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(g) Human rights
Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations Economic and Social Repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian People in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan
In the absence of Ms. Rasi (Finland), Mr. Koonjul (Mauritius), Vice-President, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.
Social and human rights questions
(g) Human rights (E/2004/L.17, E/2004/L.21)
Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian People in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/59/89-E/2004/21)
18. Ms. Pozdnyakova (Officer-in-Charge, Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs), introducing the report of the Secretary-General (A/59/64), recalled Council resolution 2003/51 of 24 July 2003 and the request to the Council, in General Assembly resolution 58/104, to continue considering appropriate measures for coordinating the policies and activities of the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system in relation to Non-Self-Governing Territories. The information submitted by those agencies and organizations on the matter was contained in document E/2004/47.
19. Ms. Tallawy (Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (E/2004/21). The report showed that the leading cause of the social and economic plight of the Palestinian people was and remained the Israeli occupation and stressed that the only realistic hope of bringing an end to violence in the occupied territory and Israel was a just and comprehensive peace settlement that included the Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon and the remainder of the region.
20. The road map put forward by the Quartet (S/2003/529, annex) had been accepted by both sides, but efforts to implement it remained deeply unsatisfactory. The report focused on Israel’s relentless efforts to expand its settlements, its erection of a barrier in the West Bank, its imposition of mobility restrictions and closure policies, its destruction of infrastructure and crops and its demolition of homes.
21. Israel’s confiscation and destruction of Palestinian homes and lands had swelled the ranks of the homeless and some 28,000 Palestinian homes remained under threat of demolition. Israeli forces had destroyed 10 per cent of Gaza’s arable land, uprooted trees and destroyed wells and agricultural warehouses. Curfews and restrictions on the movement of goods and persons worsened unemployment and poverty, prevented health care, interrupted education and humiliated the Palestinian people, individually and collectively. Since March 2003, the construction of fixed and mobile checkpoints, trenches and blockades had effectively dissected the occupied territory into isolated pockets and had made its economy dependent on the informal sector; agriculture was still practised, but under extremely adverse conditions. Some 47 per cent of households had lost over 50 per cent of their income, while the poverty rate had risen to 63 per cent in 2003 and GDP had fallen to below its 1986 level in an economic recession which, according to the World Bank, was among the worst in modern history.
22. Israel’s settlements in the occupied territory remained the primary cause of conflict; it had established over 136 settlements in the West Bank, 17 settlements in the Gaza Strip and 180,000 settlers in occupied East Jerusalem. The land area allotted exclusively to settlements was disproportionate to the number of settlers. Although the Quartet’s road map demanded a freeze, settlement growth had increased by 16 per cent under the current Government and accounted for a significant portion of Israel’s public investment. That policy had given rise to serious concerns about the possibility of establishing an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian State.
23.23. Despite the changes in the barrier’s route during 2004, it was expected to incorporate 16.6 per cent of the West Bank. With the barrier, Israel would annex most of the aquifer system that provided 51 per cent of the West Bank’s water resources, forcing many Palestinians to leave their lands. Even before its construction, the Israeli Government had permitted active discrimination in the area of water access; 60 per cent of Palestinian families were dependent on water from tankers and water costs consumed up to 40 per cent of household income during the summer months. Checkpoints and closures sometimes prevented water tankers from reaching villages, leaving them without water for days at a time.
24. Humanitarian assistance alone could not ensure a sustainable life with dignity and rights for Palestinian civilians; many observers had concluded that the purpose of the occupation was to empty the occupied territory of its people. Suffering and dispossession had reached new heights in 2003 and might cast doubt on the effectiveness of existing unilateral and multilateral efforts to resolve the conflict. Only an end to the occupation would put an end to the social and economic plight of the Palestinian people.
29. Mr. Al-Salaiti (Qatar) said that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and the Syrian Arab Golan continued to deepen the economic and social hardship of the inhabitants. The Israeli army continued to resort to such measures as arbitrary detention, household demolition, severe mobility restriction and closures. Since 2000, the number of Palestinian deaths and injuries, particularly among women and children, had been constantly rising. Moreover, Israel had recently stepped up its policy of extrajudicial killings, in violation of international law and in full disregard of the repeated calls of the Secretary-General for their cessation, failing which the bloodshed and retaliation were likely to escalate.
30. Thousands of Palestinians, including women and children under the age of 12, were still being held in poor conditions in Israeli prisons and detention centres. Unremittingly condemned by Qatar, Israel’s brutal aggressions included eviction of the Palestinian people from their land, while the expanding illegal settlement was ultimately expected to take up well over 40 per cent of land in both the West Bank and Gaza alike, with all too imaginable consequences for the Palestinian people. The social and economic repercussions of such occupation practices were set to worsen once construction of the barrier wall was complete; not only would the wall eat up more Palestinian territory, but more egregiously still, it would deny Palestinians access to some of their most fertile land, as well as to jobs and services. With no alternative livelihoods in prospect, many of the Palestinians inhabiting such areas would be forced to leave. Qatar had urged Israel to respect the advisory opinion given on the matter by the International Court of Justice. It had also appealed to the international community to put pressure on Israel to do so by immediately removing the wall and compensating all those Palestinians damaged by its illegal construction.
