Statement by Israel Ambassador Ya’acov Levy at the 5th Special Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights

Geneva, October 17, 2000

Mr. Chairman, Madam High Commissioner,

A few months ago we met together, Palestinians and Israelis, at Camp David. It was quite clear that there was a chance to reach a framework agreement for Permanent Status with the Palestinians. Our delegation came to the summit with far-reaching proposals never before presented to the Palestinians by any Israeli Prime Minister. We have been waiting for Mr. Arafat’s response since Camp David and for some reciprocal elements of flexibility. Neither was forthcoming. By launching this continuous wave of violence under the flimsiest of pretexts, Mr. Arafat took upon himself the responsibility of plunging the entire region into a period of instability with unpredictable consequences. Throughout the two weeks of violence, we have yet to hear a clear and unequivocal call from Mr. Arafat himself, or even one of his deputies, to end the violence. We could have seen it on Palestinian television. We could have heard it on Palestinian airwaves. We could have read it in the Palestinian press. But we did not. Why? Who has an interest in the continuation of the violence? Who has an interest in meetings of this nature that would distract us from the major goal at hand, that of stopping the violence and restarting negotiations?

If the Palestinian leadership really had an interest in putting an end to the violence and the casualties, they could have done so.

If they hadn’t emptied the schools of students and sent them to the streets to stand in front of the demonstrators, there would have been fewer casualties. Instead, in Gaza, groups of innocent Palestinian civilians are being sent deliberately to the few isolated outposts that Israel holds in the area, along with armed Palestinian policemen and Tanzim, an illegal, armed paramilitary organisation established by Mr. Arafat three years ago, who shoot at the Israeli forces from amongst them.

If the Imans delivering the sermons to the Mosques during Friday prayers hadn’t called on the Muslim faithful to "eradicate the Jews from Palestine", thus provoking assaults on Jewish worshippers, there would have been fewer casualties on both sides.

If the Palestinian Authority radio and television had not bombarded the airwaves day after day with calls of hatred, calling to rise up against Israel, youngsters would not have gone out into the street to throw stones and molotov cocktails, and as a result, would not have been wounded and sometimes, very regrettably, killed.

Mr. Chairperson,

I cannot think of a worse time for this special session to take place. At this point, what is needed is a supreme diplomatic effort to take us beyond the current violence and bloodshed, to stabilise the situation, to end hostilities and thereafter, hopefully, restart the diplomatic process. The UN Secretary General, visiting Israel and the region for the last eleven days, has been working ceaselessly with us, the Palestinians and other parties, to that end. The President of the United States and the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and major European nations are all striving for that outcome. Indeed, a summit of all relevant leaders finally began in Egypt yesterday with Israeli and Palestinian participation. This should be the focus of diplomacy, of the United Nations and of all parties interested in stabilising the situation and moving ahead. Any effort, debate, or discussion that could conceivably, or even remotely, inflame the situation is counterproductive. This gathering, the speeches we have heard, and presumably, the speeches we will be hearing, could be counterproductive at best, distracting us from our major efforts of ending the violence, restoring calm and moving ahead with the diplomatic process, and at worst provide more inflammatory rhetoric which could spill over into the area. That is why Israel was opposed to this session taking place.

Mr. Chairperson,

Let there be no doubt, we are not faced with peaceful demonstrators, but rather with a co-ordinated escalation of violent confrontations throughout the West Bank and Gaza using live fire emanating from within rioting crowds, an ominous development that is now a commonplace occurrence. Let me stress that in all cases, Israeli security personnel returned fire only when absolutely necessary and only when faced with an imminent threat to life and limb. Israeli forces excercised all possible restraint in their efforts to restore calm and security. We sincerely regret any fatalities.

It is the Palestinian Authority that has caused this distressing escalation of events, not only owing to its failure to take action to halt them, but also because of its incitement of the population through inflammatory rhetoric and calls to violence. Furthermore, Palestinian Security Forces and Paramilitary groups, such as the Fatah’s Tanzim, have taken a leading role in the events, including the use of live ammunition against Israelis.

In instigating and continuing the riots, Palestinians have violated eight major tenets of the agreements signed between them and Israel, first in the Oslo Agreement in 1993 and then the Interim Agreement in September 1995.

