14 June 2001


Speakers Emphasize Role of Israeli Settlements
In Hindering Peace Process

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

HAVANA, 12 June -- The Al-Aqsa intifada was aimed at a political target and was not a mere expression of discontent and dissatisfaction with the policies and practices of the occupying Power, keynote speaker Farouk Kaddoumi told the Latin American and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine in Havana this afternoon.

Mr. Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the intifada was not an insurrection but a legitimate right of self-defence. He called on the Security Council to investigate the root causes of the recurring violence, provide protection to the Palestinians under Israeli occupation and take steps to ensure Israel’s compliance with relevant Council resolutions.

Following Mr. Kaddoumi’s address, the two-day Havana meeting, sponsored by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, heard presentations from experts on the situation in the occupied Palestinian trritory. Speakers addressed the situation since September 2000, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and the need for international protection of the Palestinian people.

Statements were also made by Abdelazizz Aboughosh, Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Kamal Hossain, Member of the Inquiry Commission of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights; Latif Dori, Secretary of the Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue; and Corinne Whitlatch, Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace.

The meeting will resume at 10 a.m. tomorrow to address the subject of "Upholding international legitimacy -- path to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the conflict."


Keynote Presentation: Achieving Inalienable Rights of Palestinian People -- Key to Peace in Middle East.

FAROUK KADDOUMI, Head of the Political Department, Palestine Liberation Organization, recalled that in November 1975, the General Assembly had established the Committee to formulate recommendations to enable the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable rights. Reviewing the history of the consideration of the question of Palestine by the United Nations, he said the Committee’s recommendations, which included the evacuation of territories occupied by force and the establishment of a timetable for the complete withdrawal by Israeli occupation forces from those areas occupied in 1967, provided the basic tenets for a just solution to peace and stability in the Middle East.

He said the attempts to establish an international commission by the Security Council to investigate the latest violence had been rejected by the United States Government and by the Government of Israel. That rejection was an affront to the principles of the United Nations Charter and a total disregard for norms of international conduct. It rejected all attempts to attain peace. The Security Council must adopt and implement measures to investigate the root cause of the recurring violence; to provide protection to the Palestinians under Israeli occupation; and to take steps that would ensure Israel’s compliance with Security Council resolutions calling on it to withdraw totally and unconditionally from Palestinian territory.

The Palestinian Authority had reaffirmed its total support of the conclusions and recommendation of the Mitchell Report. Those recommendations must be wholly and faithfully implemented. Addressing the root cause was still the proper path to reach a solution and not only to interim settlements. The Israeli troika composed of two Labour party leaders and a Likud chief was showing no signs of accepting that firepower would not lead to peace and would not break the determination of the Palestinian people to achieve its inalienable rights. Concluding, he said the Al-Aqsa intifada was aimed at a political target and was not a mere expression of discontent and dissatisfaction with the policies and practices of the occupying Power. The intifada was not an insurrection, but a legitimate right of self-defence.

Statements: Situation in Occupied Territory, Including Jerusalem

ABDELAZIZ ABOUGHOSH, Assistant Secretary-General, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Jeddah, said official Palestinian reports had recorded that Palestinian martyrs during the current intifada numbered over 500. More than 21 had been killed by helicopter gunships, rockets, missiles and heavy artillery. Detailing actions by the Israeli Government to begin the construction of new housing units in the settlements, he said the Government had earmarked $300 million for the benefit of settlers in the occupied territories. Israeli settlement activities bore evidence of the Government’s hostile intentions and flouted all international calls to halt such activity. Meanwhile, Israel was continuing its policy of demolition of Palestinian homes and undermining institutions, buildings and infrastructure. Furthermore, Israel was continuing the policy of confiscating Palestinian houses for military purposes.

Continuing, he described the tight seal around the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip closing land outlets to Egypt and Jordan, as well as passageways between the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Gaza international airport. In addition, he said, Israel had torn the land apart through the establishment of military checkpoints to prevent movement of Palestinian citizens between towns and villages. The occupation authorities had carried out a campaign of land bulldozing and crop destruction in the area, affecting tens of thousands of acres.

He outlined other Israeli practices and their effects, including large-scale detentions, the destruction of the Palestinian economy, the resulting impact on the Palestinian budget, the effects of Israeli aggression on development programmes, the increased poverty rate and the escalating Israeli aggression against the city of Jerusalem. He said the international community must adopt tangible measures to end the Israeli aggression and settlement activity; secure the necessary international protection for the Palestinian people; prosecute Israeli war criminals; and implement the resolutions of international legality relevant to the issues of Palestine, Jerusalem and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

KAMAL HOSSAIN, Member of the Inquiry Commission of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, said the three-member Inquiry Commission had come away from its investigation into the violation of human rights and humanitarian law in the occupied territories after 28 September with the overriding impression of widely divergent perceptions of the two sides of the reality which confronted them.

