Israel’s envoy to call on UN to end funding for B’Tselem
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Israel’s envoy to call on UN to end funding for B’Tselem

Danny Danon set to argue that global body can’t fund rights group and also expect it to give objective opinion on settlements

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon in April 2016 (Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images/JTA)
Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon in April 2016 (Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images/JTA)

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said he intends Wednesday to demand that the global body end its funding for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem after it called on the UN to act against Israel over its settlement policies.

Danny Danon is set to address the UN Security Council during a special meeting on the Middle East, in which he plans to bring up the UN bodies that are among B’Tselem’s funders, and argue that the funding prevents the group from giving reliably objective reports to the UN.

B’Tselem and its director, Hagai El-Ad, were taken to task by Israeli officials for participating on Friday in a session of the UN Security Council, during which El-Ad criticized Israeli settlement policy.

“In the year 2016, three UN bodies gave money to fund B’Tselem,” Danon said in a statement. “It is no coincidence that exactly that organization was invited to speak before the UN in order to harm Israel.”

His implication seemed to be that the UN bodies involved already taken a clear stand against Israel and its settlements.

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

During Friday’s meeting, El-Ad called on the UN to take action against the Jewish state’s settlements, telling members of the Security Council that Israel was creating facts on the ground in advance of any peace agreement with the Palestinians. He spoke of “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.

B’Tselem’s decision to address the UN Security Council meeting, titled “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution,” drew fierce denunciations from Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said Saturday that the organization had joined the “chorus of mudslinging” against Israel and denounced it as “shoddy and unhinged.” He threatened to advance a law to block national service volunteers from working with the organization, even as the group pointed out that it only had one such volunteer annually, and the position was currently vacant.

In an interview with Israel Radio on Sunday, El-Ad defended his appearance, arguing that Israeli organizations should not be prevented from criticizing government policy on the international stage.

A United Nations Security Council meeting on September 19, 2014 (photo credit: US State Department)
A United Nations Security Council meeting on September 19, 2014 (photo credit: US State Department)

The US State Department on Monday lent its support to B’Tselem and expressed concern about the threats against the organization, while the European Union delegation to Israel tweeted that it supports “B’Tselem to maintain human rights of vulnerable Palestinian communities in Area C.”

B’Tselem, along with other left-leaning NGOs in Israel, has been accused in the past of working to undermine Israel’s legitimacy by lobbying international forums.

The organization, which describes itself as an Israeli human rights group, uses Palestinian photographers and videographers to document the conduct of Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank. In March, one of the group’s volunteers, Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, filmed IDF soldier Sgt. Elor Azaria shooting a disarmed, injured Palestinian in the head after he carried out a stabbing attack in Hebron. That footage sparked a nationwide debate over excessive force and IDF values. Azaria is on trial for manslaughter.

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