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Palestinians, Israelis cross with UN Security Council

The Security Council faced criticism from both the Israeli and Palestinian envoys to the UN on Wednesday.
Israel’s ambassador to the US and the UN, Gilad Erdan, slammed council members for spending time discussing the situation in East Jerusalem. Instead, he said, Iran and the crises it is provoking in the region, in places such as Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, should be the focus of attention, along with the activities of Hamas.

“Hamas and Iran are fighting to keep the Middle East stuck in Middle Ages darkness,” he said.

He was speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the humanitarian response and reconstruction efforts following the war in Gaza in May, the continuing evictions of Palestinian families and demolitions of their homes in East Jerusalem, and the violent response by Palestinian security forces to protests against corruption and the death last month of political activist Nizar Banat during his arrest by Palestinian security forces.

“Shouldn’t the crisis in Lebanon be discussed today?” Erdan asked the 15-member council. He accused the UN of bias against Israel, and criticized the council for inviting Yudith Oppenheimer to give a briefing. She is the executive director of Ir Amim, an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) that campaigns to make Jerusalem a safe and inclusive city for all its residents.

“No NGO can come to the Security Council and criticize the Palestinian Authority,” Erdan said in response to criticisms of the Israeli state. He added that the “obsession with the world’s only Jewish state also encouraged companies like Ben and Jerry’s (ice cream) and Unilever to impose antisemitic boycotts on Israel.”

Vermont-based brand Ben and Jerry’s, which is owned by Unilever, announced last week that it will no longer sell its products in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, saying that to do so would be “inconsistent with our values.”

Erdan said that last year’s Abraham Accords, the agreements by the UAE and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel, prove that peace is only possible when parties come together to build a better future for their children, “not through boycotts or by the Security Council interfering.” The accords might have been possible only because the council did not interfere, he added.

The Security Council also came in for criticism from Riad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent observer to the UN, over what he called “its limitations in times of aggression and war.” Such failures mean the council has “an even greater duty to actively pursue peace,” he added.

“It knows the road that leads to that destination,” he said. “It is inscribed in its own resolutions, including Resolution 2334.” The resolution describes Israel’s settlement activity in the Occupied Territories as a “flagrant violation” of international law.

“It has the tools to help implement these resolutions,” Mansour continued. “It has a mechanism, the Quartet, established for that sole purpose. (This) council must be a catalyst for determined international action to steer us away from the path we are on and ride toward safety.”

He said that the contents of the briefings on Wednesday by Oppenheimer and Lynn Hastings, the UN’s coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and deputy special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, offered clear signs “of the need for international action to uphold international law and this council’s resolutions in our collective search for justice and peace.”

Hinting at the decision by Ben and Jerry’s, he told the council: “When companies implement your resolutions they should not be criticized, they should be saluted.”

He added: “Occupation and peace cannot co-exist. They are mutually exclusive. Advancing peace requires ending occupation.

“We have to name the alternative to (peace): Apartheid on both sides of the green line.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, said that her country remains committed to a two-state solution and “will continue to oppose efforts to single out Israel unfairly in UN forums.”

She urged Israelis and Palestinians to “to exercise restraint and refrain from provocative action and rhetoric, including settlement activity, annexation of territory, evictions, demolitions, incitement to violence and compensating individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.”

She also called on UN member states, “especially our partners in the Gulf,” to step up their commitments to UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA.)

Although she praised the agency’s staff for working “tirelessly” to meet the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees, Thomas-Greenfield said the organization needs “operational and managerial improvements.”

She added: “And I want to be clear, the US has zero tolerance for manifestations of antisemitism and racism and other forms of hatred in UN agencies, and that includes UNRWA.

“It is critical that UNRWA is able to implement its obligations in line with humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.”

Thomas-Greenfield described as unacceptable the “recent reports of the Palestinian Authority acting to restrict Palestinian freedom of expression and harass civil society activists and organizations.”

She highlighted the death of activist Banat in particular, and called for the circumstances to be investigated and those responsible held accountable.

During her briefing, Oppenheimer focused on Israeli demolitions and evictions, saying that they have recently “increased in scope and scale in an unprecedented manner.”

She said that 3,000 Palestinians are threatened with mass expulsion, including the communities of Sheikh Jarrah and Batan Al-Hawa.

“(Many) of the families facing eviction are Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in 1948 and now stand to be displaced for a second time,” she told the council.

“Beyond the geopolitical implications, these measures severely violate Palestinian rights to housing, and family and community life, as an occupied minority group protected under international law.

“The Israeli government presents its action as legitimate within the framework of democratic institutions. However, these institutions are largely inaccessible to East Jerusalem’s Palestinians, who are devoid of political rights and the power to participate in the legislative and policy-making processes which govern their lives.”

Hastings, the UN’s coordinator, said that the estimated cost of short-term recovery and reconstruction in Gaza following the hostilities in May is between $345 million and $485 million.

International efforts to address the situation are underway, but she called on Israel to implement additional measures to ensure unhindered entry for all humanitarian assistance.

She also urged Hamas and other armed groups to halt “the launching of incendiary devices, rockets and mortars and end the militant build-up.”

Hastings called on the Palestinian authority to ensure a thorough investigation is carried out into Banat’s death and “all allegations of use of disproportionate force against protesters by Palestinian security forces,” and said that those responsible must be held to account.

“The Palestinian people must be able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly,” she said. “Arbitrary and politically motivated arrests must cease.”

Source: Arab News

Written by The Levant