29 November 2013
The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was commemorated today at a Special Meeting held at the United Nations Office at Geneva.
Michael Møller, Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, chaired the meeting and read out the message of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the message, the Secretary-General said this annual Solidarity Day was an opportunity to reflect on the critical situation faced by the Palestinian people and to consider their collective contributions and responsibilities as Governments, international or civil society organizations, towards Israeli-Palestinian peace. Although he welcomed Israel’s release of prisoners as part of the agreement to renew talks, its settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued and remained a cause for very grave concern.
Secretary-General Ban’s message, which he read out in a similar commemoration ceremony in New York on Monday, 25 November, said that settlements were in violation of international law and constituted obstacles to peace. Measures that prejudged final status issues would not be recognized by the international community. The situation in Gaza remained a source of serious concern. The goal remained clear – an end to the occupation that started in 1967 and the creation of a sovereign, independent, and viable State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, living side by side in peace with a secure State of Israel. Jerusalem was to emerge from negotiations as the capital of two States, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all. An agreed solution must be found for millions of Palestinian refugees around the region.
A statement read out on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, the President of Palestine, said it was high time to find the political will to act decisively for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including to independence in their State of Palestine, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The insidious Israeli settlement campaign and the confiscation of Palestinian lands in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian State, must be completely halted. Palestine remained committed to the two-State solution and that was why it took the decision a few months ago to partake in a new round of negotiations with the Israeli side aimed at resolving all the final status issues and concluding a comprehensive and final peace agreement.
The Special Meeting was also addressed by representatives of Senegal, which chairs the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Sri Lanka, which chairs the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories; the League of Arab States; the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement; the African Union; and non-governmental organizations accredited to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
Messages or statements for the Day were received from the President of Sri Lanka, the President of Turkey, the President of Brazil, the Emir of Qatar, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
MICHAEL MØLLER, Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, reading out the message of BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, said this annual Solidarity Day was an opportunity to reflect on the critical situation faced by the Palestinian people and to consider their collective contributions and responsibilities as Governments, international or civil society organizations, towards Israeli-Palestinian peace. This year’s observance was taking place as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators worked together towards the agreed objective of a peaceful, comprehensive settlement on all permanent status issues. The Secretary-General called on the international community to support the parties in this ambitious endeavour to fulfil the two-State solution, bringing about an end to the conflict. All parties must act in a responsible way and refrain from actions that undermined the prospects for successful negotiations. The Secretary-General said he was alarmed by the increasingly dangerous situation on the ground. There had been an escalation of violence and incitement. Although he welcomed Israel’s release of prisoners as part of the agreement to renew talks, its settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued and remained a cause for very grave concern. Announcements of thousands of new housing units could not be reconciled with the goal of a two-State solution and risked the collapse of negotiations. Settlements were in violation of international law and constituted obstacles to peace. All settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must cease. Measures that prejudged final status issues would not be recognized by the international community.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General said, Palestinians continued to be displaced through house demolitions in Area C of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Of particular concern were developments in East Jerusalem, where this year alone, some 100 structures had been demolished, displacing 300 people. Hundreds more Palestinians were at risk because their homes were built without Israeli-issued building permits. This underscored the importance of Palestinian access to a fair planning and zoning regime. He reminded Israel of its obligation to protect the population under occupation. The situation in Gaza remained a source of serious concern. The Secretary-General reiterated his condemnation of all rocket fire into Israel, as well as of the construction of tunnels into Israel by militants. While he recognized Israel’s legitimate security concerns, he urged Israel to ensure that the needs of the civilian population in Gaza were met.
The Secretary-General’s message said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a lifeline for millions of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the region, continued to face serious financial difficulties and he called on all donors, including new ones, to make or increase contributions to sustain UNRWA’s vital and indispensable operations. Palestinian unity based on the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the positions of the Arab Peace Initiative was essential for the two-State solution. The Secretary-General urged the Palestinians to overcome their divisions without delay in the interest of unity. The goal remained clear – an end to the occupation that started in 1967 and the creation of a sovereign, independent, and viable State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, living side by side in peace with a secure State of Israel. Jerusalem was to emerge from negotiations as the capital of two States, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all. An agreed solution must be found for millions of Palestinian refugees around the region. This past September marked the 20th anniversary of the Oslo accords. After two decades of talks and far too many adverse developments on the ground, he urged Palestinian and Israeli leaders to take the decisions that would usher in a political solution to this serious and long-standing conflict. The United Nations, through its engagement with all relevant partners, including within the Quartet, stood ready to contribute to this process and to the two-State solution. They could not afford to lose the current moment of opportunity. He asked all in the international community to work together to translate the solidarity expressed on this occasion into positive action for peace and justice.
