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        General Assembly
2 November 2000

General Assembly
Fifty-fifth session
49th plenary meeting
Thursday, 2 November 2000, 10 a.m.
New York

President: Mr. Holkeri...................................(Finland)

The meeting was called to order at 10.00 a.m.

Agenda item 33

Culture of Peace

Report of the Secretary-General (A/55/377)


Mr. Aboulgheit (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic): The General Assembly is discussing today one of its most important agenda items, one which reflects the purposes, the principles and the very being of the United Nations: the culture of peace. We, the peoples of the world, have undertaken to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, and we do this on the basis of the common moral values of our diverse civilizations. Leaving aside our cultural, linguistic or religious differences, we have undertaken to cooperate to fulfil the hopes of humanity to achieve development, peace and prosperity.


Whilst we speak of the culture of peace, we cannot ignore the just appeals of the Palestinian people for help. They live in inhumane, very difficult conditions that cry out to the world conscience.

The United Nations, the voice of the international community and the symbol of international legality, has played its role in the conflict between Arabs and Israelis, in times of both war and peace, actively participating in historical decisions adopted over the last decades relating to the Palestinian cause. It is high time the United Nations declared its commitment to implement the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, which calls for strengthening the dignity of the human being and for ending foreign occupation.

Egypt appeals for an end to the Israeli occupation of all the lands in question as part of a just, comprehensive peace on the basis of United Nations resolutions and the international legal order. Egypt also asks that the decisions and agreements that have been signed be implemented so that we can make progress in the peace process, with respect for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to create their own independent State, in the common interest of all the peoples living in the region in order to safeguard stability and strengthen the basis for justice, fairness and balance. We should implement these decisions in order also to safeguard the credibility of the international legal order and all the appeals made in order to strengthen human security and human rights. Egypt asks that all the Israeli elements that have violated international law and the principles of human rights be identified so that they can be brought to book for the injustices and the unjustified violence perpetrated against the Palestinian people.
The President: We have heard the last speaker in the debate on this item, and one representative has requested to exercise 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): The representative of Egypt has unfortunately used this debate on the culture of peace to voice a political attack against my country. His words ring particularly hollow on this day. It is with great sorrow that I must inform the Assembly of a most tragic terrorist attack that occurred today in our capital, Jerusalem. At approximately 3 p.m. local time, a car bomb exploded near the crowded Mahane Yehuda market in the heart of the city. Two people are confirmed dead, and several others have been injured.

This attack comes after repeated warnings by my Government that the release of close to one hundred Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists by the Palestinian Authority — terrorists convicted of barbarous murders — would be interpreted by these groups as a green light to commence attacks against Israeli civilians. These warnings went unheeded by the Palestinian leadership, and today we have witnessed the tragic results. The Palestinian Authority bears a heavy responsibility for this attack, and Israel has demanded that these terrorists be put back behind bars where they belong.

The timing of this attack is particularly unfortunate in light of the agreement reached early this morning between Minister of Regional Cooperation Shimon Peres and Chairman Yasser Arafat. The agreement includes the following: an undertaking to renew Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation at the level maintained prior to the outbreak of the Palestinian violence and a return of security forces to the previous deployment; the holding of coordination meetings between Israeli commanders and their Palestinian counterparts; the issuing of statements by both Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat to their respective media outlets, calling for a halt to the violence and incitement; and reviewing the implementation of this agreement in two days’ time, with an eye towards issuing a joint Israeli-Palestinian call to United States President Clinton to convene the fact-finding committee agreed upon at Sharm el-Sheikh. This agreement, unfortunately, now hangs in the balance.

The comments of the Egyptian representative would have been less offensive if this morning’s circumstances had not been so tragic. Only a fortnight ago, Egypt graciously hosted the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, at which an Israeli-Palestinian agreement was reached on ending the violence. That summit recognized that neither side in this conflict has the monopoly on the status of victim and that both sides must act to bring an end to the violence. Indeed, President Mubarak of Egypt spoke at the summit of the need for both sides to return to the peace process, to end the cycle of violence and to return to a culture of peace. In this light, the words of the representative of Egypt, which seek to portray Israel and Israelis as villains in this context, and his use of this forum to level unfounded charges and make baseless references to accusations of war crimes seem, at the very least, contradictory to Egypt’s pronounced and greatly appreciated role as a supporter and facilitator of the Middle East peace process. Such political manipulation of the language of law only cheapens the law and in so doing undermines the prospects for a just peace.

Since the representative of Egypt has already chosen to refer to the issue of peace in our region, we would have expected him to use his statement today to encourage the Palestinian leadership to respond in kind to the hand of peace that Israel extended towards them at Camp David, rather than to reject outright Israel’s compromise proposals and to choose instead to resort to armed struggle.

Although his words today are unfortunate, we continue in our hope that forces of moderation and coexistence — which we know exist in the Arab world — will be given a voice in international forums, thus promoting the metamorphosis of our war-torn region into a cooperative endeavour to truly enhance the culture of peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Roushdy (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic): I will begin by expressing my total rejection of the accusations levelled at my delegation that our statement was aggressive and offensive. We were the first to extend a hand of peace in the Middle East more than 20 years ago. Ever since then, Egypt has devoted all its efforts and diplomatic potential in all international forums to reinforce the peace process. But what kind of peace are we talking about? The culture of peace will never exist, nor will it be maintained if it is not embodied in a just peace that meets the demands and interests of all the parties — not extreme demands and needs, but just and equitable ones.

Allow me to add another fact. The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War applies to the Palestinian occupied territories. It was agreed to by the international community, and there are no ifs, ands and buts about it. We are witnessing acts of violence. These acts undermine peace; violence breeds violence. This is evident and obvious. If we really want peace or want to promote the culture of peace, we have to identify for the party that caused the provocations and the circumstances that took the region out of the state of peace and threw it back into disturbances and confrontations.

The Acting President: I would like to inform Members that a draft resolution on this item will be submitted at a later date.

The meeting rose at 1.15 p.m.

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