Statement by Ambassador Ms. Feda Abdelhady-Nasser before the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (4th Committee), Agenda Item 55: Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, 11 November 2015:

Mr. Chair,

At the outset, I convey Palestine’s deep appreciation to the members of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories – Ambassador Amrith Rohan Perera of Sri Lanka, Chair of the Committee, Ambassador Ramlan Bin Ibrahim of Malaysia and Minister Counsellor Aboubacar Sadikh Barry of Senegal. We thank them for their efforts in upholding the Special Committee’s mandate, despite the obstacles in this regard – namely the continued refusal by Israel, the occupying Power, to cooperate with the Special Committee in violation of its obligations as a Member State of the United Nations – and for their comprehensive report (A/70/406-A/70/406/Corr.1) on the critical human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Occupied Syrian Golan during the past year.

We also thank the Secretary-General and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the reports issued pursuant to General Assembly resolutions 69/92 and 69/93, respectively on “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” (A/70/351) and “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” (A/70/421).

Along with the Special Committee’s report and other relevant UN reports – including the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, and the Secretary-General’s Board of Inquiry, as well as numerous reports by OCHA, UNRWA, UNICEF, ESCWA – these reports attest to a systematic pattern of gross human rights violations being perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power, its occupying forces and settlers against the Palestinian people in the context of its nearly-half century foreign military occupation of the Palestinian land, an occupation that itself has been deemed a massive human rights violation and should be considered illegal in its entirety.

Mr. Chair,

The Palestinian people under Israeli occupation are enduring a human rights crisis.  Every aspect of life is being infringed upon and every human right is being violated as Israel, the occupying Power, persists with its occupation, deepening this injustice.  This reality is at the core of the current deterioration of the situation and the continued failure of all efforts to launch a credible political process to resolve the conflict. This is not simply a Palestinian narrative – which will surely be argued by the Israeli delegation in its hostile de-legitimization of Palestinian suffering and grievances against the occupation – but rather is the actual reality, affirmed by factual documentation and countless reports by UN agencies, committees and bodies and other international organizations monitoring the situation on the basis of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, and not on some abstract or subjective basis.

The reality is that, for decades, Israel, the occupying Power, has systematically pursued a two-pronged policy to maintain its occupation: the brutalization and oppression of the Palestinian people and the colonization of their land via illegal, repressive and destructive policies and measures, many amounting to war crimes. The past year has been no exception.

Israel has continued its military aggressions, killing and injuring Palestinian civilians, imprisoning and detaining thousands, forcibly displacing Palestinians, among them entire Bedouin communities, and collectively punishing Palestinian civilians, sparing no child, woman or man; has continued destroying and seizing their homes, properties, infrastructure and land; and has continued inflicting on them immense humanitarian suffering and collective humiliation and indignity.

Simultaneously, it has persisted with its unlawful colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem – the territory constituting the Occupied State of Palestine, rabidly constructing and expanding settlements and the apartheid, annexation Wall, confiscating Palestinian land, imposing hundreds of checkpoints, evicting Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, exploiting natural resources and obstructing access to water and agricultural lands; and has persisted with incursions, provocations and incitement vis-à-vis Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, all aimed at illegally and forcibly altering the character, status and demography of the Territory, entrenching its occupation and advancing its expansionist agenda.

All of this has been accompanied by a systematic Israeli campaign denying the history, rights and legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people and countless racist, discriminatory policies against them.  This has amounted to the dehumanization of the Palestinian people, who have been maliciously characterized as “terrorists”, “animals”, “insects” and their legitimate resistance to the occupation criminalized as “terrorism”.

