Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Get UNRWA: the Ins & Outs of a Massacre

When Zionist propagandists attempt to justify the legitimacy of an exclusively Jewish state in Palestine, they usually cite United Nations General Assembly resolution (181) of 1947, which proposed the partitioning of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state*, as the international community's stamp of legality for their apartheid project. Nevertheless, despite the UN's role in giving birth to Israel, they seldom miss an opportunity to lash out at it. This should come as no surprise given that, as the upholder (however imperfect) of international law, the UN cannot but blow the whistle on Israel as a serial flouter of same.

[* For the politics of partition see my posts The Israeli Occupation of Federal Parliament 3 (14/3/08), Insatiable (4/5/08), & Talking Turkey on the Two-State Solution (11/11/08)]

The United Nations Relief & Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) is the UN agency Israel-firsters most love to hate. For example, the US Congress (Israeli-occupied territory as Patrick Buchanan reminds us) on 28/1/09 passed a bizarre resolution "that the UN should take immediate steps to improve the transparency and accountability of the UNRWA... to ensure that it is not providing funding, employment, or other support to terrorists."*

[* My favorite paragraphs of resolution 29 are the ones that point out that Ismail Haniyeh, the democratically-elected Hamas prime minister of Palestine, was the graduate of an UNRWA school, and that "on March 16, 2007, the New York Times exposed a new al-Qaeda cell, Fatah al-Islam, that was organizing, training and plotting attacks against the US from an UNRWA-administered and run camp in Lebanon."]

Most recently, however, Israel has been irked by UNRWA personnel indignantly speaking out against the damage inflicted on some 50 UN facilities by the recent Israeli firestorm unleashed on all and sundry in the Gaza Strip. Presumably, they should have simply gritted their teeth and muttered quietly to themselves (and the smoking walls of their schools and compounds). It was inevitable, then, that a beleaguered Israeli propaganda mill would seize on any opportunity to get UNRWA.

This presented itself when the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Jerusalem issued a clarification that an IDF mortar strike, which killed 43 Palestinians in Jabaliya on 6 January, killed them not while they were sheltering inside an UNRWA school but in the street outside. The clarification came because another branch of the UN, its humanitarian affairs agency, the Office for the Co-ordination of Human Affairs (OCHA), which had, like UNRWA officials, reported on 6 January that the massacre had taken place in the street outside the school, mistakenly reported on 7 January that the school itself had been hit. (Why UN 'reversal' over Gaza school should be treated with caution, Jonathan Miller,, 5/2/09)

Such a slip, however, is grist to Israel's propaganda mill and will be used from now on by all the usual suspects as a stick with which to beat the UN in general and agencies like OCHA and UNRWA in particular.

First cab off the rank here, of course, was The Australian with an extract from Canada's The Globe & Mail in its Cut & Paste attacking UNRWA's Gaza director John Ging for not "setting the record straight" (UN disseminates lies & a willing media swallows them, 4/2/09). Of course, Ging wouldn't have had anything more pressing to do in Gaza, now would he? Next day Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan got in on the act with "Even in this recent Gaza operation, remember the outrage at the Israeli rocket fire on the school in the Jabaliya refugee camp? This dominated the news for days and now it turns out no Israeli munition ever hit the school." (There may be the will but not necessarilly the way)
And then, on 6 February, with Jerusalem correspondent Abraham Rabinovich's report UN backdown on 'school massacre' in Gaza war, it was front page news.

This revelation of UN 'duplicity' was accompanied by a particularly seedy editorial, The evidence is in on Islamist reform: From Melbourne to the Middle East, terrorists want to kill, occasioned by the 15-year sentence imposed by a Melbourne court on Abdul Nacer Benbrika for "terror offences." The editorialist had concocted an extraordinary melange, in which Benbrika, the World Trade Centre terrorists, an alleged Iraqi recruiter of suicide bombers, Hamas, and the UN were blended together: "While Islamic extremists sometimes dress up their motives in the language of conventional politics, they are at war with everybody who does not agree with them. The vast majority of Muslims understand this and recognise there is no place in their faith for terror of the Hamas and Benbrika kind... It is also time for enemies of Israel to stop blaming the Jewish state for war crimes it did not commit, presumably on the assumption that anything that makes Israel look bad helps Hamas, the ostensible ally of innocent Palestinians. Last month, UN officials in Gaza said Israeli forces had mortared a school where they knew civilians were sheltering. It made international headlines and undoubtedly encouraged Muslim anger all over the world. But it wasn't true - and the UN knew it." S0, for The Australian, there is no difference whatever between Benbrika's jihadi cell and an Islamic resistance movement such as Hamas; Hamas is not the democratically elected government of Palestine, but only an "ostensible ally of innocent Palestinians"; accusing Israel of war crimes makes one an "enemy of Israel"; and the UN, like Hamas (and presumably Benbrika), is an enemy of Israel!

Oh, and those 43 dead Palestinians: don't you feel a whole lot better knowing that they were murdered outside rather than inside the school?

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