31. The losses incurred over three years of economic decline affected not only the Palestinian Authority, which was unable to pay wage bills or provide the necessary services, but also signalled disaster for the inhabitants of the occupied territories; in 2003, 63 per cent of their number were living in extreme poverty. The economic situation was such that humanitarian assistance, which was often obstructed by the Israeli authorities, was not guaranteed to produce any lasting effect on the lives of Palestinians. A more enduring remedy to the current economic and social deprivation would be to end all Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories and enable the Palestinian people to realize their legitimate rights, in particular that of self-determination, and establish an independent State on Palestinian soil, with Jerusalem as its capital.
32. Mr. Shrein (Observer for Palestine) said that the report of the Secretary-General on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (E/2004/21) provided compelling testimony to the myriad human rights violations committed by the Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian civilian population.
33. The Palestinian people’s realization of their inalienable rights was a fundamental prerequisite for the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine and for the development of Palestinian society as a whole; that war-torn economy had lost 15 years of growth. Israel’s countless war crimes and its policy of confiscating Palestinian land and of building and expanding illegal settlements and bypass roads in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, continued unabated and compounded the volatile situation on the ground.
34. In its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice had concluded that Israel was under a legal obligation to terminate its breaches of international law, cease construction of its wall and dismantle the sections constructed to date. The Wall departed from the Armistice Line of 1949, cut deep into Palestinian territory and involved the confiscation and de facto annexation of land and the destruction of livelihoods.
35. Furthermore, the Israeli military campaign had claimed the lives of over 3,100 innocent Palestinian civilians, including 600 children. Other Israeli breaches of international law and international humanitarian law included collective punishments, exploitation of water resources, demolition of homes, restrictions on the movement of goods and persons, administrative detention and harassment, physical mistreatment and torture of Palestinian detainees and prisoners.
36. The United Nations should continue to monitor that situation closely in an effort effectively to put an end to all illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem; compel Israel to respect its obligations; and bring a halt to the Israeli destruction of the Palestinian economy and natural resources and of the natural resources in the occupied Syrian Golan. Humanitarian assistance was not sufficient; only when the occupation was lifted would the Palestinian people be able to live a normal life, free from Israeli occupation, subjugation and destruction.
37. Mr. Sermoneta (Observer for Israel) said that while Israel acknowledged the suffering of the Palestinian people, the burden of their misery lay at the doorstep of their leadership; moreover, the Israeli people were also suffering the physical, psychological and economic consequences of terrorist attacks. By stopping infiltrations into Israeli territory, the security fence would make it possible to move forward in the peace process and ensure enjoyment of the most basic human right: the right to life.
38. 38. The biased report which the Council had before it made no mention of the damage to Israel’s economy; over 25 per cent of its children were living below the poverty line and foreign investment had turned away from the region. But, rather than arguing about the relative suffering of the Israeli and Palestinian people, it would be better to cooperate in order to end that suffering for all. Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement plan should be welcomed as a step towards a new era of renewal which could be achieved only by combating terror and corruption, not by producing politicized reports replete with distorted facts from dubious or outdated sources.
39. The Palestinian leadership had chosen the path of greed and opportunism; during the past few days, members of the highest echelons had resigned, citing corruption and nepotism. A recent document issued by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade criticized individuals, including wives and children of officials, who were falsely registered as employees of the Palestinian Authority. When even terrorist organizations were calling for more honesty and less corruption, something must be seriously wrong.
40. The report painted an absurdly slanted picture of the situation in the Middle East. It complained about Israel’s use of water but failed to acknowledge that the Palestinians refused to cooperate in the treatment of sewage; it mentioned the closing of the Erez crossing into Gaza as a cause of hardship while ignoring the attack by a female terrorist that had prompted that closing; it made no reference to the use of ambulances to smuggle terrorists, weapons and possibly even the body parts of slain Israeli soldiers; and it spoke of Israel’s seizure of funds from Palestinian banks without explaining that those funds were being used to fund terrorism.
41. Over 80 per cent of the Palestinian Authority’s trade was with Israel; that trade had increased by 16 per cent between 2002 and 2003 but was still far from the level of 2000. Before the current onslaught of terrorism, the Palestinian unemployment rate had decreased by almost 50 per cent and trade and investment had grown exponentially. Clearly, the standard of living of the Palestinian people could be improved only through a total elimination of terror and a dialogue with Israel aimed at ending the conflict. Instead, the report took the view that terrorists were righteous, justice was terrorism and pain was no longer a universal experience.
42. The statement in the Koran that all people were a single nation accorded well with the mandate of the United Nations and with the inner morality felt by all. No one had a monopoly on misery and everyone had a right to economic, physical and spiritual health. The Council should cease to consider reports which were framed in language biased towards one side of the conflict in the Middle East and which exacerbated problems by giving fabrications and distortions a lifetime far in excess of what they deserved.
