Israeli envoy fumes at UN Security Council invite to B’Tselem

Israeli envoy fumes at UN Security Council invite to B’Tselem

With rights group’s head Hagai El-Ad to address session next week, Israel’s ambassador says it is ‘cooperating’ with Israel’s enemies, vows to ‘expose its lies’

File: B'Tselem chief Hagai El-Ad speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 2016 (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
File: B'Tselem chief Hagai El-Ad speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, February 2016 (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations on Saturday lashed out at Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and its leader Hagai El-Ad ahead of a Security Council session at which El-Ad has been invited to speak.

El-Ad was invited by Bolivia, currently presiding over the council, to represent Israeli civil society in a periodic session Thursday, October 18, on the state of the Middle East conflict.

Envoy Danny Danon’s office said that while “El-Ad has been invited in the past to UN discussions, this will be the first time in which he participates in an official and influential session of the Security Council.”

“While Danon will represent Israel, [El-Ad] will be joining Israel’s opposition at the council, who are behind his invitation.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon attends a UN Security Council on May 15, 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL)

Danon said: “B’Tselem, which has proved in the past that it cooperates with Israel’s enemies, is doing it this time with a nation that has called IDF soldiers ‘murderers.’ This is not only shameful for the organization but a crossing of red lines by foreign countries with an anti-Israeli agenda.”

He promised to expose the “incitement and lies” of both Palestinians and B’Tselem.

B’Tselem uses Palestinian photographers and videographers to document the conduct of Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank. The group has often drawn the ire of the Israeli government.

El-Ad sparked fury in Israel over his 2016 appearance at a Security Council session on Israel’s settlements, during which he urged the UN to take action against the Jewish state’s settlements, and denounced the “invisible, bureaucratic daily violence” that dominates Palestinian life “from cradle to grave,” including Israeli control over entrance and exit from the territories, and farming rights.

“With every breath they take, Palestinians are breathing in occupation,” El-Ad said then.

El-Ad’s remarks drew fierce condemnation from Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vowed he would bar national service volunteers from working with the left-wing human rights organization.

B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad speaks to the UN Security Council on October 14, 2016. (YouTube screenshot)

In 2017 El-Ad told a conference at the UN marking “50 years of occupation,” that Israel tries to minimize international criticism of its West Bank policy by labeling it anti-Semitic.

“Palestinians who oppose the occupation are terrorists, Israelis who oppose the occupation are traitors, and those in the international community who oppose the occupation are of course anti-Semitic,” El-Ad said.

In April Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he had asked the attorney general to investigate the leaders of the group for calling on Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to open fire at Palestinian protesters during clashes on the border with the Gaza Strip.

He was referring to advertisements that B’Tselem took out in Hebrew-language newspapers, at the start of the now-regular border protests, in which the group urged Israel Defense Forces soldiers to refuse to fire their weapons at unarmed protesters.

“This subversive and marginal organization, together with haters of Israel and the international media, are trying to delegitimize our soldiers, whose behavior is both legal and moral in an extremely complex situation,” Liberman said. “We will put an end to this.”

The organization lashed out in response, saying Liberman himself was guilty of incitement by demanding that soldiers carry out a manifestly illegal order.

JTA contributed to this report.

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