Amid Creeping Annexation, Shrinking Civil Society Space for Palestinians, Israel Must Be Held Accountable, Speakers Stress at Meeting Marking International Solidarity Day
State of Palestine’s Permanent Observer Requests International Conference for Resolving All Final Status Issues, as Speakers Urge End to Deadly Violence
Against a background of increasing violence, shrinking civil society space and creeping annexation, speakers at a special meeting of the Palestinian Rights Committee to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People stressed the need to mobilize efforts to hold Israel accountable, including through the International Court of Justice.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, delivering a message on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, said the international community cannot expect Israel to wake up one day and choose justice and peace. That country’s violations have been referred to the International Court of Justice, he noted, also cautioning those States that have established diplomatic and trade relations with Israel that this violates international law.
Stressing the importance of full membership for the State of Palestine in the United Nations, he called for the convening of an international conference under the auspices of the Organization to resolve all final status issues. Recalling the assassination of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli occupying forces and the attack on her funeral and coffin bearers, he described it as the one event that summarizes Israel and its occupation.
Cheikh Niang (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, also highlighted the request for an advisory opinion from the Court on the legality of Israel’s prolonged occupation, as recommended in a resolution approved this year by the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization). Pointing to the dangerous escalation in military raids across the occupied West Bank in 2022, he stressed that such violence is not the answer to a just peace in the Middle East.
Underscoring “the global consensus” that Israel’s provocative actions, especially in regard to the historic and legal status quo of Jerusalem and its holy sites, must end, he added that the occupation is not temporary but rather a creeping annexation. Highlighting the shrinking civil society space, he expressed concern about Israel’s relentless targeting of Palestinian civil society organizations, including the decision to outlaw six that are partners to the United Nations.
Al-Haq, one of those organizations, participated in today’s meeting, with its General Director, Shawan Jabarin, speaking by video because his United Nations travel visa was denied. Criminalizing human rights defenders and organizations and labelling them terrorists is an attempt to silence them, he pointed out, adding that Israel adopts laws to systematically suppress all resistance to its settler colonial apartheid regime. Calling on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to expedite the investigation into the situation in the State of Palestine, he underscored that persecution cannot last forever.
The West Bank is a tinder-box in tension, Earle Courtenay Rattray, Chef de Cabinet, who also spoke on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres, said. 2022 is on track to being the deadliest year for Palestinians since the tracking of fatalities began in 2005, he pointed out, calling for immediate steps to break the deadly cycle of violence, improve living conditions and enable the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to deliver on its mandate.
Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, echoed the call for solidarity, adding that a fundamental element of solidarity is to walk in the shoes of the Palestinians. Solidarity must be shown through concrete steps, including giving UNRWA the funds it needs, he stressed, adding that all human beings are born equal and entitled to enjoy the same rights, whether they are Israeli citizens or not, whether they live in Palestine, Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Galilee or Gaza.
Other speakers took up the call for predictable funding for UNRWA, including Peter Mohan Maithri Pieris (Sri Lanka), Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, which recently visited the Agency’s office and Palestinian refugee camps. He expressed concern about the demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures and the displacement of Palestinian residents, adding that the families of Palestinians killed continue to be deprived of closure through the denial of proper and dignified burials.
During the meeting, the Committee screened two short documentaries: Shireen Abu Akleh: Narrator of the Palestinian Tale and Yasser Murtaja: Armed with a Camera in Gaza.
Also speaking today were the representative of Ghana in his capacity as President of the Security Council for November, the Permanent Observers for the African Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the representative of Azerbaijan, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
The Chair read out a list of Heads of State and Government, ministers and civil society representatives who sent messages of solidarity and noted that these messages will be posted on the United Nations website on the “Question of Palestine”.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that on this day — the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People — the promise of independence, self-determination and the realization of the Palestinian people’s rights remains unfulfilled. For over 55 years, the Palestinian people and Palestine refugees have experienced increasing levels of dispossession, displacement, violence, insecurity and violations of human rights. The dangerous escalation in military raids across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2022 has led to the killing and injury of civilians. Such violence is not the answer to a just peace in the Middle East as outlined in international law and countless United Nations resolutions, he emphasized while calling for the immediate cessation of civilian killings and accountability for perpetrators. “The global consensus is clear that the provocative rhetoric and actions by Israel, especially in regard to the historic and legal status quo of Jerusalem and its holy sites, which greatly inflame tensions, must end,” he underscored.
