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Are UN envoys allowed to monitor Israeli violations or just Hezbollah’s?

February 6, 2019 at 3:48 pm

Israeli forces hold down a Palestinian man in Ramallah, West Bank on 28 August 2018 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

It is very nice to see the delegation of the UN ambassadors touring the Israeli-Lebanese borders early week to follow up closely on Israeli efforts to fight the alleged Hezbollah tunnels. It is a fantastic moment when you see the international diplomats, who live and work far from the field of the Israeli operations, having firsthand information about the issues that they will or might make decisions about on an international level.

Therefore, it was a very clever move when the Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon lobbied the UN ambassadors and organised a trip for them to tour the alleged tunnels. While the Israeli military machine was working, Danon could feed the Israeli propaganda to the international diplomats. “We say clearly that Hezbollah has established its own state in south Lebanon, a state that advances terror operations against Israel. On the day we move to defend ourselves and the UN will want to condemn us, the ambassadors standing here will understand the reality,” Ynet News reported Danon saying.

This way, Danon could evoke the sympathy of the ambassadors, who completely accepted his narrative. All the officials saw was a hole in the ground and heavy machinery to inject concrete inside it; Danon described it as an “attack tunnel”.

Anyone who lives and works far away does not recognise all of these hostile activities, the South Sudan Ambassador Akuei Bona Malwal said, according to Ynet News: “For those of us who work in New York and hear all sorts of things, the best way is to come and see and feel exactly what is happening. We came to Israel to see the challenges and how they are being handled.” While the Ambassador for Panama Meliton Arrocha Ruiz said: “We will pass on what we saw.”

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But the conflict in the region is not taking place on the Israeli-Lebanese border, but in every inch of occupied Palestine. Can the UN ambassadors carry out tours to see the daily violations against Palestinians and the suffering inflicting on them?

Can the UN ambassadors visit the historical Palestinian city of Tiberias in Israel and see how the Israeli occupation has been preventing the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel from performing prayers at Al-Bahr Mosque since 1948? Can they visit the mosque and see what is happening there and report what they see to the UN? Can they visit dozens of mosques which have been turned into bars, nightclubs or museums in a complete disrespect to their religious status?

I am asking the UN ambassadors, who described Israel as “thriving, open and democratic”, if its government is ready to let them tour the Palestinian farms which were torn into pieces by the Israeli Separation Wall in the occupied West Bank, the illegal Israeli settlements and the daily Israeli detention of Palestinians and demolition of their homes and lands?

Are these diplomats able to visit the Gaza Strip, which has been suffering under a 12-year-old Israeli siege, and meet the 8,515 cancer patients who are facing slow death due to the Israeli restrictions on the entry of their medicines or the queues of patients who urgently need to have surgery but are unable because of the shortage of medical supplies? Can they visit Gaza and see how many thousands of homes Israel has demolished, visit empty homes whose owners were killed by Israel and see how many schools, hospitals, mosques and water and sewage infrastructure were destroyed?

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If the UN ambassadors even considered visiting the occupied Palestinian territories, they would have been prevented from doing so by the “thriving, open and democratic” state. Just a couple of month ago, the Israeli occupation government prevented a delegation of MEPs visiting the occupied territories in order to monitor the humanitarian situation caused by the Israeli blockade, assess the destruction in the area following the armed conflicts, evaluate reconstruction efforts and to visit a number of development projects funded by the European Union. The official news website of the European parliament said: “The MEPs were prevented from entering the poverty-stricken Gaza Strip by the Israeli authorities. Israel has repeatedly denied the delegation access to visit the Strip since 2011.” How would these UN ambassadors describe the select manner through which the “thriving, open and democratic” state operates?

What is the benefit of the UN ambassadors’ tour? Israel does not respect the international body or any of its branches. In the wake of the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2008-09, the UN sent a fact-finding mission to examine possible Israeli and Palestinian war crimes, but Israel did not cooperate with it. In a statement, the Israeli foreign ministry accused the mission of being bias.

However, the mission found that the Israeli offensive on Gaza was “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.” What has the UN done to ensure that justice was achieved?

Finally I ask why did the UN envoys not stand up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he addressed them and said the UN resolutions against his occupation state were “absurd”? Their silence is proof that they are tools of Israel’s propaganda.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.