Statement by H.E. Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, United Nations Security Council Emergency Meeting on the Palestine Question, 15 May 2018

At the outset, I thank Poland, in its capacity as President of the Security Council, for convening this emergency meeting. We also express gratitude for the sympathy and condolences expressed by all members of the Security Council, including during the minute of silence honoring our martyrs.

We thank Council members for having understood the urgency to address the grave, deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular in the Gaza Strip, due to the heinous, deliberate crimes committed by Israel against unarmed Palestinian civilians. In addition, we thank the fraternal State of Kuwait for its efforts as the only Arab member of the Security Council. We also thank Mr. Nickolay Mladenov for his briefing.

We are meeting today at a tragic and painful moment for the Palestinian people, with great sorrow and bitterness. We convey our sincerest condolences to the families of the martyrs, may they rest in peace. We wish a speedy recovery to all those who have been wounded as a result of the brutal Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people, who expressed their resistance in the besieged Gaza Strip on the first evening of the sacred month of Ramadan. We condemn in the strongest terms the odious massacre committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip. We call for an immediate halt to the military aggression against our people and for a transparent, independent and internationally led investigation.

The occupation is the main source of violence in our region. Attempts by some to deny that fact are undermined by the reality on the ground. We ask of those who maintain diverging narratives why they have often blocked any transparent, independent and internationally led investigation. We have said in the Council that we would accept the outcome of such an investigation beforehand. The Secretary-General, as well as Mr. Mladenov and 14 members of the Security Council, have agreed to such an investigation on many occasions. I reiterate that we will accept the outcome, whatever it may be, of such an investigation. The question is whether the other parties are willing to accept such an investigation themselves.

Why do some block the will of the majority of the Council? If what is happening on the ground is not clear, an internationally led investigation should be carried out for us to find out. As we said, we will preliminarily accept its outcome. Are the other parties predisposed to an independent, impartial and transparent investigation to be conducted under the auspices of the Secretary- General, so that matters do not continue in an environment of accusations and mutual suspicion? Let us conduct such an investigation.

Israel has chosen to intensify its brutal attacks against unarmed Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. Israel has decided to target them in cold blood, in flagrant violation of international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights law and the relevant resolutions on the protection of civilians. That amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court.

We have come to the Security Council many times to ask for immediate action to stop Israeli aggression against our unarmed people, who are crushed under the odious Israeli occupation and have been suffering from forced displacement for more than seventy years. We have sent hundreds of letters describing the current brutal Israeli occupation of our people’s territory. We have sent numerous appeals asking for implementation of the provisions of international law, international humanitarian law, human rights law and the relevant United Nations resolutions. We have sounded the alarm about the crushing occupation of an entire people and the various forms of abuse and oppression to which they are subjected. We have warned the Council not to turn a blind eye to the disaster in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and the continuing deterioration in the conditions there thanks to the racist Israeli practices, which have increased and escalated with the illegitimate and provocative decision of the United States regarding Jerusalem. We have warned the Council about the ongoing impunity that Israel enjoys. We have asked for the exceptional immunity that enables Israel to act as if it were above the law to be removed. We have urged that Israel be held responsible for its actions and for justice for its innocent victims.

In the past, and specifically over the past two months, we have not ceased to beg the Council to prevent another massacre at the hands of Israel, the occupying Power. We knew that the occupied Palestinian people — our young people, men, women and elderly — would bear the burden of such a massacre, carried out deliberately and indiscriminately. What was the response to all of those calls? Can it be that the Council did not hear them or take all those warnings seriously? Can it be that just one member of the Council can prevent it from responding to its most elementary responsibility by blocking three attempts to release press statements? Those statements asked for just one thing, a transparent and impartial investigation to determine the facts on the ground. Why is there such disregard for the lives of innocent Palestinians? How many Palestinians have to die before the Council takes action?

