Archives for December 2020

Statement by H.E. Dr. Riyad Mansour, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, before the United Nations General Assembly, Agenda Item 38: Question of Palestine, Agenda Item 37: Situation in the Middle East, 2 December 2020, New York:

Mr. President,

We thank you for convening the General Assembly address the Question of Palestine as we mark 73 years since the Assembly’s adoption of resolution 181 (II) and decision to partition historic Palestine. The consequences of that decision continue to unfold to this day as the Palestinian people have been left without remedy for the injustice done to them, enduring decades of exile as refugees since the 1948 Nakba, decades of foreign occupation and oppression, and denial of their most basic human rights.

Mr. President, we deeply appreciate the principled stance you have affirmed and your calls for respect of United Nations resolutions and the mobilization of international efforts to end this injustice and achieve Palestinian-Israeli peace and security, crucial for both regional and international peace and security.

Today, we also reiterate our deep gratitude for the support and solidarity extended by the international community, including unequivocal support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, to live in freedom, independence and dignity in their homeland, an inalienable right we will never forsake.

The messages received on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People – from governments, parliaments, civil society and peoples of conscience across the world – reassure us, even in these difficult times, of the strength of this support, firmly rooted in the UN Charter, international law, and the principle of the equality of all peoples and nations. Your solidarity has helped us persevere despite the many hardships and crises faced by generations of Palestinians, who remain steadfast in the struggle for their rights and the belief that justice and peace will ultimately prevail.

Mr. President,

While grateful for this global solidarity, we come today with an urgent appeal for action to back it up. Statements are not enough. The time is past due to fulfill the longstanding promises to Palestine that have kept an entire people in limbo for over a century. States must fulfill their obligations under international law, including in implementation of UN resolutions and obligations under the 4th Geneva Convention, if we are ever to heal these wounds and enter a new era of justice and peace.

Without action – without accountability and real consequences – it is painfully apparent that Israel, the occupying Power, will continue to ignore the international community and trample international law, violating the rights of the Palestinian people and destroying the prospects for genuine peace, security and coexistence. Words and commitments must be backed by serious action, employing all legitimate political, legal and popular means available. History teaches us that this is how all other forms of colonialism and apartheid were defeated. Palestine cannot be the exception.

Decades of appeasing this illegal occupation have not worked, and neither have the attempts to break will of the Palestinian people, as proven in recent years despite the pressures of one punitive measure after another. Attempts to bully and exhaust them into accepting partial solutions will never work; the Palestinian people will never accept less than their legitimate national rights, less than their full human rights, less than freedom.

A just solution rests in international law. It is that simple. International law is rightly at the center of the international consensus on the Palestine question and the parameters enshrined in General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and in the Madrid principles and Arab Peace Initiative.

We respect and have long aligned ourselves with the international consensus, in word and deed. The two-State solution was devised by the international community, but the Palestinian leadership was courageous enough to accept it, over 32 years ago, when it made the major, historic compromise of declaring the independence of the State of Palestine on the 4 June 1967 lines.

There is only one State that has never accepted the internationally-agreed parameters and never truly and honestly endorsed the two-State solution, instead continually working against it, undermining it every single day with countless illegal and destructive policies and practices: Israel, the occupying Power.

Mr. President,

The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory since 1967, including East Jerusalem, is illegal in every aspect and must end. This occupation is propped up only through systematic breaches of international law, many amounting to war crimes, and long ago passed the threshold of legality. Whether the settlement colonization and annexation of our land, or the repression, collective punishment and apartheid against our people, all must end.

Those who believe Israel has actually suspended or ceased its annexation plans are, willfully or mistakenly, ignoring what is happening, every single day, in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem. Settlements are being rabidly expanded as Israel moves ahead with plans to construct thousands more settlement units in just the period since its so-called “suspension” announcement, especially in the Jerusalem and Bethlehem areas, proving over and over that it rejects the two-State solution and has no intention to end its occupation.

