The Chair (spoke in French): I thank Ambassador Kohona for his important statement. We are appreciative of his Committee’s contributions to our meetings, as well as his country’s participation as an observer in our Committee’s activities.
I now have the pleasure of giving the floor to Mr. Mohammad Khazaee, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, who will speak on behalf of the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Mr. Khazaee (Islamic Republic of Iran): I am honoured to address today’s meeting on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Once again, we would like to show our solidarity with the Palestinian people and reflect on the tragedy of that people in the context of the illegal occupation of its territory by Israel. We reaffirm our determination to redouble efforts to peacefully, justly and comprehensively resolve the question of Palestine, including the adverse situation of its refugees, in accordance with the rules and principles of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions.
The Non-Aligned Movement has historically raised its voice in numerous international forums to support the Palestinian people in their just claim to a sovereign and independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital. In that context, the Heads of State and Government of the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, meeting at the Movement’s sixteenth summit, held in Tehran in August, again reviewed the serious situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and reiterated their grave concern regarding the suffering of the Palestinian people under the prolonged and brutal Israeli military occupation. Likewise, they rejected the ongoing deprivation of Palestinians’ inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their territories, as well as the full enjoyment of their right to a sovereign and independent State.
The Non-Aligned Movement appreciates the efforts of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as the efforts and initiative of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and its Chair, Ambassador Abdou Salam Diallo, aimed at the implementation of United Nations resolutions regarding the question of Palestine. Unfortunately, despite the strenuous and much-appreciated efforts made by the United Nations to address the tragedy of the Palestinian people, whether through the assistance provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East or through the various recommendations and resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council, Israel, the occupying Power, continues to reject those resolutions as if it were a State above the law.
It is regrettable that Israel has persisted with policies that are prejudicial to negotiations on the core issues, namely, the status of Jerusalem, settlement, refugees, security and water. That has, in turn, exacerbated conditions on the ground, undermined confidence, deepened mistrust and obstructed the resumption of the peace process. Israel has continued with its illegal campaign aimed at altering the demographic composition, legal status, character and geographic nature of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, so as to facilitate the de facto annexation of more Palestinian land. Israel has also continued to commit other violations, including the imposition of collective punishment, violations of the human rights of the Palestinian civilian population, mass imprisonment of Palestinians and administrative detention, the routine demolition of homes and the resultant displacement of Palestinians, causing constant humiliation, hardship and instability.
The situation is most dire in the Gaza Strip, where approximately 1.7 million Palestinians remain imprisoned by the Israeli blockade imposed by land, air and sea. The latest Israeli military campaign against the Palestinian people, particularly in the Gaza Strip, which was carried out during the eight-day period from 14 to 21 November, reportedly resulted in the killing of more than 160 Palestinians, including women and children, and the wounding of approximately 1,200 other Palestinians. The Non-Aligned Movement strongly considers that military campaign to be a grave breach of international law, including international humanitarian law, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention and the relevant United Nations resolutions.
While expressing alarm about the intensification of Israel’s settlement activities, the Non-Aligned Movement stresses that the full cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is in compliance with international humanitarian law and is necessary for fostering an environment conducive to salvaging the two-State solution based on the 1967 borders. The Non-Aligned Movement calls for urgent action and practical measures by the international community, in particular by the Security Council, to compel the occupying Power to completely cease its illegal and destructive settlement campaign in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and to abide by all of its obligations under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, United Nations resolutions, the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (see A/ES-10/273) and its obligations under the road map in that regard.
The Movement reiterates its serious concern about the dangerous impasse in the Middle East peace process and calls for immediate and practical efforts to be undertaken to advance a fair and credible process based on relevant United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the road map. We stress that the peace process must ensure an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territory and the other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem; the exercise by the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination in an independent, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital; and a just solution for the plight of the Palestinian refugees, based on resolution 194 (III).
In that regard, the Non-Aligned Movement’s Committee on Palestine has welcomed all efforts and initiatives aimed at achieving the two-State solution and realizing justice for the Palestinian people. It also stresses the importance of the developments to accord observer State status to Palestine, and expresses the hope that that multilateral, peaceful initiative — which is consistent with United Nations resolutions regarding the question of Palestine, including regarding the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and the international consensus on the two-State solution — will positively contribute to salvaging the prospects for peace.
