Address to the Security Council of the United Nations on the Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories



Date: Delivered at the two-thousand nine-hundred twenty-third meeting of the UN Security Council, Geneva, 25 May 1990.
Source: Situation in the OPT/Arafat statement - SecCo meeting (Geneva) - Verbatim record, at United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (accessed 8 June 2021).


Mr. ARAFAT (Palestine) (interpretation from Arabic): I greet my brother the representative of the Republic of Yemen, the unified Arab State whose birth was announced a few days ago.

It is a source of great pride for me to be present today for the second time in a year and a half in this hospitable country, where I have already had the honour to address the United Nations, in order to speak with the voice of Palestine, and deliver the word of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

I should like, Mr. President, to thank you for having given me this special opportunity to undertake this mission on behalf of Palestine and the Palestinian people. While we consider this as a token of your deep understanding of the dangerous situation in our area, we also view it as an expression of sympathy for, and solidarity with, the Palestinian people, who are now being subjected to the ugliest oppression and terrorism while struggling for their freedom and for the implementation of the goals, principles and values consecrated by this international Organization.

When the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with the support of the Arab Group, requested the convening of this urgent meeting of the Security Council, its request stemmed from the realization that the situation has reached an extremely dangerous and explosive point. No longer can hesitation be acceptable or verbal condemnation sufficient. The situation now requires urgent action to enforce reverence for international legitimacy.

Last Sunday – "Black Sunday" – a heinous massacre was perpetrated against Palestinian workers who early that morning were in search of bread for their children. They had already been uprooted from their land by policies of the Israeli occupation and were forced to seek labour under the worst possible conditions of exploitation and repression.

Further, the massacre is being continued by the Israeli forces in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, accompanied by an outburst of Israeli racism against the Palestinian masses in the Galilee, the Triangle and the Negev. As a result of those policies, more than 25 Palestinian martyrs have fallen and more than 2,000 have been injured during the last five days. All this constitutes but one link in the chain of the Israeli iron-fist policy and Israeli racist practices against the Palestinian people, policies and practices which the international community, Governments and peoples have unanimously denounced.

It was not the insanity or derangement of an individual that was responsible for the Black Sunday massacre, as Israeli officials have claimed. The primary responsibility falls on the insanity and derangement of the whole system, a system which is haunted by mythical ghosts, by defunct illusions of racial superiority and by an obsession with expansion and invasion, stemming from the stupid arrogance of military superiority, in order to create a "Greater Israel".

I am addressing the Council while the wounds of my people are still bleeding and the graves of their martyrs are still exposed. Every moment, Palestinian children, women and men pay the price with their blood and their lives, faced with the organized Israeli machine of oppression and terrorism against our Palestinian people, who are struggling for a free and dignified life. During the 30 months of the brave intifadah of the Palestinian masses against occupation forces saturated with hatred and aggression, the occupiers have been arrogantly waging a brutal war of extermination.

Over the past 30 months, 1,200 Palestinian martyrs have fallen under the bullets of the occupiers. More than 80,000 citizens have been injured as a result of various kinds of repression ranging from severe beatings, the breaking of bones and the use of rubber bullets and live ammunition to the use of internationally prohibited poison gases, which have caused more than 6,000 miscarriages and permanent handicaps to thousands of children, women and men, in addition to other kinds of terrorism and repression. Over those 30 months, the Israeli occupation forces have been waging a war of extermination on all fronts. Our people have been the victims of crimes prohibited by international law, divine law and moral and human values: from the war of starvation waged by laying siege to population centres, the destruction of the infrastructure of our national economy through continuing expropriation of land and water resources thereby devastating farms, and the imposition of huge taxes and attempts to collect them through terrorism and theft as happened in Beit Sahour and elsewhere, to the war of imposed ignorance which has led to the closing for three years of all educational centres in our country from kindergartens to universities.

The universities and most schools are still closed, as verified by reports and other documents available at the United Nations. This has been accompanied by the closing of many philanthropic, cultural and vocational institutions and by the opening, on the other hand, of mass detention camps and prisons for more than 85,000 detainees, scores of whom have been physically eliminated – in addition to deportations and house arrests. At the same time there has been an escalation of the policy of demolishing the houses of Palestinian citizens, by which the occupation forces have demolished, destroyed and shut down more than 2,000 houses during the years of the intifadah, a policy which has left 10,000 persons, including 5,000 Palestinian children, homeless. All of this is in addition to burning and devastating 80,000 dunums of land and 188,000 fruitful trees, the application of collective punishment and the imposition of huge fines by the courts of the Israeli occupation. All this is being carried out with premeditation and racism on the part of the Israeli Government and the fanatic armed settlers against unarmed citizens in the Palestinian and Arab occupied territories.

