Israel has announced that it will not allow United Nations representatives to enter the country as a means of teaching them a lesson. This decision comes after UN Secretary General António Guterres stated that the recent attacks by Hamas on October 7 must be understood in the larger context of the longstanding occupation of Palestinian people.
During a speech at a UN conference discussing the Middle East in New York, Guterres sparked anger by stating, “It is crucial to acknowledge that the attacks by Hamas did not occur without context. The Palestinian population has endured 56 years of oppressive occupation.”
He also stated that the attacks by Hamas were not justified, regardless of any injustices towards the Palestinians.
The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, stated on a radio station that visas for UN representatives will be denied due to their comments. Martin Griffiths, the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, has already been denied a visa. It is time to educate them through consequences.
Erdan has previously called for Guterres to step down and characterized his statements as a false accusation. This reaction highlights a longstanding belief among Israel that UN organizations, particularly the UN Human Rights Council, are biased against Israel.
The extent of the visa ban within the UN hierarchy is uncertain. Many UN employees, specifically those working for UNRWA, the UN agency that provides relief and aid to Palestinians, could be affected.
The statement made by the UN secretary general about Israel’s actions towards the Gaza Strip, in response to Hamas attacks, caused anger among some Republicans in the US and in Israel. He referred to their bombardment and blockade as “collective punishment” and a violation of international humanitarian law.
In addition, Guterres denounced Hamas’ actions, stating that there is no justification for purposefully harming and abducting innocent civilians, or for launching attacks on civilian areas. He also emphasized the importance of treating hostages with humanity and releasing them promptly and unconditionally.
Griffiths, a former British diplomat and special envoy for Yemen, has been outspoken in expressing concern about the insufficient amount of UN aid reaching Gaza. He has consistently urged for a ceasefire to facilitate the delivery of aid to the region.
The US vetoed a resolution from Brazil at the UN last week, which proposed a temporary halt to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. This decision was made because the resolution did not specifically mention Israel’s right to defend itself.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council will make a decision on competing plans from the United States and Russia aimed at resolving the lack of food, water, medical resources, and electricity in Gaza.
The US has restated that Israel has the right to defend itself as a whole and as individuals, but specifies that the movement of individuals within Gaza must be by choice.
The proposed resolution urges for the implementation of various actions, including temporary breaks in fighting, to enable unimpeded and swift access to humanitarian aid, in accordance with international humanitarian laws, for UN agencies and other neutral humanitarian organizations. This is to guarantee the unobstructed delivery of essential resources such as water, electricity, food, fuel, and medical supplies.
The resolution proposed by Russia urges for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.
The UN Security Council has been unable to come to a unanimous decision regarding Israel since January 2009, when they passed resolution 1860 (2009). The United States has used their veto power to block resolutions regarding Israel a total of 46 times, with the most recent being last week.
On Tuesday evening, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the UN Security Council, expressing American support for a temporary humanitarian pause. Blinken stressed the importance of Hamas ending the practice of using civilians as human shields and urged Israel to take necessary measures to minimize harm to innocent individuals.
Blinken stated that essential resources such as food, medicine, and water must be provided to Gaza and its inhabitants. The safety of civilians must also be prioritized, including the ability to evacuate from dangerous areas. Additionally, humanitarian breaks should be considered for the purpose of aiding those in need.
When asked to elaborate on Blinken’s statements, spokesperson for the national security council, John Kirby, stated that they hope to implement measures that will provide temporary protection and pauses in operations for civilians.
Kirby stated that the distinction between a humanitarian pause and a ceasefire lies in factors such as length, extent, and magnitude.
While it is evident that the US is against a formal ceasefire, the difference between a humanitarian pause and a humanitarian lull may not be immediately obvious.
Following Guterres’ statement, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Eli Cohen, expressed on Twitter that he will not be meeting with the UN Secretary-General. In light of the massacre on October 7th, Cohen believes a neutral stance is not appropriate and that Hamas should be completely eradicated.
When asked for a statement, Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN, stated that the secretary general will be holding a meeting with family members of hostages currently held by Hamas in Gaza. He also mentioned that a representative from the Israeli permanent mission to the UN will be present during the meeting. Reports later revealed that some of the families of the hostages had refused to comply with Cohen’s request to not meet with Guterres.
Guterres may have angered Israel, but it was notable that Blinken continued to meet him after he had spoken, and many other countries that spoke later in the debate were sharply critical of Israel’s operation against Hamas in Gaza.
The Egyptian foreign affairs minister, Sameh Shoukry, expressed concern over the ongoing events in the Palestinian territories. He criticized those who use self-defense and fighting terrorism as excuses for these actions.