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The meeting was called to order at 10 a.m.
Agenda item 166 (continued)
Measures to eliminate international terrorism
Report of the Secretary-General (A/56/160 and Corr.1 and Add.1)
Mr. Al-Ashtal (Yemen) (spoke in Arabic): ...
We call for combating terrorism, including State terrorism, which is practised by Israel against the Palestinians. The terrorism, systematic killing, violence and sieges witnessed and suffered by the Palestinians, the elderly, women and children at the hands of the Israeli army and heavily armed settlers should also be denounced and condemned. We call upon the international community and the United Nations to provide the appropriate protection for the Palestinian people.
Mr. Erwa (Sudan) (spoke in Arabic): ...
Sudan wishes to express its support for the statement to be made subsequently on behalf of the Arab Group on measures to eliminate international terrorism. The Sudan also reaffirms its commitment to the established principles of the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement in this sphere. The Sudan also stresses the importance of respect for the inalienable right of all peoples under foreign occupation to self-determination and independence. In that connection, we warn that Israeli exploitation of the current situation in order to escalate oppression of the Palestinian people would be a grave matter.
Mrs. Ratsifandrihamanana (Madagascar) (spoke in French): ...
The top priority remains the eradication of hotbeds of tension and conflict. We welcome the recent meeting between the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, and Israeli Minister Shimon Peres. We hope to see a rapid and positive development of the situation in the Middle East.
Mr. Hasmy (Malaysia): ...
In my Prime Minister’s view, in order for global efforts to be effective in curbing terrorism, it is important for the international community to deal with the phenomenon objectively and impartially. The international conference, which should be organized by the United Nations, must examine the issue of terrorism comprehensively, including its definition, root causes and appropriate measures to deal with it. The measures that are now being contemplated outside the United Nations, including the use of armed force, will not solve the problem as long as issues related to the oppression of peoples in several parts of the world, particularly in Palestine, remain unresolved.
Mr. Ahmad (Pakistan): ...
The Security Council resolutions, as I said, remain in the archives of this Organization pertaining to the destiny and future of people who rebel under foreign occupation. It is time for courageous decisions and realistic approaches. Our universal obligation to fight terrorism in all its forms must not deflect us from the need for a just, lasting and honourable settlement of the Palestine and Kashmir disputes, which will indeed bring durable peace and stability to the world at large.
Mr. Dorda (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) (spoke in Arabic): ...
The Arab Group is eager to stress its unqualified support for the right of the Arab Palestinian people to freedom and independence. Moreover, we reaffirm that until that right is secured, the Palestinian people is fully within its rights to resist the occupation and all its effects, foremost among them the settlements. We endorse the right of dispossessed or deported Palestinians to return to their homeland, for they have no other homeland.
The Arab Palestinian people are the victims of modern-day terrorism in the fullest sense of the word. Their land is occupied; their property is seized or destroyed by bulldozers. Most of their sons and daughters are displaced, imprisoned, tortured, expelled or deported to the farthest corners of the Earth, in order to empty their land for settlement by foreigners. The Palestinian people are subjected to repression and suppression to prevent them from even expressing their rejection of the occupation. The tools of that repression are of the most brutal, cruel and inhumane kind, including the most modern aircraft carrying the most sophisticated weaponry, in addition to tanks, artillery and the political assassination of all who resist the occupation.
Here, the Arab Group expresses its determination to oppose any attempt to classify resistance to occupation as an act of terrorism. Such an injustice would turn the facts upside-down and would only give rise to hatred. Freedom is indivisible, and must not be diminished in any way. Anyone who maintains otherwise cannot be convincing in his resistance to terrorism in the name of freedom or justice.
Terrorism has no nationality; it has no religion. No terrorist can have any religion at all, unless one counts cases in which terrorism itself becomes a religion. May God forgive us for saying so, but the true religion can only be God Almighty’s religion.
As far as nationality is concerned, it is both sad and regrettable that some States refuse to extradite terrorists to their homeland so that they may be brought to justice and punished for their crimes. In fact, such terrorists are sometimes granted the nationality of the host State or a resident’s permit, enabling them to move freely internally and externally and thereby work against their home country and threaten its stability.
