate result of crossfire or return fire directed towards terrorist targets. By contrast, Israeli child victims were deliberately targeted by their terrorist attackers as the intended and preferred victims of the Palestinian bombers, snipers and gunmen.
Mrs. Barghouti (Palestine): I am sorry to take the floor again, but the statement by the Israeli delegation has compelled me to make a few remarks. This latest statement is, at the very least, a racist remark. It is not only racist, but it is also inaccurate and full of lies.
My delegation regrets the death or injury of any child, let alone Israeli children. We regret the loss of any child, wherever they may be. We condemn their killing, by whoever it may be.
I just want to remind the Israeli delegation that 2,000 Palestinians have been killed since September 2000. One third of them were children. We are talking about 500 Palestinian children. And, according to the statistics, most of those children died either at home or at school. Only a few died where violence was taking place. I repeat: most of them died either at home, in the streets or in the schoolyard.
In addition, we have more than 35,000 injured. Again, one third of them are children. We are talking about 10,000 injured Palestinian children; many of them have permanent injuries, and they cannot resume their normal lives. And the Israeli delegate dared to talk about children and the love of children?
My second point is that the Palestinian Authority does not exploit children. It does not educate children to hate. Our children can see before their very eyes the destruction, the demolition of houses above their heads. They watch their parents being killed. They see the siege of the occupied territories. This is how the Palestinian children learn to resist occupation. For 35 years under occupation, they have not lived a normal life for a single day. And now he is talking about violence, hatred and educating children? For 35 years those children did not see any kind of normal life. They have not enjoyed a single right that is stipulated in the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Israel has violated every right that the Palestinian children have. They ought not to dare to talk about their care for their children. We love our children as much as anybody else. We love life as much as anybody else. But it is only through the end of occupation and the end of oppression that Palestinian and Israeli children can live in peace and security.
The meeting rose at 5.10 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.