Press Release

Fifty-ninth General Assembly
Third Committee
38th Meeting (AM)
8 November 2004




The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its joint general discussion on racism and racial discrimination and the right to self-determination.  For additional background information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3798 of 3 November.

Statements on Racism, Self-Determination


ZINA KALAY-KLEITMAN (Israel) noted the United Nations was founded on the principle that members of all races and ethnic groups should be free from racism and that all peoples should have the right to decide their own fates.  Today, anti-Semitism had re-emerged with renewed vigour, strengthening to frightening proportions in recent years.  In the Middle East, a heightened climate of incitement and a culture of hatred against Jews permeated both official and unofficial media.  The pernicious hatred of the Jew as an individual, of Judaism as a religion, and of the Jewish people as a nation, continued unabated. Today there were calls for Israel’s destruction, the latest mutation of anti-Semitism.  It was, therefore, crucial for anti-Semitism to be condemned in the strongest terms by the General Assembly, in all relevant resolutions.

She said that like the United Nations, Israel was born with the guiding principle that all peoples had a right to self-determination.  It was a country representing a people that had been without a home for thousands of years.  The State of Israel had always recognized the right of all peoples to self-determination and respected the right of all inhabitants of the Middle East, including the Palestinian people, to self-determination.  Israel had no interest in dominating the Palestinians and was committed to the vision of a two-State solution articulated in the Road Map.

The right to self-determination however did not translate into a right to violence.  The right to self-determination must be exercised alongside the respect for the rights of others to their own self-determination.  The Middle East conflict was a political conflict, not a racial one, and mutual respect leading to negotiations and compromise, was a key tenet of any hopes for peace.  In their yearning for self-determination and peace, the Palestinian people had suffered from the tragedy of a leadership that had put obstacles in the path of their own self-determination.  She said her Government was striving to bring the region back towards the framework of the Road Map.  The Security Fence aimed to reduce the terrorism, sponsored both implicitly and explicitly by the Palestinian leadership.  Israel looked forward to the day when it could live beside its Palestinian neighbours, with the two peoples enjoying their rights to self-determination and peace.


MOHAMED ELBADRI (Egypt) said that, among the numerous social maladies confronting the world, the most dangerous had been the contempt of man for man for reasons of race, religion, language, gender and other differences.  While international efforts had started to eliminate this disease, success had regretfully been limited.  The two reports of the Special Rapporteur had sounded an alarm of danger on numerous planes, including the emergence of new nationalist movements and radical rightist movements founded on xenophobia, presenting new dangers on the international arena.  Of particular concern was the heightened discrimination against Islamic and Arab communities because of their religion and ethnicity.  He stressed the critical need for internationally concerted efforts to eliminate that phenomenon.

It was regrettable that one symptom of that social disease was the question of Palestine, which continued to be held hostage by the intransigence of the Israeli occupation.  Occupation forces applied racist and discriminatory policies against the Palestinian people.  For how long would innocent people continue to be killed?  For how long would their land continue to be confiscated for the interest of Israel?  Egypt looked forward to the day when the international community would apply the necessary pressure to end Israel’s intransigence.  New methods and a new framework were required.  In closing, he emphasized the importance of education as a first line of defence against all social diseases.


NADYA RASHEED, Observer for Palestine, said that, once more this year, she came before this Committee as the representative of a people subjected to one of the most brutal forms of colonization in modern history.  At a time of almost complete decolonization, it was shameful to continue to deny the Palestinian people their right to self-determination.  That right continued to be withheld by force by Israel, in flagrant violation of international legitimacy and international law.

Every year that passed without the Palestinian people’s realizing their right to self-determination, she added, constituted another year of intolerable suffering and misery.  Any attempt merely to calm the situation on the ground, without truly addressing the core issue of the right to self-determination, would ultimately fall short of a genuine solution.  The Palestinian people’s enjoyment of their right to self-determination and independence remained essential to the achievement of a comprehensive, permanent and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Over the past four years, she continued, Palestinian casualties had continued to mount, as the occupying forces launched military raids and attacks against the Palestinian population of the occupied territories.  Israel had continued its attempts to colonize the occupied territories, including through construction of a network of illegal settlements, bypass roads and the wall.  Yet, the International Court of Justice had decided that both the settlements and the wall were contrary to international law.  Moreover, the wall deeply impaired the right to self-determination, as it swallowed up land and made the two-State solution virtually impossible.

The Palestinian people had made historic compromises to exercise their inalienable rights and to live in peace and dignity, she concluded.  Yet they would never succumb to the forces of oppression, violence, cruelty and injustice.  They would continue to hold fast to their inalienable rights and to believe in the day that Palestine would participate as a MemberState of the United Nations.


SAJA S. MAJALI, Acting Director of the Human Rights and Human Security Department of Jordan, noted that the international community had collectively affirmed the right to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial, alien or foreign occupation. Occupation constituted a clear violation of the right to self-determination, and the denial of that fundamental human right led to non-realization of all the others.  The tragic escalation of violence and resulting serious human rights situation in the occupied territories, described by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the territories and his colleague on the right to food, remained direct consequences of the military occupation, and the occupying Power’s failure to comply with international law.

