Israeli rights groups vows to fight colonies

Rights of Palestinians must be realised and occupation must end: B’Tselem director

Gulf News

Occupied Jerusalem: An Israeli human rights group on Sunday vowed to continue its battle against Israel colonies built on occupied lands sought by the Palestinians, rejecting a harsh rebuke by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli leader accused B’tselem of joining a “chorus of slander” against Israel, after the rights group urged the UN Security Council to take decisive action against colonies. His condemnation was the latest in a series of criticisms and threats against dovish rights groups by Netanyahu’s hardline government.

B’Tselem joined American Friends of Peace Now, the US affiliate of an Israeli anti-colony watchdog, at Friday’s informal Security Council session.

Hagai Al Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, told the meeting that with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war approaching next year, “the rights of Palestinians must be realised, the occupation must end, the UN Security Council must act, and the time is now.”

Israel captured and occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem along with the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war and began building colonies soon after. While Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, about 600,000 Israelis now live in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, in addition to roughly 2.5 million Palestinians.

Palestinians demand these territories, along with Gaza, for a future state. They view Israeli settlement construction as a major obstacle to statehood, a position that has wide international support.

B’Tselem responded to Netanyahu’s remarks on Sunday, saying that “unlike the prime minister and his slander, we believe that the Israeli public is worthy of meaningful discussion of the occupation.”

“But the prime minister has no answers for the Israeli public, so instead he tries to go after B’Tselem,” it added. “This will not deter us, nor the hundreds of thousands in Israel who oppose the occupation.”