At an open UNSC meeting US Envoy for Special Political Affairs David Pressman said, “The idea that the gov’t of Israel, as some have suggested, would be listed on the same page as ISIS, Boko Haram or Syria, is factually & fundamentally wrong.”
The United States strongly condemned countries, diplomats and UN officials seeking to compare Israel with Islamic State in a speech that its envoy to the United Nations gave to the Security Council in New York on Thursday.
“The idea that the government of Israel, as some have suggested, would be listed on the same page as ISIS, Boko Haram or Syria, is factually and fundamentally wrong,” US Ambassador to the UN for Special Political Affairs David Pressman said.
He spoke at an open UN Security Council meeting to debate the report on the dangers that children in war zones face, which was submitted by the UN’s Special Envoy on Children in Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui of Algeria.
In her initial draft from last month, Zerrougui named Israel among the worst abusers of child rights including Islamic State and Boko Haram on a black list that she addended to the report.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally appealed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to remove Israel from the list at that time.
Ban, who has the power to change the report before its publication, took Israel off the list earlier this month.
During the Security Council meeting on Thursday, Jordan, Venezuela and a number of countries, in addition to the PLO Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour, attacked Ban for politicizing the list in his removing Israel.
Mansour said that according to the report the 540 child fatalities in Gaza during Israel’s war with Hamas, were the third-highest of any armed conflict in the world in 2014, following Afghanistan’s 710 and Iraq’s 679. Syria came in fourth with 368 deaths.
Pressman said the Syrian number was misleading as multiple UN agencies had said it was impossible to accurately know how many children had died in that 2014 civil war, whereas the Gaza data is verifiable.
“Comparing these underreported number meets no standard of credibility and seems like a blatant attempt to vilify rather then illuminate,” Pressman said.
Mansour said he had attached the name of each child killed in Gaza as well as an additional 17 killed by the IDF in the West Bank to a copy of his speech that he distributed to the 15-member states of the Security Council and all member states present in the room.
“Israel continues to kill and maim children,” Mansour said.
The IDF’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank should have triggered Israel to “be listed among the grave violators” of human rights, he said.
“You [Israel] qualified to be the list of shame whether Boko Harm is there or not; if you meet the criteria than you have to be there,” he said. “Yet Israel was not included in that list as political pressures were blatantly exerted to safe it from measures and accountably.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said Israel regrets the loss of any innocent life and had taken all preventative measures.
The report, he said, disproportionately focused on Israeli actions in Gaza and did not mention that Israel was fighting a defensive war against a terrorist organization, Hamas, that was launching rockets against Israel’s civilian areas.
The report is “politicized, stained with [special] interest and distorts reality,” he said.
He called for an investigation into the actions of the Secretary-General’s Office and Zerrougui’s for the manner in which it compiled the report.
In his address to the Council Ban said, “Last year was one of the worst in recent memory for children in countries affected by conflict.”
He spoke about the grave violations against children in the Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as the suffering of those in Gaza as a result of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.
Israel was the only one he called on to halt its actions.
“I urge Israel to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect and prevent the killing and maiming of children and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals,” he said.
“I regret that the contents of the annual report have been the subject of more controversy and discussions than usual, to the extent of threatening its integrity. The mechanism has withstood this scrutiny and the content of my report should speak for itself. It presents a strong overview of egregious violations suffered by children in conflict in 2014,” Ban said.
He warned, “Those who engage in military action that results in numerous grave violations against children will, regardless of intent, find themselves under scrutiny.”
One way to safeguard the lives of children is to “end impunity,” he said.
After the meeting, he told reporters that he supported Zerrougui, even though he had amended her report.
“I am aware of the controversy surrounding the report. I want to express once again my full support for my special representative, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, and the excellent work that she and her team have done,” he said.
According to Reuters, Prosor had separately sent a letter to Ban in which he complained about Zerrourui’s decision to include Israel on the list.
He accused her of “biased conduct against Israel,” and he denied the country had violated international law during the war.
In a letter to Ban, seen by Reuters, Prosor voiced “deep concerns regarding the improper conduct – at every working level – of the office of… Zerrougui in the process of drafting and producing the report.”
Prosor said Zerrougui’s office “repeatedly refused attempts on our part to provide official evidence and facts.”
Zerrougui rejected Israel’s accusations.
“Israel has been in this report since 2005, every year it’s the same process that we apply,” Zerrougui told reporters. “Last year I was here, I was not accused of misconduct. The year before I was here, I was not accused of misconduct.”
Zerrougui said Israel had the standard two weeks and three additional days to respond.
Prosor in his letter said the report disproportionately focused on Israel, even though Iraq, where Islamic State terrorists control significant territory, had the highest number of child casualties.
The report includes 32 paragraphs on Israel, compared with eight on Iraq, 15 on Afghanistan, 18 on Syria and 11 on Darfur.
Zerrougui’s report did not explicitly accuse Hamas of any crimes against children. Several Israeli officials said on condition of anonymity that Israel told Zerrougui’s office how Hamas’s rockets severely damaged Israeli medical centers and schools – details that were not mentioned.
Other aspects of the report, however, seemed to avoid naming perpetrators of the incidents detailed. In the report’s Central African Republic subsection, article 44 describes the rape of several children over a five-month period as “sexual violence by Elements of Operation Sangaris,” rather than specifically mentioning it was French troops that committed the heinous acts of raping several children they were meant to protect in Bangui.
Subsequently, infractions committed by UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East are significantly downplayed.
When the deputy spokesman for the Secretary-General’s Office, Farhan Haq, was asked why there was a seeming lack of uniformity in naming the perpetrators, he replied it was only a matter of “semantics.”
When pressed about the lack of continuity, he replied, “The report stands as it is.”
The report omits offenses committed by UN member states in the P5 – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – such as the number of children who were killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan, which is estimated between 167 and 202.
The 166 Palestinian and Syrian children who died in Yarmuk, either due to starvation due to the blockage of humanitarian aid (which, according to former UN high commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem “Navi” Pillay, may constitute a war crime), aerial bombardment by Syrian Governmental Forces, beheading by Islamic State or by other nefarious means, were unaccounted for. However, the Palestinian children who perished in the Gaza Strip were itemized by cause of demise and location.
When asked why Yarmuk’s children were omitted from the report, another Ban spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric said, “The report highlights the global situation that children face throughout the world. I think intelligent people will argue and have different opinions about what should have been in the report and out of the report.”
Sara Brittany Somerset and Reuters contributed to this report.
View original The Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/US-envoy-to-UN-Comparing-Israel-to-ISIS-is-fundamentally-wrong-406533