Top UN Official: Israel's Policies Are Like Apartheid of Bygone Era

UN General Assembly chief decries W. Bank, Gaza actions at debate marking Palestinian solidarity day.

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann on Monday likened Israel's policies toward the Palestinians to South Africa's treatment of blacks under apartheid.

Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were like "the apartheid of an earlier era," said Brockmann, of Nicaragua, speaking at the annual debate marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

He added: "We must not be afraid to call something what it is."

Brockmann stressed that it was important for the United Nations to use the heavily-charged term since it was the institution itself that had passed the International Convention against the crime of apartheid.

Israeli ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev in September called Brockmann an "Israel hater" for having hugged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a vocal enemy of Israel.

Meanwhile, other diplomatic attacks against Israel were expected Tuesday on the second day of the annual debate.

The event is usually observed on November 29, to coincide with the UN's resolution in 1947 to establish a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine.

The Palestinians, along with a group of Arab states, intend to use Tuesday's debate, entitled "the Palestinian question and the situation in the Middle East," for a public campaign directed at the international community about the the suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. They will also denounce Israel as responsible for the lack of a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speakers at the debate are expected to harshly criticize Israel for its policy in the territories, especially following UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's complaint that Israel refused his request to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

In her address Tuesday, Shalev asked why the UN has turned November 29 into a day of mourning, but does not mention that on this day a resolution to establish two states was adopted with Israel's consent.

"The UN must adopt new content and no longer accept the agenda foisted on it by the automatic majority, which sabotages the peace process' progress in the region," she said.

The two-day event includes several events and ceremonies at the UN headquarters, including movies and photography exhibitions showing alleged Palestinian hardships under Israeli occupation.

The debate is expected to end with the adoption of some 20 anti-Israel resolutions. In the past, these included denouncing Israel for annexing East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in separate resolutions.