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        Economic and Social Council
3 August 2006

Original: ENGLISH


Substantive session of 2006

General segment


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,

on Monday, 24 July 2006, at 10 a.m.

President: Mr. ČEKUOLIS (Lithuania)




In the absence of Mr. Hachani (Tunisia), Mr. Čekuolis (Lithuania),

Vice-President, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 10.15 a.m.



Draft resolution on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (E/2006/L.17)

Mr. ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) introduced the draft resolution, which expressed great concern at the situation of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan and underscored the need to put an end to that occupation with a view to ensuring the self-determination and economic and social development of those populations. Consultations on the draft resolution were continuing; he hoped they would lead to the adoption of the draft resolution by consensus as an expression of the Council’s will to put an end to the suffering of the peoples of the occupied territories.

Mr. KHANE (Secretary of the Council) said that the delegations of Algeria and Egypt should have been included in the list of original sponsors of the draft resolution.

Mr. RAHMAN (Chief, Regional Commissions New York Office) pointed out that the preparation of the note by the Secretary-General (A/61/67-E/2006/13) had been a joint effort by both United Nations and non-United Nations organizations working in the Occupied Palestine Territory.

Mr. MOKTAR (Observer for Malaysia) expressed deep concern at the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Israel, which continued to cause extensive property damage, serious injuries and loss of life, including among women and children, with total disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law. Israel had destroyed infrastructure, government buildings and water and power plants, had arbitrarily arrested and detained democratically elected government ministers, members of parliament and other officials, and had inflicted collective punishment on the Palestinian people. Its actions had exacerbated the hardship and suffering of those living under its occupation, demonstrating that the Israeli Government was not a serious partner for peace and had a cynical attitude towards the peace process. The members of the international community must all work together to facilitate peace in the region. He urged the Council to adopt the draft resolution contained in document E/2006/L.17 unanimously.

Ms. AL AKL (Observer for Lebanon) said that draft resolution E/2006/L.17 reflected the deterioration of a chronic problem, the suffering of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, especially in Gaza. Israel had carried out collective punishment that affected Palestinians of all walks of life, in particular owing to the siege imposed on Gaza.

In view of the massacre being perpetrated in Lebanon by Israeli forces, the Lebanese people understood the predicament of their brethren in Palestine. The attack against Lebanon had killed over 350 people and had displaced many more. In Lebanon, Israel was experimenting with weapons that were illegal and was using hunger and blockades as weapons of war, in blatant violation of international humanitarian law, human rights law and the right to life. Its actions would solve nothing, but would only exacerbate the situation, thus threatening international peace and security. Her Government called for an immediate ceasefire and the lifting of the siege on Lebanon.

Mr. HUIMASALO (Observer for Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed grave concern at the situation in the Middle East, in particular at the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and, worst of all, the loss of life. The international community and all the parties involved must do their utmost to alleviate the desperate humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people and to work for a lasting peace.

Mr. ABU-KOASH (Observer for Palestine) said that Israel’s extensive killing of civilians and massive destruction of vital infrastructure had brought the region to the brink of a full-fledged war. The international community must act now to avert further carnage. In the past three weeks Israeli attacks in the Occupied Palestine Territory had killed more than 100 civilians, half of whom had been children, and had injured many more. They had caused colossal destruction to institutions and infrastructure, targeting Gaza’s only power plant, waterworks, bridges, schools and government ministries.

Palestinians had been impoverished because of Israel’s unlawful withholding of Palestinian tax revenues and because of the severance of external aid following the democratic parliamentary elections of January 2006. About a third of the population was affected by the Government’s subsequent inability to pay public-sector workers their salaries. More than 70 per cent of the Palestinian people were now living below the poverty line. Unemployment, already high, was again rising and economic activities were dwindling, as Palestinian communities were isolated by Israeli military incursions, checkpoints and the construction of the separation wall, which prevented some 60,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from having access to schools, social services and workplaces. The economy was near collapse, with potentially far-reaching economic and political consequences.

The humanitarian crisis in the territories was very serious. Food was scarce and fuel and medical supplies were depleted. The focus now should be on providing relief and allowing unconditional access to humanitarian agencies. All plans for economic or social development were stalled indefinitely, as no investment or growth could take place in such a context. Israel should provide compensation for the destruction that it had wrought not only in Palestine, but also in Lebanon. Its security pretext was no longer tenable. The Israeli rampage must stop, and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories must end as a prerequisite for economic and social development and for peace.

