Belgium caved into Israeli pressure to disinvite me from the Security Council. In doing so, they helped undermine human rights work for Palestinian children.
Last week, the government of Belgium caved in to intense Israeli government pressure and effectively disinvited me from briefing the UN Security Council in New York today.
Ironically, the decision to exclude my voice as a representative of Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), a Palestinian human rights organization, exemplifies and reinforces the message I had prepared to deliver before the Council.
I was invited by Belgium’s Permanent Mission to the UN in late January to brief members of the Security Council on violations of children’s rights in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Belgium, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency for this month, is a leader of the UN’s global agenda on children and armed conflict, and as such wanted to highlight these specific themes during the Council’s monthly meeting on the Middle East and Palestine Question. The Belgians wrote in their invitation that this focused discussion would help “to enrich the debate” on the Palestinian issue.
I gladly accepted. The fact that Belgium was willing to invite a local Palestinian human rights organization like DCIP to brief the Council was commendable, as civil society space at the UN has been shrinking for years. While they urged me to be “balanced” in my statement (which I had shared with them for feedback), they understood that Palestinian children overwhelmingly and disproportionately bear the brunt of the kinds of violations they sought to highlight.
Then the troubles began.
The UN Security Council, December 18, 2015 (United Nations Photo)
As soon as Israeli diplomats were informed of my attendance, Emmanuel Nahshon, the Israeli Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, reportedly asked the Belgian government in early February to cancel the invitation. The Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry summoned Belgium’s Deputy Ambassador to Israel, Pascal Buffin, on two separate occasions to formally object to the invitation. These requests were initially rejected.
Israeli officials and right-wing organizations, like NGO Monitor, and their affiliates subsequently mounted a well-orchestrated political and media disinformation campaign to press the Belgians to capitulate.