In a cruel irony, this is being done in an attempt to legitimize Israel’s blatantly illegal occupation and its crimes.  But this goal has never been achieved in an international environment where rule of law and human rights prevail.  Yet it has succeeded in undermining all peace efforts and in further destabilizing the situation, deepening the human suffering caused by this conflict.  It has exacerbated Israeli prejudices against the Palestinian people and perversions of reality, fueling paranoia, aggression, and extremist tendencies among Israelis, especially settlers, and providing pretexts and incitement for their crimes and terror.  It has prevented the emergence of genuine trust and understanding, essential for justly addressing the root causes of the conflict and for ultimately establishing peace, security and coexistence between the two peoples.  Moreover, this situation has undermined international law and the international system as a whole, as the international community continues to permit Israeli impunity and to fail the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and their rights.

Mr. Chair,

As reflected in the reports, Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinian people persisted and, in many cases, intensified in the past year.  The rights to life, self-determination, property, food, water, livelihood, housing, education, health, development, freedom of movement, freedom of worship, peaceful assembly – all are being breached.  The impact of such violations under this illegitimate occupation is unquantifiable.  What is clear, however, is that it has been devastating for the Palestinian society, scarring generations and deepening hopelessness and diminishing conviction in the promise of peace; and has severely fragmented the unity and contiguity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, physically destroying the two-State solution based on the pre-1967 borders; and has fomented repeated cycles of violence and instability leading to loss of innocent civilian lives, as we are tragically witnessing today.

Far from de-escalating, the situation remains critical due to Israel’s insistence on imposing its occupation through all illegal means and measures and on cultivating a culture of hate against the Palestinian people.  Most recently, this was shamefully exhibited in the words and actions of Israeli occupying forces in the Bethlehem area.  A recent video, recorded on 29 October, documented an Israeli military vehicle entering the Aida Palestine refugee camp and over a loud speaker an Israeli soldier threatens the residents with the following:

“People of Aida Refugee camp, WE ARE THE OCCUPATION ARMY. If you throw stones, we will hit you with gas until you ALL DIE. The children, the youth, the old people, you will all die. WE WON’T LEAVE ANY OF YOU ALIVE. And we have arrested one of you, he is with us now. We took him from his home and we will butcher and kill him while you’re watching. As long as you throw stones, go home or we will gas you, we will gas you until you die.”

 Such shocking threats, policies and measures are the epitome of the Israeli occupation, whereby terror and force have been used by the occupying Power to subjugate and dispossess the Palestinian population, all for the furtherance of this occupation and all in grave breach of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law.  Yet, this specific incident is not isolated; it is not the exception; it is the rule.

These are the same threats, policies and measures at the core of the callous behavior of Israeli soldiers at checkpoints where Palestinian civilians, including women and elderly, are routinely intimidated, harassed and humiliated; and of the rampant Israeli discrimination against the Palestinian people.  They are the same constantly meted out against thousands of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, among them hundreds of children, forcibly detained, inhumanely interrogated and held captive in Israeli jails, enduring deplorable conditions and severe physical and psychological abuse, including torture.

These are the same threats, policies and measures that fueled the savagery of the Israeli occupying forces in Gaza last summer, where more than 2,251 Palestinians were slaughtered, the majority civilians and Palestine refugees, among them 299 women and 551 children, and where massive destruction of homes and properties, including even attacks on UN schools where civilians were sheltering, and humanitarian devastation were deliberately, wantonly inflicted by the occupying Power; and the same that underpin the illegal, inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza, which is depriving, disfiguring and isolating the entire Palestinian civilian population there in an act of massive collective punishment.

These are the same threats, policies and measures driving Israel’s illegal settlement colonization in all manifestations, in grave breach of international law and violation of the rights of the occupied population; and behind the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, thousands of whom have been repeatedly dispossessed by the occupation of their homes, lands and livelihoods; and the same fueling Israeli provocations and incitement against Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Occupied East Jerusalem and risking ignition of a disastrous religious conflict; and inciting the terror of extremist settlers, who burn alive and kill innocent civilians, including infants, and who gun down Palestinians, destroy property, desecrate churches and mosques and steal land with total impunity and with the protection and support of the Israeli Government and occupying forces.

