Statement by H.E. Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, at the United Nations Security Council, Open Debate on The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, 18 October 2018

Mr. President,

We warmly congratulate the Plurinational State of Bolivia on its Presidency of the Security Council and express our appreciation to you for your skilled leadership of the Council.

I thank UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov for his briefing to the Council today. I also extend our thanks to Mr. Hagai Elad, Executive Director of B’tselem, for his presentation, further exposing the dismal realities of the situation and sharing the serious concerns of civil society as they witness the distress of a people whose human rights are being so grossly violated and witness the destruction of the chances for peace and stability for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Mr. President,

Against this backdrop and in view of the many regrettable developments since our last debate, including escalating punitive measures against the Palestinian people and leadership, it is necessary to clarify certain matters.

Standing up for yourself and your rights should never be equated with disrespect of anyone or misconstrued as a provocation. It is, in fact, an utmost expression of respect for one’s rights and dignity, regardless of the consequences.

When the American patriot Patrick Henry declared “give me liberty or give me death”, he was not disrespecting or provoking anyone, but rather insisting on his right to live freely. It was considered an act of heroism, moral courage, and reverence for the liberty due to all humankind.

Our UN Charter has affirmed that right of all peoples to self-determination. As Palestinians continue to be deprived of this right, it has been affirmed and called for in countless resolutions and declarations endorsed by a vast majority of States and peoples worldwide. Our right to self-determination and to live freely is a legitimate and inalienable right, a right we will never forsake.

Why, after all these years, considering humanity’s progress and the understandings reached on the universal desire and right to freedom, why would the Palestinian people be expected to be any different; why would they be expected to forever submit to foreign occupation and colonial domination?

Also affirmed in these halls, year after year, is that peace can never be realized in the absence of human rights and can never be built on the dehumanization of others. This has been proven repeatedly through history. We thus agree with a statement made in the recent past at the Council on Foreign Relations by the US Permanent Representative, that: “Peace and security cannot be achieved in isolation from human rights. Desperate people subject to humiliation and abuse will inevitably resort to violence.”

It is true, that can never be a path to peace, and a peace so imposed will never be viable. The situation of Palestine is no exception. Yet, despite the extreme human rights crisis being endured, our people continue, more often than not, to choose non-violence and peaceful protest.

However, what we are witnessing are precisely such short-sighted, inhumane policies as Israel, the occupying Power, always chooses violence, brutalizing the Palestinian civilian population and colonizing their land, with zero consequence, supplemented by recent US decisions contravening UN resolutions, pressuring and vilifying the Palestinian leadership, and politicizing desperately-needed humanitarian aid, including for more than 5.4 million Palestine refugees.

Part of an attempt to impose a “peace deal”, such policies do nothing to help overcome the political impasse, but rather harden it and cause more mistrust, already at an all-time high. Moreover, such policies prejudge and undermine just solutions for the core issues, prolonging the conflict and ensuring only more instability, insecurity and hardship.

We categorically reject these policies and the distorted, punitive, negative narratives accompanying them, which demean the legitimacy of Palestinian national aspirations and dismiss their rights, including of our refugees. We also refute attempts to discredit UNRWA, which operates on the basis of a strong General Assembly mandate and has been consistently lauded by host countries and the international community, including the US, for its exemplary humanitarian and development programmes and proven contribution to regional stability over the decades.

We refuse to accept such policies and rhetoric, despite the enormous cost of speaking out. We respectfully stand for our rights, as enshrined in universal covenants and countless UN resolutions, including of this Security Council. We do so peacefully and unwaveringly, committed to all political, diplomatic, legal and civil means to securing our rights.

We reject the pretexts used to continue denying our rights and exempting Israel for its violations. We cannot accept continued appeasement and hesitance to hold Israel accountable for its crimes even as it flagrantly breaches all obligations as an occupying Power, threatening the very existence of our people in their homeland, and even boasting about this in the most sinister of ways.

We cannot accept continued lip service to “the peace process”, while Israel keeps proving how empty its commitment to negotiations and the two-State solution actually is, as it entrenches its occupation, mocks the international community and still demands privileged treatment. Israel should not be permitted to continue thwarting credible negotiations to find just solutions for the final status issues – Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, security, water and prisoners – solutions we all know are vital for establishing lasting peace and security between the two peoples.

