Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 1977, The General Assembly of the United Nations decided to declare the 29th of November
of every year a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people. That decision was prompted by great concern over the failure to achieve a just solution for the Palestinian cause and by continued deprivation of the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights, the first of which is the right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and to independence and national sovereignty in their homeland Palestine. Ever since then, every year on this date the international community reiterates its commitment to support the Palestinian people in its struggle to attain its inalienable rights. It condemns Israeli violations of international law and demands the implementation of relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.
There are more than three hundred resolutions, most of them calling on Israel to respect international conventions and customs, reaffirming the illegality of settlements, and demanding the withdrawal of Israel from all the territories it occupied in 1967.
Israel’s recklessness toward international law started from inception when it went beyond the boundaries granted to it by General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 and forcefully occupied more than half of the area allocated by that resolution to the Arab state. In another violation of the United Nations Charter which declares the inadmissibility of the occupation of land by force, Israel occupied in 1967 the rest of the Palestinian territories and subjected an entire people to an abominable occupation. The continuation of this occupation not only contradicts international laws and rules, but also the most basic moral standards and principles agreed by all Humanity.
A look at the list of Israeli violations would tell us that they take several forms. During wars and repeated invasions civilian lives are lost and vital infrastructure is destroyed. Some soldiers of the occupation forces even go as far as using Palestinian children as human shields.
In times of no-war, and I am not saying peace, Palestinians see their lands, waters, trees and children’s childhood stolen from them. They are continuously exposed to death, imprisonment and arbitrary arrest by Israeli occupation forces and their movements are restricted even between their own cities and villages. Palestinians are prevented from entering occupied Jerusalem unless they have a special permit; Israel decides, unilaterally, who has the right to pray in the sacred Al-Aqsa mosque or the Church of the Resurrection while pursuing the judaization of Jerusalem and evacuating Palestinians from their homes by force for the benefit of Jewish settlers.
In all this, Israel does not see any need to abide by international law. Some of its politicians do not consider it an occupying force and Palestinians in the view of this occupying force are not equal to them in human merits to deserve enjoying rights recognized for all human beings. Implicitly, occupation is the belief of superiority of one people over another and by definition it is the confiscation, through violence, of the freedom and human security of the other.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Israel ignores international resolutions calling for its withdrawal from the territories it occupied in 1967. It refuses to abide by the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War which forbids the transfer by the occupying power of its citizens to occupied territories. As a result, Jewish settlements have spread in Palestinian territories to reach more than 230 settlements in which reside about half a million Jewish settlers.
Israel also continues to exploit Palestinian natural and water resources for the benefit of the settlers and inhabitants of Israeli cities while restricting the use of these resources for their legitimate owners. As an example, the amount of water available for the Palestinian person is less than one third of that available to the Israeli person, although water is largely drawn from the occupied territories, in violation of international law.
Palestinian lands are confiscated by Israel to build infrastructure in occupied territories, such as roads, which can be used by anybody except the Palestinians.
Thus, the occupied Palestinian territories have become, in the post-colonization era, the sole witness to the practices of a regime that replicates apartheid systems, condemned by the whole world during the last century. Roads constructed for use by Jewish settlers and forbidden to the Christian or Muslim Palestinian may be the only place remaining on the face of the earth where authorities resort to earmarking resources for use according to ethnic or religious affiliation.
As for Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, their suffering is compounded by the unjust blockade, as 80
per cent of the population there suffer from poverty and rely on aid. Hundreds of sick people died because of the unavailability of health care and necessary medical equipment in the Strip’s hospitals due to the blockade.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I ask, as many of you do: What have we done to remedy a situation which, with the acknowledgement of all, contradicts international legitimacy, universal conventions and declarations of human rights and basic ethical rules? What is the meaning of solidarity with the Palestinian people and what can we do to end its suffering? While I have no ready list of all possible forms of solidarity which range between moral and financial support, and the condemnation of Israeli practices and boycott of settlement’s products, I will limit myself to a brief description of what ESCWA contributes in this regard.
Every year, the Commission prepares the report of the Secretary-General on the repercussions of the Israeli occupation and practices on the daily life of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and the Golan. Although the report cannot compel Israel to change its practices, it does, nonetheless, document the increasing violations of the Palestinians’ human, civil, political, economic and social rights as well as the continuing deterioration of their standard of living.
ESCWA does not limit itself to observing the situation and preparing the annual report. Solidarity with the Palestinian people, being an attempt to enforce human rights, is related to all the areas of work of the United Nations, whether in the field of economic and social development or in issues of policy and economic planning. Human development cannot be achieved without justice and full enjoyment of human rights, no matter how high can be the rates of economic growth. Since Man is at the core of human development whose ultimate goal is that people enjoy a free, productive, secure and decent life, occupation, by stifling freedoms and confiscating rights, prevents the achievement of sustainable human development.
However, our inability to achieve development in all its dimensions under occupation does not exempt us from intensifying our efforts to reduce the impact of injustice suffered by the Palestinian people. From this perspective and through its Section for Emerging and Conflict Related Issues, ESCWA continues its development efforts, despite all difficulties. ESCWA and other United Nations development agencies are working on reducing the impact of occupation through strengthening the economic, social and cultural sustainability of the Palestinian society. This may be the least the Palestinian people deserves from us, while being steadfast on its land, resolute on gaining its rights and attached to life and to its homeland, even under the harshest conditions.
These efforts, however, no matter how great, are no substitute for seeking a just and permanent solution. It is not impossible to reach the solution if all parties commit to international resolutions and conventions. No occupation can last forever and what the Palestinian people aspire to is no more than what international laws and rules have agreed to preserve for every people of this world.
Until the day comes when there will be no need for such a meeting of solidarity with the Palestinian people, we will continue to support their rights until they are attained.