Statement by Mr Aziz Pahad, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
for the Closing Session United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine,
10 May 2007, Pretoria
H.E. Mr Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee
on the Exercise of the Inalienable Right of the Palestinian People
Camilleri, Rapporteur of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Right
of the Palestinian People
Mr Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary for Political
Affairs, Representative of the UNSG
Delegates from abroad and
"Heed not the blind eye, the echoing
ear, not yet the tongue, but bring to this great debate the test of reason"
- Greek philosopher, 5th century
Over the last two days, delegates at this
important conference have tried to bring reason and truth to the burning issue
of Palestinian self determination. We have heard moving testimony and convincing
arguments. We have re-affirmed that the Palestinian inalienable right to self
determination and statehood represents the steadfastness, hopes and dreams of
3.95 million Palestinians living in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. It
represents the challenges of identity and belonging of the 1.1 million Palestinians
living in the State of Israel. It represents the longing of 2.8 million Palestinians
in Jordan, 1.6 million in other Arab states and the .56 million in other countries.
It represents the yearning for the normality that only comes from being able to
call your home - home.
To achieve this vision the Palestinian people need
South Africa was privileged in July 2004 to co-host with the
United Nations (UN) the UN African Meeting on the Question of Palestine. As we,
once again, yesterday, welcomed delegates to our country for this Conference "African
Solidarity with the Palestinian people for the achievement of its inalienable
rights" we realize that we do so in a world very different from the one in
2004. We are acutely conscious of the threat to regional and international peace
and security because of humanity's continuing failure to resolve the Palestinian
demand for self-determination.
Speakers have reminded us yesterday that
for nearly 60 years now the Palestinian people have been a stateless people and
for 40 years, this year, the Palestinian people have been suffering under the
oppressive and belligerent Israeli military occupation of their land.
speakers also noted that the Palestinians are facing a humanitarian tragedy. Poverty
has now spread to 26% of the population, compared to 17% in 2005. Unemployment
has reached 30% of the population in the first quarter of 2007 and 70% of Palestinians
living in Gaza are now dependent on food aid.
The fact that today we are
still discussing the issue of Palestinian self-determination and the continuing
aggression and deprivation is an indictment against all of us.
are faced with a complex situation with several inter-related dimensions, consisting
primarily of security issues, geo-strategic interests; control of oil resources,
policies determined by concepts such as "clash of civilisations" and
"axis of evil", the strategic objective to carve out a "New Middle
East" and a militaristic approach to combat terrorism.
For many in
Israel, the United States (US) and some European countries the Palestinian and
Lebanese fronts are part of a war against a unified "axis of terror and hate".
A neo-con reflected this thinking when he said that "Israel and the
West are dealing with radical, messianic Islam, which extends its arms like an
octopus, creating an axis from Tehran to Gaza by way of Damascus and Beirut. And
that the only fitting response in this is a military one in order to create a
new strategic balance between us and radical Islam".
A logical outcome
of such thinking, is an uncritical support and protection of Israel, which is
seen as a powerful ally in the fight against "militant Islam," and the
"axis of evil" and a powerful gendarme to protect "Western values
and interests" in the region.
These powerful forces refuse to accept
that the Palestinian struggle for a viable state is legitimate and is the key
issue that needs to be resolved if there is to be long-term peace and stability
in the entire region.
It is unacceptable that 60 years
after the founding of Israel and 40 years after the 1967 war the reality today
is that the Palestinians control only 23% of their original land and even this
is being threatened by increasing settlements, the "Apartheid" Wall
and the threat by Israel to disengage unilaterally. What can we do to assist the
Palestinians to achieve their self-determination? In the end we must be guided
by the Palestinians.
As we confront this challenge we are acutely conscious,
as you have discussed, that the UN Security Council has been unable to find a
solution. Israel is the only country in the world that rejects all Resolutions
with impunity and the US has consistently used its veto to prevent the UNSC from
taking any effective action against Israel.
Conference has also discussed
the reality that the Road Map to achieve a two state solution, driven by the Quartet,
[UN, EU, USA, Russia] has not made any significant progress. As you have discussed,
the Quartet is an imposed grouping that is not transparent and is not accountable
to the UN Security Council, the body responsible for regional and international
peace and security.
How do we respond to this reality?
How do we also
respond to the reality that since the Oslo Agreement, powerful forces have systematically
sought regime change of the Palestinian Authority?
This illegal policy intensified
after the electoral victory of Hamas in January 2006. These elections, pronounced
by all international observers - including the South African observers - as free
and fair, soon came to haunt Palestinians, against all reason. The victory of
a democratically elected Hamas Government became another pretext for a renewed
offensive against the Palestinian people and its institutions.
It is ironic
that one of the most successful areas of Palestinian reform has been the establishment
of a robust electoral process, managed by an independent electoral commission
to ensure free and fair elections. The former head of the International Monetary
Fund in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Karim Nashashibi, noted that it is this
institutional success, demonstrated by the Hamas election victory, due to its
undesirable outcome in the perception of the US and major donors, that has lead
to the institutional degradation of all the reform areas.
Reaction of some
Despite proclaimed policies, the "New Middle East
policy" which is premised on the need for democracy many major countries
have refused to accept the democratic will of the Palestinian people.
non-recognition of a democratically elected government, the sanctions and the
withholding of Palestinian money by the Israelis is creating a humanitarian catastrophe.
was a general expectation that after the Mecca Agreement and the formation of
the Government of National Unity reason would prevail.
- Agreement to respect
all past agreements to seek a negotiated solution.
