Israel summoned a top Belgian diplomat on Tuesday over his country’s push to have a civil society activist, seen by the Jewish state as biased, address the UN Security Council.
Belgium, which holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency, has invited Brad Parker of Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), to speak in front of the United Nations’ highest body.
It was the second time this week that Pascal Buffin, number two at the Belgian embassy, had been summoned by Israel’s foreign ministry, Israeli officials said.
“It was a very harsh conversation,” an Israeli diplomatic official said, speaking about the first dressing down on condition of anonymity.
DCI-P describes itself as working to protect “the human rights of Palestinian children.”
Israel says the NGO’s board includes individuals affiliated with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, considered a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States and Israel.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said Parker, a senior adviser at DCI-P, is “known for extreme positions against Israel.”
On Tuesday, Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, Emmanuel Nahshon, wrote on Twitter that the speaking invitation to Parker created “unnecessary tension” that was “easily avoidable.”
Goffin préside le Conseil de sécurité sur fond de tensions entre la Belgique et Israël https://t.co/DyBzPBgdyp. Une tension inutile dont l’origine est l’initiative belge d’inviter une ONG hostile liée à la violence, à une réunion fermée du conseil de sécurité. Aisément évitable.
— Emmanuel Nahshon (@EmmanuelNahshon) February 11, 2020
The diplomatic spat unfolded ahead of a UN Security Council session on US President Donald Trump’s controversial Middle East peace plan, which has been rejected by the Palestinians as blatantly pro-Israel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas told the Security Council Tuesday that Trump’s plan “cannot achieve peace and security.”
Trump’s plan, staunchly backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, gives Israel a green light to annex territory and settlements in parts of the West Bank and would entrench Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s “undivided capital.”
The Belgian foreign ministry last Friday summoned Nahshon and gave him a dressing down for retweeting a tweet critical of Brussels’s choice to invite Parker.
In a statement sent to Israeli reporters regarding the incident, the Belgian foreign ministry said it was “surprised and dismayed” by Israel’s expressing its discontent about the matter in the media.
“We have called in the Israeli Ambassador this morning to express our dismay at certain tweets which he has retweeted in his official capacity as Ambassador to Belgium. We have expressed our clear disagreement both on substance and form,” the statement said.
“Belgium is attached to good relations with Israel and wants to maintain an open and frank dialogue among friends. Indeed, we have reached out proactively to Israel on this particular topic. However, that should/will not stop us from having an opinion.”
In response to the statement, a diplomatic official in Jerusalem said Brussels should rethink hosting someone with hostile views toward the Jewish state rather than focusing on articles in the Israeli media. “The invite to the Security Council to someone which such anti-Israel views does not represent the friendship between Belgium and Israel,” the official added.
Belgium took over the rotating presidency of the council this month 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 Parker.
“Belgium has positioned itself as one of the Security Council member states most hostile toward Israel,” spokesperson Haiat told The Times of Israel last Thursday. “Inviting a one-sided radical activist such as Mr. Parker to brief the Security Council is yet another negative record.”
Nahshon also took to Twitter last week 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.”
Unfortunately, @BelgiumMFA @BelgiumUN has chosen to invite terror supporters to a Security Council debate . This is extremely disappointing and we will express our outrage in the strongest possible terms.
— Emmanuel Nahshon (@EmmanuelNahshon) February 6, 2020
Officials in Jerusalem and pro-Israel advocates accuse DCI-P 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.”
Reached by The Times of Israel last 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.
“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.”