Israel fumes at Belgium for hosting ‘terror supporters’ at UN

Israel fumes at Belgium for hosting ‘terror supporters’ at UN

Deputy ambassador summoned to Foreign Ministry for ‘very harsh’ rebuke after Brussels invites ‘radical’ pro-Palestinian activist Brad Parker to address Security Council

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The UN Security Council holds a meeting on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
The UN Security Council holds a meeting on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Israel is angry at Belgium for what Jerusalem says is a systematic campaign to demonize the Jewish state at the United Nations, including by hosting a “radical” pro-Palestinian activist next week at the Security Council.

In February, Belgium holds the rotating presidency of the council and is using this privilege to invite speakers who, according to fuming Jerusalem officials, hold an extreme anti-Israel bias. They were especially outraged about Brussels inviting Brad Parker, a senior official for a nonprofit called Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), to speak at the council’s session.

“Belgium has positioned itself as one of the Security Council member states most hostile toward Israel,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat told The Times of Israel on Thursday. “Inviting a one-sided radical activist such as Mr. Parker to brief the Security Council is yet another negative record.”

Israel’s Ambassador to Belgium Emmanuel Nahshon on Thursday took to Twitter to express regret at Brussels inviting “terror supporters” to the Security Council. “This is extremely disappointing and we will express our outrage in the strongest possible terms.”

On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry summoned Belgian deputy ambassador Pascal Buffin for a dressing down. He was rebuked by Alon Bar, the head of the ministry’s UN and International Organizations Division, who demanded Belgium reconsider the invitation to Parker.

“It was a very harsh conversation,” an Israeli diplomatic official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Inviting Parker, who is an American lawyer and Palestinian rights activist, was only one of several steps Brussels has taken since joining the Security Council in January 2019, the official said. “Belgium has positioned itself as the most anti-Israel state in the council. Its initiatives have surpassed those of the other pro-Palestinians states,” the official added, referring to countries such as South Africa, Indonesia and Tunisia.

“We see it as a systematic Belgian policy to bash Israel in the Security Council by trying to echo voices that accuse Israel of committing war crimes. And this is totally unacceptable,” the official said.

Reached by The Times of Israel on Thursday, Parker insisted that he does not support terrorism.

“I was asked to brief the council specifically on grave violations against children as part of the UN’s children and armed conflict agenda which includes the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” he wrote in an email.

Brad Parker (Twitter)

“It is an evidence-based mechanism led by UNICEF on the ground in the OPT and my remarks, once heard, should not be controversial. These allegations are an attempt to silence legitimate human rights work exposing the reality for children impacted by Israeli military occupation.”

Officials in Jerusalem and pro-Israel advocates accuse the nonprofit of having an extreme bias against Israel, regularly accusing the Jewish state of committing war crimes.

Parker said in January 2019: “Israeli armed forces have regularly been implicated in widespread and systematic human rights violations against Palestinian children, yet systemic impunity is the norm.”

In 2015 — one year after Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Gaza terrorists — Parker accused the Jewish state of violating international law and carrying out “indiscriminate attacks.”

NGO-Monitor, an Israeli watchdog group critical of pro-Palestinian nonprofits, in February 2019 claimed that “numerous DCI-P board members, officials, and employees” are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an internationally recognized terrorist group. It gave details on several such officials and their alleged links to the PFLP.

One of the main donors to DCI-P is the Belgium Catholic charity Broederlijk Delen, which is heavily funded by the government in Brussels, according to NGO-Monitor.

“I cannot imagine how the Belgian government justified inviting a terror-linked propaganda NGO to address the Security Council,” the head of NGO-Monitor, Gerald Steinberg, told The Times of Israel. “Perhaps the firm Israeli response will finally lead some European officials to examine their close links to the Palestinian NGO network.”

Parker, in his response to The Times of Israel, threatened to sue anyone who accuses his organization of having terrorist ties.

“DCI-P has retained and instructed lawyers in the UK and elsewhere to take legal action in respect of similar allegations of links to groups designated as terrorist organizations or other claims that DCI-P supports terror,” he wrote.

“Rather than demand Israeli forces stop intentionally and unlawfully killing Palestinian child protesters in Gaza with live ammunition or that Israeli authorities hold perpetrators accountable, Israeli officials and rising conservative nationalist social forces in Israel create and disseminate misinformation aiming to silence and eliminate legitimate human rights work that exposes human rights violations inherent in Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians,” he added.

The Belgian embassy in Israel and its mission to the UN in New York did not respond to Times of Israel queries in time for publication.

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