UNITED NATIONS The head of Israels leading human rights group strongly criticised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus government during a contentious UN Security Council meeting on Thursday for its supremacy and oppression of the Palestinians.
Israels UN Ambassador Danny Danon responded, accusing Hagai El- Ad, director of BTselem, of staging a circus in the council and then in Hebrew telling him: Shame on you! You are a collaborator!
That drew a rebuke from Britains UN Ambassador Karen Pierce who complained that council members could not understand Danons remarks in Hebrew, which is not one of the UNs official languages.
BTselem opposes Israeli settlements in the West Bank and has documented abuses committed by Israeli soldiers, sparking accusations of treason by Israeli hardliners.
The rights group has also angered Israeli leaders because it accepts funding from foreign donors including the European Commission and because it airs its criticism in international venues like the United Nations.
Netanyahu told a recent meeting with Christian media outlets that he defined BTselem as a disgrace. El- Ad was invited to address the UNs most powerful body by Bolivia, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, and he used his speech to decry the indignity, the outrage, the pain of the people denied human rights for more than 50 years.
He described how Israel is fragmenting Palestinian land, separating Gaza from the West Bank, walling off east Jerusalem which the Palestinians want as their future capital, and how Israeli courts legalise demolitions of Palestinian homes and the relocation of people.
The Israeli government is quite expert at constructing this facade of legality which has been very successful at allowing us not to have to deal with any international consequences, El-Ad said. And this has enabled Israel to continue oppressing millions while it somehow is still being considered a democracy.
He said ongoing efforts to legislate against Israeli human rights organisations now go hand-in-hand with the routine in which opposition to the occupation is being equated with treason.
So to president Netanyahu I say this: You will never silence us, nor the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who reject a present founded on supremacy and oppression and stand for a future built on equality, freedom and human rights, El-Ad said.
El-Ad urged the world to let Israel know that it will no longer stand idly by, that it will take action against the continued dismantling of the Palestinian people.
Israels Danon said BTselem was invited by Bolivia, a country with a terrible human rights record to defame our strong democracy but it actually had the opposite effect and proved the strength of Israels vibrant democracy.
I challenge you all, all of you, to find a Palestinian or a Bolivian who could dare defame his government at the Security Council, Danon said.
At best he might be thrown in jail but he would more likely end up dead.
Danon then accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inspiring a rampant culture of hate during his 13 years in office and enabling an imminent war between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel.
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