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Agenda item 98: Advancement of women ( continued)
Agenda item 99: Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century” ( continued)
The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.
23. Mr. Atia (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) said that the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, had taken place shortly after the Conference of Copenhagen and had been followed by a series of United Nations conferences and summits, such as the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. Ten years after Beijing there was a new vision of changes in the world at all levels. To implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, it was necessary to ensure a more balanced distribution of wealth, because poverty was a threat to the stability, peace and security of the international community. Poverty in the developing countries affected mainly women and girls, causing high illiteracy rates and aggravating health conditions.
26. African women, victims of poverty, illiteracy and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, gave cause for concern. A major commitment of the international community was necessary to enable Africa to meet its obligations under the outcomes of the Beijing Conference. The suffering of Palestinian women and girls in the territories occupied by Israel should be stressed. The destruction and lack of access to water and food to which they were subjected constituted a crime against humanity, on which the international community kept silent. It was necessary to further the advancement of women, avert the violation of their rights and promoting an environment conducive to diversity.
53. Ms. Rasheed (Palestine) stressed that millions of women worldwide still lived in situations that denied them their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The international community should be united in recognizing that strengthening women’s rights was a common goal that must be based on universal human rights, the rule of law and a strong commitment to justice, equality and freedom. Colonial occupation had become a system of control permeating every aspect of Palestinian life, including the lives of Palestinian women, preventing the enjoyment of the rights to life, liberty and security and the right to be treated with respect and dignity. Even so, Palestinian women continued to fight inequality and discrimination in order to play an active and effective role within their society.
54. Israel, the occupying Power, continued to commit serious violations and grave breaches of international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The vicious military campaign carried out by Israel in the past four years had resulted in the death of over 3,400 Palestinian civilians, including over 250 women and 750 children, and the injury of over 50,000 Palestinians, including many who suffered from permanent disabilities.
55. The suffering inflicted on Palestinian women by the Israeli policy of constant terror and aggression could not be sufficiently emphasized. Palestinian women, who wished their families to lead a secure, full and healthy life, must counter the illegal activities of Israel, which in recent years had demolished more than 10,000 Palestinian dwellings, leaving thousands of families homeless and condemning thousands of women to fight for survival, recovering their children from the rubble, and had confiscated millions of dunum of Palestinian farmland to expand the existing illegal settlements or build new ones, depriving Palestinian women of their livelihood and their right to feed their children.
56. The difficult situation of Palestinian women and the serious humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, had been aggravated by the illegal construction of the expansionist wall. The wall separated Palestinians from their land, work, hospitals, schools, churches, mosques and families, preventing them from leading a normal life. The devastating consequences of the wall had led the International Court of Justice to declare, in its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004, that the construction of the wall by Israel ran counter to international law.
57. There was no justification for assassinating women and children in their homes with missiles, shooting them from tanks and helicopters or crushing them under blocks of concrete when demolishing their homes. There was no justification for pregnant Palestinian women dying when giving birth because they were held at checkpoints or for depriving the newborn babies of their chances to live by preventing delivery in a hospital. There was no justification for the alarming indicators on malnutrition and anaemia among children and women, who were denied the right to access to food, drinking water and adequate medical care, nor for the continuing violations of international law committed by Israel nor for its gratuitous contempt for human life and dignity.
58. The situation of Palestinian women, and of the Palestinian people as a whole, could not improve under an occupation characterized by human-rights violations, colonialism, racism and discrimination. The international community should put an end to the occupation and Israel’s illegal policies and practices and safeguard dignity, equality, liberty and justice on behalf of the Palestinian people and humanity as a whole.
85. Ms. Kleitman (Israel) said that the advancement of women was not a “women’s issue”. It was an issue for society as a whole. There was a direct correlation between the status of women in a particular society and that society’s own condition. Unlike too many countries in the world and almost every country in the Middle East, women in Israel were given opportunities equal to men’s in every area of life. However, the advancement of women was not a strictly a domestic issue any more than it was a strictly international issue. Accordingly, Israel appreciated the appointment of a Special Advisor on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women by the Secretary General, and views it as signal of the priority given to gender issues on the United Nations agenda.