Mr. LEÓN GONZÁLEZ (Cuba) condemned the occupation by Israel of Palestinian territories and the aggression unleashed against Lebanon, and expressed solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese people who were suffering from unbridled Israeli aggression. Israel had flouted humanitarian law and human rights law in its occupation. Blockades, border closures, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, the destruction of civilians’ homes, the use of indiscriminate force, torture of detainees and collective punishment had become commonplace in the Israeli occupation.

Israel had imposed a total naval and air blockade of Lebanon, and was carrying out a genocidal policy against its Arab neighbours. It was conducting an extensive military campaign against the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, with the violation of Syrian airspace and the constant shelling of heavily populated areas, targeting even water facilities and power plants in Palestine and Lebanon. Swift action was needed to bring to an end such acts of barbarism. Medical supplies must be provided to relieve the suffering. Humanitarian workers and vehicles, including ambulances, must be able to operate and circulate free of hindrance.

Israel had used the abduction of soldiers as a pretext for aggression and massive human rights violations, including the arbitrary arrest of members of the Palestinian Government and parliament, and other innocent civilians, including children. The West had imposed an embargo on aid to the Palestinians because it refused to accept their freely expressed political will following the January elections, thus worsening their plight. And now Israel had again used security concerns as a pretext to attack a sovereign State, Lebanon. It was impossible for the Security Council to take action because of the United States veto, which ensured the impunity of the aggressor and underscored the need for reform of that body. The international community must call for immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and for respect of the inalienable rights of the Palestinians, including the right to a State with East Jerusalem as its capital, the right of return and the reinstatement of the 1967 borders as the sole basis for peace.

Mr. JAZAÏRY (Observer for Algeria) said that the closure of the Palestinian territories by the occupying Power was an affront to the dignity of the population and an attack upon their very lives, and transformed their communities into veritable ghettoes. The occupying Power continued to level Palestinian buildings, dump toxic waste in the territories and exploit their resources, and was continuing to build the apartheid wall, with total disregard for the legal opinion handed down by the International Court of Justice and the relevant United Nations General Assembly resolutions. The Israeli military had prevented ambulances from circulating and attacked mosques and churches. The Palestinian population faced the systematic destruction of their infrastructure, and killing that amounted to genocide. Arab citizens in East Jerusalem were subjected to discrimination in all fields. Legally, politically and morally, the policies of the occupying Power amounted to an unacceptable form of collective punishment.

In Lebanon, the Israeli military had caused wanton destruction using internationally banned weapons, in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. The Israeli actions were war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel had placed as a condition for halting its attacks the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), a resolution that called first and foremost for Lebanon’s territorial integrity and sovereignty to be respected. Yet it had itself already disregarded numerous resolutions of the Security Council.

The root of the problem was Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine, the Syrian Golan and the Shebaa farms. The only solution possible would involve the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and respect for international law. Only stability and peace could preserve people’s dignity, provide work and growth and bring an end to violence.

Ms. MUDIE (Australia) said that she was concerned at the one-sided nature of the draft resolution. The Council must be even-handed in order to ensure that the needs of the Palestinian people were addressed. Her Government had allocated $16 million in assistance to the Palestinian people, and recognized that real improvements to their economic and social conditions would require the commitment of all parties to a comprehensive, negotiated settlement. It shared the international community’s deep concern at the violence in Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, which had commenced with the attacks on Israel by Hamas and Hizbollah, and urged all sides to exercise the utmost restraint.

Mr. PUJA (Indonesia) expressed his delegation’s grave concern at the latest developments in Gaza. Many major public facilities had been destroyed during the disproportionate attacks by Israel, which constituted flagrant human rights violations and a serious breach of international humanitarian law. Israel’s wanton destruction of vital infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, its continued construction of the wall, and the withholding of Palestinian tax revenue still posed a threat to a viable Palestinian State. He urged the Council to add its voice to the demand for the Israeli Government to put an end forthwith to its military operations and to take immediate measures to respect the economic and social rights of the Palestinian people.

Ms. POITEVIEN CABRAL (Observer for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) said her delegation supported the draft resolution. The Palestinians, like all peoples, had a right to self-determination and to respect for their territorial integrity. Her Government had long advocated the creation of a Palestinian State in the region, to exist side by side with Israel, within safe and recognized borders. Participants in the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine had stressed the need for full implementation of the road map and the exercise of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. Her Government rejected unilateral Israeli action in Palestinian territory and urged Israel to withdraw its troops. Unfortunately, the veto system had tied the Security Council’s hands; it was perhaps time to consider reforming it so that it could fulfil its mandate to ensure peace and security in the world.

