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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Economic and Social Council
2004 Substantive Session
43rd Meeting (AM)
ECOSOC/6132
19 July 2004

IMPACT OF ISRAELI OCCUPATION, UN ASSISTANCE TO NON-SELF-GOVERNING TERRITORIES
AMONG ISSUES ADDRESSED IN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL

Afternoon Panel Discusses Strengthened
Cooperation between Functional Commissions, Council


“The sustainable option for addressing the current economic and social deprivation [of the Palestinian people] lies in lifting the occupation –- an occupation that has only brought misery and suffering to the Palestinian people for more than 37 years”, the Permanent Observer of Palestine told the 2004 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council today.

The Council was taking up its agenda item 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 the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.

The Palestine’s Observer said Israel, the occupying Power, had committed countless war crimes.  Its policies of confiscating land and building illegal settlements had continued unabated.  Another crime was the construction of Israel’s expansionist wall, despite international condemnations and contrary to the International Court of Justice’s conclusion.  Other violations included frequent collective punishment, confiscation of land, exploitation of water resources, home demolitions, restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinian persons and goods, administrative detentions and the harassment, physical mistreatment and torture of Palestinian detainees and prisoners.  Israel must be compelled to respect its obligations under international law.

Israel’s representative, while acknowledging that the Palestinian people were suffering, said Israelis were suffering as well. Terror and its repercussions affected everyone.  More than 25 per cent of Israeli children now lived below the poverty line and, largely because of terror, foreign investment had turned away from the region.  The “biased report in front of us” did not mention the devastation done to the Israeli economy in the past three years or the resulting pain and hardship.

He said cooperation towards ending suffering was a more useful approach than arguing about the degrees of suffering.  The Israeli disengagement plan was providing hope for a better future and should be welcomed as a step towards ushering in a new era of possibility and renewal.  Before the onslaught of terrorism, the rate of unemployment among the Palestinian people had decreased by almost 50 per cent, and peace had drawn investment from throughout the world.  With the onset of terrorism, however, that trend was sharply reversed.

Reacting to comments made, Mervat Tallawy, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), who also introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the issue, said the Secretariat had prepared the report according to a mandate to analyse the impact of the occupation on the social and economic situation of the Palestinian people, not to examine the suffering of the Israeli people.  Nothing in the report’s allegations was meant to be against one party in favour of the other.

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Background

The general segment of the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council continued today with consideration of the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and 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 the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.  ...

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Annexed to a note by the Secretary-General (document A/59/89-E/2004/21) was the report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) 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.

According to the report, the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel continues to deepen the economic and social hardship for Palestinians.  The Israeli army continues to resort to extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, household demolition, severe mobility restrictions and closure policies.

Economic indicators, the report states, continue to show negative trends.  Unemployment reached 70 per cent in some areas.  There was greater dependence on food aid.  Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources for settlements and the erection of the West Bank barrier accelerated during 2003.  Refugees, women and children bore the major brunt of these measures.  Israeli settlements and the construction of a barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory, contrary to the Geneva Convention and other norms of international law, continue to fuel the conflict, having detrimental repercussions on the living conditions of the Palestinian people.

Expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights continues unabated, according to the report.  Access to natural resources and social services, in particular schooling, higher education and medical facilities, remains inadequate for the Arab population there.

The accumulated consequences of all those factors have nearly brought the occupied Palestinian territory to “war-torn economy” status, the report concludes.  Humanitarian assistance is not sufficient to ensure a sustainable life with dignity and rights for the Palestinian civilians under occupation. The sustainable option for addressing the current economic and social deprivation lies in lifting the occupation of the Palestinian territory, as well as the Syrian Golan.

There was also a Secretary-General’s report on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/59/121-E/2004/88), containing a description of efforts made by United Nations agencies, in cooperation with Palestinian and donor counterparts, to support the Palestinian civilian population and institutions.

The report observes that there was a continuing trend of the reduction in the capacity of Palestinians to function effectively and a growing dependency upon aid -- budgetary, technical and humanitarian.  The significance of the United Nations agencies and their role in the occupied Palestinian territory has never been greater, nor has there ever been a time when it has been more difficult to operate.

A two-track strategy -- balancing emergency needs against development goals that support a viable Palestinian Authority -- has been the basis of the United Nations approach for the past three years.  Although less than preferable, it has become the modus operandi for relief efforts in the occupied Palestinian territory.  As a result of their considerable efforts, the United Nations system and donors have achieved measured success in both emergency and development assistance.  Unfortunately, those successes have been overshadowed by the escalation of the crisis, which has led not only to loss of life, but also to a reversal in the progress made in the socio-economic sectors.

