Israel charged Monday that the United Nations Human Rights Council does not believe it has the right to self-defense against the rockets Gaza Palestinians launch against its citizens on the southern border.
“You have done nothing about it, and you expect that Israel does nothing either,” said Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Yaar.
He spoke during a day-long council debate about the Jewish state’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Later this week, the council is expected to approve four resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
One resolution affirms the Palestinian right to self-determination. A second initiates the creation of an independent committee to monitor Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the Goldstone Report. That report calls for both parties to hold independent, transparent investigations into human rights abuses during Israel’s military incursion in Gaza in January 2009, and the Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli citizens.
The resolution invites the International Committee of the Red Cross and interested parties to discuss the legality of Israel’s use of certain munitions in Gaza. It also welcomes the General Assembly recommendation that a conference be held on measures to enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Palestinian territories.
Two other resolutions before the council this week accuse Israel of a host of human rights abuses against Palestinians and take it to task for continued settlement-building, including in east Jerusalem.
For six hours in two separate sessions, one country after another attacked Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and few said anything about the rockets or the continued captivity of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, who has been held by Hamas in Gaza since June 2006. This was followed by speeches from non-governmental organizations.
In his second speech of the day, Leshno Yaar spoke about the rockets and noted that even South African Jurist Richard Goldstone had stated that “the firing of these rockets are war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.” Only last Thursday, he said, one such rocket killed a Thai citizen, Manee Singueanphon, who was working in an Israeli greenhouse on the Gaza border.
Israel is committed to a two-state solution, said Leshno Yaar. He warned, however, that the work of the council and the statements made in its chamber had harmed efforts to actualize that vision.
“This council has not built hope, confidence or done anything to bring the sides closer together. If anything, it has done the opposite, nurturing bitterness and anger, mistrust and suspicion,” he said.
The ambassador accused council members of disproportionately focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a way to shift the body’s focus away from their own human rights issues.
Debates such as the one held on Monday, said Leshno Yaar, “come not from a genuine hope to improve the lives of Palestinians or Israelis, but only a dubious urge to lash out at Israel.”
He reminded the council that the State of Israel was the national home of the Jewish people, who had returned to their land after 2,000 years.
However, PLO Ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Khraishi quickly retorted, “Can you imagine Canada and the United States and Australia if their inhabitants wanted to go back to their original places where they use to live?”
He charged that the conflict was fueled by Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.
“Occupation is the main cause of violations of human rights in occupied Palestine,” said Khraishi. “Israel’s insistence to remain an occupying power is very clear in its illegal practices.”
He added, “We will not go back to negotiations until Israel abides by its obligations, especially the immediate, unconditional cessation of all settlement activities and the reversal of the decision to build 1,600 new settlement units [in the Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo].”
He accused Israel of a vast array of wrongs, including its listing of the ancient biblical site of the Cave of the Patriarchs, known to Palestinians as the Ibrahimi mosque, as a national heritage site.
He attacked Israel for its closure of passages into Gaza to all but humanitarian aid; its continued construction of the security barrier on West Bank land; and its steps to prevent protests against the barrier through the use of closed military zones.
Khraishi also objected to the archeological digs on the Temple Mount, and the continued detention of Palestinian prisoners – including, in some cases, bodies.
“Have you ever heard of arresting corpses and dead people?” he said.
Iran spoke of the IDF’s “brutal massacre” of Palestinians in Gaza and asked that the council end the “culture of impunity” with which the Zionist regime operated.
Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference,
accused Israel of pursuing a policy of “wanton oppression” and of
“eliminating the religious and cultural heritage of Palestine.”
In turn, the World Union for Progressive Judaism compared the Hamas charter with Nazi manifesto Mein Kampf.
“The Hamas charter simply calls for Jews to be killed in Israel, to be
eliminated,” said a representative of the NGO, adding that it inspires
a “jihadist terrorist regime to teach systematically a culture of hate