Israeli envoy slams UN for discriminating between murder of ‘Israeli citizens’ and ‘settlers’

“This kind of distinction between purported different types of civilian casualties is in absolute violation of international law norms,” Gilad Erdan wrote. 

By Aryeh Savir/TPS

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan sent a scathing letter to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres following statistics published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in which it differentiates between the murder of “Israeli Citizens” and “Settlers.”

The OCHA report listed the number of Israeli and Arab casualties, either killed or wounded in hostilities, from 2008.

The letter, sent Friday, was authored following the discovery that the agency’s website separates Israeli casualties into three categories – security personnel, civilians, and “civilian settlers.”

Additionally, following the murder of Eli Kay in a terror attack in Jerusalem committed by a Hamas-linked terrorist about two weeks ago, Kay was added to the list of “settler” casualties despite being a resident of Modi’in, an Israeli city that is not a “settlement.”

As a result, Erdan sent a harsh and detailed letter to Guterres, demanding that the issue be corrected immediately and that the website’s publications be amended.

In his letter, Erdan wrote that “unbelievably, and in stark opposition to customary humanitarian law norms, the OCHA website makes a distinction not only between Israeli victims belonging to Israeli security forces (i.e. combatants) and Israeli civilians — as might be expected in line with the legal principle of distinction under IHL [International humanitarian law] — but makes a further distinction between so-called “Israeli settlers” and “other Israeli civilians” when citing Israeli civilian casualties.”

“This kind of distinction between purported different types of civilian casualties is in absolute violation of international law norms. As I am sure you are aware, international law does, indeed, distinguish between ‘combatants’ (i.e. participants in hostilities) and ‘civilians’ under the laws of armed conflict. However, there is absolutely NO distinction made under international law between types of citizens, be it based on their zip code or their ideological beliefs,” he underscored.

“Moreover, not only does the OCHA website get international law wrong. It gets the facts wrong as well. Indeed, the latest Israeli civilian casualty – 26-year-old Eli Kay of blessed memory – is erroneously listed as a so-called “settler” on the OCHA, when actually the late Kay lived in the central Israeli town of Modiin. This glaring error – especially when the hometown of Eli Kay was readily available on numerous, reliable open media sources – calls into question the accuracy of all the casualty statistics on the OCHA website, be they Israeli or Palestinian,” Erdan wrote.

He further charged that the UN and OCHA’s distinction between types of Israeli casualties “calls into question not only the organization’s commitment to the accepted principles of international law, but whether the UN and its various bodies view the cold-blooded murder of certain types of Israeli civilians as somehow justified or even warranted.”

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“The Government of Israel cannot accept the cheapening or devaluation of Jewish lives. Indeed, all Jewish and Israeli lives matter, and we can expect no less than this to be reflected in all of the UN official statements and publications. I, therefore, call upon you to take action to right the egregious wrong immediately,” he demanded.

Israel has previously complained about the OCHA’s presentation of data and depiction of events.

“It is time to put an end to this disgrace and make it clear to the UN leaders – stick to the truth and the facts,” Erdan wrote in January 2021 after the OCHA wrote that Israeli terror victim Esther Horgan “was found dead,”