Humanitarian and financial assistance will not by themselves serve as a solution to the political crisis affecting the lives of the Palestinians and Israelis.  A solution regarding the status of the Palestinian people, as well as the economic situation and humanitarian crisis, is linked directly to respect for international law and the achievement of a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

As a matter of priority, the Government of Israel must ease restrictions and work closely with United Nations agencies, donors and humanitarian organizations to ensure that aid and development projects are delivered in a timely and comprehensive manner.  Effective steps by the Palestinian Authority to lessen Israel’s security concerns would facilitate such an effort.  The international community must not lose its focus despite the challenges; particular attention was drawn to the latest emergency appeal of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The report concludes that the events of the past year have demonstrated how desperately the people of the Middle East need a political solution to their long conflict.  There will be no peace unless each of the parties, the region and the wider international community was ready to play its part. To that end, the Quartet and others were making a concerted effort to engage the parties in a political process through negotiations that would ultimately bring an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory that began in 1967.  Only then could the suffering of the Palestinians, and of Israelis, be alleviated.  The United Nations system would continue to carry out its work in support of that goal.

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By a draft resolution 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 the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document E/2004/L.25), the Council would demand the complete cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction.

The Council would call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to end its occupation of Palestinian cities, towns and other populated centres, to end the imposition of all forms of closure and curfew, and to cease its destruction of homes and properties, economic institutions and agricultural fields.

The Council would stress the need to preserve the national unity and the territorial integrity of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods in the Territory, and the freedom of movement to and from the outside world.

The draft was sponsored by Algeria, Bahrain, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.

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Discussion on Non-Self-Governing Territories, Repercussions
of Israeli Occupation

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Next, MERVAT TALLAWY, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), presented 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.  The only hope of bringing an end to violence in the occupied territory and Israel was a comprehensive peace settlement that included Syria and Lebanon, she noted, adding that the Road Map submitted by the Quartet was considered reasonable, but efforts to implement it remained “deeply unsatisfactory”.

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ABDULLA EID SALMAN AL-SULAITI (Qatar) said the Israeli occupation continued to lead to many difficulties for the Palestinian people, including through the Israeli Army’s policy of extrajudicial killings and executions and the demolition of Palestinian housing.  Those policies had intensified, despite calls by the Secretary-General, who had expressed concern that such actions would lead to additional bloodshed and violations of international law.  Among the policies most detrimental to the Palestinians was that of property seizure. Determined to expand their settlements, Israeli authorities had constructed the separation barrier, which the International Court of Justice had just found contrary to international law.  Israel must end the barrier’s construction, dismantle those parts already constructed, and make reparations for all damages caused by the construction.

According to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he continued, following three years of economic deterioration, the Palestinian people had lost all the gains of the previous 15 years.  That economic deterioration had not just affected the Palestinian Authority, which had been unable to pay staff salaries, but the wider population, as well, of whom 63 per cent now lived in absolute poverty.  Moreover, Israel had impeded humanitarian assistance.  Continuous deterioration of Palestinian living standards and renewed forms of confiscation of their public and private assets had led to severe economic recession.  Humanitarian assistance was insufficient to counteract the effects of that recession.  The Palestinians must be allowed to regain their national rights, including the rights to self-determination and the establishment of an individual State.

MUIN BURHAN SHREIM, of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, said the report detailed the dire situation facing the Palestinian people as a result of the Israeli occupation.  Israel, the occupying Power, had committed countless war crimes.  Its policies of confiscating land and building illegal settlements had continued unabated.  Such illegal practices compounded the situation on the ground.  Among other things, the report recognized that Israeli settlements continued to fuel the conflict, and that such policies had given rise to serious concerns regarding establishment of an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian State.

He said another crime was the construction of its expansionist wall, despite international condemnations.  The International Court of Justice had concluded that Israel was under legal obligation to cease construction of and dismantle the wall.  The wall cut deep into Palestinian territory and had involved confiscation of Palestinian land, destroyed the livelihood of thousands of Palestinians, and impacted on the social and economic living conditions and the Palestinian water resources.  Other violations included frequent collective punishment, confiscation of land, exploitation of water resources and home demolitions.  Restrictions of the freedom of movement of Palestinian persons and goods were also prevalent during the reporting period.  Administrative detentions and the harassment, physical mistreatment and torture of Palestinian detainees and prisoners also persisted.

He said the economic and social crisis facing the Palestinian people required the United Nations to continue to monitor the situation closely in an effort to effectively put an end to al illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.  Israel must be compelled to respect its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law.  The international community must give the necessary attention to that issue and take urgent measures to help the Palestinian people and to halt Israel’s destruction of the natural resources in the occupied Syrian Golan.

“The sustainable option for addressing the current economic and social deprivation lies in lifting the occupation – an occupation that has only brought misery and suffering to the Palestinian people for more than 37 years”, he said.  “Once that is accomplished, the Palestinian people will be able to live a normal life, free from Israeli occupation, subjugation and destruction.”

MOSHE SERMONETA (Israel), acknowledged that the Palestinian people were suffering.  But, so were the Israeli people.  Despite the impressive success of preventative measures, terrorist acts continued to be attempted.  Terror and its repercussions damaged everyone.  More than 25 per cent of Israeli children now lived below the poverty line, and largely because of terror, foreign investment had turned away from the region, stripping it of desperately needed funds. He said the “biased report in front of us” did not mention the devastation done to the Israeli economy in the past three years, or the resulting pain and hardship.

