Israel rejects Palestinian accusations of ‘apartheid,’ in contentious UN meeting

Ambassador Erdan criticizes those launching ‘a jihad war against the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East’; Palestinian ambassador wears mask saying ‘End Apartheid’

Then-Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in Bnei Brak on Thursday, October 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Then-Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in Bnei Brak on Thursday, October 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinian UN ambassador, wearing a mask saying “End Apartheid,” accused Israel of engaging in “apartheid” on Wednesday, while Israel’s ambassador said he was regurgitating claims from the Palestinian Authority which, he said, “promotes hate, incitement, violence, and terror.”

Palestinian Authority envoy Riyad Mansour described as “apartheid” a number of Israeli actions, including its denial of Palestinians who were uprooted from their homes 70 years ago the right to return, its different laws for Palestinians and Israeli settlers, and its restrictions on land where Palestinians can live and build.

He said Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan had brought a stone into the Security Council chamber last month so members could visualize the violence that Israelis confront from Palestinians.

“I am so sorry, but the doors of this chamber could not fit Israeli F16s, tanks, warships, military jeeps, drones, bombs and missiles,” Mansour said.

He said the Security Council may not be ready to use the word “apartheid.” But he said it is, and has been, “our reality,” and while Israel may be outraged by Palestinians using the word, “everyone else should be outraged by the policy.”

Erdan responded first by attacking the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups for launching “a jihad war against the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East.”

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour address a UN Security Council meeting on the Palestinian and Israeli conflict at UN headquarters, on March 26, 2019. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Their recent reports, he said, “have attempted to brand Israel with absurd claims and heinous accusations.”

The main thrust of the controversial Amnesty International report, which accused Israel of engaging in acts of apartheid, has been rejected by many on the international stage, including the US, UK, and Germany.

The report was also roundly criticized within Israel, with the executive director of Amnesty International Israel decrying the findings — saying the document is not helping the situation, and may even be making things worse — and the head of the Islamist Ra’am party, Mansour Abbas, rejecting the label of “apartheid.”

“You can see the campaign that started here today on the mask of my counterpart,” Erdan said, referring to Mansour’s mask.

“But make no mistake, this is a joint campaign between these organizations and the Palestinians with the mission of delegitimizing Israel as a Jewish democratic state,” he said.

Erdan asked whether anyone could say Israel “is guilty of systematic injustice,” pointing to its Arab doctors, members of parliament and ministers serving alongside their Jewish counterparts.

He added that this week a Muslim judge was elected to the Israeli Supreme Court, and an Arab member of parliament was appointed Israel’s consul-general to Shanghai.

New Knesset member Rinawie Zoabi seen at the Knesset ahead of the opening Knesset session of the new government, on April 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitousi/Flash90)

On Monday, Judge Khaled Kabub was announced as the Supreme Court’s first permanent Muslim justice, as part of a diverse slate of new justices appointed to the high court. Then, on Tuesday, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi was appointed as Israel’s Consul General in Shanghai, China, becoming the first Arab woman to head an Israeli diplomatic mission.

UN Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland told the council that this month has seen “a worrying continuation” of “the destabilizing deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.” He cited daily violence in the West Bank, mounting tensions in East Jerusalem and Palestinian refugee camps, settler violence, and “a fragile calm” in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

“There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict,” Wennesland said. “I urge Israelis, Palestinians, regional states and the broader international community to take firm action to enable the parties to re-engage on the path towards meaningful negotiations” leading to a two-state solution.

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