War in the Middle East: controversy over Guterres speech

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has drawn heavy criticism with a speech on the Middle East conflict. Guterres condemned the attack by the radical Islamic Hamas on Israel as "appalling", but at the same time denounced the "suffocating occupation" of the Palestinian territories. The attacks did not take place in a vacuum, he said. Commentaries reflect both outrage and understanding for his position.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Sense of proportion lost

For the Süddeutsche Zeitung it is understandable that Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan was horrified at Guterres's remarks:

“In his role as UN Secretary-General, Guterres sees himself above all as an advocate of the weak. That is noble, but in this case it has led him astray. Anyone who, as the world's chief diplomat in such a situation, does not first condemn Hamas's atrocities in the clearest possible terms has lost all sense of proportion. Of course Guterres also spoke out against the terrorists' violence in the course of his speech, but that does not undo his relativisation of the attack.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Doing his job

Guterres found appropriate words, finds the taz:

“It is the task of the Secretary-General to ensure that all actors in conflicts, including Israel, protect the civilian population. In view of the situation in Gaza, Guterres would otherwise not have done justice to his responsibility. ... Guterres in no way denied Israel the right to defend itself against the horrific Hamas attack and to do everything possible to retrieve the 220 or so hostages taken by the terrorists into Gaza. ... But the response must be proportionate, and Guterres quite rightly reminded us of this.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Israel turning a deaf ear

Criticism should not be equated with support for Hamas, The Irish Times points out:

“There is no question about Israel's right to defend itself - but not without rules. In deliberately branding all criticism as Hamas-supporting, Israel is turning a deaf ear not only to neighbours in the region, and peace supporters at home, but to its closest friends and allies like the US and the EU, which is warning that an attack on Gaza, however understandable, may be deeply counterproductive.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Many agree with him

Guterres is not alone in his opinion, laments Corriere della Sera:

“All over the world, an anti-Israel and increasingly antisemitic wave of worrying proportions has been building up. A wave that has even reached the United Nations summit, where Secretary-General António Guterres - without indulging in anti-Jewish stereotypes - attributed the 7 October attack to '56 years of suffocating Israeli occupation'. ... An outrage. Words with an undeniable justificatory undertone. .... In any case, Guterres is not alone. ... Prominent figures from all over the world - including the West - are following the 'Guterres model' and adapting more and more every day to this appalling view of what is happening in Israel.”

Público (PT) /

Courageous against irrelevance

Political consultant Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles sides with Guterres in Público:

“Many would prefer that Guterres gave a meaningless speech and that the UN continued its decades of inconsequential words on these issues. This is something Guterres has fought against in the most trying situations. Europe should stand by his side and affirm that when Israel, with its cancel policy, tries to oust the UN Secretary-General for his clear and courageous words, it is crossing another red line.”