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Ashrawi slams Israel amid reports that UN official could be expelled from country

June 15, 2017 6:13 P.M. (Updated: June 19, 2017 7:51 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Conflicting reports emerged Thursday that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is demanding the expulsion of United Nations (UN) official Robert Piper, who serves as the Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, while Israel’s foreign ministry spokesperson has denied the claims.

Arutz Sheva reported that the ministry was demanding the removal of Piper from his position, as well as threatening to revoke his residency in the country, due to comments he made recently that were critical of Israel on the 50th anniversary of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory.

“It should be obvious, but it bears repeating, that occupation is ugly,” Piper said in a statement at the time. “Living under foreign military rule for years on end generates despair, suffocates initiative and leaves generations in a kind of political and economic limbo.”

Israel’s i24 News reported that if the UN did not terminate Piper’s tenure, Israeli authorities said that “it would be difficult to continue working with him, which could harm coordination of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza.”

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi released a statement following the reports, saying “Israel insists on escalating its language of threat and intimidation against anyone who dares reveal the truth about the oppressive policies of the toxic occupation.”

“The world needs diplomats and leaders of courage and integrity such as Robert Piper who do not succumb to Israeli intimidation and high-handed methods. By asking the UN to terminate his tenure and threatening to revoke his residency permit, Israel is breaking all norms of diplomatic and civil behavior,” Ashrawi said.

Ashrawi characterized Israel’s policies as arrogant, and criticized the international community for giving “preferential treatment” to Israel and for its “lack of will” to hold Israel accountable for its actions.

“Israel is attempting to make the whole world complicit in its occupation and its cruel and illegal measures; otherwise it will use all means available to avoid scrutiny and evade intervention or censure,” Ashrawi said.

“Israel should not be the arbiter on the eligibility of global partners, and it should not be provided with the legal, moral and security cover by the US and others to impose its will on the rest of the international community.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon, however, denied all the reports, saying in a statement that since December 2016, the Foreign Ministry has been instructed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to conduct an examination of the UN envoys and check whether their actions and statements are compatible with their mandates. It is still ongoing at this stage.”

When asked what steps Israel would consider taking, should the state conclude that any UN envoy had expressed words or actions it deemed “incompatible,” Nahshon told Ma'an “this has not been decided yet.”

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