Eviatar Manor, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, called on the Human Rights Council to contribute to coexistence and stability, to respect the human rights of Israelis, and become a positive force instead of an actor fanning the flames of animosity and division.
"The human rights of Israelis were never the concern of the Council, or the UN for that matter, but what we have witnessed today is the glorification of terror and violence. What the Council allowed today is the banalization of the spilling of Jewish blood."
Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for coming to this special meeting during which I will endeavor to put the current situation in Israel and the Territories in perspective. I will also put forth our points of view regarding the attitudes and activities of President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership with respect to these events. Finally, I will refer to the Special Meeting of the Human Rights Council with President Abbas, which took place a few hours ago. I will use the same the same format used in Council, meaning there will be no questions and answers after my presentation. For once, though, I will not speak for two minutes.
These past few weeks, a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence has swept our region. This current wave of terrorism is particularly severe and significantly different in nature from preceding waves.
Most of the attacks and attempted attacks are stabbing attacks, carried by young lone terrorists, sometimes even children. In addition, combined stabbing and vehicular attacks and stabbing and shooting attacks have taken place. Individual vehicular or shooting attacks as well as rock throwing on and stoning of cars, resulting in loss of control by drivers and in casualties, have been prevalent as well.
These brutal attacks are motivated for the most part by the lie, widely circulated in the Palestinian and Arab media channels and social network sites, that Israel allegedly threatens the Al-Aqsa mosque. One must bear in mind that the period of the Jewish High Holidays, which takes place in September and October, has always been a period of heightened tension in Jerusalem. Jews congregate to pray at the Wailing Wall, Judaism’s holiest site and there is an increase in Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount itself.
On Sunday, 13 September, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, a group of some 150 radical Islamist operatives rioted on the Temple Mount. The riots were launched with the intent of undermining the status quo on the Mount. The rioters disrupted visits by tourists and Israelis to the Wailing Wall.
The operatives clearly planned their aggression many days ahead: they had barricaded themselves in advance inside the al-Aqsa mosque, where they stockpiled rocks, planks, wooden sheets and fireworks, and also prepared Molotov cocktail firebombs and explosive devices.
The riots continued for three consecutive days, throughout the Jewish festival, as the masked operatives threw rocks, fire bombs and firecrackers at the police, who responded with non-lethal riot dispersal measures. The explosive devices launched by the masked rioters injured a number of police officers and ignited several fires, which were extinguished by the police.
This was the spark which ignited the present wave of violence. The latest violence resulted in twelve murdered Israelis and hundreds wounded. Palestinian dead number 58, half of them the perpetrators themselves, and hundreds of wounded as well.
I would like now to go into more detail into some of the points I have raised. I have described the nature of the current wave of terrorism but now, let me elaborate on some of the features feeding the violence.
First and foremost are Palestinian claims that Israel is trying to change the status-quo on Temple Mount. These claims feed popular anxieties. Palestinian Authority officials as well as radical Islamists, and everybody in between, build on these anxieties, agitate, incite and spread this false claim. The message is effectively disseminated through social network sites and its impact is overwhelming. Statements by official Palestinian personalities, including President Abbas, have their substantial effect. Let me bring two examples of statements made by President Abbas in this context.
In an interview on September 16 on the official television channel of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas says, and I quote:
"We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every shaheed will be in heaven and every wounded will get his reward…Al-Aqsa is ours, and the Holy Sepulcher is ours, all ours. They have no right to defile them with their filthy feet and we won’t allow them to." End of quote.
In a speech on October 14 Abbas said, and I quote:
"Israel conducts an aggression against the Palestinian people, their land and their holy places…Israel’s barbaric racism threatens peace and stability and could ignite a religious conflict…Israel attempts to change the status quo in the Al-Aqsa mosque and we shall not agree to this…Israel cold-bloodedly executes Palestinian children as it has done with Ahmad Manssarah and additional children…". End of quote.