In conclusion, the Non-Aligned Movement reiterates once again its strong support and solidarity with the Palestinian people and reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the immediate restoration of their inalienable rights to exercise self-determination and sovereignty in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The Chair (spoke in French): I warmly thank Mr. Mohammad Khazaee, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who just made a statement on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. We have all witnessed the ongoing support that the Movement has always provided to the Palestinian cause. We thank him for having reiterated that support.
I now have the honour to give the floor to the representative of Djibouti, who will deliver a message on behalf of His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Djibouti and Chairman of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Ms. Hassan (Djibouti): It is a great honour to deliver this statement on behalf of my Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, in his capacity as the current Chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), at this special occasion observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Mr. António (African Union): On behalf of the African Union Commission, allow me at the outset to salute the presence of the Palestinian delegation, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, and to express the Commission’s deepest gratitude to you, Mr. Chair, for steering the work of this important Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for the promotion of the just cause of the people of Palestine.
Today marks another day in the history of our collective commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Today, as usual, our statements will project a strong spirit of unity and solidarity with the Palestinian people, but the true test of our unity remains the scrupulous implementation of resolution 242 (1967) as the basis for achieving a just, viable and lasting solution. The date of 29 November is meaningful to the Palestinian people. On this day in 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II), which partitioned the territory known as Mandate Palestine into two States — one Jewish and one Arab.
The African Union believes that the road to a lasting solution is not an event but a process, and has spared no efforts to remain firm and consistent in its position taken at successive African Union summits. Accordingly, at its summit held in July last year, African leaders, among other aspects, reaffirmed their full support for the peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in accordance with the principles of international law and all relevant United Nations resolutions to ensure the establishment of an independent Palestinian State for the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle, while further reaffirming support for the two-State solution as the only viable option for peaceful coexistence between the State of Palestine and Israel.
The African Union Assembly of Heads of State, in its decision EX.CL/Dec.652(XIX), also called upon States Members of the United Nations, especially the members of the Security Council, to support the Palestinian efforts to obtain full membership in the United Nations based on the 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and urged all Member States that have not yet done so to recognize the State of Palestine as soon as possible.(spoke in French)
The many decisions of the African Union summits clearly show that, from the former Organization of African Unity to today’s African Union, Africa’s commitment to meeting the national inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital, has been and remains a political position that arises out of a natural duty of solidarity and out of African peoples’ faithfulness to their own history.
It is well known that the Middle East is the closest region of the world to Africa, that the members of the League of Arab States include nine members of the African Union, and that 26 members of the African Union are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation alongside Arab States. In that respect, the Palestinian issue is still inscribed on the agenda of our continental organization’s summits, to which in the past we always invited the President of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and subsequently the President of the Palestinian Authority to attend. Similarly, resolutions supporting the struggle of the Palestinian people and urgent calls to the international community to become more engaged in the quest for a just and equitable solution have always been endorsed in the discussions of African Heads of State and Government.
We know that many other States and international organizations are also working in the same vein as the African Union and its member States. We also note that the genuine international consensus that has developed and been confirmed over the years regarding the central position of the Palestinian question in the Middle East conflict and regarding the demand for the creation of an independent Palestinian State has yet to bear fruit.
Significant, albeit continually frustrated efforts have been made by the international community since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian process in 1991. However, the outcome of those efforts remains very mixed, despite the Madrid terms of reference, which led to the Palestinian acceptance of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and to mutual recognition between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the State of Israel. Other steps that have also been taken have unfortunately proved to be imperfect achievements or incomplete stages, from the Oslo Accords to the Annapolis Joint Understanding of November 2007, which for the first time formalized the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by recourse to two separate States. In addition, the international community is regularly a powerless witness to events that contribute to perpetuating and escalating tensions.
We are perfectly aware of the complexity of the challenges to be overcome to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to create the conditions for a fair, equitable and lasting peace in the region. At the same time, the current situation is untenable and does not serve the interests of any party. Thus, a healthy jump-start by the international community is timely and needed to create momentum and eliminate the consequences of war in order to promote a decisive change that will firmly put the region on the path towards peace, encompassing all demands in all their dimensions.(spoke in English)
This afternoon, the General Assembly will consider the status of Palestine in the United Nations. On this very specific issue, while lending their support, the African leaders in their declaration on Palestine, adopted at the July summit this year, underscored that membership of the United Nations is a right to be enjoyed by all sovereign States and that membership of the United Nations and in all its programmes and agencies is part of the peace process.
