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The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
Agenda item 91: Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (continued) (A/59/3 (chap. I) and A/59/89-E/2004/21)
1. The Chairman asked the observer delegation of Palestine to convey the Committee’s condolences to the Palestinian people on the loss of their leader.
2. Mr. Alaujan (Bahrain) said that under international law and international humanitarian law an occupying Power did not exercise sovereignty over occupied territory and had an obligation to respect cultural property and other property.
3.3. His Government was concerned at Israel’s failure to respect United Nations resolutions and other international instruments and at its persistent obstruction to international peace initiatives, its ongoing annexation of Arab territory since 1967, the spread of settlements, its exploitation of natural resources, including water resources and agricultural and residential land, its restriction on movement between Palestinian towns and villages, its establishment of check points and other actions, all of which were denials of human rights and fundamental freedoms under the Charter of the United Nations and violated General Assembly resolution 58/229 which reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, including land and water, and called upon Israel, as the occupying Power, not to exploit, cause loss or depletion of or endanger the natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.
4. Israel’s most serious violations were associated with the continuing settlement activity in occupied Palestine and the occupied Syrian Arab Golan, particularly in already populated areas from which the residents had been forcibly expelled without regard for international instruments and in violation of Security Council resolution 465 (1980), which had declared that the settlements were illegal and called for the existing settlements to be dismantled. The situation was further complicated by the increase in the number of homeless people — estimated at between 13,000 and 16,000 in 2003 — who had been forcibly displaced as a consequence of the expropriation of land by Israel.
5. Despite the recent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice concerning the illegality of the separation wall being built by Israel, construction had continued both around Jerusalem and in the West Bank inside the green zone. The separation wall divided Palestinian land in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and had considerably worsened the situation of the populations.
6. A report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) (A/58/75-E/2003/21) provided a convincing picture of the hardships suffered by the Palestinian people, including an increase in poverty and unemployment, as a result of Israeli practices as well as a deterioration in health facilities and the displacement of hundreds of Palestinians following the destruction of their houses.
7. The report by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) (A/59/13) stated that one third of the 1.3 million Palestinian refugees in the camps administered by the Agency were located in areas close to Israel, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The camps were overcrowded and lacked basic facilities, including electricity and sewerage. The UNRWA figures showed that some 10,000 Palestinians had been rendered homeless as a result of the destruction of houses since 2000 and that unemployment had reached 70 per cent in some areas.
8. In the occupied Syrian Golan, Israel had continued to alter the legal and demographic characteristics of the occupied territory. Despite condemnation by the international community of its settlement policy, it had continued to build settlements and military camps in the occupied territories and to exploit agricultural land and water resources. The mobility restrictions imposed on the Arab population and other measures, including taxes on the purchase and sale of food and on the use of water, land and transport, were illegal under the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and contrary to Security Council resolution 497 (1981), which had declared the action by Israel to be without legal effect and demanded the rescission of the measures it had imposed.
9. Peace was a strategic choice and, as the Millennium Declaration had stated, was a universal aspiration. The achievement of peace in the Middle East required compliance with all obligations, in particular Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) as well as the Madrid peace process, the principle of land for peace, the road map and the Arab peace initiative endorsed by the Beirut Summit and other international gatherings.
10. Mr. Zoubi (Jordan) expressed deepest condolences to the delegations and people of the United Arab Emirates and Palestine on the deaths of their leaders, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and President Yasser Arafat, respectively. Both men had dedicated their lives to unifying their people in pursuing the right to establish their own independent State.
11. He said that the ESCWA report 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 (A/59/89-E/2004/21), illustrated the difficulty in tracking the causes of that situation. Almost all the main topics and indicators in the report showed a worsening of the situation during the period under review.
12. The scope of the repercussions went far beyond their economic and social dimensions; the economy in the territory under Israeli occupation had deteriorated to the extent that it had been described as “war-torn”. He referred to a statement made by the representative of Egypt under the current agenda item on an earlier occasion, to the effect that the Millennium Development Goal indicators for Palestine had regressed under Israeli occupation.
13. All through the years preceding and following the signing of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel and in the eleven years since the signing of the Oslo Agreement between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Jordan had maintained its position of working towards a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. Both sides, and the other countries in the region, were regarded as partners of Jordan in the quest for a comprehensive peace. Jordan viewed the current agenda item as an opportunity not so much for launching harsh criticisms against Israel, as for voicing its concerns regarding the consequences of Israel’s continued policies. Such practices and policies could have a serious dampening effect on peace and the two-State solution, as stipulated in the road map of the Quartet. Furthermore, the consequences of those policies were further exacerbated by Israel’s continued defiance of United Nations resolutions in that regard.