The occupying Power also persists with its wall construction, confiscation of Palestinian land, exploitation of natural resources, dangerous excavations under holy sites, and violations of the historic status quo at Al-Haram Al-Sharif. Hundreds more homes and civilian structures, including schools and clinics, have been demolished. Palestinian families are being evicted and dispossessed, rendered homeless even in this time of pandemic, as our civilians are forcibly transferred in an ongoing ethnic cleansing. Extremist settlers and militias, abetted by the Israeli military and openly funded and incited by the Israeli government, also continue their reign of violence and terror, attempting to drive our people from their land.

The scope and scale of the occupation’s human rights violations are too vast to enumerate here, but are corroborated by the many reports of UN agencies and international organizations. Palestinian children, women and men tragically continue to be killed and injured in daily military raids on Palestinian cities, towns, villages and refugee camps. Palestinians, especially young males, continue to be arrested, administratively detained, imprisoned, medically neglected and tortured, with nearly five thousand now captive in Israeli jails, including at least 155 children. The bodies of Palestinians killed by the occupying forces continue to withheld, obstructing their proper burial and deepening the trauma endured by their families.

Moreover, Israel continues to collectively punish the Palestinian people and impose a racist, apartheid regime controlling and blighting every aspect of their lives. The occupying forces routinely threaten, humiliate and abuse Palestinian civilians, particularly at the hundreds of military checkpoints restricting freedom of movement and fragmenting our land into walled-in, isolated Bantustans. Most shocking remains the illegal 13-year blockade by which Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison and methodically inflicted a humanitarian crisis on the entire civilian population in what constitutes a massive violation of human rights tantamount to a crime against humanity.

This cruel and deliberate deprivation of 2 million people is nearing the brink of disaster, averted only by international humanitarian support, foremost via UNRWA, which itself faces a financial crisis threatening continuity of its vital assistance to 5.6 million Palestine refugees across the region. We appeal for attention to this crisis, demanding an end to the Israeli blockade and calling for support to UNRWA to ensure the well-being of the refugees pending a just solution to their plight.

Mr. President,

Against this dire backdrop, humanitarian support and positions of principles remain of utmost importance. But neither assistance nor statements alone will ever be enough to rectify this situation. The occupation in all of its manifestations is illegal, immoral, an affront to the rules-based order, and must end.

To those who claim “the same old methods won’t work”, we say: We fully agree. The situation is beyond untenable and attempts to continue “managing” the conflict unacceptable and dangerous. The international community needs to break out from the old cycle of appeasing Israel even as it flagrantly breaches the law, violates human rights, and destroys the two-State solution on the pre-1967 borders.

The failure to uphold the law and human rights standards when it comes to the Israeli occupation and the failure to enact consequences for violations has only emboldened more violations. States must act on their responsibilities and commitments and end the double-standard of rewarding, rather than punishing Israel, for its illegal behavior. It’s singling out for exception treatment must end here and now. There is no alternative if we are to change the dismal situation that prevails.

Accountability is the key to deter further crimes, spare the suffering of more innocents, and create a credible horizon that can take us from talking and dreaming of a just peace to making it a reality. Accountability is a legal obligation and is what can ultimately compel compliance in the face of decades intransigence and help us open a new chapter that brings both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples peace, stability and security.

The General Assembly’s resolution “Peaceful settlement of the Question of Palestine”, along with other relevant resolutions, including Security Council resolution 2334, have long set forth the legal obligations of States and the pillars of a just peace. Those terms of reference and parameters continue to enjoy broad international support. Significantly, this international consensus has not wavered despite Israel’s constant undermining of the two-State solution and the punitive actions and pressures by the Trump administration. Clearly, when the will for justice and peace is strong, nothing is irreversible.

What is needed now is the political will to take concrete action, including lawful countermeasures to bring the necessary pressure to bear to bring a halt to Israeli violations, and collective efforts to salvage and restore peace prospects, which are diminished every day that action is delayed.

We urge all States to uphold international law in regards to the Palestine question, in word and deed, including through support for our UN resolutions and tangible efforts to implement them at the national and international levels.