- · To intensify
efforts to ensure that the cease-fire is consolidated.
- Reactions of many
countries continue to be negative.
presented us with an opportunity to break through the curtain of silence, ignorance
and distortions of the realities in the Middle East. This conference has provided
an opportunity to share information prevent fatigue and on the basis of real facts
plan concrete solidarity actions in support of a negotiated solution leading to
a two state solution.
Despite all distortions the Palestinians at this conference
have once again declared their commitment to seek a negotiated solution based
on UN Resolutions and the Arab initiative of 2002.
We must expose and reject
the Israeli claims that they have no negotiating partner in the Palestinian camp;
the reality is that the Palestinians have no negotiating partner in the Israeli
The Israeli government continues to seek a military solution. They
refuse to accept that violence has never been successful in fighting and destroying
the will of the people that are committed to fight for their self-determination
irrespective of the penalty they must pay.
The vast majority of Israeli's
support a negotiated solution, however they have been confused and immobilized
because of their security concerns. We must not ignore this reality. It is therefore
important for the Palestinian government to intensify its efforts to stop the
rocket attacks against Israeli targets.
situation in the Middle East demands the concerted attention and action of both
the countries in the region and the rest of the world including Africa. In this
regard we must welcome and support the decision of the Arab League Summit in Riyadh
in March 2007 that reiterated adherence to the Arab Peace Plan of 2002. The latter
offers Israel full normalization of relations with the Arab League's 22 countries
in exchange for full withdrawal from Arab territories occupied in 1967 and a negotiated
resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem.
We must intensify our campaigns
to convince the Israeli people and government to respond constructively and creatively
to the Arab initiative. A historic moment for peace has arrived and the Israelis
must grab it, in the interest of the Israeli people and regional and international
peace and stability.
This conference has also once again confirmed that
it is not possible to solve any problem in the Middle East if the legitimate inalienable
rights of the Palestinians is not only accepted but made a reality. As you discussed,
the policies and actions of some powerful governments demand that we build a mass
international solidarity movement across the spectrum of society involving governments,
non-governments, trade unions, political parties, religious leaders, business
communities in support of the Palestinian people.
Minister Pahad outlined
our government's position re African solidarity. Let me elaborate on some of the
Such a powerful solidarity movement should seek to pressure governments
to change their policies and to act decisively to find a genuine two state solution.
We must intensify all our activities to defeat the diabolical scheme that
is being created by the building of the "Apartheid" Wall.
must campaign to stop schemes to change the facts on the ground.
campaign to stop the building of any new settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.
We must campaign to end extra-judicial killings, collective punishment,
and systematic destruction of Palestinian infrastructure.
Given the reality
that governments and civil society have become victims of a very calculated and
orchestrated campaign even in the South African media, to demonize the Palestinian
leadership we must make clear both at government and civil society level that
it is the Palestinians, like any other people, who must choose their own leaders,
and we must campaign against any form of unconstitutional regime change imposed
from outside or attempted from within.
Many recommendations have been made
at this conference, which are important. We must ensure that they are implemented.
As I said earlier, we must ask the question consistently - how long will
the international community allow the Israeli government to continue to ignore
all UN Resolutions, and violate international law with such impunity.
reality is through the system of the UN any effective action to the Security Council
has been consistently vetoed by the US. This of course raises the question - how
do we intensify our efforts to reform the whole UN system so that we can effectively
deal with the present imbalance of forces and the misuse of the veto power to
protect countries that systematically continue to violate international law.
Conference must proclaim Africa's commitment to strengthen international solidarity
in aid of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to independence and
statehood. This must be manifested in concrete actions of solidarity.
immediate tasks are
- Recognition of Palestinian Government of Unity.
We look forward to visits to South Africa and Africa of the President, the Prime
Minister, other ministers and officials of the government of National Unity.
of all sanctions.
- Israel's compliance with UN Resolutions and the judgment
of the International Court of Justice on the Wall.
- Unconditional, constructive
and creative Israeli response to the Arab initiative.
developments in the region, including the stalemate in the peace process, are
threatening regional and international peace and security.
Allow me to
again quote what President Mbeki said because I believe it raises the fundamental
question of the imbalance of power and the need for a fundamentally transformed
multilateral system to take up its responsibilities.
President Mbeki: "
question can not longer be avoided - is it now time that the United Nations, genuinely
representing all nations assumes its rightful position and leads a global process
to address all the inter-connected challenges facing the peoples of the Middle
East and West Asia? None of us is entitled to succumb to a destructive paralysis
by resigning ourselves to the expectation that the sister peoples of the Middle
East are ineluctably condemned to be consumed by an unstoppable conflagration,
foretold by current events as an impending and modern frightening apocalypse,
as a result of which mere anarchy would be loosed upon the world."
me conclude with quoting a paragraph from ex-President Carter's recent book:
will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing
to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with the wishes
for a majority of its own citizens - honour its own previous commitments - by
accepting its legal borders. All Arab neighbours must pledge to honour Israel's
right to live in peace under these conditions. The United States is squandering
international prestige and goodwill and intensifying global anti-American terrorism
by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and colonisation
of Palestinian territories.
It will be a tragedy - for the Israelis, the
Palestinians, and the world - if peace is rejected and a system of oppression,
apartheid, and sustained violence is permitted to prevail."
and tomorrow's NGO meeting must mobilize governments and peoples throughout the
world to respond effectively to President Mbeki and ex-President Carter's observations,
if we want to prevent a tragedy.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
10 May 2007