UNGA President calls for sanctions against Israeli apartheid
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UNGA President calls for sanctions against Israeli apartheid

The following speeches were given on November 24 by Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Brockmann should be applauded for this speech, as he uses powerful content – including references to apartheid, American-imposed obstacles to peace, Israeli intimidation and last but not least, the BDS movement – that has not been heard yet at this level of UN diplomacy.

The fact that this statement was made by such a high level official at the General Assembly is an important step forward for Palestine. At the same time, however, it points to the serious flaw of the UN system, that the real power lies not in the decisions of the General Assembly, but in the hands of a few world powers in the Security Council. Thus, while Mr. Brockmann’s speech should certainly be seen as a sign of progress for Palestinian solidarity, the achievement of substantive success will only come when the UN system is reformed, and the executive body of the institution is truly representative of global sentiment.
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Full text of the speeches:

STATEMENT OF H.E. FATHER MIGUEL D’ESCOTO
BROCKMANN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS
GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY
OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINAN PEOPLE

UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK
24 NOVEMBER 2008

Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Excellencies,
Brothers and Sisters,

1. It is with mixed emotions that I join you today to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People at this event organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. As you know, Solidarity is a concept that is central to my work as the Assembly President. I want to thank the Committee for its dedicated efforts to rally our solidarity with the Palestinian people, pursuing the mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly.

2. Today we recall that, 61 years ago this month, the General Assembly adopted the historic resolution 181, calling for the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State. The State of Israel, founded a year later in 1948, now celebrates 60 years of its existence. Shamefully, there is still no Palestinian State to celebrate.

3. As I stated in my first address to the General Assembly last September, I believe that the failure to create a Palestinian State as promised is the single greatest failure in the history of the United Nations. It has been 60 years since some 800,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes and property, becoming refugees and an uprooted and marginalized people.

4. We cannot avoid the bitter irony that next month we mark the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the right to self- determination of these very same people. We are witness to decades of the terrible conditions endured throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, yet the promise – the right — of the Palestinian people to a homeland remains as elusive as ever.

5. As I speak here today, almost 1.5 millions Palestinians are enduring an unprecedented blockade of the Gaza Strip. All border crossings into Gaza are closed, blocking even the delivery of emergency humanitarian relief supplied by the United Nations. Lack of fuel is plunging the population into darkness and cold; basic medicines are running out; malnutrition is chronic and peoples’ coping mechanisms are being exhausted.

6. In solidarity, I urge the international community to raise its voice against this collective punishment of the people of Gaza. We must call for an end to this massive abuse of human rights. I call on Israel, the occupying Power, to allow humanitarian and other supplies to enter the Gaza Strip without delay.

7. The situation in the West Bank is often overshadowed by the humanitarian crisis facing Gaza. We cannot overlook, however, the existence of over 600 checkpoints and other obstacles to freedom of movement within the West Bank. We must denounce the resumption of house demolitions during the cold months and the unabated settlement expansion that is still being officially authorized. The unprecedented rise in violent attacks by settlers against the Palestinian population must also end. Although different, what is being done against the Palestinian people seems to me to be a version of the hideous policy of apartheid.

8. This untenable situation highlights the urgent need for the resumption of a genuine peace process that can yield tangible results in the foreseeable future. So far the endless negotiations between two very unequal partners have not borne fruit. What we need is a renewed sense of solidarity to inspire political will, courage and a broader perspective of the conflict. This should include the revival of the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.

9. The international community should spare no effort in assisting both Israelis and Palestinians to reach a solution that will fulfill the goal of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The United Nations has an ongoing responsibility to resolve the question of Palestine in all its aspects and in accordance with international law. Let us be sure that this not become a permanent responsibility.

10. The enmity between our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters is a bitter and self-perpetuating tragedy. We must find new ways to defuse this enmity, to enable both peoples to reassert their historic bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood. I urge the international community to defuse the political deadlock that cynically perpetuates this hatred, isolation and abuse. Our solidarity must prompt concrete action to realize those elusive rights that most of us can take for granted.

Thank you.

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STATEMENT OF H.E. FATHER MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY,

AT THE 57th PLENARY MEETING ON AGENDA ITEM 16,
THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE

UNITED NATIONS, NEW YORK
24 NOVEMBER 2008

Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to open this plenary session in which we take up the Question of Palestine. This morning, with heavy heart, we observed the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. I joined the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, H.E. Ambassador Paul Badji, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to voice our ongoing concern for the terrible situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and express our solidarity with this long-suffering People.

2. We heard the comprehensive report of the Chairman on the current situation of Palestinians living under occupation. As well, the Secretary- General summarized the complex initiatives that are being undertaken by the international community to move forward peace talks and the establishment of the Palestinian state.

3. I urged the international community to raise its voice against the collective punishment of the people of Gaza, a policy which we cannot tolerate. We demand an end to this massive abuse of human rights and call on Israel, the occupying Power, to allow humanitarian and other supplies to enter the Gaza Strip without delay.

4. I spoke this morning about apartheid and how Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories appear so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era, a continent away.

5. I believe it is very important that we in the United Nations use this term. We must not be afraid to call something what it is. It is the United Nations, after all, that passed the International Convention against the Crime of Apartheid, making clear to all the world that such practices of official discrimination must be outlawed wherever they occur.

6. We heard today from a representative of South African civil society. We know that all around the world, civil society organizations are working to defend Palestinian rights, and are trying to protect the Palestinian population that we, the United Nations, are failing to protect.

7. More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a nonviolent means of pressuring South Africa to end its violations.

8. Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations.

9. I have attended a great many meetings on the rights of the Palestinian People. I am amazed at how people continue to insist on patience while our Brothers and Sisters are being crucified.

10. Patience is a virtue in which I believe. But there is nothing virtuous about being patient with the suffering of others.

11. We must endeavour, with all our heart, to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian People.

12. I have great love for the Jewish People and this has been true all my life. I have never hesitated to condemn the crimes of the holocaust or any of the many abuses committed against our Jewish Brothers and Sisters.

13. However, their suffering does not give anyone the right to abuse others, especially those who historically have such deep and exemplary relations with the Jewish People.

14. Having said this, I would like to remind our Israeli Brothers and Sisters that even though they have the protective shield of the United States in the Security Council, no amount of arm twisting and intimidation will change the Security Council resolution 181, adopted 61 years ago, calling for the creation of two states.

15. Shamefully, there is no Palestinian state to celebrate today and the prospects are as distant as ever. All explanations notwithstanding, this central fact makes a mockery of the United Nations and gravely hurt its image and prestige. How can we continue like this?

16. I call upon our dear Brothers and Sisters at the decision-making level in our Host Country to end the policy that only retards justice in the Middle East.

17. The international community should spare no effort in assisting both Israelis and Palestinians to reach a solution that will fulfill the goal of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The United Nations has an ongoing responsibility to resolve the question of Palestine in all its aspects and in accordance with international law. Let us be sure that this not become a permanent responsibility.

18. The enmity between our Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters is a bitter and self-perpetuating tragedy. We must find new ways to defuse this enmity, to enable both peoples to reassert their historic bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood.

19. I urge the international community to defuse the political deadlock that cynically perpetuates this hatred, isolation and abuse. Our solidarity must prompt concrete action to realize those elusive rights that most of us can take for granted.

Thank you.

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