Statement by Ambassador Xolisa Mabhongo, Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Open Debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Question of Palestine, Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Let me begin by thanking Ms Di Carlo for her briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine.

Mr President,

In recent weeks, there have been worrying reports of an increase of evictions, confiscations and demolitions of Palestinian property, in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Homes and structures in Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem are being torn down and settlement activity continues throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.

Since 2009 over 6,100 Palestinian structures have been demolished displacing over 9,400 people. Since 2009, no action has been taken to address these injustices.

South Africa is particularly alarmed at the continuing excavation of land beneath the Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, whose population is predominantly Palestinian.

Such actions by the Israeli Government cannot be tolerated. It is the responsibility of this Council, as part of its duty to maintain international peace and security to condemn these actions and call on Israel to cease such actions with immediate effect. Israel’s persistent violations of international law and resolutions cannot transpire without comment or action from the Council. This Council must uphold its UN Charter-mandated responsibilities and act.

Mr President,

Nelson Mandela stood unambiguously for a two-state solution in accordance with international law. International law is derived, inter alia, from the decisions of the UNSC and International Courts.  In tracing South Africa’s history and locating it in an interconnected world Nelson Mandela said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.

Nelson Mandela was a friend of children and youth.  In this context we wish to use this opportunity to bring focus on the plight of the youth in Palestine and the impact of the occupation on the lives of a new generation.

Palestinian youth comprise approximately 27% of the total Palestinian population. Demographic trends indicate that, in the future, youth will constitute an ever-increasing proportion of Palestinian society. As a result of the longstanding occupation by the state of Israel, the daily reality facing the youth of Palestine is one of oppression, violence, and deprivation.

Military checkpoints and the illegal separation wall have resulted in limited trade between Palestine and other countries, particularly within the region, which has reduced Palestinian employment opportunities and limited the movement of both people and goods in and out of the West Bank and Gaza. All of which have detrimental impacts on both the social and economic welfare and future of the youth.

As a result of this alarming situation and driven by desperation, an increasing number of young Palestinians are retreating from political involvement. At the same time the Palestinian youth have positioned themselves at the forefront of the ongoing Great March of Return where they have staged regular non-violent protests along the Gaza border, even whilst bearing the brunt of a violent and disproportionate Israeli response that has led to the death of more than 200 unarmed demonstrators.

These non-violent activities prove that the Palestinian youth want to reclaim their legitimate aspirations in a considered and thoughtful manner. They demonstrate their ability to engage in peaceful activities in expressing their needs and hopes. 

We should harness this opportunity to become the partners of the Palestinian youth and to acknowledge the role that they can play as agents of change in resolving the crisis in their lands.

In this regard, we must also acknowledge the important role that UNWRA plays in the lives of all Palestinians and particularly the youth. South Africa welcomes the recent pledges made at the June 2019 pledging conference in of support UNRWA and we reaffirm that this humanitarian support creates the conditions that contribute to easing the dire conditions of the Palestinian people.

Children in the region, be they Palestinian, Israeli, Christian, Muslim or Jewish; all have the right to live in peace and security, alongside one another.

Mr President,

In conclusion, as we mourn the untimely passing of the Director-General of the IAEA, Mr Yukiya Amano, we praise his steadfast commitment to the implementation of the JCPOA. The JCPOA stands as a comprehensive international agreement that adds much value to international peace and security. It is a vital agreement that enhances transparency and, as we have seen through successive reports of the IAEA, also improves confidence in the Iranian nuclear programme.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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