Statement by H.E. Riad Malki Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine UNSC Open Debate on The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine question
Statement by H.E. Riad Malki
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine
UNSC Open Debate on The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine question
19 January 2022
At the outset, I wish to convey the State of Palestine’s congratulations to Norway on its assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council, reaffirming our confidence in your able stewardship. We are grateful for your efforts to elevate the engagement in this meeting to address this longest standing item on the Council’s agenda.
Before proceeding, allow me to take this opportunity to reaffirm our congratulations to Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and United Arab Emirates as they join the other Members of the Council in carrying forth the solemn responsibilities entrusted to them for the maintenance of international peace and security.
We convey also our sincerest appreciation to the Council Members that completed their terms at the end of 2021 – Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Viet Nam – for their service and for the support and principled positions affirmed on the Palestine question during their tenures.
Madam President, Members of the Security Council,
As we gather here to discuss how to advance peace, Israel pursues its relentless war against the Palestinian people on the ground.
Today, before dawn, Israeli forces surrounded and raided the Salhiye family house in Sheikh Jarrah, violently uprooting them from their home, including children, throwing them out in the freezing cold, and arresting several members of the family and supporters, before demolishing their homes, leaving behind despair and destruction. This happened while your representatives rushed to the scene, where some were present just a few hours before, and despite your repeated calls against such crimes. The Salhiye family, forcibly displaced in 1948, is displaced once again.
Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights and defiance of the international community has continued for so long because it can rely on the fact there will be criticism and condemnations but there won’t be consequences. You want to help us end this conflict, end Israeli impunity.
There is a bias when it comes to Israel, but not the one Israel claims exists.
It is the bias shielding it from any form of accountability, the bias that has prevented this Council from ever acting under Chapter 7.
It is the bias that has allowed Israel, instead of apologizing for its crimes and putting an end to them, to accuse even its closest partners of antisemitism for voting resolutions rooted in international law and human rights; the bias that has allowed it to attack the ICC, the ICJ, the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Security Council for performing their mandates and to insult and harass world leaders, Nobel peace laureates, moral figures, celebrities, citizens, for their stance regarding the question of Palestine; the bias that has allowed Israel to criminalize civil society and humanitarians and still be called a democracy; the bias that allowed Israel to become a member of the United Nations while 75 years later we are yet to become member.
It is the bias that grants an occupying Power a very widely interpreted right to security while the people under occupation are deprived of the most basic forms of protection.
2021 was one of the deadliest years for Palestinians in over a decade, including for Palestinian children, notably in the besieged Gaza Strip. It was one of the worst years in terms of home demolitions and of advancement of settlement units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
This year has barely started and yet its events offer a bleak picture of what awaits our people if resolute action is not undertaken. The first days of 2022 witnessed the killing of more Palestinians, even children and elderly, including Sheikh Suleiman Al-Hazaleen, the 80-years old icon of popular peaceful resistance, as well as the announcement of plans for new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem and continued dispossession and forced displacement of our people. In these circumstances, inaction would at best amount to complacency, at worst complicity.
The Palestinian people are here to stay. Their steadfastness has been tried and tested across decades and is unwavering. We urge you, however, to spare them more unnecessary suffering, to prevent yet another Palestinian generation from enduring this injustice and fate, by providing them with the international protection they are entitled to, and by helping us to end this colonial occupation now.
Madam President, Members of the Council
Why feel a sense of urgency regarding a century-long conflict when there are so many other pressing issues? Beyond the need to repair the historical injustice endured by the Palestinian people and to end decades of occupation and oppression, there is urgency because this conflict has a solution that may still be available today and that will no longer be viable tomorrow.
The two-State solution the international community has legislated and defended for so long does not need you by its bedside to share comforting words. It needs you to save it. Absent this sense of urgency, prepare yourself to attend the funeral of this solution with all the consequences of such a death for the lives of millions of people, Palestinians and others.
The Palestinian people will survive, but the two-State solution may not. What happens then? Will you accept this Apartheid in the 21st century or will you convert to advocates of the one-State solution of freedom and equal rights for all between the river and the sea? These would be the only options available then.
We recognize the efforts of the international community in defense of the international consensus and we are grateful for the principled solidarity and support long extended to our people. The international community has spent so much political and financial capital to alleviate the impact of Israel’s occupation and the consequences of its humanitarian and human rights abuses, including by providing support to Palestine refugees through UNRWA. It has manifested its support to the realization of Palestinian rights and independence and to just peace in our region. This is the decisive moment where all these years, efforts and resources can bear fruit or be squandered.
