The American and Israeli ambassadors to the United Nations publicly disagreed at a Security Council meeting Wednesday, after Israel’s Danny Danon demanded the United Nations end its support for the B’Tselem human rights group, arguing that it “directly interfered” in Israeli democracy.
B’Tselem Director Hagai El-Ad sparked fury in Israel last week, when he urged the Security Council to take immediate action against Israeli settlements at a special session on the occupation.
El-Ad 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.
Speaking at Wednesday’s monthly Security Council session on the Middle East, Danon claimed that UN funding for B’Tselem prevented the organization from presenting reliably objective reports on to the world body’s agencies.
Afterwards, with all 15 Council members looking on, US Ambassador to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs David Pressman jumped to B’Tselem’s defense, stressing the importance for governments to foster an atmosphere of political inclusion.
“We thank these NGOs – B’Tselem and Americans for Peace Now [whose representative also spoke Friday] – for sharing their technical expertise, as we recognize other NGOs around the world who shed light on difficult issues,” Pressman said, according to Haaretz newspaper. “It is vital that all governments protect and create an atmosphere that all voices can be heard.”
B’Tselem, along with other left-leaning NGOs in Israel, have been accused in the past of working to undermine Israel’s legitimacy by lobbying international forums.
Its director’s remarks Friday drew fierce denunciations from Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vowed he would bar national service volunteers from working with the organization.
But the US lent its support to B’Tselem on Monday, expressing concern about the threats against the organization, while the European Union delegation to Israel tweeted its support for “B’Tselem to maintain human rights of vulnerable Palestinian communities.”
During the Wednesday session, Danon also lashed out at the UN’s cultural body UNESCO for adopting an Arab-backed resolution that disregards Jewish and Christian ties to Jerusalem holy sites.
“These attempts to cut us off from our homeland and our heritage will not succeed. We will remain in our land and in our capital of Jerusalem forever,” Danon said. “UNESCO’s resolution, which denies a connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, is an embarrassing stain on the pages of UN history.”
He said the lack of UN resolutions regarding Syria and other regional conflicts demonstrated the agency’s bias against the Jewish state.
“More people have been killed in Syria in the past few months than in the entire history of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said. “Yet the UN passed six times as many resolutions against Israel than all other countries combined.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.