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22 March 2001

Original: ENGLISH


Fifty-seventh session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on 22 March 2001, at 3 p.m.

Chairperson : Mr. DESPOUY (Argentina)




The meeting was called to order at 3.20 p.m.



9. Ms. de ARMAS GARCIA (Cuba) said that the exercise of the right to self-determination was a precondition for the achievement of all other human rights. She reaffirmed her delegation’s complete solidarity with the Palestinian people in its just struggle to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as the capital, and also reiterated her delegation’s unreserved support for the inalienable right of the people of Puerto Rico to exercise their right to self-determination in their territory, including the island of Vieques, and their demands for the immediate cessation of all military tests by United States troops on that island. For its part, Cuba continued to demand the return of its national territory which was currently occupied by the United States naval base at Guantánamo.


14. Mr. AL-THANI (Qatar) said that the right to self-determination was the legal foundation for justice, freedom and moral values and his delegation was most concerned at the violation of that right by Israel in the occupied Arab territories.

15. His delegation supported the decision and resolutions adopted at the ninth summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It was concerned that Israel was continuing to confiscate lands, build settlements and violate all international resolutions and decisions on the matter. At the ninth summit, the OIC had called for the cessation of all colonial activities, which were contrary to international law and to the agreements signed by Israel and Palestine. His delegation thus urged the Security Council to see to it that those activities stopped and to revitalize the Commission established pursuant to its resolution 446 (1979).

16. The Government of Israel must take practical steps to show its good will by fulfilling all its commitments and implementing the agreements it had signed. There could be no lasting peace in the region unless the Palestinian people were allowed to exercise their national and political rights, including the right to self-determination and the right to set up an independent State in their own territory with Jerusalem as its capital.


20. Mr. RAMLAWI (Observer for Palestine) said that the real issue of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, which needed no evidence or proof to justify it and which had been the subject of countless United Nations resolutions over the years, was that of the Israeli military occupation force, which regarded the Palestinian people’s enjoyment of its right to self-determination as a menace to its society. The Israeli occupation force therefore exerted every effort to hinder the exercise by the Palestinian people of their national rights, including the right to self-determination. Colonial mastery and foreign occupation prevailed on the ground; that mastery became even more significant because of the way in which the oppressive force dominated the mechanism of implementing the principles of international law, the provisions of international legitimacy and the resolutions of the United Nations.

21. Through a policy of double standards and selectivity in implementing international law, the mechanism of implementation had become subject to one specific standard, which was the interest of the dominant Power. The interests of other peoples counted for nothing when set beside the strategic and vital interests of that single Power. When those interests coincided with the interests of another Power that was occupying Palestinian territories and committing crimes against the Palestinian people, the dominant Power was at pains to place the occupying Power and the people under occupation on an equal footing, the hangman on the one hand and the victim on the other. The people under occupation were even blamed when they tried to defend themselves.

22. The issue of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination lay at the heart of the whole problem in the Middle East. If the world really wanted peace and security in that region, the international community should shoulder its responsibility by putting an end to all the obstacles that hindered implementation of its will, and enable the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination. That could be achieved only by liberating Palestinian territory from military occupation in all its forms and manifestations, particularly by putting an end to the construction of new Israeli settlements and dismantling the existing ones. The international community should undertake its responsibility at the side of the Palestinian people’s struggle.

23. Mrs. ABOULNAGA (Observer for Egypt) said that the situation of the Palestinian people represented one of the worst forms of violation of the right to self-determination. Israeli practices and violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories were in flagrant violation of international law and of the wishes of the international community, and they were getting worse. It was a vicious circle which threatened to destroy attempts to build peace. There had to be acknowledgement of the right of the Palestinian people to establish its own independent State. In refusing to acknowledge that right, Israel was merely making its record for failing to respect international law even worse.

24. The developments in occupied Palestinian territories since September 2000, in which Israel had used excessive force and which had been condemned by the General Assembly and Security Council, showed that force could never stop the Palestinian people from continuing their struggle to achieve an independent State through the exercise of the right to self-determination. Continued Israeli oppression could only worsen the situation and stiffen the resolve of the Palestinian people to resist.

