Statement by H.E. Dr. Riyad Mansour, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations Security Council, Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, 26 April 2018

Mr. President,

On behalf of the State of Palestine, I congratulate Peru on its Security Council Presidency and skilled leadership of the Council at this critical time.

Today, I must also express sincere condolences to the Council and foremost to the Cote d’Ivoire Mission, Government and people on the passing of our dear colleague, Ambassador Bernard Tanoh-Boutchoué, may he rest in eternal peace. He was truly a kind, genuine diplomat and will be very missed.

Mr. President,

We thank Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov for his briefing. We express appreciation for the ongoing efforts of the Secretary-General and Mr. Mladenov, including recent statements made in line with international law and relevant UN resolutions. While such statements should be considered standard, we are obliged to recognize them in view of the constant harassment and intimidation to which the UN and its representatives are exposed any time they risk taking a public, principled stand on our issue, as opposed to the artificial “balanced” stand that Israel, the occupying Power, bullies States into adopting, despite the absolute lack of symmetry in this abnormal, unjust situation.

Mr. President,

That extremely abnormal, unjust situation is most starkly exemplified today in the dire situation in the Gaza Strip. There, 2 million Palestinians, the majority refugees, have been subjected, for over a decade, to an illegal Israeli land, sea and air blockade, that has vastly compounded the misery and suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people by five decades of Israeli military occupation since 1967 and seven decades of dispossession and denial of their right to return to their homes and ancestral lands since their ruthless uprooting in the Nakba of 1948.

And yet, our people in Gaza – as in all other areas of Occupied Palestine and in exile in the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – have remained beyond patient. They have remained steadfast despite repeated upheavals, assaults and crises and despite deep deprivation and marginalization, as also reflected at this time in the perseverance of Palestine refugees in Syria who are facing the extreme hardships and dangers of war. This resilient, hopeful spirit is at the heart of the Great March of Return launched by Palestinians in Gaza on Land Day, 30 March 2018, and the protests carried out since.

Contrary to Israeli propaganda, these protests have been peaceful demonstrations by unarmed, defenseless Palestinian civilians calling for their rights, including to return in accordance with resolution 194 (III) and to self-determination, and demanding an end to the Israeli blockade that has collectively punished, impoverished and disfigured the entire society. Exercising their right to peaceful assembly, these men, women and youth are protesting an oppression that cannot be endured any longer, pleading for their voices t0 be heard.

The Palestinian people are living the longest military occupation and most protracted refugee crisis in modern history, and enduring constant displacement, colonization and demonization, all aimed at their negation. Against this backdrop, restraint should be seen as extraordinary and such protests a natural response to this illegal, cruel occupation. Let us all agree here, this is not a benign occupation, and even deeming it a belligerent occupation is an understatement.

So then, why is the occupying Power so surprised that a people would rise up to demand their dignity and freedom? Why is it so outraged that a people would use all possible peaceful means to bring an end to its persecution?

And, why have Israeli officials commanded their military forces to fire at peaceful protesters? Why are civilians, including children, being targeted with live ammunition in a blatant shoot-to- kill and maim pattern, with at least 41 Palestinians killed by the occupying forces since protests began and more than five thousand injured, many permanently disabled by the severity of their injuries?

Where else in the world could an entire civilian population, over half of them children, be imprisoned and designated as a target, as done by Israeli Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has openly declared that “there are no innocent civilians in Gaza”? This same Minister also declared, in referring to video footage of an Israeli soldier deliberately shooting a Palestinian man, “the sniper deserves a promotion, whereas the cameraman deserves a demotion”.

Such willful targeting of civilians is terrorism in every meaning of the word. It is a grave breach of international humanitarian, human rights and criminal law and the obligation to protect civilians. In this regard, the same Minister also declared

The international community must demand answers from Israel. The Security Council’s failure to address this situation cannot be justified. The Council must speak with one voice to condemn these crimes, demand their cessation, including a full lifting of the blockade, demand an investigation, and ensure protection for the Palestinian people based on international law.

We welcome the calls by the Secretary-General and other leaders for an independent, transparent investigation of the recent killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli occupying forces and urge its swift launching via an international mechanism that will ensure a legitimate investigation and not another whitewash. But, an investigation is not an end in itself. Rather, it must be part of broader efforts to ensure accountability and end this entire travesty of justice and make peace.

Mr. President,

The truth, however, is that Israel does not want peace. Listen to official Israeli statements, including here by the Israeli representative, who will no doubt again attack our delegation for standing for our rights and again attempt to shame Security Council Members for daring to call for respect of the Charter and UN resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016). In that regard, it is totally illogical to reward Israel’s illegal behavior with support for its brazen candidacy to the Security Council, a body it has never respected, constantly mocks and undermines the credibility of.

If Israel had even remotely ever sought peace – as opposed to using peace talks as a cover for its continued land grab and de facto annexation schemes – then we would not be in the dire situation we are in today. If Israel truly sought peace, we would not be witness to the brutal murders of young Palestinian boys like Mohammed Ayyoub, age 15, who was savagely shot in the head and killed by an Israeli soldier while peacefully protesting with other civilians at the Gaza border. Or, the killing of young photojournalist Yasser Murtaja, age 30, shot while covering the protests, despite wearing clearly-marked press gear, ending his life and his dream to travel out of Gaza one day, a dream repeatedly denied by the Israeli blockade.

