- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

A U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution endorsing a Palestinian right of resistance against what it calls "mass killings" and human rights violations by Israel has divided Western nations.

The text of the resolution, approved Monday, "contains formulations that might be interpreted as an endorsement of violence. There is no condemnation of terrorism whatsoever," German Ambassador Walter Lewalter complained before the resolution was passed in Geneva.

Forty members of the 52-nation commission approved the resolution, which contains 15 clauses condemning or expressing concern at various aspects of Israel's military operations in the West Bank.

It also affirms "the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to resist the Israeli occupation." The words "by all available means" which could be taken as an endorsement of suicide bombings were deleted before the resolution was adopted.

The resolution divided the European Union, which normally votes as a bloc. Six of the nine EU members on the commission Austria, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden approved the resolution. Germany and Britain rejected the resolution while Italy abstained.

Canada, the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland also opposed the resolution. The United States lost its seat on the commission last year, and could not vote.

One European official, speaking in Washington on the condition of anonymity, defended the language in the resolution, saying that "armed struggle" was not the same as terrorism.

"The resolution endorses armed struggle as a legitimate means to obtain statehood for Palestine. There is a difference between terrorism and armed struggle," he said.

Noting that the majority of the EU nations on the commission supported the resolution, the official said that drawing a distinction between terrorism and armed struggle "is a mainstream European position."

Palestinian radicals consider suicide bombings, which target Israeli civilians in pizza parlors, shopping malls, buses and family celebrations, as a legitimate weapon of resistance.

Austria, which signed the document, did so noting that it "cannot subscribe to all the formulations contained in the resolution."

While approving the resolution, Austria's delegation issued a statement objecting to certain phrases that condemned the Israeli occupation as "an offense against humanity."

It rejected the use of the word "Judaization" to describe Israel's policies in Jerusalem. And it rejected the resolution's call for an end to "acts of mass killing."

Germany, which has placed some sanctions on Israel in protest of its incursion into Palestinian territory, nevertheless voted against the resolution.

The resolution, sponsored by Arab nations and introduced by Pakistani Ambassador Manir Akram, is important because it imparts international legitimacy to the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation.

Cuba, which is expected to be "condemned" during this gathering for its human rights record, voted to approve the resolution. It was also approved by China, which managed to escape international condemnation this year.

The resolution speaks of "the war launched by the Israeli army against Palestinian towns and camps, which has resulted so far in the death of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including women and children."

But it makes no mention of the Palestinian suicide bombings that have killed dozens of Israeli civilians. A draft document listed 1,200 "martyrs" since the start of the intifada in September 2000. The word "martyrs" was changed to "killed" before final adoption.

An estimated 468 Israelis and 1,500 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the Palestinian uprising 18 months ago.

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