25. The international community must take urgent steps to halt the Israeli occupation and call upon Israel fully to implement Security Council resolutions and respect the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to their own independent State. Peace would be achieved only with the assistance of the international community. The observer for Israel had spoken of an important stage having been reached in the Taba peace negotiations, yet the Israeli Prime Minister had said that his Government would not undertake to respect earlier commitments, and intended to set new peace terms. She wondered which of the two was to be believed. Could the observer for Israel assure the Commission that his Government intended to negotiate on the basis of the Taba positions?

26. Mr. OBEIDAT (Observer for Jordan) said that, despite numerous international resolutions, the United Nations and the international community had failed to enable the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination and to harmonize their practice with the principles they had adopted. A durable and sustainable peace, as well as lasting security and stability, could be established only through the unconditional withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Arab and Palestinian occupied territories and the full implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as Israeli implementation of signed agreements. His Government was deeply concerned at recent developments in the West Bank and Gaza, where the Palestinian people, including women and children, continued to face flagrant violations of their human rights. Israel’s systematic violation of international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, excessive use of force against civilians, collective punishment closures and curfews, and the building and expansion of settlements exacerbated the situation. His Government believed that it was essential for peace negotiations to be resumed from the point at which they had stopped.

27. Mr. AL-ASKAR (Observer for Kuwait) said that Israel’s failure to respect numerous international resolutions had deprived the Palestinians of their inalienable right to self-determination and enjoyment of their fundamental rights. His delegation confirmed its support for all resolutions concerning the Palestinian people, including Commission resolution 2000/4. The Palestinian people should be enabled to enjoy its right to an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.

28. Mr. LEMINE (Observer for Mauritania) said that the right to self-determination was a cardinal and inalienable right under international law. It was not only the basis of sovereign equality between nations but also an ideal for all peoples. The situation of the Palestinian people, however, ran counter to the universal and irreversible march towards freedom. They were still seeking to exercise their right to self-determination and their right to establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. The only way of ending the Israeli-Arab conflict and resolving the Palestinian question which lay at its heart was for Israel to grant the Palestinian people their national and inalienable rights and withdraw from all occupied Arab territories.

29. Mr. AL-ATTAR (Observer for Yemen), having expressed his gratitude to the High Commissioner for the courageous and conscientious manner in which she had fulfilled her mandate and his regret at her decision not to seek a second term, said that Israel continued to oppress the Palestinian people and remained intransigent in every way: stealing land, destroying homes, and implementing a policy of closures which prevented access for humanitarian and medical assistance, as well as movement by the Palestinian people and the export of Palestinian goods. Israeli practices had been increasing in violence since September 2000. Israel should abide by the relevant United Nations resolutions and withdraw from the occupied territories.


34. Mr. LEVY (Observer for Israel) said that the current situation needed to be addressed in a non-polemical fashion, as the Fact-Finding Committee established by the Sharm al-Sheikh Summit was currently doing, its members including distinguished leaders from the United States, the European Union and Turkey. He recalled that, at that Summit, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority had made a commitment to call unequivocally on his forces and people to end all acts of violence. That call had never materialized.

35. Negotiations had continued at Taba in January 2001 but the Palestinians had once again missed the opportunity to attain some of their aspirations which would have been possible if they had agreed to compromise as Israel had done. It was unrealistic of the Arab speakers at the previous meeting to subscribe to the position that the Palestinians should attain all their goals. Following the elections, the outgoing Prime Minister had stated clearly that the negotiating positions presented in Camp David and in Taba were no longer valid. It was therefore, regrettably, necessary to start anew to reduce the violence and open negotiations.

36. Although economic loss and unemployment were currently prevalent among Palestinians who had been accustomed to work in Israel every day, his Government still favoured full employment for Palestinian workers. It could not, however, tolerate a situation in which some workers imported violence into its heartland, planting bombs in market places or running down innocent civilians. The return to full employment depended upon the cessation of the violence.