Mr. LEVANON (Observer for Israel) said that although Gaza had been freed it was still waging war, thus demonstrating the true agenda of the Palestinians, who had fired some 350 rockets against civilians, hospitals, kindergartens and other Israeli facilities since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. The Secretary-General’s note (E/2006/13) covered the year in which Israel’s total disengagement from Gaza had made it the first Palestinian territory ever to be totally in Palestinian hands. The Palestinians had not spent time building schools or hospitals, however, but launching rockets. They consistently used violence for political gain. The Palestinians had gone too far when they had kidnapped an Israeli corporal on Israel’s sovereign territory, in an act of provocation by the Hamas-led Government, which had shown no sign of mending its terrorist ways and unfailingly rejected demands for it to recognize Israel, cease terrorist violence and respect prior international agreements. Meanwhile, Israel was doing its best to protect its citizens, alleviate the hardship of the civilian population and enable humanitarian organizations to go about their business. Despite the ongoing Hamas terrorist activities, Israel did not wish to see Palestinians suffer, and sent essential goods across the border on a daily basis, as corroborated in the report.

The report under consideration was skewed against Israel and ignored the campaign of terror perpetrated against Israeli civilians. It took the Palestinian socio-economic situation out of context and deliberately shifted attention away from pressing humanitarian issues. Meanwhile, thanks to Hamas and Hizbollah, Palestinians, Lebanese and Israelis were dying.

Israel had been singled out by the Economic and Social Council for special treatment: the dire situation in Somalia and the indiscriminate killings in Darfur had engendered neither debate nor a draft resolution in the Council. Neither the present debate nor the draft resolution under consideration would bring the Palestinians closer to their aspirations or improve their lot. What was needed was not a resolution but the release of Israeli hostages and an end to the launching of missiles and the violence; in a word, an end to the culture of hate.

Mr. MILLER (United States of America) said the report was a highly politicized document, in which opinions were presented as facts and special-interest groups had been used as sources. The statistics had been grossly manipulated in order to put Israeli policy in the worst light. It contained a grudging acknowledgment that the Palestinian economic, social and financial situation had improved in the previous year in the West Bank, but was so one-sided as to undermine the ability of the United Nations to play a constructive peacebuilding role.

Neither the biased statements by previous speakers nor the report or draft resolution E/2006/L.17 reflected the reality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Instead they suggested that only Israel’s actions should be censured. His delegation called on the Hamas-led Palestinian Government to accept the Quartet principles.

His Government’s policy was consistent with the views expressed by the G-8 countries: Israel and a State of Palestine should live side by side in peace and security. His country was continuing to provide aid to the Palestinian people through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and would be donating medicines worth US$ 10 million to the Palestinians. The Council should refrain from biased political debates and concentrate on practical measures for achieving greater security, stability and peace in the region.

Dr. SHIBIB (World Health Organization (WHO)) said that the Palestinian crisis had grave consequences for the health of people in the occupied territory. There was a shortage of essential drugs and of facilities for treating non-communicable diseases - the main cause of death - which needed not only outpatient treatment but also laboratory support and referral services.

WHO assistance in the occupied territory comprised three components: support to UNRWA; support in key areas of public health; and health-related humanitarian assistance within the revised consolidated appeal process. WHO had recently met with other agencies
and some 30 donors to address ways of averting a health crisis in Palestinian territory and had been monitoring the health situation using a list of short-term indicators developed with United Nations partners. It was important to ensure that essential public-health functions and the delivery of critical health services were not compromised pending operationalization of the Temporary International Mechanism established under the auspices of the Quartet. WHO wished to avoid creating a parallel mechanism but in the meantime was responding to urgent needs using its own, limited internal resources, and was planning to enhance its technical presence to ensure better coordination and to sustain the delivery of essential health services and programmes in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. SHOUKRY (Observer for Egypt) said that the ongoing crisis was having a serious impact on the Palestinian and Syrian population in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The international community must redouble its efforts to stop the escalation of hostilities by Israel. The occupation had exacerbated the sufferings of the Palestinian people through actions that, although defined by the Israeli army as self-defence, in fact amounted to inordinate force and a form of collective punishment. The blockade and restriction of movement of the Palestinian people had jeopardized their health care and businesses and penalized the Palestinian economy and services. The confiscation of land was in breach of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law and had divided East Jerusalem, with the concomitant victimization of children and the elderly, while the continued construction of the wall undermined the Palestinian social fabric.

The international community needed to reaffirm its solidarity with the Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian peoples. He urged the Council to adopt a strong resolution that sent a message that the siege of the Palestinians must end. The rights of the Palestinian people must be preserved and the international community must redouble its efforts to put an end to the Israeli occupation.


The meeting rose at 1 p.m.

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