Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, hit out at the Palestinian representative at the international body at a Security Council meeting last Thursday because Riyad Mansour had blamed the Israeli occupation for the misery of the Palestinians. Mansour added that the occupation is undermining the Palestinian Authority’s efforts against the coronavirus Covid-19.
“The Palestinian situation in this pandemic is unique and painfully acute,” explained Mansour. “Our coping capacities have been depleted by 53 years of this illegal occupation and its constant dispossession, deprivation and oppression.”
Any Israeli cooperation with the PA in the struggle against the virus, stressed the PA official, is undermined by constant Israeli violations against Palestinians and their land. “This pandemic has only further highlighted the absurdity, immorality and illegality of Israel’s crimes and the urgency of bringing them to an end right now.”
In response, Danon resorted to tried and tested propaganda about hatred of Jews and Israel, and — of course — anti-Semitism. “How dare you slander our efforts?” he raged. “How dare you lie about the brave soldiers of the IDF?” He then claimed that the Israeli occupation forces are risking their lives against the coronavirus for the sake of Israelis and Palestinians.
“Not only are your accusations shameless lies, but they are also anti-Semitic. You should be ashamed of yourself… You have made it clear that you prefer to hate Israel more than help the Palestinian people.” He said that the PA “happily accepts any and all assistance from Israel and expects it to continue even as it incites against us and spreads anti-Semitic libel.”
The former minister was completely wrong in his claim. The crimes of the Israeli occupation army and government violations are clear violations of international law; they speak for themselves.
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem had this to say about Israeli soldiers when they arrested two Palestinian children, aged 12 and 14, in February: “The [Israeli] soldiers roughly dragged the two away by their collars, threatening them as they went. They led them to the other side of the fence, where they tied their hands with zip ties and blindfolded them.” The “brave” soldiers defended so resolutely by Danon as working for “Israelis and Palestinians”, carry out such crimes, noted B’Tselem, as an “occupation routine”.
The rights group pointed out that, “Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations.” It cited the suffering inflected by the state on the Palestinians in a Jerusalem neighbourhood by way of an example. “For Palestinians, life in Batan Al-Hawa is a pressure cooker. The neighbourhood, located in Silwan in East Jerusalem, is deliberately neglected by the Israeli authorities, primarily the Jerusalem municipality, and suffers overcrowding and a lack of basic public infrastructure needed for everyday life.” To make matters worse, added B’Tselem, residents live under a constant threat of eviction. “The Israeli authorities, using the Ateret Cohanim settler organisation as a proxy, work to evict some 700 Palestinians from their homes in the neighbourhood. This campaign, which is fully backed by Israeli courts – including the Supreme Court — relies on disregard for key facts, dubious arguments and flawed legal reasoning.”
That’s the kind of life that Danon’s Israel gives the Palestinians. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), as well as the 14-year Israeli siege of Gaza, “The Israeli government [has] continued to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights; [and] restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip.” Meanwhile, said HRW, “[The Israeli government] facilitates the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank.”
Amnesty International described this by saying that, “Israel continued to impose institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians living under its rule in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).”
The Israeli occupation soldiers which Danon claims are protecting the Palestinians, are instead protecting the extremist Israeli settlers whenever they attack the indigenous population. This is happening even as the settlers exploit (and ignore) the lockdown imposed to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
“While millions of people in Israel and the West Bank are under lockdown,” explained B’Tselem, “state-backed settler violence continues unabated. Israeli settlers are attacking Palestinian shepherds on pastureland, entering villages, attacking residents and destroying their property… Despite the coronavirus crisis, the rise in violent acts continued in recent weeks.”
Last year, when a UN Human Rights Council committee investigated Israeli violence during the Great March of Return protests in Gaza, it found that Danon’s “brave” soldiers “killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities.” As the New York Times reported, “Less lethal alternatives remained available and substantial defences were in place, rendering the use of lethal force neither necessary nor proportionate, and therefore impermissible.”
This is not the first time that Danon has been aggressive and abusive in his efforts to undermine international support for the Palestinians at the UN. He does this not only when a Palestinian speaks about Israeli crimes, but also when anyone else does, even senior UN officials.
In 2018, for example, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres suggested to the Security Council that protection of the Palestinians against Israeli violations should be boosted. The next day, Danon’s response was hysterical. “Instead of delusional suggestions on how to protect the Palestinian people from Israel, the UN should hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for the harm caused to its own people.”
Danon denies what is obvious to all reasonable people. When the PA filed a complaint against Israel to the International Criminal Court, Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said, “I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.” Almost all of these have been committed by Israel against the Palestinians.
Israel was founded on terrorism and violence against the people of Palestine, and has continued with its crimes for more than seven decades. As a former Deputy Minister of Defence, Danny Danon, knows this very well. His objective is to deny the Palestinians their legitimate rights, and he uses and abuses his position at the UN to do this. His latest allegations lack credibility, and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.