Gilad Erdan
Gilad Erdan Shahar Azran

On Friday, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, sent a harsh and scathing letter to the UN Secretary-General following a glaring distinction in the statistics published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The UN agency purportedly reports on the victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and publishes the number of Palestinian and Israeli casualties, both killed or wounded, from 2008.

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

Additionally, following the murder of Eli Kay in the terror attack in Jerusalem that took place two weeks ago, the late Kay was added to the list of “settler” casualties despite being a resident of Modiin, a fact which was widely spread on numerous media outlets. As a result, Ambassador Erdan sent a harsh and detailed letter to the UN Secretary-General, demanding that the issue be dealt with immediately and that the website’s publications be amended and changed.

In his letter, Ambassador Erdan wrote, “Unbelievably, and in stark opposition to customary humanitarian law norms, the said 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 -- 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 added.

“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 website (see attached screen shot from the OCHA site referring to the 21 November 21 terrorist attack in which Kay was gruesomely murdered in cold blood while on his way to work in the morning), 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,” wrote Erdan.

“The U.N. 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 U.N. and its various bodies view the cold-blooded murder of certain types of Israeli civilians as somehow justified or even warranted. 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,” concluded the Israeli Ambassador.

Picture from the OCHA website. Photo: Screenshot
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