Turning to Israel’s ongoing expansion of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the rise in settler violence, he voiced the Committee’s grave concern that Israel’s occupation is not temporary but rather a creeping annexation. Israel must reverse the dispossession and forcible displacement of Palestinians as well as the transfer of its population to occupied land. Condemning Israel’s relentless targeting of Palestinian civil society organizations — including the decision to outlaw six that are partners to the United Nations and the Committee — as well as the shrinking of space for them, he called on that country to fully lift its 15-year illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip. Such actions are the source of countless human rights violations, lead to Gaza’s de-development and run contrary to peace and international law. The land, air and sea blockade must end, he stressed.
While the promise of the United Nations remains unfulfilled, he noted that the Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) recommended five resolutions during its seventy-seventh session which include a request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legality of Israel’s prolonged occupation. It also includes an extension of the mandate for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Committee will continue to strongly appeal for sustainable and predictable funding for the Agency, he said. Going forward, it will also continue its targeted outreach with Member States and regional organizations to sustain international attention on the question of Palestine and advocate for the two-State solution. “The Committee will tirelessly continue to serve as a torchbearer until we reach a comprehensive solution based on international law and whereby Palestine and Israel will live side-by-side along the pre-1967 lines in peace and security,” he pledged.
CSABA KŐRÖSI, President of the General Assembly, said the international community must consider the Palestinian plight through the lens of solidarity. The Palestinian people — like all people — have the inalienable right to live in dignity, with liberty, freedom of movement, freedom from fear and access to basic services. Peace must be translated into food, shelter, health and education, as well as freedom and human dignity: a steadily better life. The tensions in the region remain very high, he said, stressing that the international community must aspire to change this, and to pioneer solutions.
“The international community must find a way to restore hope among Palestinians, especially the young generation, that all human beings are born equal and entitled to enjoy the same rights, whether they are Israeli citizens or not, living in Palestine, Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Galilee or Gaza,” he said. Further, it must restore hope that prosperity cannot be a result of a zero-sum game but the outcome of an endeavour based on a historic compromise, that the right to development belongs to all, that the political leadership will be able to cater to their needs and that there are solutions.
The international community must ensure Palestinian rights are protected for current and future generations, he said. A fundamental element of solidarity is understanding the plight of others and to “walk in their shoes”. The international community must not stand in solidarity, but move in solidarity, reaffirming the Palestinians right to self-determination, he stressed. Solidarity must be shown through concrete steps, including giving UNRWA the funds that it needs to undertake its work. The political will to find long-term solutions seems low, nevertheless, UNRWA must be funded to enable it to undertake its task. Governments must find compromise, direct dialogue and have good-faith negotiations in the Middle East. The only way to end the conflict is with a just solution that takes into account the legitimate aspirations of all sides. There is no way to peace, rather peace is the way, he said, stressing the aim of a Middle East free of conflict and free to use the enormous potential of its peoples.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), President of the Security Council, said a just lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East can only be found through peaceful means. Over the course of the past year, the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, remained under review by the Council, and members continued to express their concern on the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, repeatedly underlining the importance of resuming negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and reiterating that unilateral actions and violence will lead nowhere. Security Council members have reiterated regularly that a final settlement of all the final status issues can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians within the framework of United Nations resolutions, including Council resolution 2334 (2016).
The Security Council remains committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East based on the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with mutually agreed and recognized borders, and with Jerusalem as the capital of both States, he said. The Council also supports an agreed and just resolution of the question of Palestinian refugees. It commends the efforts of humanitarian agencies, particularly UNRWA, which provides a lifeline for refugees in the region. The Council will continue to follow closely the situation and consider the issue on a regular basis, as well as foster and support efforts to create peace for all in the Middle East, including real peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Only with dialogue and diplomacy will both attain the measures of freedom, dignity and peace that they both deserve, he stressed.
