UN forum: Israel systematically violating Palestinian human rights
Western countries urge Israel to lift Gaza blockade; Iran envoy: Israel's policies are racist, discriminatory.
Israel drew fire regarding its human rights record on Thursday at a United Nations forum where its neighbors accused it of committing systematic violations against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Delegations from Syria, Egypt and Iran raised concerns about Israel's security barrier, its detentions of young Palestinians, and what they called "illegal" settlements during the regular review by the UN Human Rights Council.
Western countries, including Australia, Britain, Canada, France and Germany, urged Israel to lift its blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip which they said had led to a worsening humanitarian situation.
Iran's Ambassador Ali Reza Moaiyeri said the debate could not sufficiently address the "gross and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinians".
These included targeted killings, torture, the demolition of houses, and "racist and discriminatory practices", he said.
But Aharon Leshno Yaar, Israel's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session there was a "certain sense of pride at the culture of human rights that we have managed to develop in the six short decades since the founding of our state".
"Our record is not perfect but the advantage of being a democracy is that multiple mechanisms exist for critical dialogue and oversight. The UPR is one such mechanism," he said.
The 47-member UN Council has held three special sessions looking at Israel's treatment of the Palestinians since the body was created in 2006, and Israel has allowed eight UN human rights investigators to visit in the past three years.
Malkiel Blass, deputy attorney general in Israel's justice ministry, told the Geneva session that Israel faced continuous security threats and had to build its security fence and wall after "waves of suicide bombings" began in 2002.
Israeli interrogations of security suspects are subjected to "scrupulous oversight" and torture is prohibited, said Daniel Taub, senior deputy legal adviser in the foreign ministry.
"The Gaza Strip has become a hotbed for terrorists preparing and launching attacks," Taub said, adding that more than 200 mortar shells were fired on Israel from Gaza in the past week.
Israel said it opened its border crossings with the Gaza Strip on Thursday for the first time in a week to allow in limited amounts of food, medical supplies and fuel.
It is also allowing foreign journalists to enter for the first time since Nov. 4, when an armed raid into the coastal enclave triggered a surge in cross-border rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
Egypt's Ambassador Hesham Badr said the Council was not going out of its way to "target Israel", rather that Israel had chosen to "ignore its commitments" under international law.
Israel's main ally, the United States, did not speak during the three-and-a-half hour debate which continues on Tuesday.