The Security Council heard stories of hope for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians today, including from the mother of a boy killed in the conflict, who said that the tears that fell on the graves of both Israelis and Palestinians were of the same colour.
“It’s all very well being pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel, but what does that mean, if you cannot be part of the solution?”, asked Robi Damelin, Spokesperson for Parents Circle, during her briefing to the 15-member organ. She said she thinks of herself as a victor and not a victim, stressing that that she was “here to talk to your hearts”.
When the army came to tell her that her son had been killed by a Palestinian sniper, she recalled telling them “you may not kill anybody in the name of my child”.
She said in an average Israeli school, many of the 17-year-olds have never met a Palestinian. Recalling how an active Palestinian women’s group began a wedding planning business, she said: “Can you imagine how joyful that is in these dark times?” Instead of sitting around this table, Council members must visit those organizations that are doing work on the ground and feel the hope, she said.
Daniel Munayer, Executive Director of Musalaha, explaining that he comes from a Palestinian Christian family, said his organization conducts reconciliation workshops between Israelis and Palestinians, Christians and Muslims. Participants are brought to the desert for five days, taking part in workshops to address themes of conflict, identity, obstacles to reconciliation, history and narrative. They then return home to engage their communities and address the core issues of the conflict. They are asked to resist the injustices that persist.
He clarified, however, that Israelis and Palestinians return to very different political realities. Palestinians return to military occupation. Many are still living in refugee camps. In contrast, Israelis return to places like Tel Aviv, where the conflict is “almost not felt”.
He said that freedom of religion and belief can be used to build bridges. Yet, Israel is trying to turn this into a religious conflict. Reconciliation means upholding human rights, working towards equality and ending the occupation, he stressed, urging the Council to “play your role” and apply the pressure from the top to the bottom.
Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, gave a regular update, saying that the killing of revered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on 11 May brought Palestinians, and countless others around the world, together in grief and anger, while serving as another reminder of the devastating human cost of this conflict. Echoing the Secretary-General’s condemnation of all attacks against journalists and his call for the relevant authorities to carry out an independent and transparent investigation, he said those responsible must be held accountable.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates, while exchanging views on long‑standing issues, such as violence from both sides and Israel’s settlement activities, broadly expressed concern about recent developments, including the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh.
The representative of the United States, Council President for May, speaking in her national capacity, said any and all violence must be called out, including a string of terrorist attacks against Israelis. When the law is violated, perpetrators, whether Israelis or Palestinians, must be held to account, she said, condemning the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, who was a role model for many aspiring female journalists.
The representative of China said Israelis and Palestinians both have a stake in each other’s security, stressing that, rather than crisis management, the parties must move towards a two-State solution, and relevant stakeholders with influence must uphold impartibility and objectivity.
Kenya’s representative said it is vital not to lose sight of the contextual issues in which such tragic events continue to occur, calling for constructive efforts at the official and grass-roots levels to create a conducive environment for a negotiated peaceful settlement.
France’s delegate expressed deep concern about the decision by Israel’s authorities to advance the construction of more than 4,000 housing units in many West Bank settlements, urging that country to reconsider its decision. There is an urgent need to recreate a political horizon for the relaunch of negotiations based on agreed parameters, Council resolutions and international law.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said Ms. Abu Akleh was an exceptional being, but her killing is unfortunately not an exception. “We are not being killed by mistake, but as part of a grand design, aiming to make sure we all understand no one is safe, so that we all live with fear in our hearts and surrender,” he said. The Council took a small step in the right direction by condemning her killing in one voice. “Let us force Israel to correct course,” he said, warning that Israel’s choice is clear — aggression, annexation and apartheid.
The speaker for Israel said her country’s recent Independence Day celebrations were cut short after Israelis were murdered by Palestinians wielding axes and knives. In 2022, so far nearly 800 terror attacks have been committed by Palestinians against Israelis. She pointed to the death of Ms. Abu Akleh as an example of placing the blame on Israel before an investigation can be conducted. Ms. Abu Akleh lost her life while covering a counter-terrorism operation in Jenin, during which Palestinian gunmen fired indiscriminately at Israeli forces. Following her death, Israel called for joint impartial Israel-Palestinian investigation, which the Palestinian Authority rejected. Israel is conducting a thorough investigation.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, Albania, India, United Arab Emirates, Gabon, Mexico, Ghana and Brazil.
The meeting began at 10:51 a.m. and ended at 1:24 p.m.