Statement by Ms. Nadya Rasheed, First Counsellor, before the Third Committee, Agenda item 71: Right of Peoples to Self-Determination, 70th Session of the UNGA, 3 November 2015

The right of peoples to self-determination is founded on the principle that human beings are the holders of given and inalienable rights- rights that allow them to determine their own destinies and future. But, for the Palestinian people living in the Occupied State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, the right to self-determination only exists as a principle as this right over the past five decades continues to be forcefully withheld and trampled on in the most brutal and inhuman manner by Israel, the occupying Power. 

Mr. Chair,

There is a host of Israeli policies and practices that continue to undermine the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. However, the most obvious manifestation in which the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination has continued to be denied is as a result of the occupying Power’s continuation of building settlements and related infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, in grave breach of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, as well as international criminal law as articulated in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Besides the illegality of the building of settlements and related infrastructure and despite the widespread condemnations and calls for its cessation, Israel has continued to expropriate Palestinian land and property; transfer hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers to the land it occupies; construct a massive Wall, severely fragmenting the Palestinian land; forcibly transfer thousands of Palestinian civilians; and planning and constructing other infrastructure to serve the illegal settlements, including segregated Israeli-only roads.  Moreover, each year Israel has intensified its settlement building.  In 2014, reports have documented a 40% increase in settlement construction compared to 2013 and there are now nearly 600,000 settlers living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, compared to 192,768 in 2009. Cumulatively, this illegal and destructive campaign has cast serious doubts on the prospects for the two-State solution prompting the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 to state in his most recent report that the impact of illegal Israeli settlements on the territorial contiguity of the Palestinians land and on the environment and natural resources has reached a point where much of the damage might already be in fact be irreversible.

In addition, the human rights of the Palestinian people continue to be violated by Israeli illegal settlers, many armed and fanatical, who have been illegally transferred to the Occupied State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem.  This year’s report by the Economic Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the “Economic and Social Repercussions of the Israeli Occupation on the Living Conditions of the Palestinian people in the OPT, including East Jerusalem”, states that violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian and their property are on the rise.  In fact, United Nations Relief and Works and Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees recorded 719 incidents of Israeli settler violence in 2014, 203 of them that took place in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.  Moreover, besides incidents of settler violence and acts of terror that resulted in the killing or injury to Palestinian civilians, settlers continued to destroy Palestinian orchards and agricultural fields.  In 2014 alone, more than 10,596 trees were uprooted, burned or sprayed with toxic chemicals, leading to loss of production and exposure over soils to degradation. The constant failure by the occupying Power to hold illegal settlers accountable for their terrorist crimes has ultimately encouraged further attacks with complete impunity.

Simultaneously with its illegal settlements, the occupying Power continues with its colonization of Palestinian Territory through its illegal construction of the Wall, which is intricately linked to the settlements and intended to entrench them and to advance its land grab which is obvious in that 85 percent of the Wall is being built on Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It is relevant to our debate today to recall that in its Advisory Opinion on the Wall, the ICJ concluded that construction of the Wall, along with measures taken previously by the occupying Power, severely impedes the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination, and is therefore a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right.

Mr. Chair, for the purpose of this debate, it is important to stress that Israel has never ceased its settlement activities in the Occupied State of Palestine, including in and around East Jerusalem. This has been the case whether through periods of peace process or periods of unrest and conflict. In words and in deeds, every single Israeli government has actively carried out this illegal settlement campaign, openly entrenching the occupation in every way.

Moreover, it should also be noted that as the report of ESCWA recalls, it is not only through the manifestation of settlement and settlement infrastructure that the right to self-determination is violated but there are countless other Israeli policies and practices that continue to undermine the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination including: the revocation of residency rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem; the closure regime in the West Bank; demolition and/or confiscation of Palestinian structures, including residential, and the eviction of their inhabitants; control of the population registry; and the use and exploitation of Palestinian natural resources as well as the condemnable illegal and immoral Israeli blockade of more than 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Mr. Chair,

Without a doubt, Israel’s illegal practices and policies in relation to the construction of settlements that we have outlined above is illegal, unsustainable and destroys the prospects for peace.  And it should be noted, that this is not merely a Palestinian perspective or position, but a position deemed as such by the UN, based on the Charter principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and the relevant provisions of international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, which strictly prohibits colonization activities among other prohibitions on the occupying Power.  Moreover, the international consensus is firm on the illegality of the Israeli settlement enterprise and on the status of Jerusalem, including non-recognition of Israeli claims to sovereignty over East Jerusalem and consensus on the fact that East Jerusalem is occupied territory.

Mr. Chair,

Colonization, expansionism and annexation are entirely incompatible with ending occupation and making peace.  Therefore, we reiterate our appeal to the international community to take real efforts to bring an end to these violations and to advance the efforts for the realization of the Palestinian people’s inalienable human rights, in particular their right to self-determination. Despite the pain and suffering endured by the Palestinian people due to Israeli violence, criminal attacks and brutality for nearly fifty years, they will never stop demanding the fulfillment of their rights and will continue to pursue all means to peacefully, diplomatically and legally bring an end to Israel’s occupation so that they and future generations of Palestinians can live in security, freedom and dignity in their own independent and sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Thank you Mr. Chair.