NEW YORK — Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon accused the United Nations of “colluding with supporters of terror seeking to harm Israel,” following a two-day panel Thursday-Friday marking “50 years of occupation” in which groups Israel says have links to Palestinian terror organizations participated.
(* Note: See correction at bottom of article.)
The panel was addressed by Palestinian officials, an Israeli MK, Israeli and Palestinian activists and others.
“It is beyond comprehension that UN funds are supporting organizations which aid terrorists and incite against Israel,” Danon said in a statement about the event, which was organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and held at UN headquarters in New York.
The committee was tasked in 2016 with “bring[ing] together international experts, including from the State of Palestine and Israel, representatives of the diplomatic community, civil society, as well as academics and students to discuss the ongoing occupation.”
Israel protested the meetings which began Thursday, saying that two of the groups participating, Al Haq and the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, had links to Hamas and the PFLP.
Israel’s UN delegation said in a statement that “according to intelligence information” the Al Haq group “collaborates with the PFLP” and the Al Mezan Center “works together regularly with the Hamas terrorist organization.”
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams, the keynote speaker at the forum on Friday, said “Israel has a right to a narrative” which “may or may not be valid,” but was dismayed by the criticism surrounding the event.
“It is disturbing… that the state of Israel does not wish to allow the Palestinians to have their narrative heard,” she said, urging European nations and organizations such as Amnesty International to recognize Palestine as a state.
Williams said Israel, in trying to silence the Palestinian narrative, was enforcing an “occupation of the mind,” telling them they “don’t have a story that is worthy of being listened to.”
She said Israel was sending a message to Palestinians saying: “I will make your life hell on the ground, and I will make your life hell no matter where you try to go to find support for your freedom.”
Williams did not address Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip or payments via the Palestinian Authority government to convicted terrorists and their families; nor did other panelists. Israel has been vociferously protesting payments from the Palestinian Authority to terrorists in Israeli jails and to their families and those of Palestinians killed while carrying out terror attacks against Israelis.
The head of Israel’s B’Tselem NGO, Hagai El-Ad, told the gathering on Friday that the Israeli government branded Palestinians who oppose the occupation as terrorists, Israelis who oppose the occupation as traitors, and the international community that opposes the occupation as anti-Semites. He lamented the failure to implement December 2016’s UN Resolution 2334 that branded settlements illegal.
Joint (Arab) List Knesset member Aida Touma-Suleiman said the window for a two-state solution was closing fast, but that the alternative was not a democratic single-state. Rather, she said, there was already a one-state reality, but it was not a state that gave equal rights to the two peoples under its control. Israel was showing clear signs of apartheid, she said, adding that democracy and occupation were incompatible.
Another panelist Friday, Noura Erakat, an assistant professor at George Mason University and a political activist, said the difference between the situation in the Gaza Strip and natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti is that the former is a human-made disaster.
“The naval blockade of 10 years, and the land siege can all be reversed. The World Health Organization has said that by 2020 Gaza will not be livable, and so one has to question whether we have become so numb to these numbers that we can’t do anything about it,” Erakat said.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas overthrew Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in a bloody coup in 2007. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weaponry from reaching Hamas, which is avowedly committed to the destruction of Israel. Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.
Tania Hary, executive director of the Israeli NGO Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, said inertia is largely responsible for the situation in Gaza, adding that it was inextricably linked to the West Bank.
“It is one of the biggest experimentation projects on the planet. How do you test the breaking point of two million people?” Hary said of Gazan residents.
The World Jewish Congress set up a protest table across the street from the UN where the event was taking place, and said in a statement that the organizing committee was “the only UN body dedicated to an individual group of people, despite the many pressing human rights concerns facing peoples around the world. Established in November 1975 after the UN General Assembly passed its notorious ‘Zionism-equals-racism’ resolution, the Committee continues to encourage that poisonous notion.
“While it claims to support the Middle East peace process and the achievement of a two-state solution, the Committee in fact regularly disparages Israel and administers events questioning its legitimacy,” the WJC said.
The WJC called on the international community to support efforts to resume face-to-face Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, rather than encouraging unilateral Palestinian moves and rhetoric. It also called on the UN to dissolve what it said was the biased Committee and other bodies of its kind.
During Thursday’s panel sessions, senior Palestinian negotiator and PLO official Saeb Erekat said that “Hamas and the PFLP are not terrorist organizations,” and that the Palestinians “do not have a partner in Israel today” since “the Israeli government, headed by Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, is trying to replace the two-state solution with one state, two systems, apartheid.”
Hamas and the PFLP are both internationally regarded as terror groups. Most recently Hamas and the PFLP claimed responsibility for a June 16 shooting and knife attack outside the Old City of Jerusalem in which Israeli Border Policewoman Hadas Malka was stabbed to death.
Danon hit back at Erekat and the Palestinians for having “no shame,” decrying the “lies and incitement from those who are paying terrorists to kill innocent Israelis.”
“These obsessive attempts to besmirch our good name will not change the fact that the Palestinian leadership refuses to end their support for terror,” said Danon, standing next to a photograph of Malka.
Danon had protested to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday against the panel.
Guterres indicated that the event did not have the blessing of his office.
* Correction: This article was updated on July 3 to correct the sub-head and a passage in the 10th paragraph in which Jody Williams was inaccurately quoted. We apologize for the error.