EARLE COURTENAY RATTRAY, Chef de Cabinet, speaking on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, called on all parties to take immediate steps to reduce tensions and break the deadly cycle of violence. The longstanding drivers of conflict — including the ongoing occupation, settlement expansion, home demolitions and evictions — heighten anger, despair and hopelessness. Gaza, he added, continues to endure debilitating closures and humanitarian crises. All parties must engage to end the closures of Gaza and improve living conditions for all Palestinians. Commending donors for their support to UNRWA, he urged all to provide predictable and sustainable funding to enable the Agency to fully deliver on its mandate. “The United Nations position is clear: peace must advance and the occupation must end,” he emphasized.
Adding some of his own words, Mr. RATTRAY said this day is a powerful reminder that the international community must never lose sight of the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 2022 is on track to being the deadliest year for Palestinians since the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs began systematically tracking fatalities in 2005. The West Bank, he continued, is a tinder-box in tension. The situation in Jerusalem is becoming more fragile amidst provocations and acts of violence in and around the holy sites. Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian inhabitants continue to suffer under debilitating closures. While he welcomed the steps to ease access and movement over the past year, he nevertheless emphasized that more is required to reduce tensions and open a clear, political horizon. All must help in setting UNRWA on solid financial footing, he echoed. Without a credible, political pathway towards ending the occupation, the situation will only worsen. Demolitions, illegal settlement expansion, forced evictions, collective punitive measures, violence and incitement will not bring peace, he stressed.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, delivering a message on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, expressed gratitude to the overwhelming majority of Member States for their support to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Describing “another year of killing, siege, arrest, forced displacement and home demolitions,” he drew attention to increasing violence against the Palestinian people and their Christian and Islamic holy site as well as the incitement to violence from Israeli officials and members of the Israeli Knesset. The Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was assassinated by the Israeli occupying forces in cold blood, and her funeral and coffin bearers were attacked, he recalled, adding “this is Israel and its occupation” summarized in one event. The international community cannot expect the Israeli occupier to wake up one day, and choose justice and peace, he said, calling for intensification of efforts to put pressure on Israel to end its occupation and stop its crimes.
The two-State solution, based on the 1967 borders, he continued, is enshrined in United Nations resolutions, which identified the terms of reference and the basis for a settlement to the conflict, as well as the mechanisms to achieve it within a defined timeframe. Cautioning those States that have established trade or diplomatic offices in Jerusalem or concluded agreements with companies or educational institutions operating in settlements or buy products from these settlements, he said that such actions are in violation of international law. The Israeli authorities are undermining the two-State solution and entrenching Apartheid. Therefore, the State of Palestine has referred the Israeli colonial system and all its violations to the International Court of Justice. The two-State solution cannot be left hostage to the occupier's will, he added.
Highlighting the importance of recognizing the State of Palestine and supporting its full membership in the United Nations, he called for the convening of an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations, with the aim of ending the occupation, resolving all final status issues, and defining a package of guarantees for the implementation of what has been agreed upon within a defined timeframe. The State of Palestine will continue working “to unify our land and people” and to hold presidential and legislative elections as soon as they can be organized in Jerusalem, as well as to form a national unity Government, he said. Thanking Algeria and Egypt for their sincere efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation, he added that the question of Palestine will remain the litmus test for the international community’s credibility. “Our people do not ask for more than what international law has granted other peoples around the world but will not accept any less,” he underscored.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka), Chair of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the occupied territories, provided an overview of the Committee’s annual mission to Amman from 4 to 7 July 2022 and its prior week of meetings in Geneva. In both Amman and Geneva, the Special Committee heard the testimonies of experts, high-level Palestinian government officials, United Nations organizations and representatives of civil society organizations from the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan. The visits to UNRWA headquarters and Marka refugee camps as well as interactions with the Palestine refugees highlighted once again the daily violence and suffering of the Palestinian people.
