23 July 2019 – Statement by H.E. Dr. Riyad Mansour, Minister, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, “The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question”

Mr. President,

We thank the Peruvian Presidency for convening this important meeting and for your able leadership of the Security Council’s agenda.

We also thank Under-Secretary-General Rosemary Di Carlo for her briefing on the situation, one that regrettably worsens every day that action to ensure justice is delayed and that a political horizon for a peaceful solution remains obstructed.

Mr. President,

We have come to this chamber time after time, appealing to, calling on and imploring on the Security Council to act – to alleviate the human suffering, to salvage peace prospects and to contribute to making that peace a reality. We remain convinced that such action – in line with international law, the Council’s resolutions and its Charter responsibility for international peace and security  – is the only way to bring an end to this grave injustice.

Respect for the law and human rights and establishment of justice are the only way forward. Those who would tell us otherwise are setting us up for decades more of suffering and insecurity for all – Palestinians, Israelis and the entire region.

After more than 52 years of Israel’s illegal occupation of our land, its gross, violent denial of our people’s rights and their constant dispossession and displacement, it is past high-time to redress this situation, justly and permanently. This is a blatant situation of belligerent, colonial foreign occupation – attested to by any measure of the law and by this Council, the General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, countless regional and global organizations, academia, and the international community in nearly its entirety – and it must be brought to an end.

Absent accountability, including for the gravest violations, this foreign occupation is rapidly mutating into apartheid, bringing shame to all who have pledged to never allow such denigration of human beings to occur again. Moreover, as many have long observed regarding the Palestine question, the failure to uphold the law on this issue has undermined the international rules-based system, exposing its flaws and total dependence on political will for effect and allowing for its cynical exploitation.

But, this situation can never be normalized. The legal, political and moral obligations incumbent upon this Council and the international community as a whole are clear, as are the principles and values so fundamental for peace and security in our world.

However, as we’ve heard from Israel’s representative and more recently from its staunchest supporter in the Council, there are those who deride these principles and values as ‘things of the past’ or mere ‘slogans’ and who are blatantly dismissive of Palestinian rights. In their calculus, the law and morals do not matter, only raw power and delusions of superiority do. In clearing the way for a future devoid of values and principles, they not only expose the emptiness of their claims of seeking a peaceful, secure and better future for all, but do a disservice to humanity by setting dangerous precedents with far-reaching implications.

Mr. President,

All of this was starkly reflected in the scenes of destruction and injustice witnessed yesterday in Occupied Palestine in the Sur Bahir neighborhood of the Wadi al-Hummus area of Jerusalem, where Israel has issued military orders for the demolition of 10 residential buildings, comprising at least 70 apartments and affecting hundreds of families. Instead of demolishing the illegal wall, Israel is now using it as a pretext to demolish Palestinian homes.

Such plans and actions, deliberate and systematic in nature, constitute gross violations of UN resolutions and the Charter prohibition on acquisition of territory by force, grave breaches of the 4th Geneva Convention, disrespect of the 2004 ICJ Advisory Opinion, and war crimes as per the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Yet, ignoring its legal obligations and the appeals of the UN, States and Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations, Israel began yesterday to demolish the homes in Sur Bahir. In the early hours of Monday, a large contingent of Israeli soldiers entered the homes of the families residing there, forcing them to leave their homes before proceeding to destroying them using military bulldozers and massive amounts of dynamite. The scenes have been shocking and heartbreaking.

The families displaced and dispossessed yesterday of their properties and life’s belongings, include 17 persons, 11 of them children. Nine are Palestine refugees, who have been traumatized by yet another displacement. As the destruction continues, 350 other Palestinians fear the same loss, in addition to thousands more Palestinians, especially in Occupied East Jerusalem, under threat of pending demolition orders by Israel.

For these families, the anguish is immense and the situation disastrous. But, their homes haven’t been taken by an act of nature such as those we sadly witness around the world, rather they were taken by a deliberate decision by the Israeli Government and its so-called ‘Supreme Court of Justice’, which have assumed rights and privileges they are not entitled to in order to strip another people of their legitimate rights, land and property.  This is a blatant act of ethnic cleansing and forced transfer, tantamount to a war crime, and it must be fully condemned and prosecuted as such.

Israel is NOT the sovereign in the area of Sur Bahir/Wadi al-Hummus, just as it is not the sovereign in any part of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, and this includes East Jerusalem. Israel is the occupying Power and does not hold any of the ‘rights’ it has accorded to itself to carry out such colonization in our land.

