His Excellency Mr. Sergey Lavrov
Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations
President of the UN Security Council
Dear Mr. President and other Member State representatives:
As Non-Governmental Organizations with longstanding policy and program commitments to world peace and conflict resolution in the Middle East, we are gravely concerned about the current Middle East crisis. We fear that even more serious violence and suffering may lie ahead, with extremely dangerous implications for international peace and security.
A group of us wrote a letter to the President of the Security Council on August 23, 2001 urging action by the Council to deploy observers to monitor compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law standards. We write again today with an even greater sense of urgency.
We mourn the suffering and we grieve at violent acts on both sides of this conflict. Seeking a resolution that best assures security for all involved, we are compelled to point out that the present situation results directly from almost thirty-five years of occupation. The occupation can be ended only by full withdrawal of Israel from all the territories occupied by force in 1967, as called for by Security Council Resolution 242.
For almost thirty-five years, the Council has been unable to take forceful and effective action to end this occupation, and to end the illegal building of settlements. This has caused growing disappointment in the international community and steadily weakened the Councilís own authority to promote international peace and security.
For a long time, the international community has been witness to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli occupation army in the Palestinian territories. A group of Israeli reservists, including many officers, has written a powerful statement to describe the illegal acts that they are routinely ordered to commit, such as interdiction of food supplies and medical treatment, demolishing of residential.
homes, extrajudicial killings, open fire upon unarmed civilians, and the regular confiscation of Palestinian land for the building of settlements. In recent days, the violations by Israeli occupation forces have grown considerably more serious.
The occupation has also given rise to growing Palestinian violence, including suicide bombings against innocent Israeli citizens, resulting in many tragic deaths and injuries.
Such violence directed against Israeli citizens, while abhorrent, does not justify the occupation which gives rise to such acts nor the misguided incursions and assaults now underway in response to them.
Though the violence is not symmetrical in the two cases, it is nonetheless in violation of basic international rights on both sides and cause for deepening fear, anger, and hatred throughout the region that can only make peace more difficult to achieve.
We welcome efforts by the Secretary General to promote a cease-fire and to explore immediate steps towards a resolution, based on two sovereign states, enjoying full recognition and peaceful relations with their neighbors. We are optimistic about a future on this basis and we applaud constructive initiatives of Council delegations, including efforts to establish an international observer force. The United Nations must now assume responsibility as the primary agency for the resolution of this conflict.
But time is short! The Council knows how to act forcefully and effectively and to make its will felt in other circumstances. When will the Council act - in the interest of Israelis, Palestinians and the whole international community - to enforce an end to the occupation, as its own resolutions require?
James A. Paul
Global Policy Forum
Phon van den Biesen
Clarence J. Dias
Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa-Matalavea (Faga)
International Peace Bureau
SM Mohamed Idris
Rev. John L. McCullough
Rev. John H. Thomas