The Special Committee remains concerned that the families of Palestinians killed continue to be deprived of closure through the denial of proper and dignified burials, he noted. Settlement expansion has continued with demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures and displacement of Palestinian residents. The Special Committee appeals to the occupying powers to act with restraint, ensure the protection of human rights and guarantee access to humanitarian assistance, he said before spotlighting the situation in the Gaza strip. Turning to the work of UNRWA, he underscored the need for predictable and sustainable funding. There must be an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people as he called on concerned parties to create the necessary environment to facilitate confidence-building in support of resumed dialogue and negotiations.
SALEM M. M. MATUG, Representative of the Office of the Permanent Observer of the African Union, reading out a message from Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union Commission, said for many decades Israel has continued its policy of building settlements on confiscated or stolen Palestinian lands in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in clear violation of international norms and standards. These illegal settlements contribute to forced displacement; severely limit Palestinian access to basic resources, including land, water and religious sites; and prolong a system of segregation and structural inequality between Palestinians and Israelis. Now more than ever, there is a need for urgent and renewed efforts towards a two-State solution. The current situation calls for urgent action to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
The Israeli occupation in Palestine continues to greatly define every aspect of the daily lives of youth and camp residents, affecting everything from security and freedom of movement to livelihoods and employment, he continued. Palestinian refugees continue to face serious protection challenges due to the ongoing occupation, armed conflict and displacement. They are facing existential threats and sinking deeper into poverty and desperation. 2022 did not bring any of the aspired progress, as the peace talks are not yet back on track. African support to the Palestinian cause is based on the values of freedom and justice, and humanitarian principles that Africa defends in the international fora alongside all those striving to ensure that Palestine regains its right to exist as a key viable State in the Middle East, he said. The international community and all stakeholders must commit to re-launch the peace process and find a just, lasting solution to the conflict that would establish a sovereign, viable Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, delivering a message on behalf of Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, expressed concern about the deadlock in the two-State solution, while Israel continues its racist occupation practices. Israel has not implemented any of the relevant 754 General Assembly resolutions, 94 Security Council resolutions or 96 Human Rights Council resolutions, he said. This proves how the occupying Power holds the will of the international community in contempt, he said, calling on the United Nations to support all diplomatic efforts to bolster the State of Palestine internationally. It is unacceptable that Israel is a full member while the State of Palestine is still an observer despite having proven its merits for full membership, he added.
Reiterating the call for an international conference to relaunch direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine, he applauded the new Australian Government’s reversal of the previous Government's recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Appealing to countries who moved or plan to move their embassy to occupied Jerusalem to change course as Australia did, he also encouraged the efforts of Jordan and Morocco to safeguard Christian and Muslim holy sites in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Also welcoming “Arab efforts to close ranks around Palestine”, he stressed the importance of ensuring that Israel does not obstruct the holding of elections in East Jerusalem and paid tribute to the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people in the face of Israeli terrorism.
YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, called on all States to provide predictable and sufficient financial support to UNRWA. The international community must uphold its responsibilities and obligations towards the Palestine question and intensify all necessary efforts to bring an end to this injustice which advances a peaceful solution. He expressed his regret that, despite decades of the Palestinian people’s good-faith participation in peace efforts, their plight has worsened and a just solution remains elusive. The Security Council remains paralyzed on this issue, notwithstanding its duties under the Charter of the United Nations, as the situation only continues to further deteriorate and destabilize.
The international community must urgently hold Israel accountable for its violations and bring them to a halt, including all illegal settlement and annexation activities, he stressed. Only such actions can salvage the prospects for peace, bring an end to the Israeli occupation and realize the two-State solution. Calling for the full and immediate lifting of the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, he then reiterated his grave concern about the lack of accountability for the countless violations being committed by the occupying Power, which fuel a culture of impunity, destabilize the situation on the ground and diminish the prospects for peace. The international community must address these grave violations, end this unjust situation, support the rights of the Palestinian people and the independence and sovereignty of the State of Palestine and allow that State to take its rightful place in the Organization as a full Member State. He went on to reaffirm his commitments to the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent, democratic and viable State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to the achievement of a just solution for the plight of the Palestine refugees on the basis of Assembly resolution 194 (III).