As we speak, human suffering, violence and mistrust, which have long dominated Palestinian-Israeli relations, continue to dominate them. Our overwhelming show of solidarity today must translate into tangible results on the ground, in the region and at the level of the United Nations.
The African Union remains committed to and resolute in its solidarity with the people of Palestine for the achievement of the two-State solution. The pivotal role of the Security Council, the General Assembly and this very Committee cannot be overemphasized.
The Chair (spoke in French): I sincerely thank Ambassador Téte António, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, for having read out the very important message of the African Union. The African Union is renowned for the unwavering support that its members have always shown for the Palestinian cause. I would ask Ambassador António to convey to the President and the Chairperson of the Commission our thanks to the African Union and all its member States.
I now give the floor to Mr. Ahmed Fathalla, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States to the United Nations, who will read out a message from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Nabil Elaraby.
Mr. Fathalla (League of Arab States) (spoke in French): I thank you, Sir, for giving me the floor to read out the following message of His Excellency Mr. Nabil Elaraby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
(spoke in Arabic)
I now have the pleasure to give the floor to Mr. Roger Waters, author, composer and singer and founding member of the band Pink Floyd, who will make a statement on behalf of civil society organizations that take an active interest in the question of Palestine.
Mr. Waters (Russell Tribunal on Palestine): I thank the members of the Committee very much for receiving me at this moment of solidarity and crisis. I am a musician, not a diplomat, and so I shall not waste this precious opportunity on niceties of protocol. However, I will say that you must all be suffering from listening fatigue, to a certain extent, so while I have also been sitting here listening, I have been editing my rather long speech down to a rather shorter speech, but I believe the full text will be available to anybody who cares to read it at the end of this meeting.
I appear before the Committee as a representative of the fourth Russell Tribunal on Palestine and, in that capacity, I represent global civil society. By way of preamble, I should say that my remarks here today are not personal or driven by prejudice or malice. I am looking only to shed some light on the predicament of a beleaguered people.
The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was created to shed such light and to seek accountability for the violations of international law and the lack of United Nations resolve that prevent the Palestinian people from achieving their inalienable rights, especially the right of self-determination. One particular stimulus to our convening was the disturbing failure of the international community to implement and enforce the clear judgment of the International Court of Justice in 2004, contained in its advisory opinion on the Israeli wall, as requested by the United Nations.
We met here in New York City six weeks ago, on 6 and 7 October, having previously sent out invitations to all interested parties. After listening to exhaustive testimony from many expert witnesses and following careful deliberation, we arrived at the following judgements.
We found that the State of Israel is guilty of a number of international crimes. The first crime is apartheid. The United Nations International Covenant on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines that crime as inhuman acts by any Government that are committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them. That finding by the Tribunal was endorsed earlier in the year by the Human Rights Council Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva after submissions by the Tribunal, made both orally and in writing.
The second crime is ethnic cleansing. In this case, that crime includes the systematic eviction of much of the native Palestinian population by force since 1947-1948.
The third crime is the collective punishment of a civilian population, explicitly prohibited by article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel has violated its obligation as an occupying Power throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Its most serious violations occurred recently in Gaza, with the blockade and virtual imprisonment of the entire population, the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians during the Israeli offensive operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, and now the devastation wrought by the recent attack under the operation Pillar of Defence.
As I speak, I can hear the tut-tutting of governmental and media tongues, trotting out the well-worn mantra of the apologists. “But Hamas started it with their rocket attacks. Israel is only defending itself.” Let us examine that argument. Did Hamas start “it”? When did “it” start?
How we understand history is shaped by when we start the clock. If we start the clock at a moment when rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on a certain afternoon, that is one history. If we start the clock earlier that morning, when a Palestinian boy of 13 years of age was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he played soccer on a Gaza field, history starts to look a little different. If we go back further, we see that since Operation Cast Lead, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, 271 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks and that, during the same period, not a single Israeli has been killed. A good case can be made that “it” started in 1967, with the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
The crisis in Gaza is a crisis rooted in occupation. Israel and its allies would contend that Gaza is no longer occupied. Really? The withdrawal of soldiers and settlers in 2005 changed the nature, not the existence, of occupation. Israel still controls Gaza’s airspace, coastal waters, borders, land, economy and lives. Gaza is still occupied. The people of Gaza, the 1.6 million Palestinians — half of them children under the age of 16 — live in an open-air prison. That is the reality that underlies the current crisis. Until we understand that, and until representatives here today, their Governments and the General Assembly take responsibility to end that occupation, we cannot even hope that the current crisis is over.
