Israel rejects Palestinian accusations of ‘apartheid’
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinian U.N. ambassador, wearing a mask saying “End Apartheid,” accused Israel of engaging in “apartheid” in nearly a dozen ways on Wednesday, and Israel’s ambassador accused him of regurgitating claims from the Palestinian Authority, which he said “promotes hate, incitement, violence and terror.”
The exchange at the U.N. Security Council’s monthly meeting on the Middle East reflected the huge chasm between Israel and the Palestinians, and the immense challenge to ending decades of conflict with a two-state solution that would see the antagonists live side-by-side in peace, as the United Nations and many others have sought for years.
Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour described as “apartheid” a number of Israeli actions, including its denial of Palestinians who were uprooted from their homes 70 years ago the right to return, its different laws for Palestinians and Israeli settlers, and its restrictions on land where Palestinians can live and build.
He said Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan brought a stone into the Security Council chamber last month so members could visualize the violence that Israelis confront from Palestinians.
“I am so sorry, but the doors of this chamber could not fit Israeli F16s, tanks, warships, military jeeps, drones, bombs and missiles,” Mansour said.
He said the Security Council may not be ready to use the word “apartheid.” But he said it is, and has been, “our reality,” and while Israel may be outraged by Palestinians using the word, “everyone else should be outraged by the policy.”
Israel’s Erdan responded first by attacking the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups for launching “a Jihad war against the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East.”
Their recent reports, he said, “have attempted to brand Israel with absurd claims and heinous accusations.”
“You can see the campaign that started here today on the mask of my counterpart,” Erdan said, referring to Mansour’s mask.
“But make no mistake, this is a joint campaign between these organizations and the Palestinians with the mission of delegitimizing Israel as a Jewish democratic state,” he said.
Erdan asked whether anyone could say Israel “is guilty of systematic injustice,” pointing to its Arab doctors, members of parliament and ministers serving alongside their Jewish counterparts. He added that this week a Muslim judge was elected to the Israeli Supreme Court, and he said an Israeli-Arab member of parliament was appointed Israel’s consul-general to Shanghai.
U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland told the council that this month has seen “a worrying continuation” of “the destabilizing deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.” He cited daily violence in the West Bank, mounting tensions in east Jerusalem and Palestinian refugee camps, settler violence, and “a fragile calm” in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
“There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict,” Wennesland said. “I urge Israelis, Palestinians, regional states and the broader international community to take firm action to enable the parties to re-engage on the path towards meaningful negotiations” leading to a two-state solution.