I imagine you know by now that Ahmad Manssarah is alive and has been treated and released from Hadassah Medical Center.
These statements by Abbas have largely contributed to the flames of violence. So have statements by other Palestinian leaders, as well as caricatures rampant in official Fatah social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
In the words of an editorial in the New York Times, published on October 24 and I quote: "Mr. Abbas and other Fatah leaders not only failed to denounce the knife attacks, but have made comments that seemed to fan the violence and even celebrate the killers". End of quote.
Let me proceed now to the issue of the status-quo on the Temple Mount, which is a determinant factor in the eruption of the latest violence. What exactly is the status-quo? It allows Muslims to pray on the Mount and all other religious denominations to visit the Mount at specific times. Last year, 3.5 million Muslims prayed on Temple Mount, alongside two hundred thousand (200,000) Christian visitors and 12,000 – twelve thousand – Jews. Islamic websites are spreading the lie that Israel plots to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque which, I emphasize, is absolutely false. It would be folly even to contemplate such a measure. Israel maintains the sanctity of the holy places. In the Middle East it is Sunni Muslims and Shi’ite Muslims who blow each other’s mosques and destroy ancient heritage sites.
Into this extremely delicate, volatile and dangerous situation, President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have intervened with inflammatory Islamic rhetoric. I have quoted his statements earlier in my presentation. These statements inflame the situation. In contrast, Israel is fully committed to safeguarding the status-quo on the Temple Mount and to guaranteeing freedom of worship and visits of members of all faiths. We try hard to calm the situation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following statement regarding the Temple Mount on Saturday, October 24, and I quote:
As we have said many times, Israel has no intention of dividing the Temple Mount, and we completely reject any attempt to suggest otherwise.
We respect the importance of the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as reflected in the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, and the historical role of King Abdullah II.
Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount.
Israel believes that those who visit or worship on the Temple Mount must be allowed to do so in peace, free from violence, from threats, from intimidation and from provocations. We will continue to ensure access to the Temple Mount for peaceful worshippers and visitors, while maintaining public order and security.
We welcome increased coordination between the Israeli authorities and the Jordanian Waqf, including ensuring that visitors and worshippers demonstrate restraint and respect for the sanctity of the area, and all this in accordance with the respective responsibilities of the Israeli authorities and the Jordanian Waqf.
We support the call for the immediate restoration of calm, and for all the appropriate steps to be taken to ensure that violence ceases, that provocative actions are avoided, and that the situation returns to normalcy in a way that promotes the prospects for peace.
We look forward to working cooperatively to lower tensions, stop incitement and discourage violence."
End of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement.
What is needed now in order to calm the situation and the violence is clarity. All sides must make it clear that the status-quo has not, is not and will not be changed. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement is a clear message to the Palestinian, Moslem and international community. It should be reciprocated by, primarily, the Palestinian leadership, but Arab and Moslem ones as well. Furthermore, Israel has agreed to the installation of video cameras on the Temple Mount. These will contribute to clarity and will provide a measure of deterrence against any prospective provocation.
The Prime Minister’s Office made, on October 26, the following statement regarding this matter, and I quote:
"Final arrangements for the manner and location of the cameras on the Temple Mount, which was agreed upon between Israel, Jordan and the United States, were supposed to be coordinated at the professional level.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said this at a press conference on Saturday with the Foreign Minister of Jordan: "I expect Jordanian and Israeli technical teams will meet soon to discuss the implementation of this idea (the installation of cameras)."
The cameras will be installed according to the arrangements to be determined between the parties. Israel has already expressed its consent to start the process as soon as possible."
End of quote.
Israel hopes that these video cameras will demonstrate once and for all that any claims that it is attempting to revise the status quo are false.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed on October 26 the statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterating Israel’s commitment to uphold the status quo at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General also noted Mr. Netanyahu’s affirmation that Israel does not intend to divide the holy sites, and that it – quote – "respects the importance of the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as reflected in the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, and the historical role of King Abdullah II." End of quote.