First and foremost of these tenets is the obligation to renounce violence and terror and to take any measures necessary to prevent acts of violence and terror against Israel. This obligation can be found in the exchange of letters between Mr. Arafat himself and the late Prime Minister Rabin of September 9, 1993. In this exchange of letters, Arafat committed himself and the PLO to the Middle East peace process and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. This undertaking was reinforced in the Interim Agreement, signed by the Palestinians on September 28, 1995, and states that the Palestinian police will act systematically against all expressions of violence and terror and that both sides will act to ensure immediate, efficient and effective handling of any incident involving a threat or act of terrorism. The obligation was also reinforced in the Hebron Protocol, and Note for the Record, signed between Israel and the Palestinians, on January 15, 1997, and in the Wye Memorandum signed on October 23, 1998. The Memorandum states for example that the Palestinian side agrees to take all measures to prevent acts of terrorism and hostilities directed against the Israeli side. This obligation was once more reinforced in the Sharm El Sheikh Memorandum of September 4, 1999, as well as in the trilateral statement between Israel, the Palestinians and the United States on July 25, 2000 at the conclusion of the Camp David Summit, in which commitments were made to maintain an environment for negotiations free from pressure, intimidation and threats of violence.

The second obligation violated by the Palestinians in starting and continuing the riots is the obligation to resolve all outstanding issues through bilateral negotiations. This commitment appears in the exchange of letters between Israel and the PLO and was cemented in the Declaration of Principles signed September 13, 1993, in the Interim Agreement, in the Wye Memorandum, in the Sharm El Sheikh Memorandum and in the trilateral statements. Even though no agreement was reached recently at Camp David, resorting to violence clearly violates the obligation undertaken by the Palestinians. This obligation to resolve all outstanding issues through bilateral negotiations has been violated in a gross manner by the Palestinians. In fact, the request for this session, as well as appeals to the General Assembly, UNESCO and etc., violate this obligation.

The third obligation violated by the Palestinian Authority was the duty to refrain from and act against all forms of incitement which includes speeches by Palestinian leadership, repeated broadcasts on Palestinian controlled television and radio sermons by religious leaders. This commitment was undertaken in the Interim Agreement, which states that Israel and the Palestinians will abstain from incitement including hostile propaganda and will take legal measures to prevent such incitement. It was reinforced in the Note for the Record, of the Hebron Agreement, where the Palestinians undertook to prevent incitement and hostile propaganda as well as in the Wye River Memorandum.

Incitement against Israel reached a new crescendo last Friday, just four days ago, when the speaker for the mosque in Gaza, broadcast live on Palestinian television, called upon Palestinians to slaughter the Jews. Messages of incitement could be heard in the Palestinian media. For example, on the Voice of Palestine Radio on October 9: "Today we say to the Israelis, leave this land, you have no place amongst us. This is time for you to leave". Does this square with co-existence, or with peaceful intentions?

At last Friday’s (14 October) sermon on Palestinian television the following incitement could be heard: "The Jewish terrorists should be slaughtered and killed, as Allah saidyou should have no pity in your heart for the Jewsfight them wherever you are, kill the Jews!" On Palestinian television, also on October 9: "we will not leave you alone until you go away. This is the day of the Palestinian Jihad".

Let me treat you to another quote, as early as October 2nd of Marwan Bargouti, Secretary-General of the Fatah Movement in the West Bank, in an interview to Arwatan television (a local station in the Ramallah area): "We must take revenge. We must kill Israelis! We must kill Israelis! We have guns. They will be directed towards the occupation."

Are any of these statements consistent with the Palestinians’ obligation to refrain from incitement?

The fourth obligation violated by the Palestinians is the duty to apprehend, prosecute and detain terrorists. The Palestinian Authority has not lived up to its obligations, not only on this specific occasion, but also on numerous occasions in the past. The number of those released has reached 120 convicted terrorists who were in Palestinian prisons, including those responsible for suicide bombings in which dozens of Israelis were killed. For example, it seems that Mohammed Deef, the head of Azzedine Al Kassam, has been released. Admem Mohammed Arroll, who had prepared the charges for the suicide bombings of February/March 1996 in which 59 Israeli civilians were killed on buses in Jerusalem and in Ashkelon and outside the Dizengoff Centre in Tel Aviv, has also been released. I could read to you a list of those terrorists released by the Palestinian Authority as responsible for the wounding and killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians. This duty to apprehend and prosecute terrorists, can again be found in the exchange of letters of September 9, 1993, in the Interim Agreement, in the Note of the Record, in the Wye Memorandum and in the Sharm El Sheikh Memorandum.

