The following question were delivered on March 25 2010 during the UNIS Press briefing on the Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People from 24-25 March 2010 at the United Nations office at Vienna. The speakers at the UNIS conference were Zahir Tanin, Ambassador of Afghanistan to the UN in New York, and Riyad Mansour, the Ambassador (Permanent Observer) of Palestine to the United Nations in New York, and head of the delegation of the committee. Mr. Maher Nasser, director of UNIS, was the conference moderator. The questions were directed to Ambassadors Tanin and Mansour. The conference was attended by some Journalists and the team of UNIS press office.
Israel was essentially created by the UN on Palestinian land. During the last 6 decades, the UN and the international community have given Israel everything, and tolerated from Israel every single abuse and transgression of international laws to which all other nations submit most of the time. As a result, Israel has become a problem not only for Palestinians, but it has become a problem for the international community , a bully which is now abusing and perverting the role of the UN in order to legitimize wars of aggression against perceived political opponents.
Question: In view of this, is it not time to change the attitude against them and start serious international discussions towards expelling Israel from the UN, or applying even stronger sanctions?
Response to my question from Ambassador Tanin:
“The United Nations has always been in the support of the Palestinians case, as we know from the resolutions from the General Assembly, the resolutions of the Security Council, the Palestinians plight has always been in the center of the focus of the United Nations. Of course, the history of how Israel was created is a long debate, as ambassador Mansur has mentioned, there are a window of opportunity for different sort of engagement of the United Nations, and there is more better understanding of the issue as we know after Gaza’s attack last year, and the UN has been engaged increasingly in issues that are vital for peace in the middle east and the Palestinian people in the future”. “click on the picture to make it bigger”
Ambassador Tanin added that “I think the UN is an embodiment of the collective will of the nations, the UN is not a separate power, so if we see how the UN is acting and working, we have to look into how the collective will is working. The collective will of 192 countries, collective will of legal small powers and all nations, so there is a wider argument among the members of the United Nations in supporting the cause of Palestine and also the creation of the Jewish State”.
Palestinian Ambassador Mansour said: “It is true that the maybe the UN can resort to practical measures in order to implement the many resolutions adopted in the Security Council and in the General Assembly because Israel is refusing to abide by each obligation under the chapter as a member of the UN in implementing these resolutions”. He added: “we can understand the frustrations of our people and their friends in seeing hundreds of resolutions adopted in the General Assembly and dozens adopted in the Security Council and they see Israel is not complying with many of these resolutions”.
“So that there is always is a ground for trying to push the UN and it’s institutions and it’s collective will in a direction of trying to deal with Israel not as business as usual. In this connection we are also telling our friends in Europe and you are also in Europe (meaning me) to speak to the governments in Europe including the government here (meaning Austria) where you are located. In each day say also the same things.”
Ambassador Mansour said: “In Europe there are decorations in the positions of the council of the foreign ministers, they always say the right things and they ask Israel to stop building settlements because they are illegal, they are asking them to stop doing what they are doing in Jerusalem because it is illegal and it is also very dangerous because they are pushing the envelop in the direction of the religious confrontation.
They are asking them to stop settlement activities, they are asking them remove the checkpoints, to open our institutions in east Jerusalem, and to lift the blockade against Gaza, but Israel is not listening. So therefore also with our friends in Europe who we met as a committee delegation in the foreign ministry and we spoke with as friends in a frank manner that these good words that you say are not sufficient, because Israel is not listening. You have to resort to practical measures that make Israel listen, and we can’t tell Europe what to do, they have many things that they can do.”
Ambassador Mansour gave examples how the European friends could deal with Israel in response to their ignorance to their demands: “For example, instead of upgrading the relationship with Israel while they are doing these things and not listening to you, may be you should not do that. Another example, Europe is importing goods from Israel, things that are made in the settlements. You should not import them. These are just examples of practical things that could be done and raising them with them, and for those who are as excited and eager like you could help us in this issue. You could help us in raising these issues with the government where you are and other governments of the Europeans countries.”
During the introductory session, the creation of a bank was mentioned, which would give credit to businesses in the West Bank.
Question: Is it not strange to first destroy the economy of the West Bank and then “help” these ruined people by submitting them to usury?
Who will benefit from this project: the businesses subject to usury, or a small clique in Ramallah and their jewish friends?
Response of Ambassador Mansour: “Our people live under occupation, and living under the occupation should not mean that we have to make their life more miserable so that they don’t have relationship with the occupation, because we have schools, we spend money in schools, we import things for schools, we do all these things through the processes with the occupying power. If we import things and equipment for schools for construction, building, for doing everything which that has to do in our daily life of our people including banks, we do it with coordination with the occupation.
For example if need to import a gallon of gasoline to Gaza to help our people to run the generator of electricity we coordinate with the occupying authority. Is this collaboration with the occupation, is it in the interest of our people or against our people to have gasoline to go to Gaza, to have electricity running, to run the hospitals, to look after our kids and to allow our people to be educated? So the fact that we live under the occupation, there are certain things that we are forced to deal with for the interest of our people.
Of course we are waiting for the day that the occupation will not be with us so that we will be in total control of everything related to our people. But in the meantime it is our responsibility, our duty to do everything possible to make life as reasonable as possible while we are living under the occupation. That is why we want to lift the siege, but siege from whom, we have six crossing points between Israel and Gaza. We want these to be open to allow trucks of construction material which come from Ashdod or from Haifa; this is where we import things, to go to Gaza so that we can construct Gaza.
Are we supposed not to do that, and to keep Gaza in the misery as it is? It is an irresponsible thing to do while we are struggling against the occupation, to end the occupation, to try to make the life of our people as reasonable as it could be, and that is within this contacts opening the bank for the benefits of our people and for economic development of our people under the occupation is a step in the right direction is not in the opposite.”
In response to a question by another attendant about when the conflict would end in Palestine, Ambassador Mansour said: “the conflict has already lasted longer than it should be, and that the Israeli occupation of Palestine was the longest occupation in contemporary history. He said that it was our collective responsibility to end the occupation as soon as possible and that the Palestinian Authority had declared that it should be ended within the span of two years from last August 2009. The plan to end the occupation by building the infrastructure of the State would lead to the birth of the State of Palestine, he said. The plan had been endorsed by the quartet of US, Russia, EU and UN in the declaration which they adopted in Moscow this month and there seemed to be collective consensus that it should be implemented.
Ambassador Mansour answered to the question about the best way to get Israel to end its occupation. He said that the international community should bring Israel into compliance. However, he said, if Israel was not going to listen to the international community which was demanding an end to the occupation, stopping settlements because they were illegal, withdrawing from the occupied territory, allowing the Palestinian State to be born, stop doing what they were doing in Jerusalem, lifting the blockade in Gaza, and allowing reconstruction in Gaza to begin, then other practical measures would need to be taken.
He added that Israel should not be allowed to be above international law. We would like to see Israel complying, but if they don’t then it would be the responsibility of all of us to resort to practical measures to force them to come into compliance and there was no other way around it.