14. Jordan was deeply concerned about the impact on young people of Israeli practices in the territory under its occupation, such as massive school closures due to movement restrictions that confined children to their homes and damage inflicted on schools, as described in paragraph 41 of the ESCWA report.
15. Mr. Sabbagh (Syrian Arab Republic) began by extending his sympathies to the observer delegation of Palestine and to the Palestinian people on the death of their leader, Mr. Yasser Arafat.
16. In a statement in the Economic and Social Council the previous July his delegation had said that the Israeli practices in the occupied territories since 1967 had been designed to perpetuate the occupation and expand the building of settlements. His delegation had also referred to the illegal expropriation of land and to the killing, destruction and terrorism practised by Israel, some examples of which were cited in the ESCWA report (A/59/89-E/2004/21) which referred, in particular, to the targeting of civilians, the destruction of wells, the uprooting of trees, the expulsion by the occupying Power of the population and the destruction of their homes, and the associated killing, including the crushing to death by an Israeli bulldozer of a United States solidarity worker who had been trying to prevent destruction of a Palestinian house in the Gaza Strip. The report described the daily sufferings of the Palestinian people and of the civilian population of the occupied Syrian Golan where Israel had continued to deny basic human rights in defiance of the applicable United Nations resolutions and the principles of international law.
17. The representative of Israel, who had had the effrontery to speak of his country’s contributions to development, had perhaps forgotten that those contributions had included the uprooting of trees, the theft of water and the laying waste and desertification of occupied Arab territory and environmental pollution by chemical and nuclear waste, all of which were documented in United Nations reports.
18. Statistics were inadequate to convey the full extent of the desperate plight of the Palestinian people under an Israeli Government that took pride in its acts of terrorism and gave free rein to its war machine, which in many cases even targeted innocent children. Israel was continuing to impose its policies, not only killing and destroying but plundering natural resources in occupied Palestine and in the occupied Syrian Golan as well as preventing Arabs from using their water resources and building warehouses and wells.
19. 19. Israel had tried to impose a new reality on the ground while continuing to build its expansionist, racist wall which annexed vast areas of Palestinian territory, in total disregard of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which had stated that the wall was illegal and should be dismantled. Israel’s aim in constructing the wall was to strengthen its colonialist presence by cutting off access to Palestinian territory, and to impede the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State in the occupied territory that it had occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem. Those practices were continuing, while at the same time the Arab side was endeavouring to achieve a just and comprehensive peace based on international legitimacy and the principle of land for peace.
20. Mr. Ramadan (Lebanon) began by offering his condolences to the Palestinian people on the death of its elected President.
21. It was regrettable that the Committee was discussing the same item yet again and was likely to be discussing it the following year. The ESCWA report (A/59/89-E/2004/21) fully documented the barbarity of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and of the Syrian Golan. That occupation had lasted for over 37 years and it was important for the Committee to adopt a resolution on the subject every year. Given that the Committee was primarily concerned with sustainable development, poverty eradication and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, above all through the exploitation of natural resources, the illegal exploitation of those resources by Israel was of direct concern to it and the adoption of a resolution would be an essential aspect of the Committee’s commitment to development.
22. In its resolution 2003/59, the Economic and Social Council had affirmed that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan, were illegal and an obstacle to economic and social development. Israel’s settlement policy was one of continuing expansion; the areas earmarked for settlement covered 41.9 per cent of the occupied West Bank and 45 per cent of the occupied Gaza Strip. The settlements were connected by a network of roads crossing Palestinian territory and destroying vast areas of agricultural land belonging to people whose economy was largely based on agriculture. In the occupied Syrian Golan, most of the land was set aside for military use and for settlements. As a result, the remaining Syrian Arab population controlled only 6 per cent of its territory.
23. The separation wall that Israel was currently building in occupied Palestine was estimated to be three times as high and twice as long as the Berlin Wall and would annex 16.6 per cent of Palestinian territory. Not only would the wall deny Palestinian farmers access to their land, but the annexation by Israel of 51 per cent of the water resources of the West Bank would deny Palestinians the water they needed for farming and would lead to the widespread destruction of agricultural land.
24. Mr. Atiyanto (Indonesia), noting the mounting economic and social damage caused by the protracted occupation of Palestinian territory, expressed his delegation’s concern over the intolerable situation of Palestinians. General Assembly resolutions on the sovereignty of States and avoidance of the use of extraterritorial coercive measures as instruments for the attainment of national goals should be respected. Israeli occupation clearly bred ill-will among Palestinians, jeopardized their right to self-determination and deprived them of control over the resources within their shifting borders.
25. Indonesia wished to reaffirm the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources and its support for the implementation of General Assembly resolution 58/229 and other United Nations resolutions in that regard.