The Secretary-General also said in the statement that strengthened security arrangements between Israel and the Jordanian Waqf would help ensure visitors demonstrate restraint and respect for the sanctity of the holy site.
I believe the truth is out, but the fabricated lie is a powerful weapon and erases memory. It is like the tide which erases footsteps on the shore. Memory must gather all its might in order to turn back the tide.
Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I ask how is it that, when the citizens of Israel undergo a vicious terrorist assault, my country is accused of murdering children, summarily executing attackers and using excessive force. What is the difference between the terrorism and violence in Paris and Trollhattan, the behavior of the security forces there and the actions of Israel’s security forces? In Sweden, last Friday, a young assailant armed with a sword murdered two people and wounded two others and was shot and killed by the police. The police spokesman said that if the police had not reacted as quickly as they did, the situation could have been much worse. Was the attacker summarily executed as well or was he shot in order to prevent further killings of innocent people? Law enforcement officials in Sweden stated that the police fired two shots to incapacitate the man and then arrest him, but the shots turned out to be fatal.
I am sure no one doubts the intentions of the Swedish police, so why are eyebrows raised when similar statements are made by Israeli security forces? Lest we forget the multiple scenes of violence in Israel, the greater number of casualties and the undermining of public order and personal security which takes hold in the population of Israel. When are victims confused with perpetrators of terrorist attacks and when maintaining public security is confused with carrying terrorist attacks? Let me make it clear: Israelis stabbed or run over by a car while walking in the street or waiting for a bus are victims; Palestinians shot while actively attempting to stab civilians are terrorist perpetrators.
The redeployment and reinforcement of Israeli security forces has prevented greater numbers of civilian casualties. It has saved lives. Furthermore, let me stress that Israel is aware of the need for restraint by its security forces. Israel will only take those measures necessary to protect the lives of its citizens. I urge you not to fall into the trap of Palestinian propaganda, as you have heard today from President Abbas. I urge the UN and the Human Rights Council not to succumb to Palestinian pressure and to the political tyranny of numbers and to slide on the slippery slope from a special meeting to an emergency session of the Council. You will be doing hypocrisy a great service and you will be doing UN prestige, credibility and influence a huge disservice.
The fabrication of lies, the inflammatory speeches and, on the other hand, the banalization of Israeli casualties should end. I would like to quote Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement of October 19, and I quote:
"To the leaders and people of Israel; let me say, I appreciate your genuine concern about peace and security. I also understand the anger many Israelis feel.
When children are afraid to go to school, when anyone on the street is a potential victim, security is rightly your immediate priority."
End of quote.
It is this sense of security to the individual citizen that we are trying to restore while keeping in mind the limits to the use of force as laid down in Israel’s own legislation as well as in international law.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to refer now to the scandalous special meeting that took place a few hours ago in the Council Chamber. A long forgotten meeting in 2007 is used as a flimsy precedent to convene the Human Rights Council for a "special meeting", granted as a courtesy to President Abbas, the head of a fictitious state.
The Human Rights Council is being used as a stage for propaganda, defamation of a Member State, for incitement and for fanning the flames of conflict. The President of a fictitious state which even under UN auspices is a Non-Member of the organization has been allowed as a courtesy to slander a Member State. President Abbas did not speak about the situation of human rights in the areas under his responsibility. He is perfectly aware of the abject conditions of these. No, he chose to name and shame my country. He chose to do what many member and observer countries vowed not to allow in Council Chamber. Not to allow, that is, when it concerns their country, of course, but perfectly allowed when it regards Israel. And as a courtesy!
