Representatives of two prominent anti-occupation groups – one based in Israel and the other a sister organization of an Israeli NGO – will appear on Friday at a special session called by the United Nations Security Council on West Bank settlements.
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Presenting at the scheduled three-hour session will be Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, an organization that monitors human rights abuses in the occupied territories, and Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now, the sister organization of the Israeli-based Peace Now. The B’Tselem and APN presenters will be joined by Francois Dubuisson, a professor of international law at the Free University of Brussels.
Originally, the Israeli-based Peace Now was also supposed to have sent a representative to the session, but following extended deliberations, it decided to opt out. “The reason we decided not to participate is that the focus of our efforts has always been on the Israeli public, to whom it is important for us to explain that the occupation is bad and prevents a two-state solution,” the organizations executive director Avi Buskila told Haaretz. “At the same time, all our material is open to the public at large to use.”
According to sources, Peace Now ultimately rejected the invitation to participate in the event because it was initiated by Malaysia, a country with whom Israel has no diplomatic ties, and because some of the other countries behind the initiative, among them Egypt and Venezuala, “do not have outstanding human rights records themselves.”
The session is scheduled to be live-streamed starting at 10 A.M. EST.
“We at B’Tselem are happy to have this opportunity to appear at one of the most important decision-making forums in the world and show that there are other voices in Israel that support human rights,” the organization’s chairman David Zonsheine told Haaretz. “Although we didn’t choose the timing, it couldn’t be more relevant considering the upcoming elections in the United States.”
This is the first time B’Tselem has been invited to appear at the UN Security Council, he said. Several months ago, a representative of the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din was invited to present at another Security Council session on human rights violations in the occupied territories. That session, however, did not address settlements per se.
Zonsheine said that B’Tselem would provide evidence showing that despite government declarations to the contrary, Israel was strengthening its hold on the West Bank and that the occupation could no longer be considered a “temporary” phenomenon. “Both the United States and Europe have taken a very forgiving attitude to Israel, and this is what allows the occupation to go on,” he said.
Peace Now monitors building activities in the settlements on an ongoing basis and publishes an annual report documenting developments on the ground. In a press release, APN president and CEO Debra DeLee said she was proud her organization had been invited to appear at the Security Council session, calling it “a welcome opportunity to highlight the damage settlements are doing to Israel and the quest for peace.”
The title of the session is “Illegal Israeli Settlements: An Obstacle to Peace and a Threat to the Two-State Solution.”