Israel’s lack of cooperation with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s UN Human Rights Council-mandated mission to go Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, has been “very distressing”, the Archbishop told journalists at the UN in Geneva on Monday.
Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, has waiting in Geneva since 1 December for official visas to travel to and through Israel, to Gaza. Last week, the UN announced that Tutu would leave on the weekend — but he is still in Geneva.
Israel hasn’t refused to issue the visas — it just hasn’t responded, just as it didn’t respond on other similar occasions, notably after the IDF attack on Jenin [Palestinian] Refugee Camp in the spring of 2002.
News agencies are reporting that Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was concerned about the mission’s mandate, which “advances a biased anti-Israeli agenda”. Regev nevertheless reportedly said that Israel was “still considering the request” for the authorisation to travel.
The UN news centre is reporting that “Israel”s lack of cooperation has prevented a fact-finding mission from the United Nations Human Rights Council from visiting Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, where an Israeli attack last month killed 19 Palestinian civilians, the head of the team, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, said today. ‘This is a time in our history that neither allows for indifference to the plight of those suffering, nor a refusal to search for a solution to the present crisis in the region,’ Mr. Tutu told reporters in Geneva…’The events leading up to the shelling at Beit Hanoun are documented and the basic facts are not in dispute. The broader context, however, is complex, and this warranted that we also visit Israel, where in the pursuit of our mandate we had hoped for meetings with members of the Government at a high level.’
Archbishop Tutu is supposed to report to the UN’s Human Rights Council by mid-December.