|UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AT GENEVA HOLDS SPECIAL MEETING TO COMMEMORATE THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE|
30 November 2009
The United Nations Office at Geneva today held a Special Meeting to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (29 November). The Special Meeting was organized in observance of General Assembly resolution 32/40 B of 2 December 1977.
Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, reading out the message of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, noted that, 62 years ago, the General Assembly, in resolution 181, had put forth a vision of two States. The international community continued to assist the Palestinian people, but such humanitarian efforts were not enough. The Secretary-General was deeply concerned that talks between Israel and the Palestinians had been suspended for almost one year. While Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent announcement of settlement restraint was a step beyond earlier positions, it fell short of Israel’s obligations under the road map, particularly given the exclusion of East Jerusalem. Israel was called on once again to meet in full its road map commitments to freeze all settlement activity, including “natural growth” and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001.
Other concerns voiced by the Secretary-General in his statement included the barrier, which continued to restrict Palestinian access to key social services, agricultural land and East Jerusalem; the situation in Jerusalem, and actions such as the eviction of Palestinians and house demolitions; and an urgent need for a durable resolution of the crisis in Gaza. The humanitarian situation there was of profound concern, said the Secretary-General, and the closure of Gaza should be lifted, consistent with Security Council resolution 1860, to allow for the unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people. Consistent with that same resolution, efforts also had to be made to address Israel’s legitimate security concerns, including through mechanisms to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza and an end to Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli civilians. Ten months after the end of hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel, the issue of accountability for the many reported violations of international humanitarian and human rights law had not been adequately addressed. Mr. Ban therefore called on both Israel and the relevant Palestinian authorities to conduct, without delay, credible domestic investigations into the allegations of serious human rights violations relating to the Gaza conflict.
Providing statements at the Special Meeting were representatives of the following organizations: the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; the League of Arab States; the Organization of the Islamic Conference; the Non-Aligned Movement; the African Union; the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East; and a Representative of the non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The Permanent Observer of Palestine also made a statement on behalf of the President of Palestine.
Messages or statements for the Day were also received from the Presidents of Turkey, Senegal and Tunisia, the Emir of Qatar, the Swedish Presidency of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Geneva, and from the African Group in Geneva.
SERGEI ORDZHONIKIDZE, Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, reading out the message of BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, noted that, 62 years ago, the General Assembly, in resolution 181, had put forth a vision of two States. The State of Israel existed. The State of Palestine did not. The international community continued to assist the Palestinian people, including through the work of United Nations agencies, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) foremost among them. Such humanitarian efforts were vital, but were not enough. Their paramount focus had to be a political solution that addressed the roots of the conflict. It was vital that a sovereign State of Palestine was achieved on the basis of the 1967 lines, with agreed land swaps and a just and agreed solution to the refugee issue – a State that lived side-by-side in peace with Israel within secure and recognized borders, as envisaged in the resolutions of the Security Council.
The Secretary-General welcomed the commitment of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to a two-State solution, but was deeply concerned that talks between Israel and the Palestinians had been suspended for almost one year. In that regard, the clear commitment and efforts of the United States to bring about a resumption of meaningful negotiations on all final status issues was welcomed. The biggest challenge to that shared agenda was to create conditions in which the parties had the trust and confidence to return to genuine and substantive talks. On the Palestinian side, the Palestinian Authority had made significant progress in meeting its road map obligations in the West Bank. Also welcomed were initial steps taken by Israel to contribute to those positive trends.
Mr. Ban, however, expressed deep concern that, in East Jerusalem and the remainder of the West Bank, illegal settlement construction continued. While Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent announcement of settlement restraint was a step beyond earlier positions, it fell short of Israel’s obligations under the road map, particularly given the exclusion of East Jerusalem. Israel was called on once again to meet in full its road map commitments to freeze all settlement activity, including “natural growth” and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001. Other concerns expressed in the statement included the barrier, which continued to restrict Palestinian access to key social services, agricultural land and East Jerusalem; the situation in Jerusalem, and actions such as the eviction of Palestinians and house demolitions; and an urgent need for a durable resolution of the crisis in Gaza. The humanitarian situation there was of profound concern and the closure of Gaza should be lifted, consistent with Security Council resolution 1860, to allow for the unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people. Consistent with that same resolution, efforts also had to be made to address Israel’s legitimate security concerns, including through mechanisms to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza and an end to Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli civilians.