Cooperation towards ending suffering was a more useful approach than arguing about the degrees of suffering.  The Israeli disengagement plan was providing hope for a better future and should be welcomed as a step towards ushering in a new era of possibility and renewal.  That could only by accomplished by combating terror and corruption in all their forms.  He said the report failed to mention the sacrifices and risks that Israel had undertaken to ensure a continuing infusion of income to the Palestinian people. Trade with Israel accounted for more than 80 per cent of the trade of the Palestinian Authority.  In fact, despite the continuing campaign of terror, trade between Israel and the Palestinian Authority increased by 16 per cent from 2002 to 2003.  Before the onslaught of terrorism, the rate of unemployment among the Palestinian people had decreased by almost 50 per cent, and peace had drawn investment from throughout the world. With the onset of terrorism, however, that trend had been sharply reversed.

HUSSEIN SABBAGH (Syria) said the present report had added new, dark chapters to the history of Israel, showing the continued suffering of the Palestinian people and the population of the Syrian Golan.  Noting that Israel continued to flout United Nations resolutions from all three main bodies – the Security Council, General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council -- he stressed that the report showed a growing number of victims of Israeli violence, particularly among children.  The situation continued to worsen, despite repeated appeals from the international community and the Secretary-General.

The report had also referred to restrictions on movement and travel, including on humanitarian agencies, he added, and had shown that the occupation authorities had engaged in repression and terror against the Arab inhabitants of the Syrian Golan, persecuting those who attended Syrian universities and preventing them from returning to their families.  Moreover, in its construction and expansion of settlements, Israel continued to defy the international community and international law.  The construction of the separation wall further demonstrated Israel’s expansionist aims.  All States were called upon not to remain silent on the tragic economic and social situation of the Palestinian people and the people of the Syrian Golan.

In response to comments made, Ms. TALLAWY said year after year, the Israeli delegation had blamed the report and the Secretariat for not taking into consideration the suffering of the Israeli people and using incorrect data.  The Secretariat, however, was preparing the report according to a mandate to analyse the impact of the occupation on the social and economic situation of the Palestinian people, not to examine the suffering of the Israeli people or the corruption in the Palestinian Authority.  Nothing in the report’s allegations was meant to be against one party in favour of the other.

ABDULLAH AL-RASHEED (Saudi Arabia) said the report placed things in context, showing the suffering of the Palestinian people resulting from the arbitrary acts and repression of Israel.

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Then, the representative of Tunisia introduced the draft resolution 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” (document E/2004/L.25).

Rights of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, Mr. SHREIM, of the Observer Mission of Palestine, said the Israeli representative had tried to distort the present debate.  It was not true that the misery suffered by the Palestinian people should be laid at the door of the Palestinian leadership.  It properly belonged at that of the brutal occupation, which had kept the Palestinian people from achieving the freedom to which they were entitled.

While it was true that the Israeli people suffered too, he acknowledged, their suffering resulted from the Israeli Government’s policies, which insisted upon colonizing other peoples’ land and a refusal to resolve the conflict on the basis of international law and legitimacy.  Thus, with regard to Israel’s statement that no one had the monopoly on misery, he stressed that one should not try to equate the victims with the victimizers.  The Palestinian people did not have the monopoly on suffering, but neither were the Israeli people their equal.  The Palestinians had been under occupation for 37 years and had suffered the greatest.  They had been denied their basic rights and forced to leave their homes.  Israel could end the suffering of both peoples by ending their immoral occupation today, not tomorrow.

Mr. SERMONETA (Israel), speaking in right of reply, said it was easy to paint in black and white victimizers and victims and to lay the blame on one side, but he was surprised that the selective vision of the Observer failed to recognize some basic facts.  It was only a question of how far back one wanted to go.  Terrorism was not born after the so-called occupation.  Occupation was only a pretext.  How could the victimizers be denied the same rights the victims were calling for? he asked.  The dehumanization was reflected by somebody wishing one’s own death, as long as someone else died, as well.  It was waste of time, resources and a lot of people’s hopes.  As long as there was a relentless attempt to vilify, dialogue could not be considered a viable option.

“And still we try”, he said, continuing, “Despite four years of terrorist campaigns, the majority of Israel was still interested in settling the dispute.” He did not see that fact recognized by the Palestinian side.  He saw only finger-pointing, he said, and regretted that.

Mr. SHREIM, Permanent of the Observer Mission of Palestine, said the Israeli representative might “try to justify the occupation as long as he wants”.  The Palestinian side wanted to solve the issue based on international law and a two-State solution.  He asked the Israeli Government to end the occupation and recognized the right of both States to live side by side within secure and internationally recognized borders.  Israel had the right to live, he said, but the current debate was about Palestinians’ right to live.  The prolonged and immoral occupation had a negative impact, on the Israeli side, as well, because it corrupted them.  It was for the benefit of both peoples to bring the issue to a resolution based on the two-State solution.  He noted that there were parties in the Israeli coalition calling for transferring Palestinians from the occupied territories to Jordan.

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