The recently published report of the Swedish Save the Children organization states that 159 Palestinian children 16 years of age or younger were killed during the first two years of the intifadah by prohibited terrorist methods, including internationally-prohibited gas bombs, as reports by two United States and Belgian medical teams have proved. That figure now stands at 256. The same Swedish report states that during the same period between 50,000 and 63,000 Palestinian children were injured and required medical treatment. Twenty-five thousand children, some six years of age or younger, were beaten and their bones broken. Further, 675,000 Palestinian children in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were subject to curfews, with their attendant psychological and educational implications for everyday life.

Betselem, an Israeli human-rights organization, has reported that, out of 102 cases examined by them in which Palestinian children were killed, only one Israeli soldier was imprisoned – for a mere two months. That confirms the conclusions of the Swedish report, which shows the contempt of Israeli soldiers for the lives of our Palestinian children.

The Palestinian people expect the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities to put an end to the Israeli occupation and to begin forthwith to adopt the necessary measures to protect the lives of the children, women and men of our Palestinian people and their property under occupation, especially in the light of the Israeli Government's refusal to abide by any United Nations resolutions, such as Security Council resolutions 465 (1980) and 605 (1987), which condemn and deplore Israeli practices and crimes against the Palestinian people and call upon Israel scrupulously to abide forthwith by the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

The Israeli Government, not content with these crimes and this official organized terrorism against our people, has followed them up by bringing in new waves of Jewish immigrants from all parts of the world and by starting to settle them in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Holy Jerusalem, and other Arab territories in place of the Palestinian and Arab owners of those occupied lands, against whom Israel practices organized official terrorism and brutal oppression in order to drive them from their homeland and the homeland of their ancestors.

In addition, Israel has displaced Palestinian families. Within this very short period of the intifadah, more than 256 families have thus far been expelled from their homeland. Settling new immigrants in the quarters belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church and the assault on the Patriarch of Jerusalem and other priests are part and parcel of the policies practiced by the Israeli Government, policies which were preceded and followed by aggression against Islamic and Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land, places viewed as symbols of sanctity, love, peace and tolerance by Muslims and Christians throughout the world.

I have photographic and other evidence of the aggression against the Patriarch of Jerusalem; of the children, many of them nine years of age or younger, killed by Israel; of miscarriages caused by the use of poison gas, which is prohibited internationally. I shall leave these documents for the use of members of the Security Council.

In all it perpetrates and in its repressive, bloody actions and practices against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, Israel considers itself to be outside the bounds of international responsibility which apply to all States of the world. Indeed, Israel – which was established by a decision of the United Nations – is the only State which ignores and challenges United Nations resolutions and which does not commit itself to implement them.

Israel even refuses to deal with the international Organization when it requests it to carry out its decisions and resolutions. It has now become necessary for the international community to take a stand on this subject and for the Security Council, and especially its permanent member States, to shoulder their responsibility to maintain international peace and security, to implement international resolutions, to end the occupation and to protect the lives of the Palestinian children, women and men under Israeli occupation, in order to arrive at a just and permanent peaceful political solution to the conflict in the Middle East through convening the International Peace Conference on the Middle East, under the auspices of the United Nations.

At a time when the international community is determined to build a world based on co-operation, fruitful dialogue and democracy, when the atmosphere of international détente is being enhanced and when the peoples of the world are preparing to welcome the coming century by underscoring the values of freedom, democracy and human rights, Israel and its leaders insist on clinging to their defunct racist and terrorist policies. Our peaceful initiatives, together with our approach and our intifadah, represent a model that has been emulated and that has inspired many peoples struggling for freedom and democracy, peoples which have affirmed the harmony and congruence between the realities of our era and the direction of that model's principal course.

Members of the Council undoubtedly know that. on 13 December 1988 in this hospitable country, in the name of the Palestinian people, I presented to the General Assembly the Palestinian peace initiative adopted by the Palestine National Council in Algiers on 15 November 1988, which was based on international legitimacy and resolutions and which was adopted by the Arab summit conference in Casablanca in May 1989.

That initiative also received the support of the summit of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, the African summit and the conference of foreign ministers of Islamic countries, in addition to that of many States in Western and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, China, Japan and the Scandinavian and other countries. The Palestinian peace initiative found support inside Israeli society and daily increasing support among Israeli democratic and peace-loving forces. It also had a positive influence among Jewish groups in Europe and the United States of America.

