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Ambassador Munir Akram

The writer has served in the Pakistan Foreign Service for over 40 years. He was Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York; Permanent Representative to the UN and WTO in Geneva; Additional Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to the European Economic Community in Belgium and Luxembourg. E-mail: [email protected]

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Hilal English

Question of Palestine

January 2024

This article provides a historical overview of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tracing its roots from the League of Nations' involvement in 1922 to the contemporary crisis. It explores intricate issues such as Israeli settlements and structural violence. Additionally, it emphasizes Pakistan's steadfast support for the Palestinian cause, condemning Israel's actions and advocating for a two-state solution.



History/Background
In 1922, the League of Nations placed former Ottoman territories, including Palestine, under British administration. While other territories gained independence, Palestine faced challenges due to the incorporation of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 by the British Mandate, supporting a national home for Jewish people. The Mandate (1922-1947) saw significant Jewish immigration, mainly from Eastern Europe, leading to tensions with Arab demands for independence. In turn, the United Kingdom turned the Palestine problem over to the United Nations (UN) in 1947.
In November 1947, the UN adopted Resolution 181 and proposed the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Israel declared independence in 1948, leading to conflict with neighboring Arab nations. By 1949, Israel controlled a significant portion, while Jordan took the West Bank, and Egypt took the Gaza Strip. The 1967 War saw Israel occupy additional territories, causing a Palestinian exodus.
The UN resolutions in 1967 and 1973 formulated a just and lasting peace, emphasizing Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories. In 1979, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords, easing their conflict. However, the Palestinian question persisted.
In 1987, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza initiated the first intifada against the Israeli government. The 1993 Oslo-I Accords mediated the conflict, establishing a framework for Palestinian self-governance in those areas. This led to mutual recognition between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in 1993. The 1995 Oslo-II Accords expanded the agreement, requiring Israel to withdraw from 6 cities and 450 towns in the West Bank. Despite UN resolutions on Palestine since 1947-48, Israel has consistently disregarded them.


A key form of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory emanates from Israeli settlers who, with the Israeli military, have forcibly displaced Palestinians from their homes. The UN estimates that 670,000 Israeli citizens live in 130 illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The year 2023 set an all-time record for settlement construction in the West Bank.


Current Conflict and its Context
The 7th October Hamas attack on Israel was a response to years of Israeli occupation and suppression of the Palestinian people. The people of Gaza have lived for over 16 years under a blockade that the UN has called an illegal act of collective punishment. Over half of Gaza’s population lives below the poverty line and 80 percent depend on food aid to survive. Almost 50 percent of the population is severely food insecure. UN Special Rapporteurs have described the situation as apartheid. 
As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated, ‘The attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.’
According to the UN, Israeli forces had killed more Palestinians in the West Bank by September of this year than in any year since the UN began recording fatalities. Meanwhile, claims of regional stability, regional integration, and normalization between Israel and various Arab countries have dominated headlines in the Middle East. However, this narrative overlooks the various forms of violence that Palestinians continue to endure on a daily basis.
A key form of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory emanates from Israeli settlers who, with the Israeli military, have forcibly displaced Palestinians from their homes. The UN estimates that 670,000 Israeli citizens live in 130 illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The year 2023 set an all-time record for settlement construction in the West Bank. Referred to as settler colonialism by the UN Special Rapporteur, Francesca Albanese, settlers are able to take these lands because the Israeli military and Israeli political leaders, as well as the Israeli judiciary, support them.
The current Netanyahu-Ben Gvir coalition government was constituted with an explicit agreement to make West Bank settlement expansion a priority. Last year, the UN’s Special Coordinator, Tor Wennesland, argued that ‘Israel’s settlement expansion continues to fuel violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, further entrenching the occupation and undermining the right of Palestinians to self-determination and independent statehood’. 
UN Special Rapporteur Albanese found that ‘the occupied Palestinian territory had been transformed as a whole into a constantly surveyed open-air prison. The occupying power projected the Palestinians as a collective security threat, ultimately de-civilianizing them, and eroding their status as protected persons’. This structural violence is a central root cause of the continuing conflict.
In response to the killing of over 1,200 of its citizens on October 7, 2023, Israel's indiscriminate bombardments from air, land, and sea, along with intense ground operations across Gaza, have now continued for over two months. This relentless assault has resulted in the tragic loss of more than 20,000 civilian Palestinians, with 70 percent of them being women and children, and close to 50,000 others sustaining injuries. Palestinians are enduring these bombings without mercy or compunction, and their essential lifelines, including water, food, medicines, and fuel, have been severed. A staggering 85 percent of the population, amounting to 1.93 million people, has been internally displaced.
Even those who have been displaced cannot find refuge from Israeli bombs, and the violence is not confined solely to Gaza, as hundreds have been killed in the West Bank as well.
This use of overwhelming military force by Israel will not address the root causes of the conflict. It will exacerbate them. The international community should do everything in its power to bring about a ceasefire, facilitate the provision of sustainable humanitarian aid to all in need, and reinvigorate political processes in pursuit of a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Unfortunately, the UN Security Council has not been able to impose a ceasefire. The U.S.–Israel’s ally–has vetoed 2 Resolutions calling for a ceasefire. The UN General Assembly has adopted 2 Resolutions calling for a ceasefire, humanitarian supplies and no further displacement of the Palestinians. The Council must seek a political settlement in accordance with its own relevant resolutions. The settlement of the question of Palestine lies in the implementation of the two-state solution, which enjoys international consensus. But the establishment of an independent State of Palestine must ensure that it enjoys full sovereignty and is based on the 1967 border and with East Jerusalem as its capital. 
To achieve this goal, a more broad-based and effective international peace conference, led and organized by the UN, should be held as soon as possible to formulate a concrete timetable and roadmap for the implementation of the two-state solution and facilitate a comprehensive, just, and lasting solution to the question of Palestine. Any arrangement on the future of Gaza must respect the will and independent choice of the Palestinian people, and must not be imposed upon them.
Pakistan’s Position
Pakistan has a long history of supporting the Palestinian cause. The Quaid-e-Azam wrote to the then UN Secretary-General, opposing the plan to partition Palestine and create the Jewish State. Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Sir Zafarullah Khan, strongly opposed the partition resolution in the UN General Assembly. This support is rooted in a strong sense of solidarity with Palestine, the emerging Islamic nation, and particularly the Palestinians, who have borne the consequences of the European Holocaust against the Jews. Moreover, the central principle involved in the Palestinian cause—the right to self-determination—is the same principle on which Pakistan bases its stance on Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan has consistently supported Palestinian statehood and has advocated for the establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state based on internationally recognized borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Pakistan strongly and unequivocally condemns the indiscriminate use of force by Israel. Israel’s attacks on civilians, civilian objects and infrastructure, blockading of water, food, and fuel, as well as the forced displacement of people within the occupied territory, are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and may amount to the crime of genocide.
Pakistan also rejects Israel’s portrayal of its aggressive actions as anti-terrorism measures and its relentless bombing of Gaza as an exercise of self-defense. The root cause of the crisis lies in Israel’s prolonged occupation and denial of Palestinians’ inalienable right to self-determination. Israel’s murderous campaign against the occupied people of Palestine, struggling for their freedom, cannot be justified under the guise of self-defense. Israel must comply with the provisions of the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly by implementing an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and allowing the flow of sufficient, sustained, and unimpeded humanitarian assistance into Gaza to preserve lives and prevent further suffering of innocent Palestinians.
In addition, in the UN General Assembly, Pakistan has also demanded:
▪ One, an establishment of a special tribunal and accountability mechanism to investigate Israel’s atrocity crimes, identify and prosecute those responsible for war crimes committed, and to provide reparations for damage, loss or injury arising from these crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces.
▪ Two, deployment of an international protection force or mechanism to protect Palestinian civilians, especially women and children, in Gaza and the West Bank, from further attacks and oppression by the occupation forces and extremist colonialist settlers.
▪ Three, revival and reinvigoration of the Middle East peace process. The Middle East Quartet should revive under the auspices of the Secretary-General. It should be expanded to include participation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and China to establish a durable solution based on the internationally agreed two-state solution with a secure, viable, contiguous and sovereign state of Palestine on the basis of the pre-June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
Pakistan will support the convening of an International Conference to launch a revived peace process. We will support the admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations.


The writer is presently serving as the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations and President of the Economic and Social Council. During his long career, he has served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to various countries, different intergovernmental organizations and the UN including Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, after serving as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. 
E-mail: [email protected]
 

 

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Ambassador Munir Akram

The writer has served in the Pakistan Foreign Service for over 40 years. He was Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York; Permanent Representative to the UN and WTO in Geneva; Additional Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to the European Economic Community in Belgium and Luxembourg. E-mail: [email protected]

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