Or, the killing of a young, deaf Palestinian, Tahrir Mahmoud Wahba, age 18, who shot by an Israeli soldier during the 13 April protests and died this week of his wounds. Or, the killing of so many other Palestinians in recent weeks and the critical condition of at least 100 persons suffering life-threatening injuries caused by the deadly weaponry and munitions used against them by the occupying forces.

They, just like the thousands before them, have been killed for being Palestinians – for being non-Jews – in an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing, colonization and dehumanization of the Palestinian people. Here, we must refer to a recent declaration by the so-called Justice Minister of Israel, who stated, “There is a place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights”.

On the eve of the Nakba’s 70th anniversary, it is a tragic fact that our Nakba continues, with crimes as destructive and malicious being perpetrated against our people and with absolute impunity. Thus, before the eyes of the world, young innocents are brutally murdered; the lives of millions of families are destroyed; our land is stolen and fragmented by Israeli settlements and a medieval wall; the heart of our country, Jerusalem, is seized and isolated and the sanctity and historical status of its holy sites violated; our people in Gaza are inhumanely besieged and blockaded; Israeli settlers ruthlessly terrorize Palestinian civilians; and thousands of Palestinians, including 350 children, 62 women and 6 parliamentarians, continue to be imprisoned, detained and tortured in occupation jails, for rejecting this illegal occupation and its gross violation of their rights.

All of this is being committed deliberately, in grave breach of the 4th Geneva Convention and in violation of the Charter, UN resolutions and all human rights instruments to which Israel is a signatory and alleges to respect, amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

And yet, despite all of this, the Palestinian people and leadership remain committed to the pursuit of a just and peaceful solution. We also continue to seek, despite all the obstacles, genuine reconciliation, so essential for fulfilling our national aspirations.

Mr. President,

That is why President Mahmoud Abbas came before this Council on 20 February, with due respect for its authority. Once again, we have made an appeal for our rights and extended our hand in peace. This peace plan – centered on the established international terms of reference and parameters for a peaceful solution, in line with the relevant UN resolutions, Madrid principles and Arab Peace Initiative – is a serious attempt to bring the situation back from the brink.

We are grateful for the support given to this plan, including by Security Council Members and other States, as well as by the recent League of Arab States Summit – the “Jerusalem Summit”, and by the Non-Aligned Movement and Organization of Islamic Cooperation. We appeal today for efforts in backing this plan and mobilizing for its implementation.

But, no matter how many times we reaffirm our commitment to peace, and no matter the efforts exerted over decades of negotiations and historic compromise to that end, Israel continues to respond with aggression and contempt. At every juncture, the Israeli Government has intentionally obstructed peace efforts and ignored the international community’s will, choosing instead to escalate its violence, incitement and hateful rhetoric against our people, alongside its settlement and annexation policies, destroying the two-State solution on the 1967 borders and the potential for peace.

To this, we must say: peace cannot be realized in the absence of respect for international law, the Charter and the relevant resolutions, nor can it be realized absent the fulfillment of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, foremost the right to self-determination, a right that no one on this earth would willingly forsake. Plans that disregard these fundamentals will never bring peace.

Mr. President,

That is why the US decision on Jerusalem and the impending transfer of its embassy, in violation of Security Council resolutions, have so negatively impacted the chances for resuming peace talks. As with other key components, there can be no just and sustainable solution without Jerusalem. East Jerusalem remains an integral part of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, and is the capital of the State of Palestine, regardless of the passage of time and of Israel’s measures aimed at forcibly and illegally altering the City’s legal status, character and demography.

It is thus extremely regrettable that, instead of rejecting Israel’s illegal actions, a few States are emboldening this impunity. Recent decisions, including by Guatemala, mirroring the US decision and flouting relevant resolutions – including resolutions 478 (1980) and 2334 (2016), which reaffirms Jerusalem’s status as occupied and calls on all States to distinguish between Israel and the territory occupied since 1967 – evoke complicity with Israel’s violations and should be rescinded forthwith.

No action taken by Israel or any other State can negate the applicability of international law to this situation, including in regards to the prohibition of the acquisition of territory by force. Such actions have zero legal effect and cannot negate Palestinian rights or legitimate national aspirations. We stand firmly on this, and will continue using all peaceful, diplomatic and legal means to protect our people, uphold their rights and protect our land.

We reiterate our call on the international community to also remain resolute in rejecting Israel’s illegal policies and practices. All States must demand a complete halt to, and disassociate themselves from, such violations, aimed at bringing an end to the occupation and enabling the realization of justice and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including to freedom and independence.

Moreover, we urge the international community to maintain solidarity with and support to the Palestinian people. Responsible humanitarian action, including support to UNRWA, has been a lifeline over the decades. At this moment of heightened vulnerability, as we witness particularly these days in Gaza, and in light of the unprecedented financial crisis faced by UNRWA, we appeal for enhanced support to ensure the Agency’s vital humanitarian, development and protection assistance to our refugees and its crucial contribution to regional stability.

Mr. President, in closing, we reiterate our call on the Security Council to act now, in line with its Charter duties, to de-escalate this dangerous situation, to deter the occupying Power’s crimes, to prevent further loss of innocent lives, and to salvage the prospects for a just peace before it is too late and the consequences too grave, something not unimaginable in the current international environment.

I thank you, Mr. President.