The UN General Assembly held a special session on Friday to present the annual report of the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to all member states. The report widely and clearly condemned the many Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
The UNHRC condemned Israel for building the Separation Wall across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, which was deemed illegal by an International Court of Justice ruling issued in 2004. It reaffirmed “the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force” and expressed “deep concern at the fragmentation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, through settlement activities and other measures.”
Adding its “grave concern” at Israel’s “serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the UNHRC also said that it was “gravely concerned that long-standing impunity for international law violations has allowed for the recurrence of grave violations without consequence.”
Particular condemnation was reserved for the “continuing and negative consequences of the conflicts in and around the Gaza Strip, including all casualties, particularly among Palestinian civilians, including children, and ongoing violations of international law.” The council called for “full respect for international humanitarian and human rights law and for the principles of legality, distinction, precaution and proportionality.”
All of this drove Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, to stand on the podium of the UN General Assembly and express his anger at the report. Instead of addressing the issues raised, he tried to divert the world’s attention by saying that the UNHRC has “attacked and condemned Israel in 95 resolutions compared to 142 resolutions against the rest of the world.” Reasonable people would conclude that this actually served to highlight its violations and the degree of Israel’s contempt for international law, but not Erdan. As he tore a copy into pieces, he claimed that the report was “distorted and one-sided” and its place “is in the dustbin of anti-Semitism.” Allegations of “anti-Semitism” are, of course, resorted to by Israeli officials and supporters whenever the facts cannot be challenged.
How accurate is Erdan’s claim that the UNHRC report is full of lies and an “attack” against Israel? Can anyone really deny that Israel commits crimes against the Palestinians on a daily basis? And that the self-declared “Jewish state” is allowed to act with impunity by the international community, which empowers it to continue its violations of human rights and international law?The UNHRC is not the first body to condemn Israeli violations, including the wanton killing of Palestinian civilians, including children. Human Rights Watch, for example, looked into three Israeli attacks targeting the Palestinians “in violation of the laws of war that killed 62 civilians and injured dozens more” during the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip between 10 and 21 May this year.
HRW pointed out that one of the Israeli attacks killed eight Palestinian civilians, including six children, and wounded 18 others during the May offensive. The organisation found that, in order to justify its attack, Israel adopted unclear and contradictory narratives. “On 11 May,” said HRW, “the Israeli news website Ynet reported that the Israeli military had said that six children in Gaza had been killed by ‘failed launches’ by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
However, it added, “On 16 May the Israeli military published on social media a poster featuring men they said were Palestinian ‘activists’ whom Israeli forces had killed in the Gaza Strip since 10 May. These included ‘Mohammed Ali Mohammed Nusseir’, one of the men killed in the strike. The poster did not say when and where they had died.”
Human Rights Watch continued: “The same day, an article by the Israeli news website Walla reported that the Israeli military said that it had killed eight ‘activists’ from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including Nusseir, again without saying when and where they had been killed.”
The issue is not only the premeditated killing of Palestinian civilians, but also the production of false narratives to justify the brutal attacks carried out by the Israeli occupation forces.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), during its military offensive on Gaza in May, Israel killed 261 Palestinians, including 40 women and 16 elderly people, as well as 67 children. Erdan knows this very well. He also knows that the UNHRC does not target Israel to the exclusion of any other country; that the facts speak for themselves; and that Israel is an entity running a brutal military occupation under which Palestinian lives have no value.
Erdan criticised the UNHRC for including representatives of “dictatorships and oppressive” regimes. “How can you sleep at night when the worst human rights violators are the supposed defenders of human rights?” he asked.
Again, this was simply an attempt to divert attention from his country’s human rights violations. Israel is making every effort to normalise relations with some of these “dictatorships and oppressive” regimes in the Arab world. He didn’t mention this in his latest tirade at the UN.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt are among the worst human rights violators in the Middle East — indeed, in the world — and yet Israel has had a peace treaty with Egypt since the 1970s and normalised relations with the UAE and Bahrain last year. The country which Erdan represents on the world stage is clearly not averse to dictatorships and oppressive regimes. Moreover, it is doing all it can to turn its secret links with Saudi Arabia — a state which imprisons and tortures political opponents, and murdered a Washington Post columnist in 2018 — into an official and very open relationship. Indeed, only last week, an Israeli flight landed in Riyadh for the very first time, a day after a flight from Saudi Arabia landed in Tel Aviv.
Erdan’s speech at the UN General Assembly was a blatant attempt to whitewash Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, and the racist, apartheid state’s violations of international law. He tried to cast Israel as the victim, when it is anything but. Israel is a settler-colonial entity intent on completing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land which Zionist militias started in the 1940s. As the UNHCR report illustrates, Israel’s lackeys in the West may be prepared to turn a blind eye to the reality on the ground in occupied Palestine, but the rest of the world isn’t. Ambassador Gilad Erdan just can’t handle the truth.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.