Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ban Ki-Moon Caves to "Immense" Pressure, Drops Israel from U.N. "List of Shame"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ban Ki-Moon Caves to "Immense" Pressure, Drops Israel from U.N. "List of Shame"

Article excerpt

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has overruled his own officials' recommendation that Israel be included on this year's U.N. "list of shame," which identifies the gravest violators of children's rights in conflict zones around the world.

It is the first time a U.N. secretary-general has ignored the advice of officials responsible for compiling the list, said a U.N. official in Jerusalem, who wished to remain anonymous given the sensitivity of the issue.

The list-an annex to a 22-page report on violations of children's rights in war zones-was distributed to Security Council members in New York on June 8.

The recommendation that Israel be listed for the first time alongside such groups as Boko Haram, Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda was made following Israel's 51-day attack on Gaza last summer, dubbed Operation Protective Edge.

Israel killed some 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 550 children. A further 3,300 children were injured. Seventy percent of Palestinian child casualties were under the age of 12.

Israel's inclusion on the list had been backed by both Leila Zerrougui, Ban's special representative for children and armed conflict, and by U.N. officials in Jerusalem.

In what appeared to be an effort to limit criticism of the move, Ban also overruled Hamas' inclusion on the list.

Ban's decision followed months of intense lobbying by both Israel and the United States. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power was reported to have made a direct appeal to Ban in late May to remove Israel from the draftblacklist.

After Ban formally presented the report and the list to the U.N. on June 18, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented about the world body: "There is no limit to hypocrisy." The report should have focused on Israeli claims that Hamas fired rockets from schools in Gaza last summer, he said.

The original recommendation to include Israel was all but inevitable, said the official in Jerusalem, after U.N. investigators confirmed that the Israeli army had targeted seven U.N. schools where civilians, including many children, were sheltering during Operation Protective Edge. Some 44 Palestinians were killed and 227 more injured in the attacks.

Israel had been notified of the sites and their GPS coordinates in advance.

Large-scale killing and maiming of children, and attacks on schools are among the "triggers" for inclusion on the list in a U.N. monitoring process, introduced a decade ago, of children's rights in armed conflicts around the world.

In an early sign of concern, Israel lobbied the U.N. in February to prevent staffin Jerusalem from holding a meeting at which they were due to recommend to U.N. headquarters that Israel be listed. At the last minute, the meeting was cancelled.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported at the time that one of Ban's officials had privately complained to Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., over the intimidation of agency staffin Jerusalem.

Gerard Horton, a lawyer specializing in Israel's treatment of children and a co-founder of Military Court Watch, said the pressure on Ban was immense.

"The U.S. pays a large slice of the U.N.'s budget," he noted, "so U.N. officials cannot afford to ignore the administration's wishes. If U.N. officials want to help children in Africa and Iraq, they have to ask themselves whether it is worth risking it all for a fight over Israel."

The U.N. official in Jerusalem, however, said Ban's decision would damage the organization's credibility in the Middle East.

Khaled Quzmar, general director of the Palestinian branch of Defense for Children International, warned that the U.N. had "provided tacit approval for Israeli forces to continue carrying out grave violations against children with impunity."

U.N. agencies have been charged since 2005 with monitoring more than 20 conflicts, including the one between Israel and the Palestinians, for serious violations of children's rights. …

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