43. 43. Mr. Sabbagh (Syrian Arab Republic) said that the report further blackened Israel’s history and exposed the suffering caused to Palestinian and Arab inhabitants of the occupied territories by Israeli settlement practices and other acts of violence in contravention of United Nations resolutions. The victims of such acts, including children, had increased and Israel had also intensified its policy of extrajudicial killing. Moreover, hundreds of the increasing number of Palestinians under arbitrary arrest and detention were subjected to torture and to inhumane and degrading treatment at the hands of the Israeli security forces, while others had died of neglected health problems. The report also catalogued Israel’s destruction and confiscation of Palestinian land and property, as well as the mobility restrictions from which even humanitarian organizations and students were not exempt.
44. In the occupied Syrian Arab Golan, the Israeli occupation forces continued their repression and intimidation of the Arab inhabitants. Blocking the road to peace, they had also stepped up their illegal settlement activities in a bid to alter the demographic composition of all occupied territories and in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, under which settlement was deemed to be a war crime. The barrier now being built on wide areas of Palestinian land clearly revealed Israel’s aspirations to strengthen settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, which it aimed to isolate from those territories. It thus hoped to create new facts on the ground and to place obstacles in the way of the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, thus preventing the establishment of an independent sovereign Palestinian State. It was determined to forge ahead in defiance of the recent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, according to which the barrier was illegal and should be dismantled. He therefore renewed his appeal to the international community not to let Israel get away with flouting international legitimacy and resolutions of United Nations bodies and also appealed to those States which systematically advocated human rights to take action to counter the tragic economic and social conditions facing the inhabitants of all Israeli occupied territories.
45. Ms. Tallawy (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) said that the representative of Israel had always accused the Commission and the Secretariat of bias in its reporting. She pointed out that the information provided covered all people in the region, including Israel, and had been specifically prepared in line with a mandate calling for an analysis of the impact of the Israeli occupation on the socio-economic situation of the Palestinians. That neither meant that Council was required to focus on the suffering of the Israeli people nor that it should concern itself with corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Previous reports had indicated that four projects financed by the European Union or individual Member States in Europe had been destroyed by Israel and in no way had those reports been based on allegations or been partial.
46. Mr. Al-Rasheed (Saudi Arabia) said that the report placed matters in context and accurately reflected the suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of the arbitrary acts and repression carried out by the Israeli authorities.
Introduction of draft resolution E/2004/L.25
48. Mr. Ayari (Tunisia), introducing draft resolution E/2004/L.25, entitled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”, said that the deteriorating situation in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem had had a devastating effect on the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people. The economic indicators bore alarming testimony to the increasing percentage of unemployment and poverty levels among the Palestinian population. The report also provided shocking evidence of the repercussions that Israeli settlements and the construction of the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory continued to have on the living conditions of the Palestinian people. It also documented the negative effects that the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan were having on the people’s access to natural resources and soci al services. He welcomed the advisory opinion rendered in July 2004 by the International Court of Justice and reaffirmed the principle of the permanent sovereignty of peoples under foreign occupation over their natural resources. He urged Member States to encourage private foreign investment in order to alleviate the hardship of the Palestinian people.
49. Mr. Shrein (Observer for Palestine), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the responsibility for the misery and suffering of the Palestinian people did not lie with their leaders. The prolonged brutal and oppressive Israeli occupation prevented the Palestinian people from achieving their freedom, and if Israelis were also suffering, that was because their Government insisted on colonizing other people’s land and refusing to negotiate on the basis of international law and legitimacy. It was clear that his country had been under Israeli occupation for the past 37 years and anti-terrorism should not be used as an excuse to prevent the Palestinian people from achieving their right to self-determination and their freedom. The Israeli Government could end the suffering of both the Israeli and Palestinian people by ending the immoral occupation.
50. Mr. Sermoneta (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that it was easy to blame the stronger party. He was surprised that the Observer for Palestine failed to recognize a few basic facts known by many Member States. Rejection had accompanied Palestinian policy-making from 29 November 1947 to the Camp David talks in 2000. Terrorism had not been born after the so-called occupation. The Charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization had talked about occupation in 1964, even before the 1967 war. In terms of self-determination, the Palestinians were playing a zero-sum game. As long as the dehumanization of wishing one’s own death in order to cause someone else’s continued, there could be nothing but more violence. Trying to reverse the wheel of history wasted everybody’s time and resources and dashed people’s hopes. The majority of people in Israel were still interested in a settlement of the dispute, but on the Palestinian side all he saw was total disregard, disrespect and a lack of consideration.
51. Mr. Shrein (Observer for Palestine), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Palestine was interested in resolving the issue based on international law and legitimacy. What was required of Israel was to end the occupation of Palestinian lands captured in 1967. It was not a debate about Israel’s right to exist, but about Palestinians trying to have that right next to Israel in their own state. The prolonged, immoral Israeli occupation was having a negative impact on both parties, corrupting the Israeli side. For the benefit of the people of the region as a whole, the occupation must be brought to an end as soon as possible based on the two-State solution. In the Israeli government coalition, there were factions that were calling for the transfer of Palestinians altogether from the West Bank and Gaza, which he found to be racist.
The meeting rose at 12.45 p.m.
Corrections to this record should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Chief, Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza.