Secretary‑General Calls for Talks to Support Intra-Palestinian Reconciliation
The Palestinian people’s struggle is not directed against Judaism as a religion, but against the colonial occupation of their land and people, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said during a special observance today.
Riyad Mansour told the meeting — organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in observance of the International Day of Solidarity — that the State of Palestine presented its peace initiative to the Security Council in February, and as such, is committed to ensuring that East Jerusalem remains open to all believers of the monotheistic religions.
He went on to note that respect for international law is the cornerstone of peace, cautioning, however, that “neither respect, nor peace, can be achieved through speeches alone; words and commitments must be matched by practical actions to implement the law”. Moreover, the State of Palestine continues to exert efforts to unify its land and people and achieve reconciliation through Egypt’s mediation, restoring national consensus Government control and functions “with one law, one Government and one legitimate security force”, he emphasized.
An observer for the League of Arab States also called for reconciliation, while calling attention to recent attempts to create divisions among Palestinians. Such attempts include the tabling of a draft resolution intended to change international support for the Palestinian cause, he said, stressing that it must reject that attempt. The Palestinian people must not give in to fait accompli politics, he added.
Secretary‑General António Guterres commended efforts by Egypt and other partners to restore calm and support intra-Palestinian reconciliation. As such, he called for constructive, good-faith negotiations in accordance with the agreed parameters of a two-State solution. He also urged Israel to lift its restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of the Gaza Strip, saying they hamper United Nations humanitarian efforts. He called upon Hamas and other militant groups to halt their military build-up in the enclave.
Cheikh Niang (Senegal), Chair of the Palestinian Rights Committee, also hailed joint efforts by the United Nations and Egypt to restore calm and promote reconciliation. Noting that the illegal occupation as well as the blockade of Gaza have created a climate of mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians, he pointed out that a two-State solution would guarantee the harmonious coexistence of the three monotheistic religions and safeguard their holy places.
Marc Lamont Hill, a representative of civil society, stressed: “Our solidarity must be more than a noun; our solidarity must become a verb.” Recalling the multiple tactics and strategies employed by the Black community against Jim Crow laws and slavery in the United States, he called for embracing the movement to adopt boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Moreover, he said, solidarity means recognizing the Palestinian right to self-defence, stressing that Palestinians must not be shamed for resisting in the face of State violence and ethnic cleansing.
Also delivering statements were the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council, the Vice-Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, as well as representatives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the African Union and Venezuela (on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement).
Before adjourning the meeting, the Chair read out a list of Heads of State and Government, ministers and other governmental and civil society representatives who sent messages of solidarity, saying they will be published on the website of the Division for Palestinian Rights.
The Committee will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, noted that Israel obtained its independence after the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 (1947) while Palestine remains pigeon-holed as an Observer State. The Palestinian people are still pursuing their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination, he said, while highlighting the demolition of their infrastructure and villages, restrictions on their freedom of movement and the disproportionate use of force against Palestinian civilians. An illegal blockade in the Gaza Strip continues to isolate civilians, exacerbating tensions there, he pointed out, calling upon stakeholders to undertake without delay appropriate measures to mitigate the disastrous situation in the enclave.
He went on to hail the joint efforts by the United Nations and Egypt to restore calm and promote reconciliation on the ground, encouraging all parties to exercise restraint. Noting the budget deficit confronting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he expressed gratitude to those who have reinforced their support and called for sustainable financing of the Agency. Emphasizing that Palestinian people need credible prospects leading to a real climate of peace and development, he said the illegal occupation and the blockade of Gaza have created a climate of mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians. The United Nations bears the primordial responsibility on the issue, he said, stressing that a two-State solution would guarantee the harmonious coexistence of the three monotheistic religions and safeguard their holy places.
MARIO FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCES (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said that the theme of making the United Nations relevant to all must extend to the Palestinian people, who are entitled to more than sympathy. The international community owes it to the Palestinians to end their current nightmare and fight the collective numbness that occurs when suffering and death become the constant reality. Calling upon world leaders to make the question of Palestine a priority, she expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in which 43 per cent of the population consists of refugees, half are under the age of 18. Food insecurity afflicts 47 per cent of Gaza residents and average water consumption throughout the occupied territories is well below the recommended ratio, she noted. Solidarity means addressing those challenges while simultaneously pursuing a two-State solution, she emphasized. Pointing out that years of budget cuts have left UNRWA with a chronic funding shortfall, she stressed the need to find a long-term fix, while underlining the need to accelerate pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals in the occupied territories for the benefit of their people and to increase the possibility of peace in the region.
MA ZHAOXU (China), President of the Security Council, emphasized that a lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict can only be achieved through peaceful means, a goal to which the Security Council is committed. Noting that the Council receives monthly briefings and holds quarterly debates on the situation in the occupied territories, he conveyed the concern of Council members about the deteriorating situation in Gaza and their call for the resumption of peace negotiations as soon as possible.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared that on the eve of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, “our hearts are heavy with the suffering in Gaza”. Some 2 million Palestinians remain mired in increasing poverty and unemployment, with limited access to health care, education, water and electricity, he noted, adding that young people see few prospects for a better future. Urging Israel to lift its restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza — which hamper United Nations humanitarian efforts — he also called upon Hamas and other militant groups to halt their military build-up in Gaza, including their indiscriminate launching of rockets and other incendiary devices at Israel. He went on to emphasize the legitimacy of Palestinian grievances in Gaza, as well as their right to demonstrate peacefully, while underlining the responsibility of said Hamas and demonstration leaders to prevent violent actions and provocations. Israel must exercise maximum restraint and refrain from using lethal force except as a last resort or against imminent threat of death or serious injury, he added. Commending efforts by Egypt and other partners to restore calm and support intra-Palestinian reconciliation — including UNRWA for delivering on its mandate despite the current difficult circumstances — he declared: “Demolitions, continued settlement expansion and construction, forced evictions and collective punitive measures will not bring peace,” adding: “The same goes for violence and incitement.” Only constructive, good-faith negotiations in accordance to the agreed parameters of a two-State solution will bring about that desired solution, he stressed.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, spoke on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. Recalling that the General Assembly decided unfairly on 29 November 1947 to partition Mandate Palestine without the people’s consent, he said that in the aftermath of that decision, the 1948 “Nakba” befell the indigenous Palestinian people, uprooting them from their lands while dispossessing and dispersing them throughout the region. “When will the international community uphold its obligations regarding this situation?” he asked. Emphasizing that the State of Palestine has not abdicated its obligations under agreements signed with Israel, he recalled that his delegation presented its peace initiative to the Security Council in February, and is committed to ensuring that East Jerusalem remains open to all believers and to the faithful of the monotheistic religions.
He went on to state that the State of Palestine continues to exert efforts to unify its land and people, achieve reconciliation through Egypt’s mediation, restore the national consensus and Government control and functions in Gaza and the West Bank “with one law, one Government and one legitimate security force”. Calling upon the international community to uphold its responsibilities and not permit the continued violation of international law, he also urged States that believe in a two-State solution and that recognize Israel to recognize the State of Palestine as well, a step that will help to reinforce justice and give the Palestinian people hope. He appealed to Member States to refrain from providing support or assistance to Israel in terms of entrenching and perpetuating the illegal situation, and called upon them to distinguish between the territory of the occupying Power and occupied territory.
While reiterating the Palestinian people’s full commitment to international law, relevant United Nations resolutions and a two-State solution, he emphasized: “But if efforts fail to achieve such a solution, the Palestinian people will not disappear, nor will they accept oppression and injustice as their fate.” They will continue their legitimate struggle for the realization of their inalienable rights, striving for equal rights for all without discrimination, he added, reaffirming, however, that his people’s struggle is not directed against Judaism as a religion, because they respect all religions. Rather, their struggle is against the colonial occupation of their land and people and the denial of their inalienable rights, including that of self-determination. The State of Palestine will continue to engage in all efforts to further the rule of international law, including by strengthening its institutions and empowering its people, especially women and youth, he said. While stressing that respect for international law is the cornerstone of peace, he cautioned that “neither respect, nor peace, can be achieved through speeches alone; words and commitments must be matched by practical actions to implement the law”.
MUHAMMAD SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia), Vice-Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, said that body presented its fiftieth report two weeks ago, based on testimonies collected from various Palestinian and Israeli stakeholders in July 2018. The expansion of settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes and the destruction of their private property were among the most frequently cited issues of concern during the Special Committee’s meetings, he said. As for the situation in Gaza, he condemned the excessive use of force by Israel’s security forces against protesters and emphasized that the blockade of the enclave remains the most significant obstacle to sustainable recovery and economic development, a situation exacerbated by UNRWA’s funding crisis. He went on to state that the Special Committee heard testimonies indicating an increase in discriminatory Israeli practices, leading to a deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the occupied territories. Expressing concern over arbitrary administrative detention, including reports of increasing numbers of children arrested, he urged all parties to create the necessary environment for mutual confidence-building measures and substantive negotiations. Today’s solidarity of spirit with the Palestinian people demonstrates that the global community supports a negotiated settlement that will lead to peace, he noted, expressing hope that the spirit of goodwill will help Palestinians in their pursuit of national unity.
HENRY SUAREZ (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, must be resolved through a multilateral process entailing diplomatic efforts, within the framework of international law and relevant resolutions, and through peaceful means. Noting that the matter has been on the agenda of the United Nations since the Organization’s founding, he pointed out that more than seven decades have passed, and yet the Palestinian people continue to be deprived of their inalienable rights, including their right to self-determination and freedom. Their plight and the situation on the ground have deteriorated due to Israel’s persistent illegal policies and practices, he said, emphasizing that the occupying Power continues its oppression and collective punishment of defenceless and innocent Palestinian people. It perpetrates grave human rights violations and reported war crimes, including the use of military force against civilians, the unlawful detention and imprisonment of Palestinian civilians, the colonization of their land through confiscation, the demolition of their homes, the construction of settlements and the wall, the exploitation of natural resources and the transfer of hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The Movement condemns Israel’s continuing military occupation and calls once again for measures to remedy the human rights violations, he said.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, read out a message from that bloc’s Secretary-General, stressing that the international community must fight recent unjust decisions made by the United States, including the transfer of its embassy to Jerusalem and its withdrawal of support from UNRWA and other organizations. He said the League condemns such decisions because they respect neither Arab rights nor United Nations resolutions. Moreover, the Israeli authorities are trying to “judaicize” Jerusalem, changing its historic memory, he said, emphasizing the need for a strong position on the international community’s part. He called upon Member States that have recognized Israel also to recognize the State of Palestine. He went on to emphasize that violations perpetrated by Israeli forces must stop, adding that peace is the Palestinian objective, as reflected in the international determination of a two-State solution in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative. Calling for Palestinian reconciliation, he noted recent attempts to create divisions among Palestinians, including the recent attempt to table a draft resolution intended to change international support for the Palestinian cause. The international community must reject that attempt, stressing that the Palestinian people must not give in to fait accompli politics.
SHAHER AWAWDEH, observer for Organization of Islamic Cooperation, described the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People as an opportunity to reflect on collective positions and policies. The commemoration occurs during a particularly difficult time for the Palestinian cause, he said, citing recent actions by the United States that reveal its fundamental bias and signal its departure from its previous mediator role, thereby creating a climate of insecurity and tension in the region. The situation further compounds the need for the international community to fulfil its moral responsibilities by promoting peace in the region while addressing injustice and implementing relevant resolutions. Resolute engagement within a specific time frame will help to realize concrete progress towards a two-State solution, he emphasized. Expressing admiration for the resilience and determination of the Palestinian people and leadership, he called for inclusion of the State of Palestine in international instruments, including full United Nations membership, in order to enhance its presence and legitimacy around the world.
FATIMA KYARI MOHAMMED, Permanent Observer for the African Union, said the bloc’s support for the Palestinian cause is intrinsically linked with the African-Arab partnership and based on the values of freedom, justice and humanitarian rights. Reiterating concern over Israel’s unilateral policies and actions, including the construction of illegal settlements and the continued blockade of Gaza, she called upon the international community to compel that country to comply with international law. Recalling the expressed willingness of President Abbas to explore political and diplomatic efforts, she urged the Middle East Quartet, the Security Council and all regional and international organizations to request that Israel implement decisions and declarations taken thus far to promote peace and pursue a two-State solution. Noting that Israel announced broader settlements in the West Bank, targeting East Jerusalem in particular, she described settlement construction as one of the core issues in the conflict, describing it as illegal under international law. Settlements built on confiscated or stolen Palestinian land are among the main justifications for the wall and the restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank, she said, pointing out that the practice contributes to forced displacement, severely limits access to basic resources and perpetuates a system of segregation between Palestinians and Israelis.
MARC LAMONT HILL, activist and journalist, highlighted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while calling attention to more than 60 Israeli laws that deny Palestinians their rights simply because they are not Jewish. Noting that Palestinians continue to be physically and psychologically tortured by Israel’s justice system, he observed that they are routinely denied due process and placed under administrative detention without being charged. Israel’s military courts have a conviction rate of more than 99 per cent, he added, noting that the rate suggests Israel’s Government is unwilling to offer Palestinians fair and impartial trials. Moreover, its new Nation State Law rejects Arabic as an official language and describes settlement expansion as a national value, he said. “As an American, I am embarrassed that my tax dollars contribute to this reality,” he added, pointing out that President Donald Trump’s administration has further emboldened Israel’s behaviour. The decision by the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem constitutes a “diplomatic death-blow” he said. “Our solidarity must be more than a noun; our solidarity must become a verb,” he emphasized. Recalling the multiple tactics and strategies employed by the Black community against Jim Crow laws and slavery in the United States, he called for embracing the movement to adopt boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. He added that solidarity means recognizing the right of Palestinians to self-defence, stressing that they must not be shamed for resisting in the face of State violence and ethnic cleansing.