In October, on the most recent occasion that jurors from the Russell Tribunal addressed this Committee, we were assured that our representations and reports would be presented on the floor of the General Assembly for general debate. If things go well today, we may hope to hold Committee members to that assurance.
I have been diverted briefly; let me return to the Israeli violations that the Russell Tribunal identified.
The fourth crime was in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on settlements, specifically article 49. The settlements — all the settlements — are not simply an obstacle to peace, they are illegal.
The fifth crime was the use of illegal weapons. During Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, four years ago, international human rights organizations documented Tel Aviv’s use of white phosphorus in attacks on Gaza. Human Rights Watch found that “Israel’s repeated firing of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes”. White phosphorus burns at up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine what happens when it comes into contact with the skin of a child. Human Rights Watch called for Israel’s senior commanders to be held accountable. However, thus far there has been no such accountability.There are more violations, but members know that. United Nations resolutions trace the history of Israeli violations. Members regret, deplore and even condemn the violations, but when have their resolutions been implemented? It is not enough to deplore and condemn. What we need is for the United Nations — for representatives here, their Governments and the General Assembly in which they serve — to take seriously their responsibility to protect Palestinians living under occupation and facing the daily violation of their inalienable rights to self-determination and equality.
The will of “we the people of these United Nations” is that all our brothers and sisters should be free to live in self-determination, that the oppressed be released from their burden by being given recourse to the law, and that the oppressors be called to account by that same law.
In 1981, I wrote a song called “The Gunner’s Dream”. It appeared on the Pink Floyd album The Final Cut. The song purports to express the dying dream of a British Royal Air Forces gunner as he plunges to his death from a stricken aircraft towards the corner of some foreign field. He dreams of the future for which he is giving his life.
“A place to stay
Enough to eat
Somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street
Where you can speak out loud about your doubts and fears
And what’s more
No one ever disappears you never hear their standard issue
Kicking in your door.
You can relax on both sides of the tracks
And maniacs don’t blow holes in bandsmen by remote control
And everyone has recourse to the law
And no one kills the children anymore.
”In 1982 and again in 1983, the General Assembly adopted resolutions 37/88 and 38/79, holding Israel accountable for its violations. Those resolutions called for a complete arms embargo on Israel. No such embargo has been imposed. Instead, it has fallen to global civil society to take the lead. Following a 2005 call from Palestinian civil society, social movements, activists and increasingly church bodies and even some local government authorities around the world have created the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions. It aims, as many members know, to bring non-violent economic pressure to bear on Israel to force an end to its violations, occupation and apartheid, denial of Palestinians’ right of return and Palestinian citizens of Israel being required to live as second-class citizens, discriminated against on racial grounds and subject to different laws than their Jewish compatriots. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is gaining ground, hand over fist.
Just last week, I was happy to write a letter of support to the student government of the University of California, Irvine, congratulating them on demanding that their University divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. Also, last summer, I was in Pittsburgh to witness the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) vote on a resolution to divest from Motorola, Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard. That would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. To quote the great Bob Dylan, “the times they are a’changing”.
Let me return to today. The members of the General Assembly are about to have the opportunity to vote on changing Palestine’s United Nations status to that of a non-member State. While not according full United Nations membership, it would provide United Nations recognition to Palestine as a State that would have the right to sign treaties, including, crucially, the Rome Treaty, so that Palestine could become a member of the International Criminal Court.
This is a momentous occasion, and the process leading up to it was started here 13 months ago. It is one of those rare instances where Member States can change the course and the face of history and at the same time reinforce one of the founding principles of the United Nations — the right to self-determination. The bid implicitly refers to the pre-1967 borders and includes the integrity of East Jerusalem, an autonomous and the refugee diaspora. It is momentous because there are already over 132 Member States that have recognized Palestine as a State and more are appearing every day. Just this week, Hamas has lent its support.
I urge members to consider two points. First, I would call on them to resist pressure from any powerful Government to coerce them into defeating or delaying this issue. Sadly, there is a history of coercion in this hallowed place. No Government, however rich or powerful, should be allowed to use its financial or military muscle to set United Nations policy by bullying other States on this or any other issue.