The word “Islam” is derived from the word for peace, and peace is one of the glorious names of Allah in the Holy Koran. The standard Islamic greeting is “Peace be upon you”. The Holy Koran states that he who kills a single human soul commits an act comparable in monstrosity to killing all human beings, and he who saves a single human soul performs an act comparable in compassion to giving life, that is, saving all human beings.
Islam is a religion of truth, justice and equality. It makes no distinction between race or colour. The most dignified people in the eyes of God are those who are most pious. By what right and on what basis, therefore, is Islam being degraded, particularly by some leading figures in certain countries and in the mass media, which are being manipulated by certain elements for this purpose?
The only outcome to be expected from these trends is the spreading of an atmosphere that encourages conflict between religions and the creation of conditions in the Muslim world conducive to sympathy with the extremist groups, which would help such groups to expand their bases.
In conclusion, the Arab Group wishes to sum up its position by emphasizing the following.
First, terrorism in all its forms and manifestations must be condemned.
Secondly, action must be taken at all levels to combat terrorism in a manner that conforms to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Thirdly, States must also implement all necessary legal procedures — nationally, regionally and internationally — to eradicate terrorism, and they must enforce the provisions of international law and of all internationally binding resolutions related to the ban on the commission, funding or execution of terrorist acts and on condoning the commission of such acts or protecting their perpetrators.
The Group also wishes to emphasize the importance of adopting carefully thought-out measures in this context. The Arab Group urges that a concerted endeavour be made at all levels to combat terrorism through the United Nations in the form of a serious and constructive effort that takes into consideration the concerns, interests and security of all.
Fourthly, resistance to occupation is the legitimate right of all occupied peoples. Occupation is equal to terrorism. In fact, it is one of its ugliest forms.
Fifthly, the Group calls on the United Nations to assume its responsibility vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause, treating it as an occupation issue. This task must be performed expeditiously. In this respect, the Arab States highlight the importance of combating the terrorism that is being exercised by the occupying forces against the Palestinian people, the Lebanese people and the Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan.
Sixthly, States that harbour terrorists of Arab nationality are called upon to surrender them to those countries of origin that have requested such a surrender, so that those elements may be brought to justice.
That was my statement on behalf of the Arab Group.
At this juncture, allow me to make a statement on behalf of my country.
Having spoken on those issues briefly because of considerations of time, I should now like to reaffirm my country’s position on terrorism. First, we fully agree with the repeated assertion of President George Bush of the United States that terrorism is an act directed against freedom. As freedom is indivisible and does not belong to one particular State or group of States, we maintain that foreign occupation is the greatest enemy of freedom — the freedom of countries, peoples, territories and humankind in general. This means that foreign occupation is the ugliest form of terrorism, and the most brutal terrorist occupation is that being carried out against the Palestinian people.
Secondly, in that regard, resistance to occupation is not only a legitimate right for people whose land is occupied by foreigners, but one of their most important duties. Furthermore, the Arab Palestinian people, the Lebanese people and the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan are fully within their rights in resisting the occupation of their land until they are liberated.
Thirdly, we would like here to repeat the appeal by Libya, contained in document A/46/840 of 9 January 1992, for the convening of a special session of the General Assembly to consider the issue of terrorism and to reach agreement on an accurate definition of what constitutes terrorism — a definition that is not dictated by subjective, whimsical or selfish considerations. Such an objective definition could be used by all of us as a criterion for determining what terrorism is and who terrorists are. Occupation must be included at the top of the list of terrorist acts that the world must confront and eliminate.
The Acting President: I now give the floor to the Permanent Observer of Palestine.
Mr. Al-Kidwa (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic): During the past few sessions of the General Assembly, Palestine did not actively participate in the debate on terrorism. We did not because we believed that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was nearing a solution, with all that that necessarily implies in terms of redefining many relevant issues. We also believed that the increased threat of terrorism essentially involved groups inside certain States, particularly within some Arab States, seeking to change the system of government, typically on the basis of an extreme religious position, a phenomenon unanimously rejected by the international community.
The other reason was that we believed that international terrorism in general was waning and starting to disappear. Unfortunately, we were wrong. Perhaps we were too optimistic. In the Middle East, particularly in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, the peace process and the situation on the ground have deteriorated in an extremely dangerous way. Against the ongoing background of foreign occupation, we are now witnessing the resurfacing of accusations of terrorism and counter-accusations of State terrorism and war crimes.
