New York, October 25, 2023
Israel has announced a controversial move to ban United Nations representatives from entering the country in response to remarks made by UN Secretary General, António Guterres, during a recent General Assembly debate on the Middle East. The comments, which condemned the October 7 attacks by Hamas and contextualized them within decades of Palestinian occupation, elicited strong reactions from the Israeli government.
Guterres stated, “It is important to recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.” He emphasized that while no injustice to the Palestinians justified Hamas’ actions, the root cause of the conflict needed to be acknowledged.
In response, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, declared the visa ban on UN representatives. “Due to his remarks, we will refuse to issue visas to UN representatives. The time has come to teach them a lesson,” Erdan announced. He also demanded Guterres’ resignation and accused him of making inflammatory statements.
The visa ban’s scope within the UN hierarchy remains unclear. Many UN workers, especially those employed by UNRWA, the UN relief and works agency for Palestinian people, might be affected by this decision.
This move follows Guterres’ condemnation of Israel’s bombardment and blockade of the Gaza Strip as the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people” and “clear violations of international humanitarian law.” Guterres also criticized Hamas for their attacks on civilians, emphasizing that there could be no justification for deliberate killings and kidnappings.
The international community remains divided on how to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The United States has vetoed a UN resolution calling for a humanitarian pause, citing concerns about Israel’s right to self-defense. The UN Security Council is set to vote on rival proposals by the United States and Russia, with the former emphasizing humanitarian access while reaffirming Israel’s right to self-defense, and the latter calling for a swift and unconditional ceasefire.
While Israel stands firm in its position against the UN, other countries like Egypt have criticized the justifications used for the ongoing military operations in Gaza. Despite the controversy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued diplomatic engagements with Secretary General Guterres, demonstrating the complexities and challenges of finding a resolution in the region.
As tensions escalate, the international community watches closely, hoping for a peaceful resolution and an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.