Secondly, they should not take the statehood vote as the end of fulfilling their obligations. General Assembly responsibility goes far beyond United Nations technicalities. It must include real protection for Palestinians under occupation and real accountability for violations of the law. The General Assembly has powers it does not use. It does not have to defer to or wait for the Security Council.
In just a few months, we will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the killing of Rachel Corrie, the young peace activist killed by an Israeli soldier driving an armoured Caterpillar bulldozer as she tried to protect the house of a pharmacist and his family in Rafah, on Gaza’s border. International activists like Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and James Miller took the risks they did, and they and their families paid the ultimate price, because the international community — Member States and the United Nations itself — had failed to protect the vulnerable Palestinian population living under that prolonged occupation.
We are proud, though tears burn our eyes, of the work of these young activists and deeply moved by their sacrifice. But we are angry, too, that our Governments and our international institutions, including the General Assembly, have failed to provide the protection that would make Rachel Corrie’s sacrifice unnecessary. Also, let us not forget the thousands of courageous and anonymous Palestinians and their equally courageous Israeli brothers and sisters in arms, a boycott from within, who protest peacefully on a weekly basis for the simple, basic right to an ordinary human life — the right to live in dignity and peace, to raise their families, to till the land, to build a just society, to travel abroad, to be free of occupation, to aspire to each and every human goal, just like the rest of us.
Speaking of the rest of us, I live here in New York City. We are a somewhat parochial group, we New Yorkers, to a large extent cut off by propaganda and privilege from the realities of the Palestinians’ plight. Few of us understand that the Government of the United States of America, particularly through its power of veto in the Security Council, protects Israel from the condemnation of the global civil society that I have the honour to represent here today. Even as bombs rained down on 1.6 million people in Gaza, the President of the United States of America reasserted his position that Israel has the right to defend itself. We all know the reach and power of Israel’s military capability and the deadly effects of its actions. So what did President Obama mean? Did he mean that Israel has the right to indefinitely occupy the whole of the region?
The Palestinians are an ancient, intelligent, cultured, hospitable and generous people. And of course, they have pride and will resist the occupation of their land and defend their women and children and their property to the best of their ability. Who would not? Would you? Would I? Would President Obama? One would hope so. It would be his duty.
More than a generation ago, the General Assembly adopted resolution 2625 (XXV), dealing with the principle of equal rights and self-determination. It recognized, in the preamble of the resolution, that when a people face “any forcible action” depriving them of those rights, they have the right to “actions against, and resistance to” such use of force. When the international community does not shoulder its responsibility to protect, Palestinians will shoulder that responsibility themselves.
This is not to suggest that I support the launching of missiles into Israel. I do not. The internationally recognized legal right of resistance means attacking any military target engaged in illegal occupation. But let us be clear, as we believe in the law as indispensable and even-handed. The launching of unguided rockets into Israel, where the most likely targets will be civilians, is not a legal form of resistance. It is wrong and it is to be condemned.
Many civil society activists, including many Palestinians and Israelis, are committed to non-violent resistance. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which has spread from Palestinian civil society to activists around the world, is part of that non-violent resistance and I support it wholeheartedly, but let us be clear that the disparity of power, the reality of the occupation and the response of the occupied is the reality we face unless we find recourse in international law and hold all parties to it.
In the meantime, let me try to dial back the rhetoric a little and address the “Israel has a right to defend itself” claim from a legal and historical perspective. This will not take long.
Ex injuria non oritur jus — a legal right or entitlement cannot arise from injustice. If we truly oppose all violence, whether by the occupier or violent resistance by the occupied, we must aim to end the root causes of violence. In this conflict, that means ending Israel’s occupation, colonization, ethnic cleansing and denial of the right to self-determination and other inalienable rights that the Palestinian people is entitled to, according to the Charter of the United Nations and other tenets of international law. So it should be in the future.
Hamas, having dropped its original demand for Israel to be dismantled in the run-up to the elections, was democratically elected in January 2006, in elections deemed free and fair by every international observer present, including former United States President Jimmy Carter. The leaders of Hamas have made their position clear over and over again. It is this: Hamas is open to permanent peace with Israel if there is total withdrawal to the 1967 borders, 22 per cent of historic Palestine, and the arrangement is supported by a referendum of all Palestinians living under occupation. I know everyone here knows this, but where I live they do not know this. They do not know that that is the position of Hamas, so I am telling them.
We are all here for the same reason. We are all committed to human rights, international law, the centrality of the United Nations and equality for all, including for Palestinians. We are all attending this meeting on 29 November that marks the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. But it seems to me, our commemoration of this day is not enough. So what else to do?
