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Source: United Nations 4

The ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan violates international law and human rights, a situation worsening as the COVID‑19 pandemic puts health infrastructure “on the verge of collapse”, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) heard today as it took up a report on the issue.

Opening the meeting, Tarik Alami, Director of the Emerging and Conflict Related Issues Division at the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, introduced the note by the Secretary‑General on the “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/75/86-E/2020/62).  He noted discriminatory policies and practices, especially in the application of law, planning and zoning policies, prevent Palestinian construction in Area C and East Jerusalem.

An increase in Israeli settler attacks in 2019 was more worrisome given Israel Defense Forces sometimes accompanied them in those incidents.  He also cited indefinite arbitrary detentions with documented cases of torture.  The blockade of 2 million people in Gaza amounts to collective punishment, with import restrictions worsening the pandemic, while 96 per cent of water there is unfit for human consumption.  Over half of Palestinians needed humanitarian assistance as of January, he said, with one third of the population food insecure including 62 per cent of Gaza households.  Health infrastructure is on the verge of collapse, with COVID‑19 cases rising exponentially.

Responding to the report, the observer for the State of Palestine affirmed it reveals Israeli occupation is the main obstacle preventing his people from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  However, the report is missing two sectors, first on the Dead Sea, 70 per cent of which is located in the occupied West Bank although its important natural resources have been inaccessible since the early 1980s, as well as natural gas resources in the Mediterranean Sea since approximately 2000.  He asked that those two issues be included.  Mr. Alami responded that he hoped future reports would address those areas.

Speaking again as the general debate opened, the observer for the State of Palestine, associating himself with the statements to be delivered by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the Arab Group, said the situation remains catastrophic due to repressive, destructive and colonial practices, with systematic, grave violations of international law conducted with impunity.  He added the pledge to “leave no country behind” will be meaningless if the occupied Palestinian territories and Syrian Golan cannot exercise their inalienable rights.

The representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, noted the report attests to a systematic pattern of violations of human rights and international law.  While freedom of movement is central to development, the Palestinian people face obstacles due to checkpoints and military roadblocks.  He also expressed concern over the Syrian Golan, and called for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to be able to meet the needs of over 5 million Palestinians.

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating himself with the Group of 77, said Israel’s policies aim to stifle any hope of the Palestinian people building their own State and living dignified lives.  They suffer excessive and unjustified use of Israeli force, including violations of the rights of children and aggression against medical personnel.  Meanwhile, settlements hamper their right to develop their resources, with about 900,000 settlers spread throughout East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Saudi Arabia’s representative said the international community must work together to achieve a just solution to the Palestinian question.  As a leader in the humanitarian field, Saudi Arabia has always extended assistance to its Palestinian brothers, he said, including an agreement with UNRWA to help the Palestinian Authority combat COVID‑19 in Gaza.

Syria’s representative, associating herself with the Group of 77, said that Israel’s violations of the rights of Palestinian and Syrian people must be documented.  She rejected and condemned Israel’s plans to increase the number of settlers in the occupied Syrian Golan, adding that that country benefits from protection from the United States and other Security Council members, and called for the international community to refrain from investing in Israeli settlements or importing products from occupied Palestinian and Syrian territory.

The representative of Israel said if she had unlimited time, she would read a shockingly long list of United Nations resolutions pushing the Palestinian narrative.  Those efforts desperately deflect from the Palestinian Authority’s own role in the situation.  The world is passing them by, she said, as other States normalize relations with Israel, while that Government is focused on neglect and support for terrorism.  Similarly, she said the brutal Syrian regime is raising absurd allegations against Israel to turn attention from its actions against its own citizens.  Stating that Israel has proven to be a partner in peace, she expressed hope this discussion will end and the situation will move forward.

Also speaking were the representatives of Cuba, Bangladesh, Iraq, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Indonesia, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Egypt (national capacity), Oman and South Africa.

For information media. Not an official record.

MIL OSI United Nations News