All who call for negotiations should make clear that they must be based on the longstanding parameters and terms of reference set forth by the relevant UN resolutions, Madrid principles and Arab Peace Initiative. These are not preconditions; they are the foundation and guarantees of a just peace, which would inherently mean addressing the legitimate rights and concerns of both sides. Trying to accommodate illegitimate asks, claims and actions will never solve the problem, only creating new ones, as we have seen over the exhausting, futile 25 years of the Oslo process.

As affirmed by the late UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in one of the last pieces he penned, on behalf of The Elders, regarding the conflict:

“… a people deprived of liberty and dignity will never be pacified. Nor will they meekly accept a settlement imposed by outsiders that redraws borders and redefines sovereignty without popular consent. Any fresh approach to peacemaking must be welcome in principle. If it does not address the root causes of the conflict, including historic dispossession, illegal settlement expansion, the status of Jerusalem as a shared capital and the rights of Palestinian refugees, the deal will be doomed to failure.”

Those words ring alarmingly today. We have continually called on the international community to uphold the collective responsibility to bring an end to the Israeli occupation and this 70-year injustice. We do so again today, urging the Security Council to uphold its Charter duties and to act, in conformity with its own resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016), to address the root causes and to tangibly contribute to a solution that will be just, comprehensive and lasting. We have also continually affirmed our commitment to the two-State solution as the path to peace, insisting, however, that it be a just peace, not one stripping our people of their land and rights. And, we do so again today.

How can those seeking to make peace condone, support or excuse the violations being perpetrated every single day against the Palestinian people by Israel and its destruction of peace prospects?

They must not condone or excuse the savage killing of innocent civilians, cruelly denied protection for decades by an international community that has appeased and armed the occupation to the maximum with little remorse. While maybe seen as statistics by some, the Palestinian men, women and children killed – including over 200 peaceful protesters, among them at least 45 children, since the Great March of Return in Gaza began and including the mother of eight children, Aisha Mohammed Rabi, killed last week in the West Bank by Israeli settlers, as well as the tens of thousands who have been injured by the Israeli occupying forces – are not just numbers to us, but our sisters and brothers whose pain and losses we grieve and which weigh heavily on us, not least on our collective belief that justice and peace are possible.

They must not condone or excuse attempts to clear away people – human beings – like rubbish, with no regard for rights and dignity, nor condone the demolition of their homes and lives. The forced transfer of people, as happening in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar and as witnessed so many times before in Occupied Palestine over the years, constitutes ethnic cleansing. This is not a mere “decision” by Israel’s so-called judiciary, which has proven to serve and subsidize the occupation and where the chances for minimal justice for Palestinians is nil; this is a war crime.

They must not condone, excuse or in any way support the colonization of a people’s ancestral lands as being committed flagrantly in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, where the Israeli government persists not only with illegal settlement activities in all manifestations, in flagrant breach of resolution 2334 (2016) and countless other resolutions, but openly declares its intent to annex our land, with officials, including the so-called “Justice Minister” leading the charge in flat-out contempt of international law and the international community.

They must not condone or excuse the imprisonment of 2 million Palestinians in Gaza under the occupation’s illegal blockade, by which Israel has caused such humanitarian and socio-economic devastation and exploited and deepened the Palestinian division, which regrettably remains a dark stain on our national history and remains without healing despite the many attempts at reconciliation. Nor must they condone or excuse the imprisonment, detention and abuse of thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of children, by the occupying Power, or its deceitful distortions of social welfare to families of prisoners and martyrs, as it persists in its attempts to undermine all of our institutions.

They must not condone or excuse the fomenting of religious extremism, incitement and hatred, pitting one religion against another and threatening the sanctity of holy sites, including Al-Haram Al-Sharif; nor condone the legislation of racism, discrimination and segregation, with racist laws that deem one people superior to another and grant to them exclusive rights in the land, including to self-determination and return, while simultaneously denying those rights to the indigenous people, in a situation that only be classified as apartheid.

Mr. President,

That an occupying Power should feel immune from accountability, even as it kills innocent civilians and violates all norms and principles of international law, only deepens cynicism about the potential for a just peace, especially among our youth, whose hopes are evaporating.

That this illegal occupation should last for more than a half-century, with no concrete action to bring it to an end, risks not only the future of our people and region, but risks destroying the credibility of the international system and its laws, which the world has gone through wars and colossal human and material sacrifices to build, assert and defend.

What we demand – an end to this occupation and historic injustice – is not only a call for respect and realization of the Palestinian people’s inalienable human rights and national aspirations, but also a call on the international community to respect and defend the universal principles and moral standards it has itself developed and accepted as basic canons, all of which are in grave jeopardy at this critical moment.

I thank you, Mr. President.