The battleground is here, at the Headquarters of the United Nations, and simultaneously in the middle of New York City, with access to the media. The battle is two-pronged. First, we must continue the work of informing the people of the United States of America about the reality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and, most especially, about the role of their Government, the host country of the United Nations, in using their tax dollars to fund and enable Israel’s violations.
Secondly, and just as important, we must address, finally, serious reform of the United Nations. The United Nations needs to embrace a new democracy. The veto must be rethought or the United Nations might die. The use of the veto as a strategic political tool by one or other of the permanent members of the Security Council has become outmoded. The system is too open to abuse. The blanket protection afforded to Israel by the United States’ use of the veto is but one example of such abuse. I urge the General Assembly to collectively work towards wresting the power back to the people in order to facilitate progress towards a more democratic body, better able to pursue the high aspirations of this great institution, to represent the will of the peoples of the great United Nations.
The General Assembly represents the largest and most democratic component of the United Nations. The United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom have no veto here. What is needed is political will. The Assembly can make decisions and take actions that the Security Council cannot or will not. The Charter of the United Nations begins with the words “We the peoples of the United Nations”, not “We the Governments”. I urge representatives — on behalf of the people of their countries, on behalf of the people of all countries, in fact on behalf of all the peoples, of this, our shared Earth — to act. They must seize this historic moment and support the vote today for Palestinian enhanced observer statehood status as a step towards full membership.
The Chair (spoke in French): I thank Mr. Roger Waters for his sincere and profound statement, which was so passionate and insightful. We thank him for having found the time to join us on this important occasion despite his busy schedule. We follow with interest his activism in support of the Palestinian people in his capacity as a member of the jury for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Moreover, our Committee had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by the jury members at the meeting in October. Mr. Waters also narrated a documentary produced by the United Nations, entitled Walled Horizons, in which he visits the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory and gives his impression as a musician and songwriter inspired by walls since the beginning of his notable career. The film helped to raise people’s awareness of the reality on the ground and the difficult conditions that the Palestinian people face daily. He also provides a wonderful example of what civil society can do to raise awareness and to promote solidarity with the Palestinian people.
I therefore take this opportunity to thank all civil society organizations that are involved in the question of Palestine for their support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people. In a few minutes we will watch the film and other documentaries once the meeting has concluded. I once again thank Mr. Waters.
I now have the honour of announcing that our Committee has received messages of support and solidarity from many Heads of State and Government and from Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Governments and organizations. I would recall that the texts of the messages will be published in a special bulletin of the Division for Palestinian Rights but I would like to read out the list of officials and bodies that sent them in the order in which they were received.
We have received messages from the following Heads of State: His Excellency the President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, His Excellency the President of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, His Excellency the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, His Excellency the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Senegal, His Majesty the King of the Kingdom of Bahrain, His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, His Excellency the President of Burkina Faso, His Excellency the President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Indonesia, His Excellency the President of the Russian Federation, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Maldives, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Namibia, His Excellency the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, His Excellency the President of the United Arab Emirates, His Excellency the President of Pakistan, His Majesty the King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Turkey, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Ecuador, His Excellency the President of Cyprus, His Majesty the King of Morocco, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Belarus, and His Excellency the President of Afghanistan. We have also received a message from the transitional authorities of Mali.
We have also received messages from the following Heads of Government: His Excellency the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency the Prime Minister of Malaysia, His Excellency the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, and His Excellency the Prime Minister of Thailand.
The Committee has also received messages from the following Ministers for Foreign Affairs: His Excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, His Excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic, His Excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, His Excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Madagascar, His Royal Majesty the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, His Excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, and His Excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.
We have also received messages from the following Governments: the Government of the Sultanate of Oman, the Government of the Republic of South Africa, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and the Government of Tunisia.
From intergovernmental organizations, the Committee has received messages from His Excellency the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and from the European Union.
From civil society organizations, we have received messages from the International Progress Organization, based in Vienna, the NGO Working Group on Israel-Palestine, based in New York, the NGO Working Group on Peace, based in Geneva, and the Mennonite Central Committee, based in New York.
On behalf of the Committee, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Heads of State and Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Governments and organizations that I have just mentioned and to all participants in today’s meeting for their ongoing efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine and for their steadfast support for the Committee’s mandated tasks.
