'UN human rights event politicized'

Israeli ambassador tells 'Post' she believes UNGA head wanted to limit Israel's participation.

gabriela shalev 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
gabriela shalev 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel's UN ambassador has accused a top UN official of trying to block her participation in last week's 60th anniversary commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev told The Jerusalem Post late Thursday she believed General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann broke with tradition and initially decided to limit speeches by regional representatives after learning that Israel would represent Western Europe at the podium. "It was supposed to be something festive and instead it became again a fight from the Israeli mission," Shalev told the Post. She also criticized d'Escoto for leaving Wednesday night's special plenary session early after agreeing to open the floor to speakers from regional groups, including Shalev, as well as to Egyptian diplomats representing the Arab League and a separate bloc of non-aligned countries. The change was made after diplomats from other countries in the European bloc complained directly to the President's Office. "It was disgraceful," Shalev told the Post. "Human rights is also respecting all groups, not to change things in a procedural way." A spokesman for d'Escoto denied that any effort had been made to stop Shalev from addressing the gathering and said that speeches at similar events in the past had been limited to UN officials at the highest level. "I am disappointed that some people have shamelessly distorted my position, which is always in favor of candid and inclusive debate in the Assembly," d'Escoto said in a statement. "Our Israeli brothers and sisters know very well that I welcome their participation in any Assembly debates and events." The spokesman, Enrique Yeves, said d'Escoto left the meeting early because of a prior engagement. D'Escoto, a Nicaraguan diplomat who currently holds the one-year Assembly presidency, has repeatedly come under fire for his treatment of the Israeli delegation since he hugged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the opening of this year's assembly in September. Last month, D'Escoto invoked the specter of apartheid in a speech expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people and called for member nations to consider boycotting Israel or placing Jerusalem under sanctions like those used against South Africa two decades ago. D'Escoto, a former Catholic priest who was active in the liberation theology movement, told the Post in an exclusive interview in October that he loves Israel but objects to its policies. Shalev has been outspoken in her criticism of d'Escoto and said she "lamented" his decision to take sides among the member nations of the UN. Speaking in her capacity as temporary chair of the European group, Shalev called for greater international support for human rights treaty bodies and judicial tribunals.