The Israeli government, its officials and military personnel must be held accountable for these crimes and reparations and restitution for these losses must be obligatory upon the occupying Power. The State of Palestine will spare no effort and will continue exploring every avenue to end impunity and ensure justice for victims, including through the ICC.

We are informed by over five decades of policies of the Israeli occupation. The pretexts may vary but the objective is always the same: illegal land grab. They may declare closed military areas, green areas, new archeological sites, a new road or a new tunnel, they always mean land confiscation. Religion, history and security are placed at the service of this colonial project to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian people and the interests of the Israeli people.

So, when Israel announced the excavation of yet another tunnel in Occupied East Jerusalem, its true intentions were obvious. Its recent inauguration of the so-called ‘Pilgrims Road’, with the support of the US Ambassador to Israel and other American officials, was yet another illegal act attempting to assert sovereignty where there is none, attempting to alter the character and status of this Holy City, in flagrant contravention of UN resolutions, revealing yet again the occupation’s expansionist, extremist intentions.

Mr. President,

Is this the ‘better life’ that some US administration officials claiming to seek peace speak of? Is this the future touted by the failed, so-called ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop convened last month, which neglected to even minimally acknowledge the root causes of this conflict, the reality of a half-century occupation, and the basic rights of the Palestinian people?

When people live peaceably, even under conditions of constant oppression, when they work hard, support themselves and build homes for themselves on their own land and then those homes are destroyed under pretexts that are as false as they are illegal, how can this possibly contribute to a better life, a sense of dignity and stability? How can such dispossession, as was done to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians before them, foster any belief that peace and coexistence are possible? They cannot.

No amount of spin or propaganda can hide the fact that this is being done in grave breach of international humanitarian law amounting to massive collective punishment.

And, yet, though dispossessed and displaced, deprived and isolated, the Palestinian people remain. They have been, and will continue to be, resilient. They will not submit or surrender. There is no people on this earth that will willingly give up the right to freedom and human dignity and I say this in the presence of representatives of nations that have fought valiantly to free themselves from oppression.

The continuation of these criminal, inhumane actions, like all the crimes before them across over 70 years of this injustice, sow deep resentment, anger and pain among our people. And, the international community’s silence and inaction only deepen the hurt, despair and sense of abandonment.

The colonization and annexation of our land, the suffocation of Gaza, the violence, terror and incitement against our people, the killing of our children, the imprisonment of our people, the assaults on our holy sites, the theft of our natural and financial resources, and the destruction of our future by Israel must be halted.

Mr. President,

The global consensus on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination – to the same freedom cherished worldwide – and on the principles and parameters of a just solution remains strong.

In this chamber every month, these principles and parameters and the commitment to their realization are reaffirmed.  This consensus was recently reaffirmed by the recent Summits of the League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and African Union and by the Ministerial Meetings of the OIC and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and remains the core of the international position.

At every juncture, calls are made for action to achieve the two-State solution based on the 1967 borders in accordance with international law, the relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principle of ‘land for peace’, Arab Peace Initiative and Quartet Roadmap. Equally consistent are the calls for action to bring an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, to realize the independence and sovereignty of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel on the basis of secure and recognized borders, and to achieve a just solution for the Palestine refugees in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194. The consensus remains that such a solution would be the guarantor of just, lasting and comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli peace and security.

We are grateful for these principled positions and the solidarity extended to our just cause and our people, including the Palestine refugees through UNRWA. However, commitment to principles and humanitarian assistance alone cannot remedy this abysmal situation and make peace possible.

International action, in line with legal, political and moral duties towards the Palestine question, must be undertaken. There must be accountability. All the legitimate tools available politically and legally – including prosecution in courts and sanctions – must be pursued, without hesitation.

The Security Council must shoulder its responsibilities and act immediately in line with its resolutions to compel a halt to the occupation’s crimes, avert further deterioration of the situation, protect innocent civilians, and salvage the chances for a just peace. Israel must bear the consequences for its violations and disregard of the international community’s will.

States must also act, individually and collectively, to adhere to the relevant resolutions in word and deed, and uphold their legal obligations, including not to recognize or render aid or assistance to this illegal situation, and to ensure accountability. This must include action in respect of the call for distinction in Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) and all other relevant resolutions, including resolution 478 (1980) on Jerusalem.

Only such action and pressure can bring change and salvage the chances for peace. Continuing to appease and coddle Israel, the occupying Power, can only more of the same impunity and worse. That would be to our peril, but also to the peril of the Israeli people and the region as a whole, which will continue to be deprived of the justice, peace, security and development that so many have long sought and struggled for. Do not let another generation suffer this injustice.

I thank you, Mr. President.