Widespread Israeli condemnation of UN chief Ban’s comments on Gaza children

United Nations’ (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon faced condemnation from across the Israeli political spectrum yesterday after he appeared to single out Israel for criticism over a report on the dangers facing children in war zones.

The report, compiled by the UN’s Special Envoy on Children in Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui of Algeria, covers a range of conflicts. Zerrougui had recommended that Ban include Israel in a blacklist of countries which commit systematic harm to children. Following pressure from Israel and the United States, Ban declined to do so, but made special criticism of Israel in yesterday’s UN Security Council debate on the report.

Ban said that he is “deeply alarmed at the suffering of so many children as a result of Israeli military operations in Gaza last year,” without making reference to Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza or its targeting of Israeli civilians. He called on Israel to “take concrete and immediate steps… to protect and prevent the killing and maiming of children.”

In response, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the UN was granting Hamas “immunity,” while reprimanding Israel. “Instead of mentioning the facts, that Hamas turned Gaza children into hostages,” said Netanyahu, “the UN has chosen to preach to Israel, which has chosen to abide by international standards.” Netanyahu called it “a black day for the United Nations.”

Netanyahu’s comments were echoed by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who said “the words of the UN secretary-general are disconnected from reality.” There was also condemnation from Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, who said that Ban had “lowered the moral foundation of any criticism the UN and its organisation would level against Israel.”

Last week, a multi-national group of former-chiefs of staff, generals and politicians submitted a report to the United Nations summarising their own investigation into the IDF’s conduct during Operation Protective Edge. It concluded, “Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”

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