Ten months after the end of hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel, the issue of accountability for the many reported violations of international humanitarian and human rights law had not been adequately addressed. Mr. Ban therefore called on both Israel and the relevant Palestinian authorities to conduct, without delay, credible domestic investigations into the allegations of serious human rights violations relating to the Gaza conflict. The reunification of Gaza and the West Bank was also essential, and Egypt’s efforts in that regard were supported.
A Representative of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, reading out the message of the Chairman of the Committee, said the reality of the situation on the ground today was rather bleak and gave them little reason to believe that the occupation would be brought to an end any time soon. The peace process was stalled. In the very land where a future Palestinian State was supposed to be established, illegal Israeli settlements continued to multiply. The refusal of the occupying power to put a halt to the settlement expansion had become a major obstacle to the resumption of peace negotiations. In East Jerusalem, settlement construction had been accompanied by house demolitions, evictions of Palestinian inhabitants and other discriminatory actions. The situation around the holy sites of the city, in particular at and around Al-Haram Al-Sharif remained tense. Any illegal or provocative actions were prone to escalate into large-scale violence with far reaching implications. The construction of the separation wall on occupied Palestinian land continued, in spite of the ruling of the International Court of Justice. Together with more than 500 checkpoints and movement obstacles throughout the West Bank, the wall stifled the daily life of the Palestinians. Moreover, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was of special concern. After being subjected for more than two years to a nearly total economic blockade, the Palestinians in Gaza had had to endure a three-week military invasion accompanied by extraordinary violence. Over 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, including more than 300 children and more than 100 women, and more than 5,000 Palestinians had been injured. The Israeli side had reported 14 deaths, including four civilians and 182 injured. In addition, the economic blockade continued, allowing only for basic relief to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. Due to the compelling imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians, among others, the courageous Palestinian people seriously needed their active solidarity.
A Representative of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, reading out the message of the Chairman of the Special Committee, said this year's International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People came at a critical time, when hopes for a viable peace in the Middle East and a lasting solution to the Palestinian issue seemed somewhat distant and bleak. The extensive harm caused to civilian lives and property during the Gaza war early this year had shaken the confidence and trust among the parties to the conflict, thus hindering any meaningful negotiations soon. The Special Committee was particularly concerned over the continued violations of the human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories. Operation Cast Lead by Israel had reportedly killed over 1,200 Palestinian civilians in Gaza, many of them women and children. The sanctions and blockade imposed by Israel precluded rebuilding the lost livelihoods of the Palestinians. Prospects for economic development and trade remained grim, creating a society afflicted with dependency. The human rights situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, too, remained precarious. Numerous roadblocks, checkpoints and permission systems had constrained freedom of movement to a great extent. Illegal Israeli settlement activities, settler violence and the construction of the separation wall in contravention of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, were also a serious threat to the viability and contiguity of a future Palestinian State. No peace solution was viable, nor was it bound to last, unless couched in a process that sought to redress injustice and afford equal protection and rights to all the people. On this solemn occasion, the international community, ought to renew its commitment to ensure that the Palestinian people were accorded their inalienable rights as citizens of a sovereign member of the United Nations family.
A Representative of the League of Arab States, reading out the message of the League of Arab States, said today, as they celebrated the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Palestinian people were still deprived of their fundamental and legitimate rights, and continued to suffer Israeli attacks against Gaza, with its attendant economic, social, health and other consequences. The war crimes committed by the occupier against innocent civilians should not remain unpunished. They violated internationally adopted commitments; the United Nations and its bodies should therefore address those violations and bring the perpetrators to trial. There had been numerous reports on the situation, including most recently the Goldstone report and the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, presented at the last session of the Human Rights Council, all of which showed that the Israeli forces had committed war crimes, using civilians as human shields, among others. The Israeli occupier had also violated the Fourth Geneva Convention by targeting civilian infrastructure and protected sites. The League of Arab States supported the American position, as set out by President Obama, calling for a complete stop to Israeli construction in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem. However, there had been some backsliding with regard to the American position regarding the occupied Palestinian territory. Today, they all had their human, legal and political responsibilities. They needed to take serious measures to begin serious negotiations with binding results that would prevent Israel from returning to its time-wasting policies. Stopping the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and Jerusalem, opening up the access points, and allowing in humanitarian assistance and food were necessary prerequisites to such negotiations. They had to avoid the double standards and to return each side to their own land.
A Representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), reading out the message of the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, observed that the ferocity of the Israeli violations of international law had exacerbated in the occupied city of Al-Quds, where the occupation authorities were conducting a systematic operation aimed at altering the Arab-Islamic character of the City through Judaization, attacks on its holy sites, tampering with its history, and attempting to alter its demographic fabric. The city of Al-Quds had recently witnessed massive expulsions of Palestinian families after seizing their houses in Selwan district and Sheikh Jarrah suburb in the occupied East Al-Quds. Meanwhile, Israel had intensified its violations of the holy sites of the occupied city of Al-Quds. The Israeli police were breaking into the blessed Mosque of Al-Aqsa and allowing the most extremist Jews to enter its compound and pray in it, which would stir anger and result in further escalations and tensions. The Israeli occupation authorities were also conducting excavation beneath the Mosque, causing cracks in its walls and threatening its foundations in an unashamed violation of international laws. The Expanded Ministerial Meeting of the OIC held early this month had stressed that Al-Quds was central to all the Muslim Ummah and that any violation of its Islamic and Christian sanctities would result in a serious aggravation of the situation in the region. With regard to the situation in Gaza, the OIC and its Member States expressed support to the report submitted by Justice Goldstone to the Human Rights Council and called for the implementation of the decision of the Council and the resolution of the General Assembly in that respect. It was high time for Israel to submit to the international will and to be compelled to commit to the provisions of international law, which it had incessantly violated. The failure to find a just solution to the Palestinian cause had become a reason for instability in the region and a threat to international peace and security. Therefore, the international community should make serious and vigorous efforts to compel Israel to commit to the conditions and references of the peace process, and to respect and implement the agreements and understandings reached in the context of this process.
A Representative of the Non-Aligned Movement, reading out the message on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated the Non-Aligned Movement’s full and unwavering support to the exercise by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights in Palestine, including their right to self-determination without external interference, their right to national independence and sovereignty, and their right to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted. It was a source of severe disappointment that, after more than 30 years of convening such meetings, they were still discussing the same set of problems and the same kinds of suffering that the Palestinian people were facing. Those problems and suffering were even exacerbated with the absence of genuine political will from the Israeli side to engage constructively in efforts aiming at reaching a negotiated peaceful solution to that protracted conflict. Israel's continuing military occupation of the Palestinian territories in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions was condemned in the strongest terms. At their last Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in July 2009, the Heads of States and Governments of the Non-Aligned Movement had forcefully condemned the Israeli military aggression against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip during the period from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. A strong and categorical condemnation by the international community of such serious violations would convey a clear message that there could be no justification for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law under any circumstances. The Non-Aligned Movement had welcomed the report of the independent international fact-finding mission headed by Justice Goldstone. It was their conviction that the serious consideration of the report, as well as undertaking serious follow-up to the implementation of its recommendations, were of utmost importance in bringing an end to the persistent situation of impunity and defiance of the law. There was also a need for intensified and coordinated efforts by the international community to promote a genuine peace process, as well as to ensure respect for international law, as key to any peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole.
A representative of the African Union, reading out a message from the President of the African Union Commission, said this solemn and moving occasion which had been commemorated by the United Nations since 1977 had unfortunately become a sad moment of devastation as they contemplated the fate of an annihilated people, reduced to a state of dependency for even the most basic needs. A devastation that found its explanation in the lack of implementation of concrete actions to lighten the suffering of millions of their brothers inside the occupied territories who were subjected daily to collective punishments, targeted assassinations, a deteriorating humanitarian situation and a total blockade on even the most vital services. The messages issued on the Days of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the decisions and resolutions of the Human Rights Council and the many other United Nations resolutions, including relevant Security Council resolutions, had remained dead letters. At the moment, they could only hope that the adoption of the Goldstone report by the United Nations General Assembly and the call made to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit that report to the Security Council, in particular to demand the opening of an independent inquiry into the violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the military operation in Gaza, would not suffer the same fate. Faced with such an international mobilization, the Israeli authorities did not seem to accord the necessary importance to the concerns of the international community. Regarding impunity, one could but condemn the attitude of the Israeli authorities who had openly stated that they would not allow any prosecution of those in charge or of Israeli soldiers. In that connection, there was no doubt in Africa about the legitimacy of the struggle of the Palestinian people for its dignity and self-determination. The Executive Council of the African Union, which met in February and July 2009, had reiterated its total support for the struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli occupation under the aegis of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative. Human conscience required speedy and effective action in Palestine.
