WE are meeting here today, as we do every month to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine. Unfortunately, there is very little progress in resolving this conflict despite the continued and necessary focus on this conflict that has spanned over seven decades.
Month after month we have heard of continued settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, we have heard of the seizure and demolitions of Palestinian land, we have heard of the continued violations of the rights of the Palestinian people and the rejection of the internationally recognised parameters for direct talks between the parties towards long term-peace and security for both Israel and Palestine.
South Africa, once again, reiterates our full support for a two-State solution with the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state, existing side-by-side and in peace with Israel, within internationally recognised borders, based on those of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in line with all relevant UN resolutions, international law and internationally agreed parameters.
There has been much discussion, reporting and condemnation, rightly so, on Israel’s threat to illegally annex parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. Any such action would be, as has been stated here and in many other fora, unequivocally illegal and have no standing under international law. We, therefore, call on all members of the Security Council and the wider international community to be united in its condemnation of any such illegal actions and to commit to take measures to ensure that actions to deprive the Palestinian people of their land, heritage and culture, does not become a reality.
Briefing after briefing, report after report have all stated that Israel has and continues to violate international law, including scores of resolutions of this Council since 1947 and hundreds of resolutions in the larger, representative General Assembly.
However, unlike in the case of other matters on this Council’s agenda, no action has been taken to hold the perpetrators of these documented violations to account. No action has been taken to bring justice to Palestinians whose homes, properties, olive groves, water sources have been illegally seized, flattened and demolished. No action has been taken to ensure that Palestinians have equal access to the human, economic, social and cultural rights that have been guaranteed to all of us as citizens of the world.
On 18 July, the international community commemorated Nelson Mandela International Day in celebration of what would have been President Mandela’s one hundred and second birthday. On that day, the Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres delivered the 18th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture under the theme “Tackling Inequality: A new Social Contract for a New Era”. In this context, we should reflect on the vast inequalities of those living under illegal occupation.
The Secretary-General stated in his lecture that “Multiple inequalities intersect and reinforce each other across the generations. The lives and expectations of millions of people are largely determined by their circumstances at birth”. This is especially true of millions of Palestinian people born and forced to live under Israel’s illegal occupation of their rightful lands and territory.
The historic and reinforcing inequalities regarding economic opportunities, social services particularly education and health care, access to justice and safety, freedom of movement amongst others, between Israel and Palestine are stark and have been laid bare due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By continuing to refuse to take action against Israel’s violations and illegal actions, the Security Council is allowing these inequalities to continue, and in most cases, grow to unacceptable levels. We should not be complicit in allowing these inequalities to undermine and erode the human rights of the Palestinian people.
South Africa supports the UN Secretary-General’s plan to convene direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine without preconditions. We are all ready and willing to offer a helping hand. South Africa also supports President Abbas’ call for an international conference on the Palestinian question.
I take this opportunity in the days following Nelson Mandela International Day to call on the international community to make every effort, take every action to ensure that a child born in Palestine and a child born in Israel, have an equal opportunity to a safe, prosperous and fulfilling life, where walls do not separate friends and neighbours and all have a right to peace.
I close Mr President, with the words of President Mandela, encouraging all of us to work towards achieving, and I quote “… a society which recognises that all people are born equal, with each entitled in equal measure to life, liberty, prosperity, human rights and good governance”.
- This is an edited speech by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Open Video Teleconference Meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine.