Israeli rights group criticizes 'oppression' of Palestinians
October 18 at 8:59 PM
UNITED NATIONS â" The head of Israelâs leading human rights group strongly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuâs government during a contentious U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday for what he called its âsupremacy and oppressionâ of the Palestinians.
Israelâs U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon responded, accusing Hagai El-Ad, director of BâTselem, of staging âa circusâ in the council and then in Hebrew telling him: âShame on you! You are a collaborator!â
That drew a rebuke from Britainâs U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce who complained that council members could not understand Danonâs remarks in Hebrew, which is not one of the U.N.âs official languages. AP obtained a translation after the council meeting.
BâTselem opposes Israeli settlements in the West Bank and has documented abuses committed by Israeli soldiers, spark ing accusations of treason by Israeli hardliners. The rights group has also angered Israeli leaders because it accepts funding from foreign donors including the European Commission and because it airs its criticism in international venues like the United Nations.
Netanyahu told a recent meeting with Christian media outlets that he defined BâTselem as âa disgrace.â
El-Ad was invited to address the U.N.âs most powerful body by Bolivia, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, and he used his speech to decry âthe indignity, the outrage, the pain of the people denied human rights for more than 50 years.â
He described how Israel is fragmenting Palestinian land, separating Gaza from the West Bank, walling off east Jerusalem which the Palestinians want as their future capital, and how Israeli courts legalize demolitions of Palestinian homes and the relocation of people.
The Israeli government is âquite expert at constructing this fac ade of legality which has been very successful at allowing us not to have to deal with any international consequences,â El-Ad said. And this has enabled Israel to continue âoppressing millions while it somehow is still being considered a democracy.â
He said ongoing efforts to legislate against Israeli human rights organizations ânow go hand-in-hand with the routine in which opposition to the occupation is being equated with treason.â
âSo to president Netanyahu I say this: You will never silence us, nor the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who reject a present founded on supremacy and oppression and stand for a future built on equality, freedom and human rights,â El-Ad said.
El-Ad urged the world to âlet Israel know that it will no longer stand idly by, that it will take action against the continued dismantling of the Palestinian people.â
Israelâs Danon said BâTselem was invited by Bolivia, âa country with a terrible human rights r ecord to defame our strong democracy â" but it actually had the opposite effectâ and proved âthe strength of Israelâs vibrant democracy.â
âI challenge you all, all of you, to find a Palestinian or a Bolivian who could dare defame his government at the Security Council,â Danon said. âAt best he might be thrown in jail but he would more likely end up dead.â
Danon then accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inspiring a ârampant culture of hateâ during his 13 years in office and âenabling an imminent warâ between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel.
âFar from a peace partner, Mahmoud Abbas is the obstacle for peace,â he said.
Boliviaâs deputy U.N. Ambassador Veronica Cordova Soria, who presided over the meeting, had a message for El-Ad when she spoke.
âOn behalf of this council I want to apologize for the way he was mistreated today,â she told members. âWeâre not here to discuss Boliviaâs human rights .â
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