The fifth obligation violated by the Palestinian Authority is the duty to confiscate illegal arms. These arms not only were not confiscated, but also were used against us in the recent riots by Palestinian police and security services. This agreement to confiscate illegal arms can be found in the interim agreement, the Note for the Record, the Wye Memorandum as well as the Sharm El Sheikh Memorandum.

The sixth obligation violated by Palestinian Authority is the duty to continuously maintain joint security co-operation mechanisms with Israel. This duty, undertaken in the Wye Memorandum, was violated when the Palestinians broke off working relations with their Israeli counterparts during the recent riots.

The seventh obligation violated by the Palestinian Authority is the duty to ensure that holy sites are respected and protected. This obligation can be found in the Interim Agreement. During recent events, the Tomb of Joseph, a 4,000 year old Jewish holy site, was returned to the Palestinians during the riots in order to remove the point of contention under explicit promises that they would protect it. It was destroyed and burned to the ground only hours later. An ancient Jewish Synagogue in Jericho was also burned down a few days ago. Months after the summit at Camp David, in which the Palestinian Authority laid claim to holy sites in Jerusalem, it proved its inability or unwillingness to protect ancient Jewish holy places in Jericho and Nablus.

The eighth obligation violated by the Palestinians is the duty to ensure that no armed forces other than the Palestinian police and the IDF are established or operate in the West Bank or Gaza. This was to ensure public order and safety. This obligation again is undertaken in the Interim Agreement. The free reign of the Tanzim, and their role in the recent riots, is another clear violation of Palestinian obligations.

These violations raise for Israelis a fundamental question – how can we continue to trust a partner who consistently violates agreements he signs? Re-establishing trust must be the issue rather than supporting Palestinian attempts to besmirch Israel in every international forum.

Some of the speakers here based some of their comments on the scenes viewed on television screens. They never ponder the question of whether one sees reality on a television screen, or perhaps a sliver of reality with a major part of it concealed from the viewer? Let me give you two cases in point. One is a Belgian television network crew which attempted to film the demonstrations but was suddenly surrounded by militants from the Fatah Movements carrying molotov cocktails These young militants threatened the film crew and dragged them to the police station where they were forced to erase the film in question. The Palestinian police calmed the situation, but the images on the film were censured. The network, (RTL-TVI) stated in its report on the RTL-TVI network that this incident was proof that the confrontations were not spontaneous, that the orders were coming from the Palestinian hierarchy. The second episode was the filming of the lynching of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah last week. The moment word got out of the lynching, the Palestinian security forces began a systematic attempt to round up, confiscate all footage, still photographs and videos, of the brutal acts. They went from reporter to reporter, from cameraman to cameraman and violently seized any film they could lay their hands on. A case in point was a Polish television crew who filmed the lynching and, without even understanding why, was surrounded by several members of the Palestinian security forces. They were roughed up, beaten and their film was taken away from them. All they could do was report back to their television station about the happenings, but obviously you couldn’t see it on television. Another example is that of a British photographer who had arrived in Ramallah to the sight of a big crowd of Palestinians shouting and running down the hill from the police station. They were dragging along the street the dead body of a man like a cat toying with a mouse. When he reached for his camera to try to take a photograph of the scene, he was punched in the face by a Palestinian while another shouted "no picture, no picture!". In the reporter’s own words regarding the crowd of Palestinians, "there was such hatred, such unbelievable hatred and anger distorting their faces".

The only network that the Palestinian Security forces missed was the Italian network Rai. Apparently their filming of the event went unnoticed and they were able to broadcast the gruesome pictures on Italian television. Incidentally, what did the Voice of Palestine have to say about that lynching? The Voice of Palestine claimed in its noon broadcast, that "two Israelis were arrested having come to Ramallah for terrorist purposes. Before being executed, the Israelis confessed to their crimes". These are but two examples of Palestinian attempts to manipulate the coverage of these tragic events.

In conclusion Mr. Chairperson,

Israel still believes that it is possible and necessary to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict. In order to do so, there must be clear-cut calls from the Palestinian authority for an end to the violence. There must be no violations of obligations undertaken in the agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians. Only then we can once more sit down at the negotiating table and move the peace process forward.

 Statement by Israel Ambassador Ya-acov Levy at the 5th Special Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights-17-Oct-2000
 Statement by Israel Ambassador Ya-acov Levy at the 5th Special Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights-17-Oct-2000
Outbreak of Violence in Jerusalem and the Territories – Sept/Oct 2000