Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was agitated by the speech of human rights activist Hagai El-Ad at the United Nations Security Council on October 18.
While criticising the Israeli occupation and humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza strip, El-Ad called for global action against Israel. He compared Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinians with the American South under Jim Crow laws, and apartheid in South Africa.
Since March this year, Israeli forces have killed at least 170 Palestinians, including more than 30 children and injured at least 18,000 following organised March Return Protests initiated by Palestinian protestors on March 30. Israel's aggressive policy has been strengthened by the Trump administration. This is the first time that Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, has spoken at the UNSC after he was invited by the UN to address the crisis in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. El-Ad is of the opinion that the Gaza strip has essentially become an "open-air prison" following protests by Palestinians over the last six months "after suffering for more than a decade under an Israeli-imposed blockade that has led to economic collapse, soaring unemployment rates, polluted drinking water and dwindling power supplies, and ultimately, to deep despair."
Netanyahu described the presentation by El-Ad as "disgrace and will be remembered as a temporary episode". He also said that the speech was "full of lies" in an attempt to "help Israel's enemies while our soldiers prepare to defend Israel's security." Another headache for the Israeli government came after Palestine was elected as chairman of the 134-member group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations. The election took place on October 16. A total of 146-member states out of 193 cast votes in favour of the Palestinian representative. This was a humiliating defeat also for the Trump administration that has been supporting Israel for past few years.
While violating international laws, Trump administration moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and declared that Israel has the right to declare its capital. Last year in December, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley cast the lone negative vote in the Security Council to block the decision of the United States following declaration of its intention to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Fourteen members of the Security Council went against the United States. Only Guatemala followed the United States by moving its embassy to Jerusalem. On the other hand, Paraguay moved its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
Haley vociferously warned the UN member states that she will take down names of those who voted against America's interest. Haley recently resigned from the position without giving any reasons for it.
Haley was critical of Palestinian leadership advocating against cutting financial contribution from the US to UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees. Recently, Trump administration stopped sending $ 300 million from its contribution to UNRWA. The UN agency operates in East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It was established by a resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1949 following war between Israel and Arab countries. Palestinians were forced to leave their homeland in 1948 and 1967 during wars between the two sides.
Another significant development is the Israeli decision to postpone demolition of a Palestinian village at West Bank known as Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, following stern warning by members of International community apart from the International Criminal Court at the Hague. International Criminal court is reported to have warned Israel by saying that population transfer in occupied territories falls under war crimes.
It is regretful, however, that during Haley's tenure, the US withdrew from UN Human Rights Council and UNESCO, at the behest of Israel as both UN agencies have reportedly acted against the interests of Israel. Israel is facing multiple blows from multiple sides including Israel's human rights organisations. Enough blood has flown in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It is time that the international community came forward to stop the crimes being committed by Israel against Palestinians and implement the two-state solution in the interest of peace in the region.
Mohammad Amjad Hossain is a retired diplomat of Bangladesh.
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