86. Israel placed gender equality very high on its list of priorities and was committed to the elimination of discrimination against women. In 1998, the establishment of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister’s Office had opened a new era of increased use of legislative and executive power to foster programmes and policies based on gender equality, and promoting gender mainstreaming throughout society. The Israeli Government had also created the Parliamentary Committee for the Advancement of Women, and the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the advancement of women in Israel. In 2002, the State of Israel had established the Council for the Advancement of Women in Science and Technology, composed of men and women who represented varied public and private scientific and academic areas. Through such initiatives, Israel hoped to eliminate gender gaps in every field.
87. Violence against women was a serious problem in Israel, as in many countries. Over the past few years, however, Israeli government bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had been able to bring the problem to the forefront of public awareness, a critical step in combating it. For more than ten years, there had existed in Israel extensive legislation on violence against women, much of it authored by feminist NGO’s in coordination with the Parliament Committee of the Status of Women. That legislation had done much to protect women. It was based strongly on the idea that gender-based violence, or even the credible threat of such violence, are not solely a threat to the safety of a particular woman, but rather an affront to all women’s rights to dignity and liberty.
88. In addition to legislative measures, Israeli women were being informed about their rights. Workshops were conducted for violent spouses, and-law enforcement officials and members of the judiciary received special training. There were 15 government shelters for battered spouses, including two for Arab women, and 50 centres for the prevention of violence against women, including programmes aimed at violent husbands.
89. Poverty was a particular form of violence. Israel was striving to ameliorate conditions for those women in that situation by helping them to help themselves. For instance, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in cooperation with other government bodies, had established a unit to encourage women to open small and medium-sized businesses. The unit provided financing, information, workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities for female entrepreneurs. The Authority for Small and Medium-size Enterprises, in cooperation with NGOs and the Negev Institute for Strategies and Development (NISPED), had helped Bedouin Muslim women in Israel to set up small businesses. Moreover, following a heated debate in Israel on such matters, and in line with the objectives set out in the Beijing Platform for Action, many of the basic social issues related to poverty among women were currently examined by the Israeli High Court of Justice.
90. Over the past decade, the Centre for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MASHAV) had offered various courses, attended by hundreds of women from around the world, including Palestinian women, on the promotion of women’s role in development. The Golda Meir Mount Cammel International Training Centre (MCTC) had been organizing since 1961 courses, attended by more than 11,000 women from around the world, on socio-economic issues.
91. The struggle against the sex slave trade in women was essential. Israel, in cooperation with other countries, was investing a vast amount of energy in that issue. The transnational identity of women should transcend all racial, ethnic, religious and national boundaries. International cooperation for promoting women’s rights and freedoms was necessary for ensuring peace, justice and freedom for all citizens of the world.
100. Ms. Kleitman (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that it was a distortion of reality to affirm that Israel’s security wall was intended to slow down the progress of Palestinian women. Israel had never wished to build the wall, since its policy has always been one of open frontiers, since June 1967. Currently, it had been obliged to construct it, after more than 21,000 Palestinian terrorist attacks committed against civilian targets had left more than 1,000 dead, among them children, students and aged people, Israelis and foreigners, for the sole purpose of deepening differences and making coexistence more difficult for both countries. The current Palestinian responsible officials could not or did not wish to fulfil their obligation to take measures against terrorists. Israel intended the wall to be only a provisional and non-violent means of defence.
101. Ms. Rasheed (Palestine), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to the assertion that the suicide attacks had motivated the construction of the expansionist wall by Israel. She said that those attacks could not be separated from the distressing reality of the Palestinian people in the face of violence. The first suicide attack had occurred 27 years after the beginning of Israel’s repressive occupation, after the illegal transportation of 350,000 Israelis, and after the death of thousands of Palestinians and tens of daily humiliations. There was a fundamental difference between the illegal acts committed by Palestinian persons or groups and the illegal practices of the Army, which implemented the official policies of the State. More than 3,340 Palestinians had been assassinated, including 750 children, by direct order of the Israeli Government, which constituted state terrorism. Violence would not stop before the elimination of its causes: the belligerent, prolonged and unjustified occupation and colonization of the Palestinian territory.
The meeting rose at 5.45 p.m.
This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.
Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.