Fox vs Facts

Posted: August 10, 2011 by Rex Brynen in factcheck, quite a bit of well-deserved sarcasm, UNRWA
Tags: ,

There’s a bit of a tiff at present between the guardians of journalistic integrity at FOX News and UNRWA over a recent column by film-maker Ami Horowitz.

Horowitz doesn’t like the United Nations—indeed, he made a film criticizing the organization. Goodness knows there are all sorts of dysfunctions, frustrating inefficiencies, and outright scandals at the UN, but his catalogue-everything-done-wrong while ignoring both the stuff-done-right and the political context is misleading. Then again, it’s meant to be agitprop, not journalism.

The same could be said about his FOX News column, which distorts what the US contributes at the UN, and what it gets for this. UNRWA is cited as an example of UN evil in the following terms:

At times it seems as if the U.S. and the U.N. are at cross purposes.  For instance, we get the privilege of funding bodies that are outwardly hostile to U.S interests. We are funding nearly 30% of UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, that employs terrorists and teaches its children to be maliciously anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-American.

The notion that UNRWA teaches kids to be “anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-American” is ludicrous, of course (especially given Israel’s quiet call for countries to increase their contributions). It rather exemplifies the quality of the piece overall, too.

UNRWA understandably objected and asked FOX to print a rejoinder.

Rejoinder to Fox News article

10 August 2011

The article by Ami Horowitz about the United Nations and in particular the UN Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, on makes unsubstantiated and false allegations.

  • Far from being “outwardly hostile to US interests”, UNRWA’s work is grounded in the universal values that inform US foreign policy. Our programs are regularly audited by the US Government Audit Office to its satisfaction and this is a matter of public record: hardly a sign that we are hostile to US interests or that we use American money to “employ terrorists”.
  • Our school system including our text books are the subject of continual review. The last US-commissioned review by an American educationalist from Georgetown University found the UNRWA curriculum to be “peaceful”, and one in which “religious and political tolerance is emphasized”.
  • Israeli officials including government ministers have acknowledged the contribution to the peace and stability of the Middle East that UNRWA’s work provides: hardly a signal that we are “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic”.

So far, FOX has refused.

Ironically, in this regard FOX has shown even less professionalism than the right-wing Israeli network Arutz Sheva, based in the West Bank settlement of Beit El. Arutz Sheva recently published a fear-mongering op ed by anti-UNRWA activist David Bedein accusing UNRWA summer camps of teaching children “to take back their homes lost in 1948, by brute force, and to kill the Jews who took their homes from them”. He went on to say that “”Never Again” means never again to ignore the reality of an entity [UNRWA] whose “raison d’etre” involves the genocide of Jews.”

UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness immediately responded—and Arutz Sheva published his response:

The article by David Bedein “A Sealed Letter to My Daughter to Read At Auschwitz” makes the baseless allegation that UNRWA, a UN humanitarian organization, is seeking “to impose yet a (sic) Fourth Reich upon the Jews” and that UNRWA’s “raison d’etre involves the genocide of Jews”.  No evidence is produced for this staggeringly ignorant claim beyond a vague association with a website called Palestine Remembered with which UNRWA has no relationship whatsoever, neither is any evidence produced to prove this. UNRWA requests that this rejoinder is published in full pointing out the groundlessness of Mr Bedein’s allegations, the shoddiness of this politically motivated journalism, that the article is taken down and that a retraction and an apology are published.

The argument went to a second round then a third, with Bedein rather bizarrely blaming UNRWA for the activities of non-UNRWA organizations and websites, and UNRWA systematically refuting the allegations. Bedein then produced a picture of an allegedly nefarious refugee camp mural depicting a 1948 village in Palestine. Leaving aside that it wasn’t all that nefarious, UNRWA then pointed out that the mural wasn’t at a UNRWA facility or in a refugee camp at all, but rather at a PA school in a nearby village. Bedein then made further allegations, to which UNRWA replied:

UNRWA notes that no evidence has been produced to support the accusations made by Bedein. There is no evidence to support the accusation that UNRWA is an organization whose “raison d’ךtre is involved with the genocide of the Jews”. Neither has any evidence been produced showing that UNRWA has any formal association with the Palestine Remembered website. We furthermore note that no actual evidence has been produced to show that “right of return” activities have taken place in any UNRWA facilities, for which the Agency is responsible or that UNRWA is a part of “the international Right of Return campaign”. If actual evidence is produced UNRWA will examine the evidence and react as appropriate.

We’ll see if anything ever comes of Bedein’s alleged evidence. So far, his track record is pretty damn poor—although UNRWA officials met with him a few days ago, “despite repeated requests from UNRWA, no evidence was provided to substantiate either set of allegations.”

In the meantime, however, Arutz Sheva’s willingness to print rejoinders—even when they run counter to its avowed political preferences—suggests that even it has higher journalistic standards than the folks at FOX.

  1. Ami Horowitz says:

    I am not a girl! I just have a girly name!

    Ami Horowitz

  2. Ami Horowitz says:

    And I would like a retraction!

  3. Rex Brynen says:

    Ahh, typos–the bane of my existence. Corrected!

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