Israel’s government is not keen on the United Nations. A common sign in the illegal settlements reads, “UNwelcome”.
Israel sees the UN as hostile territory. Its ambassadors behave on a war footing. Ron Prosor, the former ambassador, routinely attacked senior UN officials when he didn’t agree with them, calling many “anti-Semites”.
Israel has now sent a new ambassador to the UN. Danny Danon follows Prosor – both are brash and farcical. Danon is the envoy of the settlers, a fierce advocate of “Greater Israel”.
In a New York Times opinion piece in 2011, Danon wrote that the Israeli government “should annex the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria.”
The two-state solution is a senseless idea to Danon, who is firmly committed to the full annexation of Palestinian lands. Danon has written that early Zionist leaders acted with total disregard for international opinion and law, and that “diplomatic storms soon blew over as the international community moved on to other issues”.
The disdain shown for international law and the UN is the essence of what in Israel is called ‘Danonism’.
Danon has been an irritant to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – he ran against him for Likud’s leadership, and despite being appointed three times to senior positions by Netanyahu, continues to belittle him.
It is likely that Netanyahu has sent him to New York to get him out of Israel.
His close links to Christian Zionists in the US indicate that he will ignore the establishment and strengthen ties to friends such as Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. The Christian Zionists and the Israeli settlers are the real base of men such as Danon.
Danon is not the only envoy of the settlements. Dani Dayan, the former head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, is to be ambassador to Brazil. Brazil has been a consistent critic of Israel’s settlement policy and recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv during the 2014 bombing of Gaza.
Israel has hoped to appeal to Brazil’s growing Pentacostal movement, which has within a strong strain of Christian Zionism. Sending an unapologetic settler such as ambassador snubs Brasilia as Israel reaches out to this section of the population.
Prosor’s farewell gift
Israel’s outgoing ambassador, Prosor, left the UN with a gift. On 5 March and 7 April of last year, he sent strongly worded letters to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemning Rima Khalaf, a former Jordanian cabinet minister who is the head of the UN’s Economic and Social Commission of West Asia.
Khalaf’s agency had released a powerful report, Arab Integration, which was sharply critical of the direction of development in all of West Asia and North Africa. In one section, the report indicated that Israel’s claim to being a “Jewish State” was racist.
Prosor wrote that there was “far more fiction than fact” in Khalaf’s report, which “alleges that Israel is reviving the concept of ‘state ethnic and religious purity’.”
The evidence supports Khalaf’s team. Bills from Yariv Levin, of Likud, and Ayelet Shaked, of Jewish Home, called for Israel to directly call itself a “Jewish State”. Israel, these politicians argue, needs to be open about its apartheid character. Both politicians are now ministers – Shaked for justice and Levin for tourism.
Khalaf’s report, Prosor argued, represented “the epitome of modern day anti-Semitism”. He accused her of “demonising Israel”.
The UN secretary general’s office has rejected his claims. It renewed Khalaf’s tenure as the head of her group. Farhan Haq, from Ban Ki-moon’s office, told me: “The secretary general continues to support Rima Khalaf and he has full confidence in her work.”
As the door closed behind him, Prosor decided to toss out more canards against her. This July, in New York, Khalaf raised the question of Israel and its violation of international law.
Khalaf is quoted as saying that the Israeli response to humanitarian flotillas trying to break its blockade of Gaza, “is like the violent abductions carried out by pirates at sea, in the air and on land, which the world does not hesitate to call terror”.
Khalaf also said: “In Palestine, international indifference not only allowed the Israeli occupation to keep on grinding for half a century, but spread instability in the region. This eroded the faith in global justice and pushed some people to take justice into their own hands.”
Prosor responded to this speech with the same old cliched complaints. Khalaf’s comments were, he said, “pronouncements… seeped with anti-Semitism”.
Prosor approached Carman Lapointe, the UN under secretary general for Internal Oversight Services and demanded a formal investigation of Khalaf. When asked about the investigation, Lapointe said it never discussed complaints with external parties.
Israel’s cavalier attitude toward international law and the UN is enabled by the carte blanche it receives from the US. Despite the daylight between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu over the nuclear deal with Iran, the US has never threatened to call Israel to account for its violations of international law.
The US has neither the will nor the probity to do so. After all, if the US took international law seriously, it would have to call itself to account for its criminal war against Iraq.
This column originally appeared in Al-Araby and is reprinted with permission.