Nothing good will come from waiting. Leaving the parties alone means leaving the steering wheel in the hands of extremist Israeli settlers as they are the ones controlling the agenda.
While measures that may partially alleviate the hardships faced by our people are needed, they cannot serve as a substitute to addressing the root cause of our suffering and the conflict, the Israeli occupation. One cannot entrench the occupation and pretend to “shrink the conflict”. One cannot reject the two-State solution and the one-State solution, unlawfully annex our geography and besiege our demography, attack our people and holy sites, including in the Holy City of Jerusalem, and demand for themselves alone peace, prosperity and security.
Since when is the peoples’ right to self-determination subject to the goodwill of the colonial power? Did any country represented in these United Nations accept such a logic? Can anyone seriously argue that we should wait for Israel to be ready to end its occupation on its own, to wake up one day wiser and decide to redeem itself, to respect the rule of international law and to listen to the advice of the world based on its merit. Is there anyone around this table who believes this is a rational or winning strategy?
The fate of the Palestinian people cannot be left hostage to Israeli domestic politics and expansionist desires, nor can the survival of the Israeli coalition serve as an excuse to deny the rights of an entire nation.
Israel displays the same arrogance displayed by colonial powers blinded by their colonial appetite throughout history. Healing Israel from this disease is not only a service to Palestine, to the rule of international law, to our humanity, but also to Israel itself. Only when the cost of occupation outweighs its benefits will Israel ever consider ending it. The Israeli public will then demand it.
The resolutions of this Council, including resolution 2334, provide a clear path to a just peace, the only path to peace. It is the responsibility of this Council to pursue implementation of its own resolutions. It is important to enact the law and to condemn those violating it, but it is as important to pursue enforcement and ensure accountability. Israel wants UN resolutions to conform with the illegal reality it has created on the ground, while the Council should ensure that the reality on the ground conforms to its resolutions. Israeli representatives proclaim their outrage that the Security Council is getting involved in the conflict, while the Council should be outraged by Israel’s dismissive attitude and persistent violations. I invite the members of the Council to visit Palestine, examine firsthand the situation on the ground and discuss and adopt the steps needed to ensure that what was adopted here affects reality there.
For those who claim the conditions are not yet ripe for peace, do they think that without international intervention they will ever be?
30 years ago, the Madrid Conference was held not because the parties themselves had decided to make peace, but because the world left them with no other option. If Shamir was allowed to have a veto on peace negotiations, they never would have been held. It is this kind of resolve and sense of urgency that we need today, leading to the convening of an international conference for peace that would mobilize every goodwill and means available out there to salvage peace and to achieve a just solution, in accordance with international law and UN resolutions.
Many hoped that the end of the Trump administration and of the Netanyahu government would be enough to pave the way for renewed momentum for peace. But, while the new US administration reversed several of the unlawful and ill-advised policies of its predecessor, it has yet to ensure the current Israeli government renounces its colonial policies and abandons its rejection of the two-State solution and peace negotiations. This is an unacceptable stance that should neither be tolerated nor excused and must be reversed.
The Quartet has also a particular responsibility in this regard as the body mandated by the Security Council for the very purpose of ending occupation and achieving peace. We cannot but echo the call made by Russia to convene the Quartet at Ministerial level as soon as possible to mobilize efforts to get out from the current impasse. In parallel, every State can help roll back the occupation and advance peace by upholding its own obligations, in line with international law and UN resolutions, including the obligations of distinction between Israel and the territories it has occupied since 1967, non-recognition and non-assistance to illegal actions and policies, and advancing accountability.
We are grateful to every citizen taking action, every organization taking a principled stance, every State making a contribution. There are many important initiatives being taken to advance justice and peace by actors in our region and across the world. What we need is a common agenda for peace that translates these positions and efforts into collective measures to deter crimes and promote compliance thus helping advance just peace.
Commentators speak of the fatigue of the international community with the Palestine question. While we understand one can get tired of a conflict that has lasted so long, believe me there is no one more tired than the kids who had to survive four wars to reach the age of 15; than the mother who fears to see her son arrested or killed each time he leaves the house; than the hundreds of Palestinian parents who are denied the simple right of dignified burial for their loved ones; than the prisoners who have for only resort life-threatening hunger strikes to protest their arbitrary detention; than the refugees who, after finding shelter, have to face the settlers’ creeping annexation reaching their doorstep, victims of a system that privileges one kind of human being over another. Their calls for justice must be heeded. This is a time for action. A time for peace. Not Apartheid.