United Nations General Assembly Sept 27.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
France and the UN criticized Israel on Friday for its reaction to last week’s attack in Tel Aviv that killed four people, while the US urged the government to minimize the impact on Palestinians going about their daily lives.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at the UN that Israel’s decision to revoke “tens of thousands of entry permits could stoke tensions which could lead to a risk of escalation.”
“We must be careful about anything that could stoke tensions,” AFP quoted him as saying.
The UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, used even harsher language, saying in a statement delivered by his spokeswoman that “we are also deeply concerned at the response of the Israeli authorities, which includes measures that may amount to prohibited collective punishment.”
Such actions, he warned, could fuel further Palestinian violence against Israel. This “will only increase the sense of injustice and frustration felt by Palestinians in this very tense time,” Hussein said.
“The response has included the canceling of all 83,000 permits granted to West Bank and Gaza residents to travel during Ramadan,” Hussein’s statement added.
He also took issue with Israel’s actions against the family of the two terrorists who were cousins from the village of Yatta (near Hebron) in the West Bank, where the two men had been residents.
On Wednesday evening, they entered the Max Brenner cafe, ordered drinks and then took out guns and began shooting at the customers.
Israel has sealed off Yatta and rescinded the work permits held by the terrorists’ family and extended family.
Hussein said that 204 such permits had been canceled. He also referred to the men as “alleged attackers” even though they were caught on video with their guns.
Video clips also showed a packed cafe prior to the attack.
One moment people were sitting around tables, talking, drinking and eating. The next moment, after the two men fired their guns, one could see the same people racing panicked out of the cafe.
In spite of his harsh words against Israel, Hussein condemned the attack, which he said marked the “largest loss of Israeli life in a single attack since the current surge in violence.”
He added, “Israel has a human rights obligation to bring those responsible to account for their crimes... However, the measures taken against the broader population punish not the perpetrators of the crime, but tens – and maybe hundreds – of thousands of innocent Palestinians.”
At the State Department press briefing in Washington on Friday, spokesman Mark Toner, when asked whether the US agreed with the UN that the cancellation of entry permits for Palestinians was “collective punishment,” said he did not want to “get into characterizing” the move.
“All I’ll say is basically what I said yesterday, which is that while we strongly support Israel’s right to ensure the security of its citizens, in general we hope that any measures that it does take will be designed to minimize the impact on the lives of Palestinian civilians who are going about their daily lives,” he said.
Pressed on the matter by Al-Quds‘s Washington correspondent Said Arikat, who on a regular basis uses the daily State Department press briefing as a platform to ask provocative questions about Israel, Toner said the US wants “any action to be temporary in nature and to not impact the lives of normal Palestinian citizens.”
Another reporter asked Toner if he recalls anyone in the State Department or the Obama administration “urging restraint on other governments after their countries have been the victims of attack.”
After some give and take with the reporter, Toner replied: “I can’t come up with an instance, no.”