These are the same threats shouted by Israeli soldiers in night raids on Palestinian homes, where families are traumatized, their children, some as young as 10 years old, seized in the dead of night, their parents humiliated and helpless to protect them; and that permit Israeli soldiers to use civilians, including children, as human shields during military raids; and that encourage Israeli occupying forces and settlers to shoot to kill innocent Palestinians, including unarmed protesters, among them children, in cold blood, without fear of any accountability in a climate in which the life of a Palestinian is blatantly demeaned, devalued and disregarded.

Mr. Chair,

The provisions of international law prohibiting all of these actions are clear, whether the 4th Geneva Convention, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, all of which are applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as confirmed by the General Assembly, Security Council, Human Rights Council and International Court of Justice and the Conferences of High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention.

Even the most basic review of the situation reveals gross human rights violations and grave breaches of international law by Israel, the occupying Power.  Attempts to dispute or distort these facts are directly refuted by the reality before us. Continued appeasement or silence cannot be justified.  Human rights cannot be conditioned on or postponed until the resolution of conflict; they must be respected in all circumstances.

If Israel is never held accountable for its human rights violations and crimes, it will only be emboldened to continue trampling the law, causing more suffering for the Palestinian people, compounding this crisis, and making peace even more elusive.  Israel must be demanded to cease its violations and comply with the law – military aggressions must end, settlement activities must end, settler terror must end, collective punishment must end, imprisonment and detention of Palestinian civilians must end, destruction of Palestinian property must end, the blockade of Gaza must end, provocations and incitement, including at Al-Haram Al-Sharif, must end, and the humiliation and isolation of the Palestinian people must end.

This would, of course, create a very different human rights situation and thus a very different environment more conducive to pursuit of peace.  But, faced with the continuation of such illegal actions, how can we ever believe that Israel seeks peace? How can we believe that this illegal foreign occupation will ever end? How can we believe that Israel is committed to the two-State solution? More than lip-service is needed to answer these very real questions. It is action that will prove commitment and intentions.

Until the reality on the ground changes, we will continue to call for international protection for the Palestinian people in accordance with international law.  It is clear that, rather than ensuring the safety and well-being of the Palestinian civilians under its occupation, Israel is violating all such legal obligations and is the direct source of their suffering.  Protection for our defenseless people is thus essential until this occupation comes to an end.  The right to security is not exclusive to Israel; it is a right for all, including the Palestinian people.  This must be understood if we are ever to remedy the current dire situation and create the conditions and political horizon for peace.

The international community has clear responsibilities in this regard, in particular the Security Council and the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention.  The call for protection must not be viewed as unreasonable or unimaginable by any party that respects international law and human rights and seeks peace.  It is consistent with these pillars and our common goals.  In this regard, I wish to end with a quote from former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson at the 2001 Conference of High Contracting Parties:

“The protection of the victim should be the overriding concern of the UN and its agencies and programmes.  However, the failure to resolve the fundamental problem of the occupation – an occupation which has continued for over 34 years – combined with the failure of successive Israeli governments to comply with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international human rights standards, has left the population of the occupied Palestinian territories in a vulnerable situation, lacking protection and exposed to a wide range of violations.  Protection needs to be accorded to the people of the occupied territories in strict compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention… I strongly believe that ensuring respect for international human rights standards set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention is crucial in order to prevent human suffering and in the search for comprehensive solutions for peace… To meet this challenge, legal and diplomatic mechanisms are available under the United Nations Charter, in addition to those created by the Convention itself.”

Her words are as applicable today as they were then.  Only now – after more than 48 years of the Israeli occupation and more than 67 years since the grave injustice of Al-Nakba – this call has become more urgent than ever, as everyone acknowledges how deplorable, unsustainable and dangerous the situation is.  We implore the international community to rise to the challenge and act to protect innocent civilians, uphold human rights and salvage the prospects for a just and lasting peace that will bring an end to the occupation and achieve the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders, and finally enable the Palestinian people to fulfill their inalienable rights, including to self-determination, and to fulfill their national aspirations to live a free and dignified life in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

I thank you, Mr. Chair.