A representative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), read out a message from the UNRWA Commissioner-General, which recalled that UNRWA marked its sixtieth anniversary this year and paid tribute to UNRWA and the capacity of its human development work to bring about refugee self-reliance, thereby contributing to stability and peace in a volatile region. As early as the 1960s, the Agency had achieved near parity for girls and boys in its schools across the Middle East – an astonishing feat bearing in mind the record on gender equality of many institutions in the region at that time and still today. In 1962, UNRWA had opened the Ramallah Women's Training Centre, the first training centre for women in the Arab World. Today, UNRWA educated half a million children each day, using curricula of host countries, but enriched with course material devised specifically by the Agency on human rights, tolerance and conflict resolution. Conveying to the next generation a sense of universal values in a region beset by radicalism was an incalculably valuable contribution. In health, between the 1960s and 2006, a drop in infant mortality had been achieved, exceeding World Health Organization targets for middle-income countries. The Agency's award-winning Microfinance department had also granted some 150,000 loans with a value of about $160 million – wealth generation being one of the essential foundations of sustainable peace. How had UNRWA achieved all that? UNRWA's uniqueness lay partly in the fact that rather than work through local partners it employed a small number of international staff – 150 – but nearly 30,000 local or "area" staff. While a solution to Palestinians' predicament would only be achieved with the advent of a just, fair and inclusive negotiated outcome leading to the creation of a Palestinian State, pending the resolution of the conflict, UNRWA offered stability and dignity, a sense of hope for the next generation and a belief that the future lies in peace.
A Representative of the General Arab Women Federation, reading out a message from the non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted that the General Assembly, the Security Council and other entities of the United Nations system had adopted many resolutions on the question of Palestine since 1947. The world continued to wait for them to be implemented. Today, they were observing this International Day for the thirty-second time and they had to note that with each year they had moved farther away from the Palestinians realizing their inalienable rights - that of self-determination and the establishment of their independent State they have agreed on - no longer within the borders of those stipulated in the 181 partition resolution, but within the pre-6 June 1967 borders, or the Green Line. Israeli actions such as the blockade and brutal military action against Gaza earlier this year had resulted in a horrendous death toll and destruction of property and human suffering. The rejection of the Goldstone Report, the grabbing of more Palestinian land in the West Bank and particularly in and around Jerusalem, the illegal construction of more and more Jewish settlements, the ongoing construction of the separation wall, continued to be denounced as they impacted the rights of the Palestinian people. They called on the United Nations, its Member States, non-governmental organizations and civil society generally to act to stop the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands and to stand up for the rule of international law and international human rights and humanitarian law clearly and unambiguously in order to bring justice to the Palestinian people and peace in the Middle East region and the world.
An Observer of Palestine, reading out the message of MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of Palestine, conveyed thanks to the Secretary-General and the members of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for the efforts to bring recognition to the plight of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian issue was the only one among international issues that had not yet been settled, which raised questions about a double standard approach. Sixty-one years had passed since the catastrophe suffered by his people, who now lived in neighbouring States or suffered the yoke of the occupation in the territories established in 1967. The international negotiations so far had not produced the results expected by the international community. In addition to the latest attack on Gaza, its people, infrastructure and homes, as well as the war crimes committed by the Israeli forces, Israel had gone even further and reneged on all the agreements previously agreed by its authorities. It was tightening its grip on the Palestinian community by building settlements and threatening the Arab-Judaic culture and nature of Jerusalem. Moreover, the excavations under the Al-Aqsa Mosque and allowing religious fanatics to enter its sacred confines was escalating the situation.
The message from the President of Palestine confirmed the Palestinian commitment to a lasting sustainable peace. They would not put up any obstacles to that and would always abide by international commitments and policies, including land for peace. Israel, however, was every day on the ground confirming that it refused a settlement, paying no heed to attempts made to negotiate an overall just settlement. In order to put an end to the question, and establish peace and stability in the region, Palestine was calling on the United Nations and the Security Council. It, was time, after all these years of negotiations which did not lead to any results, to issue a decision which reflected the position of countries around the world supporting a two-State solution and ending the Israeli occupation.
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