Basing itself on Palestinian priorities and rights which are in harmony with international legitimacy, the PLO has shown itself to be totally responsive and responsible. We remain flexible; we continue to approach flexibly and sincerely all international peace initiatives adopted by the United Nations, as well as other proposals, including the five points of the United States Secretary of State Baker. We have also reacted positively to the 10 Egyptian points and to the United States proposals conveyed to us by Mr. Sten Andersen, the Swedish Foreign Minister, on 16 September 1989. The PLO is still committed to its declared peace initiative and is ready to participate in arriving at a political solution through which the Palestinian people will be enabled to realize its legitimate national rights, including the right to return, to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent State of its own on its Palestinian national soil, on the basis of international legality and United Nations resolutions.

Regrettably, those peace initiatives have met with rejection and stubbornness on the part of the Israeli Government, which has escalated its iron-fist policy in order to move further from the peace process in the Middle East, thereby defying all international resolutions relating to the conflict in the Middle East, primarily General Assembly resolution 176/43 of 15 December 1988 relative to the convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East. In addition, Israel has ignored and refused to implement Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

As for the city of Jerusalem and the Israeli decision to annex it and change its status, proclaiming it the capital of the State of Israel – which was unfortunately followed by a decision on Jerusalem by the United States Congress, encouraging Israel and its occupation, terrorism and crimes – Israel still refuses to carry out any international resolutions on the Holy City, including Security Council resolution 252 (1968) of 21 May 1968, General Assembly resolution 2253 (ES-V~ of 4 July 1967, which affirmed the inadmissibility of changing the status of the city of Jerusalem, Security Council resolution 476 (1980) of 30 June 1980, which declared null and void the measures taken by Israel to change the status of the city of Jerusalem, and Security Council resolution 478 (1980) of 20 August 1980 on the non-recognition of Israel's "basic law" on Jerusalem.

Israel continues to carry out the policy of settlement by expropriating the lands of the Palestinians, building Jewish settlements on those lands and changing the demographic nature of the occupied Palestinian territories, in defiance of Security Council resolution 452 (1979) of 20 July 1979, which stipulated that the Israeli occupation authorities should cease settlement operations in the occupied Arab territories, resolution 446 (1979) of 22 March 1979, which considered the Israeli practice of establishing settlements a serious obstruction to achieving peace, and resolution 465 (1980) of 1 March 1980, which called upon Israel to dismantle existing settlements and cease the construction and planning of settlements.

Recently Israel has exploited the conditions that have permitted opening the doors of immigration to Soviet Jews and Jews from Eastern European and other States, thereby transforming the right to emigrate into a political and colonial aim, as represented in forged immigration to Israel only, which deprives emigrants and those forged to emigrate of their right to choose their own destination. This constitutes a violation of the rights of those Jews. We would recall that the rights of any individual or people cease where the rights of other individuals or peoples – including the Palestinian people – begin.

Israel has endeavoured by all means to close all doors but one to Soviet Jewish emigration, keeping only Palestinian land open for them. Israel has been helped in that endeavour by decisions made and obstacles raised by some States, especially the United States and Australia, within the framework of a special understanding and a fundamental and dangerous distortion of the concept of the right of emigration as stipulated in the Helsinki accords, transforming it to achieve the aggressive political aim of preventing the Palestinian people from living in their homeland and depriving Palestinian refugees of the right to return in order to settle new immigrants in the homeland to which the original owners have a right.

It is necessary for me to point out most responsibly that the issue of Soviet Jewish emigration to Palestinian lands represents a danger to the whole region, not only to the occupied Palestinian lands themselves. The threat extends to neighbouring Arab States. Indeed, it has begun to threaten the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon' where bitter experience in the Middle East proves that Israel's greed and expansionist appetites know no limits.

I see it as my duty to point out that, most regrettably, the United States of America has given Israel unlimited support at all levels; this has encouraged Israel to continue its occupation and escalate its terrorist and barbaric practices against the Palestinian people, challenging the decisions of the international community and impeding all peace initiatives in the Middle East region, including the United States proposals themselves, quite apart from all other peace initiatives.

The United States, which raises the slogan of human rights, has totally neglected the Palestinians and their human rights and has ignored the comprehensive human and moral dimensions of the concept of human rights. This has encouraged Israel to persist in its barbaric practices against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories, where Lebanese villages and Palestinian refugee camps are exposed to Israeli air raids, destructive bombardment and, in the South, occupation.

In view of the dangers in the surrounding Middle East region that arise from the continued Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian lands and Israel's escalation of State-organized terrorism and the war of annihilation against our people, with aggressive and expansionist threats against many Arab States, especially Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, through Israel's continuous preparations for aggression and war, it is high time for the Council to shoulder its responsibility to implement United Nations resolutions relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict before it is too late. Through its practices, threats and war preparations, Israel is leading the entire region to a catastrophe whose danger is unprecedented in the light of the fact that the Middle East is among the regions where conventional, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are stockpiled, which raises the prospect of a catastrophe which will go beyond the borders of the Middle East region to threaten international peace and security.