HAMEED AJIBAIYE OPELOYERU, Permanent Observer for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), speaking on behalf of Hissein Brahim Taha, Secretary-General of OIC, reiterated his group’s condemnation and rejection of Israel’s policies of aggression, Judaization, colonial settlement, forced displacement and racial discrimination against the people of Palestine. The serious and deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the city of Al‑Quds, is a direct result of escalation violations, attacks and crimes committed by the occupying power and its forces. There must be an immediate cessation of all Israeli measures aimed at altering the geographical and demographic status of holy places in Al‑Quds. The continuation of such illegal practices without deterrence or accountability will encourage Israel’s persistence in committing more crimes and attacks against the Palestinian people, he cautioned.
The United Nations has a political, legal and humanitarian responsibility towards the persistence of the Israeli occupation and its attempts to impose a fait accompli on the ground, he continued. Israel must end its colonial plans to undermine the two-State solution and be held accountable for the violations and crimes it commits daily against the Palestinian people, their land and holy sites. He then drew attention to the plight of Palestinians within Israeli prisons, stressed the need to examine Israel’s record of human rights violations and called on that country to abide by its international obligations and release all prisoners. As no security, peace or stability in the Middle East can be realized without a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the cause of Palestine, the international community must engage in a multilateral political process which ends the Israeli occupation, achieves justice, provides international protection for the Palestinian people and enables them to exercise their rights.
SHAWAN JABARIN, General Director of Al-Haq, who could not attend the meeting in person as his United Nations travel visa had been denied and spoke via videoconference from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said persecution cannot last forever. “Perpetrators of international crimes will be held accountable, and justice will prevail,” he asserted, noting that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory has entered its fifty-sixth year. Condemning the ongoing dispossession, land appropriations, imposed fragmentation, exile and persecution, he said that Israel implements its discriminatory system of laws and practices against the Palestinian people, expanding and entrenching its settler colonial apartheid regime. For generations, Palestinians have been systemically denied their right to realize the dignified life they seek. While the shield of impunity encourages the perpetrators to continue their international crimes, Israel adopts laws to systematically suppress all resistance to its settler colonial apartheid regime. Further, human rights defenders and organizations have been criminalized, deemed unlawful and labelled terrorists – all to silence them. Israel’s occupation has well exceeded its legal and moral parameters, he cautioned, urging the international community to end decades of impunity. To this end, he called on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to expedite its investigation into the situation of the State of Palestine, and on States to ensure protection for Palestinian civil society, coordinating with the Court. “It is time for the international community, particularly States in the Global North, to drop the selectivity and double standards in the implementation of international law,” he underscored.
Mr. NIANG said that the Committee had received messages of support and solidarity from many Heads of State and Government, Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Governments and organizations. He read out a list of those messages of support in the order in which they were received, from the Heads of State of Egypt, Senegal, Iraq, Maldives, Qatar, Morocco, Iran, Viet Nam, Jordan, China, Tunisia, Russian Federation, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Brunei Darussalam, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Türkiye, Indonesia, Algeria, Kuwait and Venezuela; from the Heads of Government of India, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Mauritius, Bangladesh and Pakistan; from the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Syria, Kazakhstan, Botswana, Argentina, Nicaragua, Mexico, Namibia, Ecuador, Lebanon and Japan; from the Governments of Brazil and the Philippines; from the permanent observers for the European Union; and from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean.
On behalf of the Committee, he expressed its sincere appreciation for all those messages of support and solidarity, as well as to all participants for their persistent efforts which, through 55 years of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, aimed at achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. He also thanked everyone who made the meeting possible, in particular, the staff members of the Division for Palestinian Rights in the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, the Department of Global Communications, the Office of Central Support Services, interpreters and everyone who worked “behind the scenes”.
On 30 November, the General Assembly will begin its debate under the item "Question of Palestine", he continued. He said he will introduce four draft resolutions related to this item and present the 2022 annual report of the Committee. He then encouraged Member States to vote with the traditional overwhelming majority granted to these four draft resolutions.
PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) noted that his country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations sent a letter, which was also shared with the Secretariat, to the delegation of the State of Palestine in honour of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.