Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that a speech given by a prominent Israeli human rights activist to the United Nations Security Council about Israel’s administration of the West Bank and Gaza Strip was a “disgrace” and “full of lies.”
In his speech, B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad criticized Israeli policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians, comparing them to apartheid-era South Africa and urging the international community to act on their behalf.
“As our soldiers prepare to defend Israel’s security, [the] B’Tselem director chooses to deliver a speech full of lies at the UN in an attempt to help Israel’s enemies,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“B’Tselem’s conduct is a disgrace that will be remembered as a short and temporary episode in our nation’s history,” added Netanyahu, who is also acting foreign minister.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in statement that action should be taken to end international funding of B’Tselem and called the Palestinian leadership a “terrorist organization.”
“The performance of lies by [the] director-general of B’Tselem won’t change the fact that Israel will continue to be a democratic and moral country,” she said. “Someone who chooses to protect those who chose a terrorist organization for leaders is an immoral person. We need to act to end the international funding for the B’Tselem organization.”
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev tweeted that El-Ad was aligning himself with the Arab Israeli political party whose provocative condemnations of Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians often raise ire among Jewish Israeli lawmakers.
“How disgraceful. How despicable. Hagai El-Ad, today you officially joined the group of Trojan horses from the Joint (Arab) List, which has made it its goal to harm IDF soldiers and to harm Israel,” she wrote.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein tweeted that El-Ad’s speech “proves again that the organization has no legitimacy.”
“Hagai El-Ad thinks it’s right to spread lies in an attempt to harm Israel’s right to protect itself,” he wrote. “B’Tselem, shame on you!”
The leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party, MK Yair Lapid, tweeted that “B’Tselem’s speech at the UNSC was a predictable mix of lies, distortions and propaganda. They represent no-one but themselves.”
Opposition MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) tweeted, “We must say quite clearly: The comments by B’Tselem’s director general on the IDF soldiers and Supreme Court justices are foul words and despicable acts.”
During his first-ever speech to a formal Security Council session, El-Ad focused on Israel’s settlement policies, accusing the government of deliberately “splitting up an entire people, fragmenting their land, and disrupting their lives.”
Speaking in English, El-Ad drew analogies between the situation in the Palestinian territories, the American South under Jim Crow laws, and South Africa under the racist apartheid regime, noting that Palestinians have no representation in the Israeli institutions that govern their lives.
Israel’s envoy the UN Danny Danon, who also spoke at the meeting, addressed El-Ad directly in Hebrew as he sat next to Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour.
“Mr. El-Ad, you are an Israeli citizen who is serving our enemies. They’re using you against us. The soldiers of the IDF are protecting you and you are here to incriminate them,” Danon said.
“Shame on you. Shame on you, you lousy collaborator,” he added, looking at El-Ad.
El-Ad was invited to the meeting by Bolivia, which currently holds the presidency of the Security Council.
B’Tselem said in a statement that Britain’s envoy to the Security Council criticized Danon for his comments to El-Ad and for failing to translate his Hebrew remarks for the rest of the ambassadors at the meeting. It said the five European countries in the council thanked B’Tselem for El-Ad’s appearance.