“Internal terrorism” — if this term is correct —did not end either. We saw clear loopholes in the collective international position aimed at putting an end to this kind of terrorism. At the same time, international terrorism was not defeated. Indeed, it shocked us all when it culminated in the serious tragedy and devastation of 11 September in the United States of America. Somehow, all of the above might be related.
The Palestinian side, through President Yasser Arafat and many other Palestinian officials, has strongly condemned the heinous terrorist act of 11 September. This condemnation was not only a reflection of our political responsibility, but was also in line with our conscience as Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians — Muslims and Christians alike. There can be no justification whatsoever for this horrible act. We wish once again to express our heartfelt condolences to President George W. Bush, the United States Government and the American people, and to the victims’ families in particular.
In addition, we, as members of the United Nations family and its Missions who live in
New York — at least for some time — have found our lives and those of our families impacted, as were the lives of every single inhabitant of this unique city. The Palestinian side welcomes the clear, strong international reaction against what happened and welcomes confronting the phenomenon of international terrorism. We are ready to add our very modest efforts to international ones that aim to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice, to prevent any recurrence of what happened and to put an end to international terrorism.
The United States, as the nation that was attacked and as the world’s super-Power, has striven to form an international coalition to wage a multifaceted battle against international terrorism. This broad international coalition is a positive development, and we call for the use of the available forum of international work in this respect. We also reaffirm the importance of international legitimacy.
As the Secretary-General has stated, the United Nations can and must play a decisive role. We support this statement and continue to call for the full engagement of United Nations bodies, including the Security Council, in the upcoming battle. We also welcome the statements made by several officials in the United States and in Western countries in general, including the clear position indicating that this is neither a battle against Islam nor a battle against Arabs. This is an extremely important issue, and it requires constant reiteration. There must also be a conscious and continued resistance to any attempts to distort such a position or push things in the wrong direction, as some forces have been trying to do. At least one State, for its own interests, is trying to widen the circle to include targets that have nothing to do with the events of 11 September or with the battle against terrorist groups with global outreach.
We must try to understand what happened, and we must realize that a successful battle requires rethinking some policies that have political, social and economic repercussions, with the ultimate aim of achieving a more just situation everywhere. Exactly why did the terrorists do what they did on 11 September? I am unable to give a decisive answer about the reasons for this diabolical act. But the reasons might include a rejection of the West, with all its cultural dimensions — a matter that we cannot solve through divergent policies. This has nothing to do with Arabism or Islam, nor, indeed, does it have any logical reason.
Of course, we firmly reject any conflict among civilizations. We stand for dialogue among civilizations and for the nurturing of humanity on the basis of diversity and tolerance. Nevertheless, we should not stop there. We have to look into the negative positions and feelings of millions of Arabs and Muslims towards the United States and some other Western States. These are positions and sentiments that grow stronger every day, compete with the reasonable mainstream and steer it towards extremism. We must look into the reasons that provide a breeding ground for the emergence of such groups and of such actions as those which took place on 11 September. The main reason may also be what the ordinary person in the region has witnessed in terms of policies regarding the issue of Palestine over the course of almost a hundred years. It is an unbelievable story, involving the imposition of gross and severe injustice through long years of pain, suffering, disappointment and unbearable conditions.
In addition, other things happened in the region that cannot be completely isolated from the Palestinian issue. All of these have led the ordinary person in the region to conclude that the system of values and their criteria, basically established by the West, even when we accept them, seem to be inapplicable to us — maybe because we are Arabs and Muslims. We must bring all this to an end. In particular, we must achieve a just solution to the issue of Palestine, thus removing the source of huge anger and despair in the region. That in itself, if achieved, will not conclude the battle against international terrorism, but it is a necessary condition in the battle that the international community must wage in any case.
As to what happened on 11 September, several Palestinian intellectuals have signed the following statement written by the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish:
“The catastrophe that hit Washington and New York has only one name — the madness of terrorism. This catastrophic event was neither a dark science fiction film nor the day of reckoning. It was terrorism that is country-less, colourless and creed-less, no matter how many names of Gods, deities and agonies of man it may have enlisted in order to justify itself.”
He goes on to say that