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Statement by the Permanent Representative of South Africa, H.E. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, in his Capacity as Chairman of the Co-Ordinating Bureau to the Resumed Meeting of the Tenth Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on the Item "Illegal Israeli Actions in the Occupied East Jerusalem and the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory", 7 April 2002

Mr President,

We come before the General Assembly in response to the deadlock in the Security Council on how to deal with the incursions into Palestinian territory by the Israeli army. Consequently, it is my honour, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, to introduce a draft resolution on Palestine on how the General Assembly can respond to the tragic situation in the Middle East.

The Security Council, which according to Article 24 of the UN Charter, has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, did not take the necessary action on the question of Palestine. Even more troubling is that recently, when the United Nations Secretary-General decided to send a fact-finding mission to the Jenin refugee camp to investigate the events that occurred as a result of an invasion by the Israeli army, the Israeli Government prevented the fact-finding mission from entering Palestine. To this day the Security Council has yet to officially react to this Israeli rejection.

In addition, the Israeli Government has refused to co-operate with the United Nations Commission for Human Rights fact-finding team, led by UNCHR High Commissioner Mary Robinson. Israel has also not given effect to the 5th December Final Declaration of the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The General Assembly must now stand against Israelís defiance of international humanitarian law and human rights. The intransigence of the Israeli State is beginning to erode the credibility and legitimate standing of the United Nations as a whole. Israel seems to have developed a culture of acting with impunity when it comes to the United Nations. The message that must emanate from this Assembly must be that no individual Member of the United Nations can be treated differently from the rest.

Mr. President,

The Security Council has passed a number of important resolutions on Palestine. Two of these resolutions, 1402 and 1403, call for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territory without delay. However, Israel has yet to withdraw its forces from Palestine. Instead, the Israeli army has invaded more Palestinian towns. Resolution 1405 welcomed the Secretary-Generalís initiative to send a fact-finding mission to investigate the events in Jenin. But after many days of prevarication and obstruction, Israel eventually forced the Secretary-General to disband his high-profile fact-finding team. The problem is that the Security Council still does not seem to know what to do when the Israeli Government chooses to ignore the Security Council's authority.

To people throughout the world it makes little difference whether the Security Council has met virtually everyday on Palestine or whether the Security Council authorised, mandated or merely welcomed the deployment of the fact-finding team. The point is that the Security Council unanimously agreed that it is in the best interest of both parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians, and indeed the entire international community, that the truth behind the events in Jenin be established. The accusations, suspicions and controversy behind what actually happened in Jenin have not died down, nor are they likely to do so. As the Secretary-General said in his letter to the President of the Security Council on the disbanding of the Jenin fact-finding team dated 1 May 2002, "I regret being unable to provide the information requested by the Council in resolution 1405, and especially that the long shadow cast by recent events in the Jenin refugee camp will remain in the absence of such a fact-finding exercise".

Through its own actions, the Israeli Government has led us to the perception that the truth is something that they would wish to hide. But as we all know, the truth will ultimately prevail.

Mr. President,

The people of Palestine look to the General Assembly as their last recourse. Every Member State has an obligation to take a stand on the crisis in the Middle East. This is no time for moral ambivalence and double standards. The time has come to allow the wider international community to articulate its views and to send a clear and unambiguous message to the Government of Israel that international law and human rights are non-negotiable. This resolution before you seeks to do precisely that. We wish to leave the Government of Israel in no doubt that its recent military incursions far exceeded the boundaries of the right to self-defence.

Furthermore, we want it to be known that Israelís actions cannot be justified on the grounds of counter-terrorism. Combating terrorism does not license any State to disregard international laws and humanitarian norms. There can be no valid comparison drawn between the fight against international terrorism and fighting against the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people to end foreign occupation.

Mr. President,

The resolution before you gives all Member States an opportunity to be on record on the situation in the Middle East. Besides condemning the Israeli army for brutal assaults on Palestinian cities, it points out that the refusal by Israel, the occupying Power to co-operate with the Secretary-General's fact-finding team sent to the Jenin refugee camp is a violation of Security Council resolution 1405. The resolution requests the Secretary-General to present a report drawing upon the available resources and information on the recent events that took place in Jenin and other Palestinian cities.

The resolution demands that Israel cease all hindrances and obstacles to the work of humanitarian organisations and the United Nations agencies in Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East.

Mr. President,

Our presence in this General Assembly today is testament to our belief that there can still be a peaceful resolution in the Middle East even though the situation has become very intractable. We believe that there can be no solution for peace in Palestine that will not include President Arafat, the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people. It is with that belief and spirit that we call on Members of this Assembly to give their resounding support to the resolution before us and send a clear message that the United Nations is ready to take a stand on the issue of Palestine.

Thank you.

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