Statement by Ambassador Mathu Joyini, the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the United Nations Security Council Video Teleconference Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestine Question, 16 May 2021

Mr President, we thank the People’s Republic of China for convening this emergency meeting on the escalation of violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

South Africa strongly condemns the continuing escalation of attacks by Israel on Palestinians in Gaza and East Jerusalem. These actions are totally unjust and shameful, particularly the targeting of the most vulnerable section of the Palestinian community: civilians, including children, women and the elderly. The resulting casualties, loss of livelihood, ensuing hostilities and surge in intercommunal violence engulfing the occupied Palestinian Territories bears the sole responsibility of the occupying power, Israel.

We express our condolences to the families of all that have been injured or have lost their lives.

Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestinians including on civilian infrastructure, which violates UN resolutions, including resolutions of the Security Council, justifies an urgent call for the intervention of the international community. These actions should be addressed by the International Criminal Court, a Court set up by the international community to address crimes against humanity. This Council has in the past not hesitated to refer crimes of this nature to the ICC and should not hesitate to do so again in this case. Failure to do so will fuel the perception of double standards.

The continued illegal settlement activity of Israel, including the planned evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrar and Silwan neighbourhoods must be condemned by this Council.

South Africa is also appalled by the violence by vigilante-style groups and mobs on Palestinians as well as the violation of religious sites. As Secretary-General Guterres has stated, leaders have a “responsibility to curb inflammatory rhetoric and calm the rising tensions”.

Mr President,

South Africa remains unequivocally committed to working towards a situation where the fundamental human rights and freedoms of all the people on both sides of the green line are promoted and respected and where all live free from violence, occupation and oppression based on race, religion or any other status. South Africa remains committed to reviving a political process that would see the realisation of these rights and values.

Any peace plan should reject attempts to restrict Palestinians to balkanised territories that are devoid of sovereignty, territorial contiguity and economic viability that would be similar to the Bantustans under Apartheid South Africa. A lasting solution must be premised on a just settlement with just laws that are rights-based and that facilitates equality and equity for all who have a right to live in the territories of Israel and Palestine. This includes sovereign equality between States.

The recent developments require the urgent attention and appropriate response of the Security Council. The Security Council must call for an immediate cessation of all attacks by the occupying power, Israel on civilians including children and that Israel should also not impose any conditionalities for negotiations towards a ceasefire agreement.

Mr President,

In conclusion, South Africa is of the view that if the UN Security Council is unable or unwilling to act, this matter must be referred to the General Assembly for consideration. This will ensure that the United Nations would not shirk its responsibility to maintain international peace and security.

I thank you.


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