United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres sharply dismissed as false, reports that he had justified Hamas’s assault on Israel’s Gaza border on October 7 in which over 1,400 civilians and soldiers were killed.
“I’m shocked by the misrepresentation of some of my statements yesterday,” Guterres said, as he referred to the speech he gave to the United Nations Security Council.
In that address, Guterres said, he condemned the October 7 attack, so charges that he then justified it “are false. The opposite is true.”
“Indeed I spoke of the grievances of the Palestinian people and in doing so I also clearly stated that the grievances of the Palestinian people did not justify the appalling attacks by Hamas.
“And then I went on with my [speech, explaining] all my positions on all aspects of the Middle East crisis,” Guterres said.
He issued a statement on Wednesday, he said, because, “I believe it was necessary to set the record straight, especially out of respect for the victims and their families.”
But in clarifying his remarks he did not refer to the line which most hit a nerve in Israel, when he stated that “it is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.” He added that “the Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.”
Guterres did not provide similar context for the Israeli narrative of events.
Condemnation and cancellation
Israel on Tuesday immediately condemned his speech. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was in New York for the day with families representing the more than 220 hostages Hamas took captive on October 7.
Cohen canceled a planned meeting with Guterres for later in the day. The families of the hostages did speak with Guterres as planned.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan called for Erdan to resign and reissued that call again on Wednesday after Guterres’ statement.
“The Secretary General once again distorts reality. He clearly said yesterday that the massacre and murder spree by Hamas ‘did not happen in a vacuum.’
“Every person understands and understood very well that the meaning of his words is the guilt of Israel for the actions of Hamas or at the very least a show of understanding and justification of the secretary-general for the massacre.
“A secretary-general who does not understand that the murder of innocents can have no justification and no ‘context,’ cannot be secretary-general.
“It is sad that this is the man who heads the UN who is supposed to fight terrorism and atrocities.
“I call on him to resign again. Israel will work to convey a clear message to the UN and to its leader. We will not accept the continuation of bias and hatred towards Israel in the body he heads,” Erdan said.The brutality of the attack in which victims were burned alive and dismembered has prompted comparison to the Holocaust.
In Jerusalem, Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan on Wednesday attacked Guterres’ UNSC speech.
“The slaughter of Jews by Hamas on October 7th was genocidal in its intent and immeasurably brutal in its form. Part of why it differs from the Holocaust is because Jews have today a state and an army. We are not defenseless and at the mercy of others.
“However, it puts to the test the sincerity of world leaders, intellectuals and influencers that come to Yad Vashem and pledge “Never Again”.
“Those who seek to “understand”, look for a justifying context, do not categorically condemn the perpetrators, and do not call for the unconditional and immediate release of the abducted – fail the test. UN Secretary-General António Guterres failed the test,” Dayan said.