If a massacre happened in a Council member’s country, and in the space of 24 hours 61 people, including eight children, died and more than 3,000 were injured, what would they do? Would they accept paralysis in the Security Council? Would they accept seeing it do nothing in the face of crimes committed by a cowardly occupying Power that hides in hills a kilometre from Gaza targeting it with air strikes, rockets and committing other heinous acts? The occupiers are armed and target unarmed people in Gaza. Would the members of the Council accept that on their own territory? Would they accept the Security Council remaining silent in the face of a massacre that continued for more than 24 hours?

The world has early-warning mechanisms, means to mediate and resolve conflicts, even accountability mechanisms. Despite all of that, none of it was applied in the case of Palestine. Council members can see what is happening right now on the ground. Why did all of those Palestinians have to die? Why are they not enjoying life this morning with their families? Did they deserve to die? Did those children deserve to die? Did they deserve to be taken away from their parents? The international community has passed laws and encouraged the protection of the rights of every human being. Why are Palestinians the exception? Why should we be the exception? Why do those massacres happen while the Security Council does nothing? Why are we the exception? Why is the Council paralyzed? Throughout the past six weeks, while we have been targeted, the Council has been paralyzed. Why are we the exception? When is the Council going to act? How long is it going to follow this double standard, especially when it comes to those who want to teach us a lesson? Why do they have a double standard when they want to control the Council? It is so terrible that we have to keep asking it again and again.

Israel has historically tried to deprive us of our humanity and our natural right to life, and to justify its crimes by using its own security as a pretext, as if the occupying Power has a right to enjoy security while it denies the same right to the people being crushed by its occupation. They have the right to security but we do not. Once again, we are the exception. They have the right to fire live ammunition at us in order to kill more than 61 unarmed people and injure more than 3,000 in 24 hours, wielding heavy weaponry. They are in trenches a kilometer away from the peaceful demonstrations and they have more weaponry than they need.

Today, yet again and with a heavy heart, our beloved Gaza Strip is burying more children and young people who had simply been peacefully demonstrating to protest the miserable living conditions unfairly imposed on them by the Israeli occupation, to reject the humiliation, oppression and servitude they are subjected to and to call for their rights, including the right to self-determination and the right of return. Israel, the occupying Power, killed 61 civilians in just 24 hours, including eight children. Israel injured more than 2,771 people, many of them severely, in that same 24 hours.

That brings the number of victims since the beginning of the Great March of Return on 30 March to 110 martyrs, including no fewer than 12,000 civilians injured, with at least 250 of them children. Many of those victims’ injuries are severe because of the Israeli occupying Power’s barbarous use of live ammunition. Israel deliberately uses lethal ammunition on Palestinian civilians, or the kind that delivers the greatest possible physical injury, leaving victims permanently disabled. According to reports from international organizations, many of the victims have suffered severe bone and tissue injuries. I call on the Council to invite those organizations — such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem — here to listen to them. They can tell the Council about the kind of weapons that were used, inflicting lasting, lifelong physical disabilities. Their limbs are amputated. They are crippled. Those are barbarous acts that show the Israeli army’s lack of humanity where civilians are concerned. That is the real definition of terrorism. A similar situation in any other country would have caused an uproar. We will not be the exception. We are the Palestinian people.

Israel targets our children in order to inflict the cruelest of punishments on us and thereby extinguish the fire of life within us, because Israel understands that our children are invaluable. We live for our children. They represent our best future, the future that we wish for. Civilians have the right to peacefully assemble and demonstrate. That is an enshrined right for everyone. The insinuations that Palestinians are responsible for their own deaths because they are protesting the illegitimate occupation are provocative and racist. In other countries the participation of young people, women and families in demonstrations is proudly held up as proof of a vibrant democracy, and it is protected under the right to freedom of speech and peaceful demonstration. Half a million people demonstrated in Washington, D.C., against the use of guns in schools. Families and schools participated. That is permitted in other countries, but when Palestinians do the same thing in Gaza and occupied Palestinian territory, they are accused of using children as human shields. We reject that racist narrative, which turns us into people excluded from humanity.