The dimensions of the danger threatening the prospect of peace in the Middle East are now visible every day. They are beginning to manifest themselves in mass killings, in increased escalation, in the tense situation which is leading the area to the brink of war, and in Israel's insistence on continuing its occupation of Palestinian lands, which only a few days ago Shamir officially declared to be "liberated and inherited lands".

The Palestine Liberation Organization, which affirms its strategic commitment to peace, submits to the Security Council the following practical steps which will realize the international community's consensus, transforming its resolutions into practice and inspiring confidence and hope with respect to the Council's role and effectiveness in achieving world peace, security and justice.

Before outlining those steps, I should like to bring to the attention of the Council a document concerning "Greater Israel" as depicted on the 10-agora 0 in. The document was published in the Jewish Journal in the United States on 19 February 1989. That document speaks of "Greater Israel", which is depicted on Israeli currency, and the map comprises all of Israel, all of Lebanon, all of Jordan, half of Syria, two thirds of Iraq, one third of Saudi Arabia up to the holy city of Al-Madinah and half of Sinai. The document contains a detailed map, with "Greater Israel" marked in blue.

The first step would be the designation by the Secretary-General of a permanent special envoy to work full-time on the peace process and engage in the contacts necessary to secure a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Alternatively, the Secretary-General might himself undertake the duties of that mission.

The second step would be adoption by the Council of a resolution providing international protection to the Palestinian people to safeguard their lives, property and holy places in the occupied territories, under the flag of the United Nations and by means of international emergency forces, to supplement the United Nations observer force now stationed in Jerusalem, with the purpose of ending completely the Israeli occupation of our Palestinian land.

The third step is the adoption by the Council of a clear resolution – and the Council's assurance of its supervision and implementation – to stop settler immigration to the occupied Palestinian territories, a decision that will prevent completely the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements, military or civilian, in the occupied Palestinian lands, particularly in Arab Jerusalem, in implementation of the relevant international resolutions.

The fourth step would be for the Council to call the representatives of its permanent members to an immediate meeting to discuss the peace settlement and the peace process and to prepare for the convening of the International Peace Conference on the Middle East, in implementation of international resolutions.

The fifth step is to start to adopt the necessary arrangements and preparations for the imposition of sanctions on Israel in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations as a response to the crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and as a consequence of its breach and violatio,n of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 relative to the treatment of civilians in time of war, as well as for its refusal to implement the relevant international resolutions, for its deliberate defiance and its impeding of the peace process in the Middle East and, in particular, for its refusal to implement the Council's own decisions and resolutions.

The experience of the United Nations in imposing sanctions against South Africa has borne fruit in Namibia, where the heroic Namibian people have gained their independence through the New York Agreement, implemented under the auspices of the United Nations. It has also started to bear fruit for the people of South Africa, with the release of the militant hero Nelson Mandela and with the start of building peace and fulfilling the rights of the people of South Africa, far from racial discrimination and apartheid. In this context I should like to express our deep appreciation of the active and extremely important role of the Secretary-General, Mr. Perez de Cuellar.

Obligation and commitment to the human heritage and to the concepts of justice and righteousness to which that heritage has been dedicated require that the Council should decide to form an international investigation committee composed of members of the Council to investigate all the crimes against humanity that have been perpetrated by the Israeli Government against the Palestinian people.

While reaffirming that our choice of the path of peace is a genuine strategic alternative, we also affirm our right to continue our resistance and our self-defence until an end is put to the Israeli occupation. That is a sacred right guaranteed to us by the law of human rights, the Charter of the United Nations, international decisions and the will of the Palestinian people. The heroic people's intifadah against the Israeli occupation of our country will continue until we wrest our right to freedom and national independence on our national soil.

Our people are committed to the issue of peace and to the initiative that I announced in the name of the Palestinian people a year and half ago before the General Assembly. Our people are determined to attain their political, national and human rights like all other peoples in the world. We are determined to do so because we are an indivisible part of the community of nations and of human society, with which we have participated in carrying the torch of culture, for it was in our land that the three heavenly religions were formed, flourished and lived side by side in harmony.

It is high time that that people enjoyed security, peace and independence. We are not asking for the moon. We are not asking for the impossible. It is high time for our children to live as peacefully as other children of the peoples of the world, far from fear, destruction and death. It is high time to stop the spilling of the blood of our people and for our flag to be raised over their liberated soil. It is high time for us to realize our freedom and for the curtain to fall once and for all, for the last time and for ever, on the last racist, settler military occupation of Palestine, that holy land of our planet Earth.