Senegal, which chairs the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, read out the statement of the President of the Committee in which he reaffirmed the wish to see the solution of the peaceful co-existence of two States, Palestinian and Israeli, become a reality, saying that this option was the most viable, coherent and consensual solution to end this crisis. Observing that the realisation of this goal required synergetic and substantial efforts from all players, he underlined that the main actors must demonstrate their will to reach a political solution to the conflict, and he invited Israel to abstain from any actions that undermined mediation and reconciliation. The normalization of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was an absolute necessary. The current situation, marked by Israel following a policy of colonialism and expropriation, was a major threat to peace and a sizable obstacle to the creation of a free and independent Palestinian State. The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007 as well as it many socio-economic and humanitarian consequences struck the collective conscience, was rejected and had to end. Recalling that around five million Palestinians were living in exile in countries like Jordan, Syria and Yemen, he underlined that these refugees were surviving thanks to the vital assistance provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was facing serious financial difficulties and warranted greater support. Despite the complexity in the situation and the obstacles, the Committee hoped that the peace talks presently underway, principally pushed forward by the United States, would be crowned with success and would set the foundation for a durable peace and the creation of a free, independent and prosperous Palestinian State.
Sri Lanka, which chairs the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, read out the statement of the Chair of the Special Committee, saying the day of solidarity highlighted the struggle of the Palestinian people to realise their inalienable rights. Despite all efforts and considerable international attention, the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories had not seen much improvement. The hardships, the humiliations and the denial that the Palestinians had continued to suffer since 1948 were a sad reminder that in spite of the progress made since World War II in the areas of international justice, human rights and humanitarian affairs, the international community had not made any significant impact on the Palestinian situation. During the Special Committee’s annual visit to the Middle East, they were disappointed to note the same disturbing practices that they had seen in the previous years. During the past year, Israel had continued its policies and practices, contrary to international law, to transfer its population to the territories occupied since 1967. The routine demolition of homes and the forced displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank had continued. The Special Committee had expressed concern over the continued construction of the wall and the encirclement of Palestinian communities by the wall. It noted the lack of effort by Israeli authorities to prevent violence by Israeli settlers. The world continued to want for a peaceful settlement between Palestine and Israel.
League of Arab States said the observance this year of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was taking place amidst the political and diplomatic moves and negotiations that were initiated by United States Secretary of State Kerry and which it was hoped would have a positive result and set up an independent and sovereign Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. However, Israel’s continued challenges and violations of international legitimacy and human rights instruments, and its continued settlement policy, aimed at absorbing Palestinian territory, as well as its protection of the activities of settlers, had exceeded all limits through the attacks on civilian Palestinians, burning of copies of the Koran and Bible, attacking churches and mosques and clerics, and the holding of more than 4,000 prisoners and detainees. The United Nations and its relevant organizations were responsible for supporting the legitimate and holy right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and an independent State. Israel’s continued settlement policies and its new condition that the Palestinian side should recognize Israel as a Jewish State reflected the lack of real political will by the Israeli Government to engage in serious negotiations. It was time for the Palestinian people to receive their independence and freedom and time for the international community to work to establish this legitimate goal.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation, reading out a statement on behalf of EKMELEDDIN IHSANOGLU, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the Organization of Islamic Cooperation followed with utmost interest and deep concern the successive developments that the Palestinian cause had witnessed recently. The occupying power had intensified its violations and aggressions against the Palestinian people, their territory, sacred sites and property. Israel was pursuing its policy of imposing new facts on the ground to change the demographic character of Al-Quds, obliterate its identity and isolate it from its Palestinian environs through settlements, barricades and the apartheid wall in order to prevent its return to Palestinian sovereignty. Israel had intensified its aggressions on Islamic and Christian holy sites, especially in the Aqsa Holy Mosque, by breaking into its premises, preventing worshippers from accessing the mosque and continuing its provocations of the feelings of Muslims through its vicious attempt to enact void laws in order to divide the Aqsa Holy Mosque in terms of space and time and allow Jews to pray therein. This threatened to expand the conflict to a dangerous religious dimension. Such attacks threatened to blow up the situation in the region and required responsible international action to compel Israel to stop these serious attacks and violations. The actions by extremist settlers constituted organized terrorism that added to the record of violations committed by the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories.
Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said for many years, the Non-Aligned Movement had maintained a firm position of solidarity with the Palestinian people and its just cause, rejected Israel’s illegal occupation of all of the Arab territories, and condemned the massive, flagrant and systematic violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law committed by the occupying power. The Non-Aligned Movement underscored the need to continue providing political, economic and humanitarian support to assist the Palestinian people and to bolster their resilience and efforts aimed at achieving their legitimate national aspirations, including their inalienable right to self-determination and freedom in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Non-Aligned Movement strongly condemned the illegal and unlawful Israeli annexation, systematic expansion of settlements and demographic manipulations throughout the occupied State of Palestine, particularly in East Jerusalem. It was also concerned over the harsh economic, social and health conditions in the occupied Gaza Strip which was an integral part of the State of Palestine and the gravity of the situation which had been dramatized recently as a result of the food shortfall in this connection and called upon the occupying power to cease serious violations of international law and fully lift the blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip. Israel must end immediately its illegal blockade. The Non-Aligned Movement called upon the international community, including the Security Council, to pursue serious efforts to end Israel’s impunity and realize justice for the victims and reaffirmed the obligations of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions regarding penal sanctions, grave breaches and responsibilities.
African Union said the years were passing but there was little change when it came to the suffering of the Palestinian people and their legitimate quest for an independent State. The Israeli authorities on the ground did not seem to give any importance to the concerns of the international community, which wanted a lasting solution to the situation in the Middle East, and even less importance to international legitimacy, portraying a lack of respect. On the ground, Israeli authorities continued with the settlements, the indiscriminate attacks, and the collective punishments. The recent decision by Israel to end its cooperation with the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review were only an additional manifestation of Israel’s lack of respect for and efforts to circumvent international legitimacy. On the African continent, the summit of African Union Heads of State and Government in January 2013 had welcomed the decision by the United Nations General Assembly to give Palestine recognition as a non-member observer State. Peace, security and stability in the Middle East were indispensable for all the peoples of the region and this peace could not become a reality without the creation of an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian State in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, according to the borders before 4 June 1967, and living in peace with Israel. Israel was responsible for the deadlock in the peace process; its continued building of settlements on Palestinian territories, which the United Nations considered to be illegitimate, null and void, was a major obstacle to the peace process. Israel, the occupying power, had to end its continuous violations of international law and international humanitarian law.
World Young Women’s Christian Association, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and General Arab Women Federation said the Israeli occupation and the separation wall continued to severely violate the Palestinian people’s human rights. Restriction of movement due to the occupation severely impeded Palestinian women’s access to education and health. The number of women seeking formal education or employment outside of their direct settings had decreased, and women’s health had suffered as a result of their inability to access health services. Between 2000 and 2005, 68 women were forced to give birth at checkpoints and 30 new born babies had died. Poverty levels in the West Bank and Gaza continued to soar due to the imposed physical restrictions by the Israeli occupation. The organizations supported and welcomed Palestine as a non-member observer State to the United Nations but continued to hold Israel accountable for its ongoing occupation, actions that undermined peace negotiations, and obligations to international law as an occupying power. It was deeply pained and angered over Israel’s ongoing settlement building project that was destroying more and more Palestinian farms, confiscating more and more land, and displacing more and more Palestinian families from their homes. They were also distressed that Gaza continued to be under siege since 2007and that a humanitarian disaster existed with essential power companies operating less than eight hours a day.
Palestine, reading out the statement of MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the Palestinian Authority, said it was high time to find the political will to act decisively for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including to independence in their State of Palestine, on the basis of the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine must be upheld until this question was satisfactorily resolved in all its aspects. Palestine regretted the lack of implementation of the countless resolutions regarding the question of Palestine. This regrettable reality confirmed the widespread conviction that there was indeed a double standard when it came to United Nations resolutions regarding Israel, which were not implemented, allowing Israel to continue behaving as thought it was a State above the law.
This year marked the passage of 46 years since June 1967, when Israel forcibly occupied the remainder of historic Palestine – the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. This injustice must end and this military occupation of the Palestinian land and people must end. The insidious Israeli settlement campaign and the confiscation of Palestinian lands in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian State, must be completely halted. The demolition of Palestinian homes and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and properties must stop. Construction of the apartheid annexation wall must cease. Israeli prisoners in Israeli jails must be released. The unjust, inhumane blockade imposed on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip must be lifted. The illegal actions and measures to Judaize East Jerusalem and alter or erase the Christian and Muslim Palestinian presence and identity in the Holy City must come to an end. All acts of violence and terrorism perpetrated by Israeli settlers against the Palestinian civilian population must be stopped.
Palestine had expressed its readiness for decades to reach a solution to the conflict with Israel that conformed to international resolutions and initiatives, and it reaffirmed these commitments and that readiness once again today. Palestine remained committed to the two-State solution and that was why it took the decision a few months ago to partake in a new round of negotiations with the Israeli side aimed at resolving all the final status issues and concluding a comprehensive and final peace agreement.
For use of the information media; not an official record