37. A speaker had referred to the Jews who immigrated to Israel, particularly in 1948, as “gangs” which had occupied Jerusalem. Those “gangs”, however, were returning to their homeland after two millennia of dispersion and persecution; they had included professors and scientists, as well as survivors of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany and elsewhere in Europe; and they had created marvellous institutions in the land of Israel. They had created hospitals, such as Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where not only Israeli Jews but also Israeli and other Arabs came daily for treatment. In that context, he drew attention to the recent murder of a haematologist on his way home from the Hospital; the last patient he had seen had been an Arab. Israelis had also established the Histadrut, the trade union to which millions of Arab and Jewish Israelis belonged, as well as the only free press in the Middle East, which freely criticized Government and opposition alike.

38. Lastly, he expressed concern that the use of the word “gang” had been tolerated and greeted with silence from other delegations and the High Commissioner. He doubted whether the same reaction would greet such a defamation of any other nation, people, race or group. A first step towards a successful World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance was to take care in the use of language.


43. Mr. LACK (World Jewish Congress), speaking also on behalf of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, said that the Commission’s way of discussing the Arab-Israel conflict was fundamentally flawed and selective. One outcome of the fifth special session, apart from the succession of vituperative resolutions, which many members had rejected, had been the so-called decision to establish a human rights inquiry commission which would gather information on acts which constituted grave breaches of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupying Power. Thus the inquiry commission had been charged with proving violations before evidence of their alleged commission had even been established. Moreover, one member of the Commission was known for his unrelenting hostility towards Israel and Zionism, while another enthusiastically identified with the Palestinian viewpoint.

44. In the event, the one-sided character of the report had confounded even the most cynical expectations. Press reports had been quoted out of context, giving the impression that Israeli leaders were conducting a policy of extrajudicial execution and political assassination, rather than one of effective containment of terrorist attacks against civilians. On the other hand, not a word in the report was devoted to the avowed policy of politicide of the State of Israel and the call for the genocidal killing of all Jews and Israelis, which were daily to be found in the media, including the Internet, propagated by such movements as the Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

45. That campaign had had serious results, provoking more than 200 attacks on Jewish community centres by terrorists and their supporters throughout the world. The report also distorted the situation with regard to the tragic question of Arab refugees left to disintegrate in camps, where hatred for Jews and Israel was systematically inculcated.

46. By contrast, Israel would continue its determined pursuit of the path of peace and direct dialogue with its Palestinian and Arab neighbours whenever the opportunity arose. Convincing proof of the Israeli approach had been amply demonstrated to the world immediately prior to the deliberate and exploitative resumption of violence by the Palestinian Authority and its supporters.

47. Mr. LITTMAN (World Union for Progressive Judaism) said that the Arab-Israel conflict was at its most dangerous point since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Although the time might not yet be ripe for the realization of his seemingly Utopian vision of a “United States of Abraham” in the Middle East, the text of which appeared in document E/CN.4/2000/NGO/4, he continued to believe that a future Palestinian State could become a genuine partner in peace with Israel, alongside Jordan, if a new spirit of mutual acceptance became the norm and the rule of law became the natural bedrock of civil society.

48. It was deeply disappointing that an alliance had been formed between the Palestinian Authority and the fanatical Hamas movement. As Sir Karl Popper had said, unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. Such dangerous alliances would not serve to reassure Israel that a viable future together could be constructed. Time was running out. He called on the Commission to make a positive contribution to reinvigorating the peace process.

49. Mr. ARRAIZA NAVAS (American Association of Jurists) ...

50. War had been the United States habitual recourse in overcoming its economic crises, as shown by events in Iraq, Palestine, the Balkans and Colombia. In Vieques, the United States Government practised the manoeuvres required to wage war and tested so-called depleted uranium ammunition, despite the condemnation by the General Assembly of the military exploitation of non-self-governing territories subject to colonial rule.


58. Ms. SHARFELDDIN (International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination), comparing the attitudes of Western countries to two right-wing leaders, said that the same countries that had congratulated Ariel Sharon on his election as leader of the Likud Party in Israel, had threatened suspension of international relations with Austria if Joerg Haider’s Freedom Party remained in power. Although the latter maintained racist attitudes, it was not responsible, as were Sharon and his Party, for thousands of killings: in the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin (in 1948) and at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut (in 1982), and for many other incidents of bloodshed and degradation of people because they were not Jews. The international community should take a firm stand against so extreme a manifestation of racism and take measures to prevent Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Such measures had proved successful in defeating apartheid in South Africa.


The meeting rose at 6 p.m.

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