We have the right to demonstrate with all of our family members against the occupation and its arrogance. We have the right to exercise our rights. Our men, our older people, our women and our children have that right. It is natural, civilized and accepted in ever country that is a member of the Council. Why is it not accepted in ours? Why are we being accused in a racist, fallacious way for simply exercising the same rights as anyone else, in spite of living under occupation and in a much more difficult situation?

Like the rest of humankind, we wish to teach our children about love of country and about collective participation in civilized human actions. Why are such accusations being directed at us? Those activities are not scorned in other countries. They do not say that civilians are being used as human shields. We categorically reject such descriptions of peaceful Palestinian demonstrations. We also reject the use of such claims to exonerate Israel, the occupying Power, of its responsibility in using live ammunition against Palestinian civilians, and of its responsibility for deliberately causing their deaths, mutilations and injuries. Those actions add to the despair of the Palestinian people and lessen their hopes for justice and peace.

Our call for international protection of the Palestinian people goes hand in hand with international humanitarian law and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, which call for the protection of civilians in times of armed conflict, including the protection of children, women and humanitarian workers, especially journalists. We call for the implementation of those standards and principles in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip. No matter what version of events Israeli puts forward, the Gaza Strip cannot be excluded from the implementation of international standards for the protection of civilians. Ensuring international protection is now urgent, especially since Israel, the occupying Power, has violated international law. It has clearly failed to shoulder its responsibilities under international law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure the security and prosperity of Palestinian civilians under occupation. That responsibility therefore now falls to the international community, in accordance with the Geneva Convention and with the resolutions and commitments of the Security Council itself.

The document sent by the Secretary-General a year and a half ago, during the Spanish presidency of the Council, on the various experiences and forms of international protection for civilians, should not remain simply words on paper. The Council should consider it in depth and should determine how to ensure international protection for the Palestinian people now that the occupying Power has failed to shoulder the responsibility that it bears under international law. That is why it is now the Council’s responsibility to ensure international protection for the Palestinian people until the end of the intolerable occupation of our country and until Palestinian independence has been achieved.

I should also mention the illegitimate and provocative decision by the United States Administration concerning Jerusalem, which flies in the face of international consensus and violates the relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly resolutions 478 (1980) and 2334 (2016). That Administration has chosen to support Israel, which has increased and exacerbated tensions and sensitivities and led to this trail of blood. While no one is questioning the sovereign right of a State to choose the location of its Embassy, if that right runs counter to international law and Security Council resolutions, it is no longer a sovereign right. No country has the right to imperil our territory and place an Embassy in a territory under occupation. Jerusalem’s status has been well known to the entire Council since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 (II), which determined Jerusalem’s special status, and of all the relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular 478 (1980) and 2334 (2016), as well as the agreements concluded between us and the occupying Power. According to those documents, the status of Jerusalem is to be determined in final status negotiations.

No one, under the pretext of sovereignty or for any other reason, has the right to act in flagrant violation of international law and Security Council resolutions. If we were talking about transferring the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Haifa or Ashdod, that would be fine, and the United States would be free do so. But transferring the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is not up to the United States. That is an issue of international law and the international community.

The Trump Administration refuses to listen to what the world is saying. It refuses to listen to what is stated in United Nations resolutions, in particular those of the Security Council, or to what is laid down in international law and international standards. It refuses to listen. The United States is a super-Power that should be defending international law first and foremost. It is a super-Power that should be defending the resolutions of the Security Council and of the United Nations before anyone else, because of its position as a permanent member of the Council. As a super-Power, it should be the first to abide by international law, not flout it or close its eyes to the situation on the ground. The whole world can see the provocation. The United States should review its position and its flagrant violation of international law and the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Furthermore, the United States Administration did not just ignore the specificity and sensitivity around the status of the city and its central role in peace; it also decided to transfer the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem while the Palestinian people were commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, their day of catastrophe. It is another provocative decision by the United States Administration that completely ignores the feelings and legitimate rights of Palestinians and the political concerns and religious sentiments of Christians and Muslims all over the world. It is a provocation for millions of Palestinians, Muslims and Christians. The United States took that decision in complete disregard of everyone, including the Palestinian people.