There may be no legal objections or formal rules for such a special meeting, but that in itself is no reason for such blatant discrimination of a Member State. The human rights of Israelis were never the concern of the Council, or the UN for that matter, but what we have witnessed today is the glorification of terror and violence. What the Council allowed today is the banalization of the spilling of Jewish blood. All I can wish the Council is that this new courtesy procedure will as of now be taken on board by many countries and the total politicization of the Council will become evident. The role of the Council in fanning the flames of conflict and assisting in the dissemination of lies is now well established. Let me be very clear: the days of spilling Jewish blood without Jews allowed to defend themselves are long gone. The Human Rights Council has forgotten that the right to life is a basic human right and that it is universal. Jews in Israel have it, too. And we shall exercise our right to life.
Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to conclude my presentation with a look into the future.
My hope is that the steps announced earlier this week by Israel will create the clarity necessary to demonstrate that Israel is not attempting to revise the status-quo on Temple Mount. Hopefully, this in turn will ease the tension and end the violence.
Israel, for its part, strives to restore calm and ease the tension. We know very well that our dreams will be fully realized when there will be peace and co-existence. Here is a little example of the complexities of life in Israel. On September 23rd this year, Jews celebrated Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is a day of fasting. On this day, no cars run in the streets, all shops and public places are closed and many Jews spend their time in synagogues and the atmosphere is one of individual introversion. Coincidentally, this year, the same day marked also the Moslem festival of Eid Al-Adha. On this day, Muslims celebrate by having big family meals and visiting parks and recreation facilities. Six and a half millions Jews fast while one and a half million Muslims celebrate. Eight million Israelis must coexist and respect the religious traditions and secular patterns of life of each other. Israeli Jews and Arabs do so in Israel, and so must, eventually, Israelis and Palestinians.
The Middle East is in a state of chaos right now. In Syria and Yemen, Libya and Iraq, civil wars rage. Arab social network sites spew radical Islamic incitement. Human rights and human dignity are cast aside, ethnic and religious violence prevail, cultural heritage sites are brutally destroyed. Yet Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are respected and are cornerstones of stability. Israel remains committed to achieving peace with the Palestinians as well.
In his address to the General Assembly on October 1st, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the following, and I quote:
"I am prepared to resume immediately, immediately, peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without any preconditions whatsoever… I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples…" end of quote. He then turned directly to Mahmoud Abbas and said, and I quote: "President Abbas, I know it’s not easy. I know it’s hard. But we owe it to our peoples to try, to continue to try, because together, if we actually negotiate and stop negotiating about the negotiations, if we actually sit down and try to resolve the conflict between us, recognize each other, not use a Palestinian state as a stepping stone for another Islamist dictatorship in the Middle East, but something that will live at peace next to the Jewish state, if we actually do that, we can do remarkable things for our peoples." End of quote.
President Abbas, for his part, speaks about the lack of hope in the younger Palestinian generation and disappointment from the lack of progress in the political process. I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement is exactly the right opportunity for President Abbas to show leadership and give his people hope by responding positively. Instead, in his speech to the General Assembly on September 30, President Abbas declared that the Palestinian Authority will renege on its signed agreements with Israel. Some hope!
Terrorism and violence will not move us. My father, whose family immigrated to Palestine in 1912, was born in Tel Aviv in 1920. He told me, when I asked him a few days ago how he manages the current wave of violence, that he remembers the Arab snipers shooting from Arab Jaffa at Jewish Tel Aviv in 1936. My father is 95, Tel Aviv is 106 years old, I am a grandfather myself and I can tell you that neither terror nor violence will carry the day and we shall, and I hope sooner than later, all settle under our respective vine and fig trees.
This is Israel’s message.
Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Make the Human Rights Council part of this journey. Bring it to contribute to coexistence and stability. Encourage it to respect the human rights of Israelis, turn it into a positive force instead of a player fanning the flames of animosity and division. The UN will not advance peace by trying to impose solutions, encourage the dissemination of lies, single out one country, discriminate against it and encourage Palestinian rejectionism. And stop bashing, naming and shaming Israel. There is redemption for the UN and the Human Rights Council, but it is not through its behavior today.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.