Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
on the Occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
United Nations House, Beirut, 29 November 2016
Ms. Abeer Odeh, Palestinian Minister of National Economy,
Mr. Hassan Mneimneh, President of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee,
Mr. Mads Gilbert,
Ms. Sigrid Kaag, United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome and thank you for your attendance today in solidarity with Palestine and its people.
The Palestinian people have long suffered great injustice. They were uprooted from their land nearly
70 years ago, and have been refused the right to return. Their villages have been wiped off the map. Their existence has been denied, and they have been subjected to the worst forms of cultural and political annihilation. The remainder of their territory was occupied in 1967, exposing them to an array of new injustices, including the confiscation of their land and the building of Israeli settlements upon it, forced displacement, administrative detention, and the deprivation of their rights and freedoms.
Wherever they may be, Palestinians have suffered from the discriminatory policies pursued
by successive Israeli Governments. Attempts by one ethnic or religious group to dominate another are inherently no different from the apartheid regime that the world thought had been eradicated in South Africa in the 1990s.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Israel carries out many forms of oppression. In Gaza, two million people suffer from the blockade, hunger and recurrent brutal bombardment. Israeli officials do not hesitate to promise them fresh attacks, more ferocious even than the last, even though the destruction wrought in previous assaults remains plain for all to see and etched in the bodies and minds of Gaza’s children.
Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem face death, displacement and incarceration.
Within Israel, Palestinians are oppressed and singled out for institutional and social discrimination. Israel has enacted over 50 laws that discriminate between its citizens in terms of citizenship and property rights, and access to services. Discrimination based on religion is epitomized by the refusal of Israel to discuss the right of Palestinians to return simply because they are not Jewish, while it grants citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world and allows them to seize Palestinian homes and enjoy the fruits of their land. The Palestinians are condemned to a life of poverty and despair, beset by one calamity after the other.
The current situation in Palestine is the result of major powers permitting the application of the concept of an ethnically and religiously pure State. Such a concept flies in the face of the principle of equality between individuals, and can only be imposed through violence and oppression. Children are sentenced to 12 years in prison for throwing stones, and 850,000 Palestinians have been detained since the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Many are killed simply because they are Palestinians who refuse to forgo their rights and succumb to injustice.
Protracted injustice results in one of two outcomes. The oppressed can either accept it as their fate and surrender, or they can confront it until it is overcome. The Palestinian people has shown over the years that it will not accommodate injustice; rather they have chosen to resist it. They steadfastly refuse to have their rights usurped, or to be shut out from their own land and history. An unwavering conviction resides within them that they will emerge victorious.
The right to self-determination for all peoples is enshrined in international treaties. The Palestinian people is no exception, and can employ all means available to reclaim that right and resist injustice. When the occupying power persists in using exile and negation as weapons against those whose territory is occupied, exile from the land and from history, everything becomes a form of resistance. In Palestine, survival is resistance. A child’s smile in blockaded and famished Gaza is resistance. Kicking a football in the ruins of a stadium is resistance. Picking olives under the watchful eyes of heavily armed settlers is resistance. The creativity of artists reflected in words, music, paintings and carvings is resistance. The beautiful performance by a Palestinian student that we just enjoyed is resistance from a new generation that continues to sing for Palestine and for justice, undistracted by the need for subsistence, and refusing to submit to madness or to give up hope.
Hope, perhaps even more than stones and weapons, provokes the rage of the Israeli occupying regime, a rage that engulfs all who attempt to convey the truth or face the injustice that Israel imposes through force and intimidation. The occupying regime reacts with smear campaigns against officials who talk of holding Israel accountable for its violations of international law, and with fury and sanctions, even against Israeli rights organizations that dare to expose the crimes of occupation and demand justice.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The world is changing rapidly. Increasingly, people are refusing to limit themselves to verbal support. Numerous supporters stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle: campaigns boycotting the occupying regime and its institutions are expanding and gaining strength. Celebrities are not only refusing to take part in this crime, but are determined to expose it. Professionals, like Doctor Mads Gilbert, who joins us today to mark this occasion, are employing their expertise in the service of justice and in support of the Palestinian people’s struggle for their legitimate rights. Arab peoples react with indignation to any hint of normalizing relationships with the Israeli occupying regime. To all of them, to all the people of conscience in the region and throughout the world, I say: your endeavours shall not be in vain.
With Douha and her generation, with Palestinians of all ages, and with everyone whose voice is raised in rejection of this protracted injustice and the silence that has surrounded it, we stand today to proclaim that justice will undoubtedly prevail and that Palestine will not be an exception.