As a super-Power, the United States should have put pressure on Israel to end its violations against the Palestinian people, compel it to respect international law and create an environment conducive to breaking the political deadlock and achieving peace, security, prosperity and dignity for everyone. Regrettably, it decided to do the opposite. It decided to bolster Israel’s intransigence and impunity and protect it from international condemnation, accountability and any measure that might rectify a situation that is unfair to Palestinians and to their right to freedom and independence. The most recent decision taken with regard to Jerusalem has inspired the right-wing Israeli Government to implement its illegitimate policies and practices, including the murder of innocent civilians in broad daylight, without fear of consequences, since Israel has always enjoyed impunity. That has fuelled its aspirations to gain forcible control over Palestinian territory, including through the illegitimate and illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.

We must acknowledge that the absence of accountability and the protection of Israel from sanctions has enabled Israel to go ever further in its settlement building and racist policies towards the Palestinian people. It has a green light permitting it to commit increasingly serious crimes against innocent people, kill larger numbers of people, imprison Palestinians, confiscate greater stretches of land, destroy more houses and displace more people. That has provoked the current developments in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. That impunity has enabled Israel to continue its illegitimate and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip for more than 10 years. The blockade has witnessed three devastating wars, during which Israel has targeted infrastructure on the Gaza Strip, exacerbating the situation for approximately 2 million Palestinians. Israel has decided to impose collective punishment, which constitutes a war crime. Israel deprives Palestinians of protection. Urgent action is therefore required to rectify this very difficult humanitarian situation.

We have repeatedly called on the Council to lift the illegitimate Israeli blockade of Gaza and provide the humanitarian assistance we need to ease our people’s suffering. Regrettably, that request has not been granted so far. We are making that request again today. Here we would like to recall resolution 1860 (2009) and the Council’s demands on this issue. We ask that serious measures be taken to exert pressure on the occupying Power to end the blockade and open crossing points to enable the free movement of people and goods, in line with international humanitarian law. We also call for the support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which, in spite of the financial crisis imposed on it, continues to implement its mandate and provide assistance to refugees. It also continues to play an important role in easing the suffering of the people of the Gaza Strip and meeting their most urgent needs.

We call on the Security Council to act without delay to find an immediate solution to this sensitive issue, which threatens international peace and security. The Council must take immediate action to stop the massacre of our people, especially in Gaza. It cannot remain silent. It must demand that its resolutions be respected and it should guarantee their implementation. We call on all countries to work collectively or individually on the issue, in line with their legal commitments and in support of international law. That should include condemning the illegitimate and brutal attitude of Israel to the Palestinian people under occupation. Israeli settlements in our territories, including in East Jerusalem, should not be recognized. Any attempts by countries to support that illegal situation should be denounced. Measures should be taken to ensure accountability and justice. We must also take urgent action to save the lives of innocent civilians and prevent the situation from deteriorating in order to have a chance, however small, to achieve a just peace. That is why international protection must be provided to the Palestinian people in line with international humanitarian law.

Seventy years after the tragedy, injustice and shock of the Nakba, the Palestinian people, along with the international community and the members of the Security Council, continue to believe that international law is the way to justice, given that it is the surest path towards peace. States should translate words into action. It is time for serious and immediate action to be taken to ensure the primacy of international law, resume efforts to put an end to the Israeli occupation and achieve a just and lasting peace so that the Palestinian people can live in dignity and peace and exercise their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and freedom in an independent Palestinian State and the right of return. Our people have waited a long time. We have suffered for a long time. We can wait no longer for an end to this grave injustice. I appeal to the Council not to dash our hopes and aspirations.