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Remarks by ASG Andrew Gilmour about Palestinian children at the UNGA Fourth Committee meeting, New York, 13 November 2019

Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights,
74th session of the General Assembly, Fourth Committee, Item 51

Remarks made in response to a question from the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine about Palestinian children.

Both the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have repeatedly expressed concern over the unacceptable impact of the conflict, and indeed the occupation, on Palestinian children.

During this reporting period, as I mentioned, 48 Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli security forces, which is the highest number since 2014, when 500 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli fire.

Should Palestinian children be encouraged to put themselves in harms’ way? No – of course not.

Should Palestinian rockets be fired against Israeli population centres that contain children? Absolutely not. And we condemn both actions.

But I don’t believe that any of those actions could possibly justify the frequent targeting by snipers who know exactly what they are doing and are aiming with immense accuracy – sometimes to kill, more often to injure but with life-changing injuries, including loss of sight and amputation of limbs – thousands of Palestinian children and on a far too frequent basis.

And whether it’s across the Gaza Fence shooting stone-throwing children, whose stones fall way short of any Israeli target, or the harassing, threatening, beating, shooting or imprisoning of hundreds of Palestinian children in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Taking all that into account, it is impossible, in a way, to avoid thinking that if the aim of such actions was to make absolutely certain that the next generation of Palestinians would grow up profoundly radicalized, and full of hatred for the people carrying out these actions, then one would think that the best way to turn that aim into reality would be to treat Palestinian families – adults and children – exactly the way they are being treated now. And we know that because it is captured on video, almost every single day.

Mr. Chair, would you allow me to finish on a slightly personal note? I joined the UN 30 years ago this week, and I have been following the issue we’ve been talking about today closely all that time. Indeed, I first visited the West Bank and Gaza and Israel in 1983, and Israel is a country I have always liked and admired, though not the occupation, or their denial.

But when I first went there in 1983, the occupation was 16 years old. And that already seemed like a lifetime of oppression for its inhabitants.

It is now, as we all know, 52 years old – ever deepening, and it appears unending, unrelenting, unremitting, unconscionable.

Taken as a whole, it is a massive injustice and a systematic example of discrimination and humiliation. I think it represents a shame to the occupiers and indeed to us all. And it’s a driver of violent extremism around the world, as many courageous Israelis are the first to recognize, by the way.

Last year, you will recall, distinguished delegates, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the UDHR. And when you read that magnificent document in the context of the Israeli occupation, one is struck by the extent and the comprehensiveness with which almost every human right enshrined in that document – civil and political, economic, social and cultural – is constantly, systematically violated.

Thank you.