Israel halts UN staff visas after UN Secretary-General’s anti-Israel claim

Israel has stopped issuing visas to UN officials since Wednesday, October 25, after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asserted that Hamas’s murderous October 7 assault on Israel was brought on by Israeli occupation.

The development came as Israeli officials continued to rail against the UN chief for his remarks and demand his apology or resignation, reports The Times of Israel. Instead of doing so, Guterres doubled down on his remarks.

„Due to his remarks, we will refuse to issue visas to UN representatives,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said. „We have already refused a visa for Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths. The time has come to teach them a lesson.”

During a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday on the Israel-Hamas war, Guterres said, „It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.”

Guterres’s comments drew outrage in Israel. On Tuesday evening, Erdan called them „shocking” and demanded that the secretary general resign, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen cancelled a meeting with Guterres, and Minister Benny Gantz labelled the UN chief a „terror apologist.”

The strongly worded reactions continued on Wednesday morning.

Guterres’s comments drew outrage and strong reactions in Israel. On Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry tweeted that Guterres’s remarks „provoke anger and astonishment and tarnish both him and the organisation he heads,” reflecting „a biased and distorted attitude towards Israel on the part of the UN and especially on the part of the Secretary-General himself.”

„The UN Secretary-General must retract his words, engage in deep personal soul-searching and apologise for his statement, which distressed millions of Israelis who are still experiencing the consequences of the murderous terrorist attack of October 7,” the ministry added.

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, sent an English-language public letter addressed to Guterres expressing „a profound sense of shock” and saying it would have been „best had you said nothing at all.”

„Mr. Secretary-General, you opened by saying that ‘nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians.’ However, you then [made] an about-face and added that the ‘attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum.’ Statements of this kind legitimise murderers, rapists, and terrorists around the world — rendering your condemnations null and void,” Edelstein wrote.

Israeli leaders and US President Joe Biden have noted that the October 7 atrocities were the single worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

„The slaughter of Jews by Hamas on October 7 was genocidal in its intents 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 defenceless and at the mercy of others…It puts to test the sincerity of world leaders, intellectuals and influencers that come to Yad Vashem and pledge ‘Never Again,'” said Dani Dayan, the chairman of Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. „UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres failed the test.”