We urge support for President Abbas’ call for an international peace conference in 2021 based on the international consensus enshrined in UN resolutions as the most effective means to resolve this conflict and establish a just and lasting peace. We call for activation of the Security Council in line with its Charter duties, the Quartet in line with its mandate, and all concerned regional and international partners for this purpose.

We urge continued support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including to self-determination and independence, and call for recognition of the State of Palestine on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, by States who have not done so.

We urge the continued provision of humanitarian and development assistance, including to the Palestine refugees through UNRWA, until a just solution to their plight in accordance with resolution 194 (III), which affirmed their right to return.

Lastly, we call for practical measures to ensure respect for the Charter and all relevant provisions of international law. This must include support for international accountability mechanisms, including legal action in courts, including at the ICC and ICJ. Israeli government officials, organizations, and corporations and individuals aiding and abetting this illegal occupation must be held accountable. We also call on all States to ensure they are not complicit with Israel’s illegal actions. States have a duty not to recognize as legitimate the unlawful situation created by Israel’s policies and measures in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, including as a result of its settlement activities; not to render aid or assistance in maintaining this unlawful situation; and to distinguish, in all of their relevant dealings, between the territory of the occupying Power and the territory occupied since 1967, including with regard to Jerusalem, as called for by Security Council resolution 2334 (2016).

One very basic yet crucial step in this regard is to ban the entry to markets of settlement products – produced in illegal settlements and with natural resources illegally exploited from our land. This is a minimal ask, as is the obligation to ensure that agreements signed between any State and the State of Israel are not applied to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. This is where accountability begins and how the road to a just solution and a better future is paved.

Mr. President,

The Palestinian people and leadership remain steadfast in their pursuit of justice and peace. The path we have chosen to resolve the Question of Palestine, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict and cornerstone of peace and security in the Middle East, is a peaceful path. We are committed to diplomatic, political, legal and non-violent means to realize our rights. This includes negotiations, to which we long ago committed, but is not exclusive of other efforts and cannot be detached from respect for international law and UN resolutions, the guarantors of a just solution.

We urge all who believe in the purposes and principles of this organization and the rule of law to join us in our peaceful efforts. In this regard, we urge support for the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, whose mandate is rooted in the relevant resolutions and international consensus and whose work has always upheld the spirit of multilateralism, dialogue and peaceful settlement of conflicts at the heart of the UN. We reject the false claims that the Committee is biased or anti-Israeli; this is simply not true and the Committee’s efforts with partners from across the international community, including parliamentarians and civil society, both Palestinian and Israeli, is testament to that fact.

We are grateful to the Committee for its support for the Palestinian people’s rights and its constant, positive engagement aimed at promoting just, lasting, comprehensive peace, whereby the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, can live side by side with Israel, based on the pre-1967 borders, in peace and security. We thank Senegal and Ambassador Cheikh Niang, Chair of the Committee, for undertaking this important responsiblity over the years, and thank all other Bureau members – Vice-Chairs Afghanistan, Cuba, Indonesia, Namibia and Nicaragua – along with all Committee Members and Observers for their unwavering, principled support. We also thank the Division for Palestinian Rights, as well as the Department of Global Communications’ Programme on Palestine, for such commendable efforts.

In closing, we renew our appreciation to Secretary-General António Gutteres for his leadership on the Palestine question, including through the good offices of his Special Representative and UN Special Coordinator, and our deep gratitude for the tireless efforts of the many UN agencies assisting the Palestinian people – UNRWA, OCHA, UNDP, UNICEF, OHCHR, UN Women, WFP, WHO, UNFPA, UN-HABITAT, UNCTAD and UNMAS – with the generous support of States, organizations and partners from around the world. We urge continuation of this life-saving and hope-giving support, while at the same time, once again, urging the international community to redouble the efforts to fulfill the political, legal and moral obligations towards the Palestine question, and to act forthwith to bring an end to the occupation, assist the Palestinian people in achieving their long-denied rights, including to self-determination and freedom, and finally achieve a just and lasting peace.

I thank you, Mr. President.