Israel summons Belgian envoy over UN invite to controversial activist

Israel summoned a top Belgian diplomat on Tuesday over his country’s push to have a civil society activist, seen by the Jewish state as biased, address the UN Security Council.

Belgium, which holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency, has invited Brad Parker of Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), to speak in front of the United Nations’ highest body. It was the second time this week that Pascal Buffin, number two at the Belgian embassy, had been summoned by Israel’s foreign ministry, Israeli officials said. DCI-P describes itself as working to protect “the human rights of Palestinian children.”

“It was a very harsh conversation,” an Israeli diplomatic official said, speaking about the first dressing down on condition of anonymity. Israel says the NGO’s board includes individuals affiliated with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union, the United States and Israel.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said Parker, a senior adviser at DCI-P, is “known for extreme positions against Israel.”

On Tuesday, Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, Emmanuel Nahshon, wrote on Twitter that the speaking invitation to Parker created “unnecessary tension” that was “easily avoidable.” The Belgian foreign ministry summoned Nahshon and gave him a dressing down for retweeting a tweet critical of Brussels’s choice to invite Parker.

In a statement sent to Israeli reporters regarding the incident, the Belgian foreign ministry said it was “surprised and dismayed” by Israel’s expressing its discontent about the matter in the media.
“Belgium is attached to good relations with Israel and wants to maintain an open and frank dialogue among friends. Indeed, we have reached out proactively to Israel on this particular topic. However, that should/will not stop us from having an opinion, the statement read.”

In response to the statement, a diplomatic official in Jerusalem said Belgium should rethink hosting someone with hostile views toward the Jewish state rather than focusing on articles in the Israeli media. “The invite to the Security Council to someone which such anti-Israel views does not represent the friendship between Belgium and Israel,” the official added.

Belgium took over the rotating presidency of the council this month and is using this privilege to invite speakers who, according to fuming Jerusalem officials, hold an extreme anti-Israel bias. They were especially outraged about the invitation to Parker.

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