The Palestinian people continued to be deprived of their inalienable right to self-determination, she continued, and to be subjected to numerous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.  The construction of the separation wall had served to consolidate Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and had jeopardized Palestinian national interests and the possibility of realizing a viable Palestinian State.  Ultimately, it had jeopardized the possibility of peace.

All States, including those of the Middle East, remained entitled to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders, she stressed.  Peace and security would not be ensured by military force, but by ending the occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people and their land on the basis of United Nations resolutions, including Security Council 1398, which called for a two-State solution.  The Government of Israel must implement its obligations under the Road Map.  Israel must take all effective measures to end the current crises and violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, to resume the peace talks and to implement all relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the construction of the wall.

RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said her delegation was gravely concerned about the upsurge of racism, which had been marked by the use of information and communication technologies to fuel hatred directed at certain groups and undermining peace and stability worldwide.  The implementation of the Durban programme and the demonstration of political resolve were required to adequately respond to racism and racial discrimination worldwide.  Her delegation wished for a balance to be struck between ensuring respect for commitments to realize the Durban objectives and to avoid putting too much emphasis on a specific region.

She said Syria was especially concerned about the drastic deterioration of conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories. The oppressive policies carried out by the occupying Power, including the construction of the separatist wall, continued to infringe on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  Her Government deplored the racist statements made by political and religious authorities of Israel, and the fact that the United Nations had not been able to put an end to arbitrary and oppressive policies being carried out against the Palestinian people, which prevented them from being able to exercise their right to self-determination.  Syria had always provided political refuge to the Palestinians, and ensuring them the same rights as Syrian nationals.  Peace and security in the region would only be fully achieved once there was an end to the illegal occupation of Arab territories allowing Palestinians to establish an independent State on their territory with Jerusalem as its capital.


Statements in Exercise of the Right of Reply


Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said that using words such as “racist separation” was incorrect from a factual point of view and only added to any already tense issue.  Noting the dissenting opinion of Judge Higgins of the International Court of Justice, she quoted his statement that the advisory opinion had been detached from reality to find that the wall constituted a serious impediment to the exercise of rights by Palestinians.  He had recognized the real impediment as the unwillingness of both sides to move in parallel to secure necessary conditions, and had stated that it was unnecessary to find the wall, rather than the larger issue, as the serious obstacle to self-determination.

Stating that a serious and honest question had been raised earlier, she said that Israel did not refer to the end of occupation as the simplest solution to resolving the situation, as the issue was neither simplistic nor one-dimensional.  Israel had striven to end the conflict, and had, in 1993, honestly believed in the Palestinian Authority commitment.  A whole series of agreements had been signed, she recalled, and the Palestinians had solemnly undertaken to fight terrorism, to end incitement, and to confiscate weapons, among other priorities.  However, Israel continued to face the bitter reality and remained surprised that no Arab speakers had denounced the bombing of civilians in Israel.


The Observer for Palestine said that the Israeli representative had today continued to deliver flowery speeches about peace and the Road Map, including Israel’s support for it.  Yet, the Road Map remained the same document that the Israeli Prime Minister had declared was not even on the table.  The only initiative on the table was his disengagement plan, which had nothing to do with the Road Map.  That same disengagement plan, claimed Israel’s Prime Minister, had not been intended to dominate the Palestinians and had recognized their right to self-determination.  This was hard to believe as it had now been seen that the plan’s real intention had been to act as formaldehyde and prevent the establishment of a PalestinianState.

It was the occupying Power, not the Palestinians, that was not interested in peace, she affirmed.  Israel continued to seek to perpetuate the subjugation of the Palestinian people and land through continued acts of occupation and expansion.  It was time to stop blaming the Palestinians for Israel’s actions, time for Israel to stop hijacking the concept of security.  The Palestinians had been deprived of all forms of security.  Moreover, regarding Israel’s claim that the wall’s construction constituted a security measure to prevent terrorism, she said this remained illogical and representative of the same lie that had been used to cover all crimes committed against the Palestinians.

It should be recalled, she stressed, that the same security pretext had been used to justify Israel’s settlements activities.  The international community had witnessed the actual colonization of Palestinian land while Israel had argued about security measures.  In reality, the issue revolved around Palestinian land and designs on part of Israel to conquer more land at the expense of the Palestinians and their right to self-determination.  Finally, she reiterated that the suicide bombings committed by Palestinians were condemnable.  There was no justification for such terror, nor for the State terror perpetrated by Israel against Palestinian civilians.  However, such violence had not emerged in a vacuum.  Its roots could be found in the occupation, which remained the root cause of all ongoing problems faced today.  The solution to the conflict must be negotiated, it would not be arrived at by force.


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For information media - not an official record