I now have the pleasure to give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations.
Mr. Mansour (Palestine): Allow me to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people and our leadership, including its large delegation, headed by President Abbas, to commemorate this year’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People in a very historic way.
We are very grateful for this tremendous event this morning and for the very powerful message of solidarity with the Palestinian people. We take that powerful message this morning as a significant signal of the remarkable and historic event that will take place this afternoon with regard to the Palestinian people, through their struggle and steadfastness and by resisting occupation in the occupied Palestinian territory. With the help of all Governments, civil society organizations and activists represented here and all those that support the just cause of the Palestinian people, with that collective effort and upholding international law, I believe that this afternoon we will prevail in recognizing the State of Palestine in the United Nations and in bestowing on us non-member observer State status.
At that historic event, we will legislate the two-State solution in a legal way through the recognition of the two States, thus allowing the negotiation between the two States to take place, while one occupies the land of the other, in violation of international law. With our collective effort, I am sure that we will succeed in putting an end to that occupation and in celebrating the independence of the State of Palestine. The historic event that will take place this afternoon will be remembered by us all — the Palestinian people in the occupied territory and in the diaspora — as part of addressing the injustice that has been inflicted upon us.
However, we know that that in itself is only the beginning of another stage. We promise that our brave people in the occupied territory, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, will be encouraged and that their resolve will be strengthened by the massive support for them here and the additional support of the international community this afternoon. They will continue their legitimate struggle to put an end to the occupation. Our people will not disappear. They will not vanish or leave our land. The only place in which they will stay is our homeland, Palestine. We are fully confident that we will succeed in ending the occupation and in celebrating the independence of our State.
I am sure that many participants will be with us this afternoon. It will be a very memorable and historic moment, in which we will open doors for the Palestinian people to be able to better defend themselves politically, diplomatically and legally, while we wage the struggle in every corner of the occupied territory — in the Gaza Strip, Bil’in, Ni’lin, Silwan, Jerusalem and Nabi Saleh. That is in every part of the occupied Palestinian territory. Our people are brave and proud. Those here are supporters of such a people. I believe that we will be victorious, not only in what we will do this afternoon but also, ultimately, in ending the occupation and in celebrating the independence of our State.
This morning has been a wonderful celebration, for which we are grateful. This afternoon, there will be a glorious celebration. We thank members in advance and invite them to be with us. I want to thank my good friend, whom I have often called a twin brother, the Ambassador of Senegal and Chairman of this Committee, and all States members and observers of the Committee, for their wonderful action on behalf of the people of Palestine. When we succeed in accomplishing the objective of ending the occupation and celebrating our independence, we will put up statues to them.
The Chair (spoke in French): On such an occasion, we understand the emotion felt by our friend, Riyad Mansour. We would like to thank him for his important message. We deeply hope that, as he so rightly said this afternoon, with the support of the overwhelming majority of Member States, Palestine will take a further step in its quest for self-determination. Allow me to assure the Ambassador of the support of the Committee and of the overwhelming majority of members of the Assembly.
Immediately after the conclusion of this meeting, in this same room we will be showing some United Nations documentaries on the situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We will also show the award-winning documentary entitled This is My Land … Hebron. I invite everyone to stay and see the films as a small token of our solidarity. I also invite everyone to the opening this evening of an exhibit entitled “Palestine: Memories, Dreams, Perseverance”. That will take place at 6 p.m. in the north-east gallery of the public lobby of the General Assembly Building. It will be followed by a reception. I look forward to seeing everyone there.
Before I adjourn the meeting, I would like to particularly thank Ambassador Pedro Núñez Mosquera, Vice-Chair of our Committee. He will soon end his term in New York and return to a new assignment in his beautiful capital, Havana. Ambassador Mosquera is one of the most charming people of the United Nations microcosm. We other members of the Committee greatly appreciate his sense of duty, kindness and hard work. On behalf of all my Bureau colleagues and all members of the Committee, I would like to sincerely thank him for his contribution to our work and for his unwavering interest in United Nations efforts to help settle this long-standing conflict. Ambassador Mosquera has worked hard. We wish him success in his future activities and in his personal and family life.
I would also like to thank all those without whom we would not have been here today, in particular, the staff of the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the Department of Public Information and the Office of Central Support Services, as well as the interpreters and all those working behind the scenes.
The meeting rose at 12.50 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room U-506. Corrections will be issued in a corrigendum.