newsIsrael at War

Israel lashes UN chief, as Security Council fails to make headway

Israel's U.N. envoy renews his call for the resignation of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres over his stance on the war between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip with an iron fist.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Saint Petersburg during an interview with Russian TV, June 1, 2017. Credit: Truba7113/Shutterstock.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in Saint Petersburg during an interview with Russian TV, June 1, 2017. Credit: Truba7113/Shutterstock.

The chief of the United Nations is trying to sell a story, but the Israeli government isn’t buying it, and apparently, neither are the families of the hostages he sang the praises of.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday issued an empty demand for a “humanitarian ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is currently fighting a war against the Hamas terrorist group. The global body, large parts of which are dedicated to the overarching purpose of keeping the region’s Palestinians stateless and its leaders unaccountable, again expressed indignation at Israel for the perilous condition in which Gaza’s residents find themselves.

“Ground operations by the Israel Defense Forces and continued bombardment are hitting civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches and U.N. facilities, including shelters,” said Guterres. “No one is safe.” 

He added, without missing a beat, “At the same time, Hamas and other militants use civilians as human shields and continue to launch rockets indiscriminately towards Israel.” 

Unlike his Oct. 25 comments, in which Guterres seemingly justified terrorism by saying Hamas’s massacre of 1,400 Israelis and foreign nationals on Oct. 7 “didn’t happen in a vacuum” before running through a laundry list of Palestinian grievances, Guterres on Monday was more measured.

“I reiterate my utter condemnation of the abhorrent acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October—and repeat my call for the immediate, unconditional and safe release of hostages held in Gaza” by Hamas, he said, addressing the media without taking questions. “Nothing can justify the deliberate torture, killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians.”

However, Guterres went on to state that “Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children,” leading to harsh criticism from Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.

“Shame on you, Antonio Guterres! More than 30 minors—among them a 9-month-old baby as well as toddlers and children who witnessed their parents being murdered in cold blood—are being held against their will in the Gaza Strip,” he tweeted. “Hamas is the problem in Gaza, not Israel’s actions to eliminate this terrorist organization,” he added.

‘Your humanity is broken’

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan renewed his call for Guterres to resign. “It has been over 30 days since the children of southern Israel were intentionally slaughtered by Hamas terrorists, but you have said NOTHING about the ‘graveyard of children’ the south of Israel has become,” tweeted Erdan. 

“You have lost your moral compass and cannot remain Secretary-General for even another minute,” he added.   

Guterres spent a notable portion of his speech on Monday on a meeting he had had with the families of several of the Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.

“I heard their stories, felt their anguish and was deeply moved by their compassion,” said Guterres. “I will never relent in working for their immediate release. This is essential in itself and central to solving many other challenges.”

He singled out the words of Rachel Goldberg, the Israeli-American mother of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who gave a moving speech outside the U.N. Security Council on Oct. 25.

“When you only get outraged when one side’s babies are killed, then your moral compass is broken and your humanity is broken,” she said. Guterres seemingly presented the quote as a call to Israelis to show more compassion. He did not quote any Gazans expressing similar sentiments. 

Minutes after Guterres departed the podium on Monday, a group of Israeli and Jewish New York activists announced they would be holding a protest in front of U.N. headquarters on Tuesday morning to “personally remind” Guterres that “time is up.” Despite a month passing since the massacre, the United Nations has failed to even secure any information on the hostages’ condition, let alone their release, say the activists. 

The U.N. Security Council has been just as impotent. The 15-member body met behind closed doors on Monday afternoon, trying to hammer out language for a potential vote on a fifth resolution related to the current war between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip with an iron fist.

All four resolutions proposed thus far have failed. Russia has tried twice but was turned away twice due to lack of support. A Brazilian-led resolution was vetoed by the United States for, among other things, failing to condemn Hamas. A U.S. resolution was vetoed by Russia and China for, among other things, failing to call for a ceasefire.

Malta has been attempting to build a new resolution that would gain consensus backing of the so-called E10, comprising the 10 elected, non-permanent members of the Security Council. 

Monday’s session, called for by the United Arab Emirates and China, produced no discernible results, according to diplomats, leaving the Security Council at a seemingly dead end.

Robert Wood, U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters that the United States is interested in “pursuing language” on “humanitarian pauses,” but that “there are disagreements within the council about whether that is acceptable.” 

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s ambassador to the United Nations, said following Monday’s session that gaps remain between council members on what is achievable and “where the political appetite is among some of the major players on this file.” 

Earlier on Monday, the Israeli mission to the United Nations held a briefing for ambassadors on rising antisemitism, presenting data on online extremism, and the connection between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

“We ask ourselves how people allow themselves to be proud of their hatred of Jews and spread it in the streets and on social networks. The answer is clear,” said Erdan, addressing those in attendance. 

“Even the General Assembly and the Security Council did not condemn Hamas. The antisemites around the world listen to the U.N. They listen when the secretary-general shows ‘understanding’ for the massacre, and they witness that the U.N. does not even condemn the Nazi crimes of Hamas,” he said.

‘Never again’ is right now

Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism, also spoke.

“I hope it got through, at least to some of them,” Cotler-Wunsh told JNS of her message, which invoked the U.N.’s history of anti-Israel bias and silence in the face of attacks on Jews. 

“It was in passion, but it was based on a lot of hard evidence, of presenting them with the hard facts that the mutation of antisemitism that has become mainstream—not only in this institution at the U.N. but on university campuses, on social-media spaces and on the streets- is that virulent strain of anti-Zionism,” she said. 

After calling on all countries represented in the room to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, Cotler-Wunsh told JNS that “if we are committed on campuses, in law enforcement, in cities, in countries, to actually identify and combat antisemitism and not just as lip service, when we say ‘never again,’ it is right now.”

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