Sunday, November 13, 2011

Amb Prosor Addresses UN Security Council on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

by Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Thank you, Mr. President, for convening this important debate.

I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his remarks, and all others the speakers who set the stage for today's discussion.

We sit here this morning in New York to discuss the vital importance of protecting civilians in armed conflict, as rockets continue to rain down on more than one million men, women and children in southern Israel.

There is no question that Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza deliberately target civilians in these attacks. In the past two weeks alone, many dozens of Grad rockets and long-range missiles have been fired into the heart of major Israeli cities, onto the playgrounds of our kindergartens, and into the living rooms of our homes.

The pain caused by these attacks is permanent. The scars are both physical and psychological. Less than two weeks ago, a man was killed when a rocket exploded on top of his car in Ashkelon. Many others have been injured in recent attacks. One million Israelis were compelled to stay home from work last week to ensure their safety. 200,000 children were kept home from school.

These stories should shock and appall the Security Council and all decent people. Yet, not a single word of condemnation has been uttered by this Council. Not one word.

Mr. President…the silence speaks volumes.

And as the rockets continue to roar out of Gaza, it is no coincidence that silence also echoes from the Ramallah Headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. President,

One of the most fundamental human rights is the right of all people to live their lives without the fear of terrorist attacks. Day after day, Israeli citizens are denied this right. Like any country, Israel has the inherent right and responsibility to defend its population. Yet, whenever we exercise our legitimate right to self-defense, Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid harming civilians.

The protection of human life is a core value of Israel's society. It is a basic principle for our armed forces. In fact, a Humanitarian Affairs Officer serves in every combat unit of the Israel Defense Forces above the battalion level, with the specific focus of minimizing casualties and damage to civilian property. Israel's Supreme Court and other independent mechanisms oversee all military operations, even during active combat, to ensure that they comply with our laws, values and obligations.

The contrast with the terrorists we face could not be clearer. When Hamas is not deliberately attacking Israeli civilians, it is oppressing and endangering its own people. For them, the people of Gaza serve as permanent human shields. Schools have become launching pads for rockets. Homes have become experimental weapons laboratories. Mosques have become missile storage lockers. Entire residential neighborhoods have become bases for terror.

Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza show the same blatant disregard for the safety of international organizations. They abuse access privileges and insignia, endangering international humanitarian personnel and obstructing the movement of aid.

Mr. President,

Underlying the violence that continues to emanate from Gaza is a deeply rooted culture of incitement. Just two weeks ago, Wafa al-Biss was released from prison as part of Israel's exchange for the release of our kidnapped solider, Gilad Shalit. She had been serving a sentence for trying to blow herself up in an Israeli hospital. Moments after arriving in Gaza, she told a crowd of cheering schoolchildren at a Hamas rally, "I hope you will walk the same path that we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs."

These are the poisonous values that are being fed to the next generation of children in Gaza. When Israel looks at children, we see the future. When Hamas looks at children, they see suicide bombers and human shields.

Incitement is not confined to Gaza. It also pervades the official institutions of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank - and many other corners of our region. In schools, mosques, and media, generation after generation of children across the Middle East have been taught to hate, vilify, and dehumanize Israelis and Jews.

The international community has a duty to end this culture of incitement. We need education that promotes peace instead of hate, tolerance instead of violence, and mutual understanding instead of martyrdom.

Mr. President,

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad remains the world's only ophthalmologist dedicated to cutting his people's vision of hope and freedom. His regime is slaughtering his people in the streets day after day. Yet, some members of this Council remain blind to his brutality. The Syrian people's cries must not go unheard.

The great Jewish philosopher Samuel ibn Naghrela once said, "The truth can hurt like a thorn, at first; but in the end it blossoms like a rose." It is time for the Security Council to speak the complete, unvarnished and sometimes-difficult truths about those who ruthlessly target and employ civilians in armed conflict. The governments and terrorist organizations that display such a callous disregard for human life should find no refuge in this hall. Let us bring new clarity to this debate, for the sake of our children, our security and our common future.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs


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