The basic recommendation of the Commission was that a comprehensive, just and durable pace should be sought through negotiations. The aim must be to end the occupation and establish a dispensation that met the legitimate expectations of the Palestinian people and the security concerns of the people of Israel. The framework for a final peaceful settlement and the process through which it was pursued should be guided by respect for human rights and humanitarian law. The Commission also recommended that an adequate and effective international presence should be established to monitor and regularly report on compliance by all parties with human rights and humanitarian law standards.

He said the Commission had recommended a number of specific and immediate measures which urged an end to the excessive and disproportionate use of force by the Israel Defence Force and also targeted shootings of individuals by the Force, settlers and sharpshooters of either side. Such extrajudicial executions constituted gross violations of human rights and a breach of international humanitarian law, which involved international criminal responsibility. Immediate and effective measures were also urged to end closures, curfews and other restrictions on the movement of people and goods in the occupied territories and also the arbitrary destruction of property.

To improve prospects for a durable peace, especially given the fundamental gaps in perception that currently separated the two sides, he said, the Inquiry Commission strongly recommended that the Commission on Human Rights take steps to facilitate dialogue between representatives of Israel and the Palestinians at all levels of social interaction, formally and informally. In that regard, the Commission on Human Rights was urged to convene consultations between leaders of Israel and Palestinian civil society on a people-to-people basis in Geneva at the earliest possible time. The Commission on Human Rights was also urged to convene a round-table of representatives of European civil society and government to discuss steps that could be taken to promote peace, to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and to ensure greater respect for human rights standards and for international humanitarian law.

LATIF DORI, Secretary, Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue, Tel Aviv, said Palestinians considered the settlements as the main obstacle to peace, an opinion shared by the Israeli Peace Camp. Some 150 Israeli settlements, inhabited by about 200,000 settlers, had been systematically scattered all across the Palestinian territories, in order to break up Palestinian territorial continuity. Unless the State of Israel gave up control of the settlements and the roads leading to them, there was no way to create a viable Palestinian State, and no way of making peace. The settlement problem was particularly acute in Al-Quds, Jerusalem, where the Israeli Government had made an intensive effort in East Jerusalem to increase the number of Jews living in Jerusalem while reducing the number of Arab residents. Although many Israelis understood the settlements to be a historic mistake, 15 new settlements had been created since the February elections.

Since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa intifada, he said, the Palestinian people had been in a war of independence against the army of occupation. After Ariel Sharon’s election, the iron fist policy had been exacerbated by the use of tanks, missiles, helicopter gunships and fighter airplanes. Such tactics had not pushed the Palestinians to their knees, nor would further use of them produce that result. In the face of that grave situation, he supported the stationing of an international force in the occupied Palestinian territories to protect the population.

He said the Israeli Prime Minister had a record of using force as the "solution" to all problems. The common element of the Mitchell Report and the Jordanian-Egyptian Initiative was a total and complete settlement freeze, which Mr. Sharon rejected. The only solution was to topple the Sharon Government by mobilizing the Israeli public opinion. The main task of the Israeli peace camp today was to present an ideological and practical alternative to the Sharon Government and to its policies which endangered Israel’s security and the chance to achieve peace. Ultimately, if the Palestinians were deprived of their basic rights, so were the Israelis. The State of Israel had no future without achieving peace with its neighbours.

CORRINE WHITLATCH, Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace, said she supported the Mitchell Report and called on participants at the meeting to encourage their organizations and governments to work for its endorsement. Despite reservations about the Report’s failure to call for an international protection force for the Palestinians and suspicions of Israeli intentions, she agreed with the Palestine Liberation Organization that the Report provided a foundation for solving the current crisis. She stressed the importance of the Report’s emphasis on settlements saying that the settlement issue could no longer be deferred, dismissed, delayed or denied.

Of more fundamental significance, she said, the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee provided a vehicle that was moving the Palestinian–Israeli negotiations off the United States dominated track and onto an international track that could better lead to the United Nations, where it belonged. She hoped that the involvement of other States might lessen the White House’s fear of failure. By including two popular and powerful former United States senators, the Report should be promoted by the Administration with less risk of the Congress squashing it. United States Secretary of State Colin Powell needed the political protection provided by those former senators to stand up to pro-Israel Democrats and Republican hawks in Congress and the Defense Department.

Reviewing the report's findings and recommendations, she said she was surprised that the Report spoke of the strong support the United States had given Israel and that it noted that "in international forums, the United States had at times cast the only vote on Israel’s behalf". The long-held United States opposition to settlements was cited as an exception to that support. The Palestine Liberation Organization response to the report calls the recommendations a sensible a coherent foundation for resolving the current crisis and preparing a path back to meaningful negotiations. It cautioned however, that Israel’s strategy was to publicly accept the report while rejecting the only recommendation giving the report credibility in Palestinian eyes -- a freeze on settlements and revision of Israel’s military policies. The participants at today's meeting had a responsibility to keep attention on Israeli settlement activity as a source of violence that destroyed confidence and hope for a just and durable peace. She hoped that they would also act to encourage Palestinians to use active but non-violent resistance to occupation as the means to liberation. Bombings by Palestinian martyrs destroyed not only Israeli lives and international solidarity with the Palestinians, but would prevent implementation of the settlement freeze called for in the report.

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