November 1, 1991
REMARKS BY MR. FAROUK AL-SHARA,
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC
November 1, 1991
I wanted to read a statement which I had prepared to reply to the speech made by the head of the Israeli delegation which he made yesterday. But the head of the Israeli delegation, who has just left, paying no heed to this historic Conference and to the peace process, has taken a different course from the chief subject on whose basis the Conference is held, which is the achievement of just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in an area which has not known security, stability, and well-balanced development for long decades.
Yesterday some Western journalists said the Syrian speech was perhaps tough, and I told them it was not tough. Rather it gave facts and realities as they are, and I challenged some of them when I said I shall find it strange if the Israeli delegation can find one single paragraph to answer to. This challenge was not out of place, because I never accused Israel of anything that is not in it, and thus the head of the Israeli government could not reply to any word or expression by which I described the Israeli policy in our region.
Today, I find it necessary to make clear some facts because those, for us, for the co-sponsors of the Conference and for the international community, are very important points closely connected with the future, peace, security, and stability of the area and for the world security in general. Therefore, I would briefly say that the head of the Israeli government did not mention in his speech the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which in effect means that they are not on the course for which the Conference is convened. This also means a rejection of even the invitation issued by the co-sponsors, the United States and the Soviet Union, who said in the invitation that the Conference convenes on the basis of Resolutions 242 and 338. Naturally, he did not talk about the principle of "land for peace" because he openly said he does not want peace. He who analyzes his words will immediately come to the conclusion that he says if the Arab side comes to the Conference or to the talks to speak about land, we shall arrive at a dead end.
Naturally, I would not talk about the history which the head of the Israeli government yesterday used because it was a false and fabricated history that is not based on realities, nor does it rely on neutral world historians, particularly European and American historians who were sympathetic to Israel, as is well-known. He writes a special history as he sees it. For example, he says the Palestinian refugees left Palestine because the Arab governments asked them to. This is not true, and the Israeli delegation will not have one single document to confirm this. Second, if we take it for granted that those Palestinians left by order of governments at the time, why, then, doesn’t the head of the Israeli delegation who is talking about peace with empty words, ask them to go back to their lands. Arab governments now agree to this. They demand this.
The head of the Israeli delegation yesterday openly pointed out that Palestine is the only home land for all world Jews. He considered a Jew who lives in any other country in the world, however hospitable this country is – the United States, for instance, which is really hospitable to all Jews, and has treated them well, as the Arabs have treated them throughout their history – as an exiled Jew; diaspora. This means that a Jew in the United States is not an American citizen, having no allegiance to the United States, as the head of Israeli government claims. His allegiance would be to Israel, because there a Jew is only a resident whose aim is to go to Israel, notwithstanding everything that the States had offered him, support and backing inside the U.S. and on the international arena.
They want a Soviet Jewish citizen not to stay in the Soviet Union. I am confident that what he says does not express the truth. There are many honor able Jews in the Soviet Union and the United States and in Europe who declare allegiance to those homelands where they lived and grew up. Hence, one would easily conclude that the concentration on this point in itself is a real desire by the Israeli head of government to keep tension high not only in our region but all over the world as well, to keep the Jewish question alive in memory. He does not want the Jews to be equally treated. He always wants to see the Jews persecuted, and tortured, contrary to world facts now. When he talks, for instance, about Syrian Jews. Jews in Syria are subject to the law like any other Syrian citizen, be he Moslem or Christian. They know, the whole world knows, everybody who visited Syria knows, historians know, that a Syrian Jew lives in the same freedom and equality as any other Syrian citizen.
I shall briefly cite a paragraph of a report by a European parliamentary delegation who visited Syria only two months ago: Syria has an amazing religious freedom, for those who know little about Moslem Arab countries. What we saw astonished us. Religious freedom is perfect in Syria because the state considers itself secular, thus Judaism, Catholicism, Orthodoxism and Islam with all its sects express them selves in Syria and freely perform their religious duties. Of course, they distribute pamphlets through Israeli embassies in Europe to talk about persecution of Jews and drive people to demonstrate before Syrian embassies. No more than 20 or 50 persons carry false banners that Jews in Syria are persecuted, or they are hostages. Nonsense.
I would like to get to an important point because the subject of the Conference is peace.
The head of the Israeli delegation yesterday admitted that he would not return any part of the land, as I have just pointed out. Especially when he talked about the area for Palestinians, he indicated an area which is more than the area of mandated Palestine. This means he reaffirms occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, Golan. Anybody who looks carefully into this will find out the truth.
The Arabs are the only people who lived in Palestine over millennia of years. Even when the Jews came from the South through Sinai, the Palestinians were there in Palestine. I do not want to elaborate on this period.
I wonder if the head of the Israeli government says it is the right of every Jew to return to Pales tine after an absence of about two thousand years. Then how is it that a Palestinian whose absence is only forty years has no right to return? Which is more realistic? A Palestinian who still remembers his house, who may even have the key to his house, or talk about the return of Jews who were there two thousand years before. This is a difference between forty and four thousand years, which was discussed by the head of the Israeli government. He talked about freedom of worship. We all know, through the media, and Arab media, that they encourage Israeli extremists to destroy sacred places, the act of arson against the holy al-Aqsa Mosque, their attempt to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque and they claim they try those people.
Israeli control over Jerusalem is not a guarantee for any of the three religions, or for the city to remain holy with its spiritual places eternal, to remain the city of peace, so long as it is under Israeli control and under the feet of their soldiers.
I had wanted to concentrate on peace for which we have come. But before this let me show you an old picture of Shamir, when he was 32 years old. The caption says – it is distributed in Europe. At the time he was 32 years old. Height 165 cm., then the other details which you all know. This picture was distributed because he was wanted. He himself confessed he was a terrorist. He confessed he practiced terrorism and participated in murdering U.N. mediator Count Bernadotte in 1948, as far as I remember. He kills peace mediators and talks about Syria, Lebanon, terrorism. I cite another example: Israel in 1954 hijacked a Syrian civilian aeroplane, and downed a Libyan civilian aeroplane.
The problem is that I don’t have enough time to talk about Israel’s terrorist practices which needs volumes, not only a quarter of an hour. But I would like to briefly say that Israel hijacked a Syrian civilian aeroplane in 1954 with passengers on board between Cairo and Damascus. Israel downed a Libyan plane in 1973, as I remember, and killed over one hundred civilian passengers. Israel hijacked a Syrian plane six or seven years ago which was carrying a Syrian political delegation. Had Syria not hastened to file a complaint with the Security Council, the plane would not have been released.
Yesterday I gave our perception of terrorism and we believe he could not respond to any word in it. I don’t want to disturb you with more details. If anyone wants more, they can refer to it. He says the 1967 war was defensive. In their media they say the Arabs attacked Israel in 1967. They insult historians. I would like to say one final word. Regardless of who occupied, or who started the war in 1967, the text of the resolution is clear, Mr. President, that it prohibits the acquisition of other people’s land by war. This land must be returned.
Finally, and simply, Mr. President, we have come here for peace. We shall continue to work for peace out of our faith in this peace. We declare with confidence and resolution our determination to work for just and comprehensive peace that liberates the land, and guarantees rights and security for all parties. We would find it strange if the Israeli side declined to continue the bilateral talks or created excuses to prevent their continuation in Madrid.
I am sorry, Mr. President, I took a longer time but I have to clarify those facts.