26. Mr. Mirafzal (Islamic Republic of Iran) expressed his delegation’s condolences at the sad demise of Chairman Yasser Arafat, a great leader who had struggled for half a century against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. The name of Yasser Arafat would forever be reminiscent of his defence of the legitimate rights of the people of Palestine, and his tireless efforts in various international and regional organizations to achieve liberation would never be forgotten.
27. Once again, the report prepared by ESCWA documented grave violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian Territory. Recent military operations by Israel against civilian targets in the Gaza Strip and the brutal killing of a large number of Palestinian civilians, including children and women in refugee camps, constituted war crimes. Such acts, along with many other forms of dispossession and destruction of assets had rendered the Palestinian people helpless. Israel’s acts of aggression and oppression were deliberate attempts to preclude and torpedo any possibility for peace in the region. The fatal disregard for the demands of the international community and the conduct of violence and terror had exacerbated an already dire situation.
28. The impunity with which Israel had been allowed to carry out its crimes had emboldened its Government. It was therefore high time for the international community to take effective measures to protect and enforce the most basic rights of the Palestinians and to end the vicious cycle of violence resulting from the occupation. The ending of Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian State, with Quds al-Sharif as its capital, the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homeland, and the ending of the occupation of the Syrian Golan were the only viable and sustainable means of ensuring the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people and the Arab population over their natural resources.
29. It was imperative that the international community should become more effectively involved and, in that regard, the Committee could play an important role by addressing the detrimental effects of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people and by acting to prevent Israel from continuing to flout the will of the international community, as expressed through the relevant United Nations resolutions.
30. Mr. Husain (Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)) joined previous speakers in expressing his delegation’s deepest condolences on the untimely demise of Chairman Yasser Arafat.
31. 31. He welcomed the report’s emphasis on the importance of reviving the Middle East peace process on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 425 (1978) and 1397 (2002), the principle of land for peace, and the need for compliance with the agreements reached between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel. The report also highlighted Economic and Social Council resolution 2003/59, reaffirming the applicability of the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. OIC maintained the principle of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and of the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural and economic resources, including land and water. It was therefore deeply concerned about the grim scenario described throughout the ESCWA report, which detailed the damaging effects of the protracted Israeli occupation on all aspects of the lives of Palestinians and, in particular, on the economy, women and family life.
32. The member States of OIC shared the grave concerns of the United Nations over the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. At the tenth session of the Islamic Summit Conference, Heads of State and Government had reaffirmed the need to establish an independent Palestinian State, with Jerusalem (Quds al-Sharif) as its capital, and the need to implement all international resolutions pertaining to Palestine and the Middle East. They had also called on the Quartet to work studiously to reach a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East in implementation of the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the road map as published.
33. He drew attention to chapter III of the ESCWA report, which dealt with the occupied Syrian Golan, and said that the Islamic Summit Conference had demanded that Israel should complete its withdrawal from the area to the borders of 4 June 1967, in accordance with Security Council resolutions and the principle of land for peace.
34. OIC was of the view that the construction of a wall was creating unjust realities in respect of the borders of Palestine and was further hindering confidence-building measures in pursuit of the road map. The United Nations General Assembly, the Islamic Summit Conference and International Court of Justice had all stated reasons confirming that the wall was unacceptable and that further progress in its construction should be prevented.
35. OIC advocated the resumption of peace negotiations and the adoption of firm and practical measures and deadlines for the establishment of an independent sovereign State of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital. It would be timely, pragmatic and courageous to end the occupation in order to lay the foundations for sustainable peace and prosperity for Palestine and all countries of the region.
36. Mr. Al-Shabibi (Yemen) said that the sufferings of the Palestinian people and of the population of the Syrian Golan were getting steadily worse under the Israeli occupation. The facts and figures contained in the ESCWA report (A/59/89-E/2004/21) indicated the existence of a humanitarian catastrophe of which the entire world, and the United Nations in particular, should take note, particularly in view of the economic and social consequences of the Israeli practice of destroying and plundering resources and property. It was distressing, in the twenty-first century, and in a world that proclaimed the principles of freedom, equality and human rights, that the Palestinian people should be suffering repression and injustice and be denied by the Israeli occupation the right to live in peace in its own national territory.
37. The international community did not need new resolutions in order to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian people, but rather a genuine will and courage to force Israel to implement the existing resolutions of the United Nations, particularly Security Council resolution 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003). His delegation shared the opinion of the Secretary-General that the only means of relieving the sufferings of the Palestinian people was to establish a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and to put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
38. In conclusion, he reaffirmed the support of his Government for the Palestinian people in its aspiration to secure sovereignty over its national territory, and to establish a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, and for the people of the Syrian Arab Golan and Lebanon in their struggle to regain sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan and the Shab’a Farms area of Lebanon.
The meeting rose at 6.15 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.