Palestinian rights groups have slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that he and Israel care more about the Palestinian people than their own leaders do.
Netanyahu made the comment on Thursday in his first response to disputed allegations that Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, illegally obtained massive amounts of aid money from the global charity World Vision and the United Nations.
“I, the prime minister of Israel, care more about Palestinians than their own leaders do,” Netanyahu said in a video posted online. “Israel cares more about Palestinians than their own leaders do,” Netanyahu said.
“Hamas, the terrorist organisation that runs Gaza, stole millions of dollars from humanitarian organisations like World Vision and the United Nations.”
“Innocent and impoverished Palestinians were denied vital aid supplied from nations around the world,” he said.
Shawan Jabarin, director general for the Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, told Al Jazeera that Netanyahu’s comments were part of a long-standing campaign to consolidate Israel’s control of financial aid to the heavily blockaded territory by discrediting international charity organisations.
Jabarin said that Netanyahu’s “propaganda” is part of an effort to convince the international community to cease funding humanitarian campaigns in Palestine by spreading the fear of aid funds reaching the wrong hands.
“They are trying to undermine the work of international aid organisations,” he said, adding that Netanyahu has tried to persuade European foreign ministers to stop funding Palestinian organisations.
Israel has maintained a tight blockade on Gaza for a decade, restricting access of many basic goods. Thirty-eight percent of Palestinians in Gaza are unemployed, according to the World Bank.
And a 2014 conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead, the majority of them civilians, including over 500 children, according to the United Nations.
Ayed Abu Qtaish, from the rights group Defence for Children International – Palestine, told Al Jazeera that Netanyahu’s comment can be discredited best by Israel’s systematic mistreatment of the most vulnerable, both within and without the state of conflict.
“Since the beginning of the Second Intifada [uprising] in 2000, more than 2000 children were killed as a result of Israeli presence in the territories – two-thirds of which were in Gaza.”
“The numbers show how much Israel is violating the rights of children, especially the right to live,” he said, pointing out that an Israeli law passed a week ago that allows child “terrorists” as young as 12 to be jailed for crimes such as murder, attempted murder and manslaughter, will most likely result in the further discriminatory targeting of Palestinian minors.
With additional reporting by Ryan Rifai