In the last couple of weeks a documentary alleging anti-Semitic indoctrination at UNRWA summer camps has received wide circulation and comment (such as here and here). The video was produced by David Bedein, who has a remarkable history of producing rather fraudulent accounts of alleged UNRWA misdeeds.
UNRWA has now conducted an investigation, and found the allegations of incitement in the video to be “baseless”.
UNRWA Rejects Allegations of Incitement as Baseless: Statement by UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness
22 August 2013
In recent days, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has been attacked after an Israeli film-maker released a film, “Camp Jihad,” alleging that UNRWA promoted anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in its ‘summer camps’. These false accusations have been repeated in various media outlets.
UNRWA has conducted a lengthy and detailed investigation into the film and we categorically reject the allegations it contains. The film is grossly misleading and we regret the damage it has caused to UNRWA and the United Nations.
The film-maker concerned has a history of making baseless claims about UNRWA, all of which we have investigated and demonstrated to be patently false. It has long been the practice of the film-maker to show non-UNRWA activities and portray them as activities of UNRWA. He has done this again and we again reject his allegations. Our repeated rejection of his falsehoods is a matter of public record.
The main accusation in the film is that incitement is promoted during UNRWA ‘summer camps’. The ‘summer camp’ shown in the West Bank was not affiliated with or organized by UNRWA. The only UNRWA summer activities actually depicted are those shot in Gaza. However, our investigation of the film has revealed that absolutely nothing anti-Semitic or inflammatory was done or said in the scenes filmed in Gaza.
In addition, those interviewed in the film are presented with captions that identify them as UNRWA staff members. However, only one of those interviewed is an UNRWA staff member. The comment she makes does not violate UNRWA’s neutrality policy.
Some of the interviews filmed in the West Bank took place during the course of a third party’s activities inside what is indeed an UNRWA installation. However, UNRWA did not organize or manage these activities, and – here, too – none of the interviewees were UNRWA staff members. In addition, the interviews were organized by the film-maker and conducted with children, without parental consent, in an unethical, highly ‘leading’ manner, by a media organization he contracted.
We firmly condemn the anti-Semitic and inflammatory statements made during some of the interviews filmed in the West Bank, and we have suspended our relationship with the third-party organization, pending a review. However, we reject in no uncertain terms the allegations that UNRWA promotes incitement and the notion that UNRWA is responsible for the views expressed in the film.
UNRWA is committed to fostering human rights and tolerance, and teaches these values through the curriculum in its schools. UNRWA is one of the few organizations that has implemented human rights and conflict resolution training for millions of Palestine refugee children in the complex political environment of the Middle East for over 12 years.
– Ends –
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some five million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency’s General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 54.3 million.
For more information, please contact:
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
UNRWA Media Advisor
Mobile: +972 (0)59 942 8061
Office: +972 (0)8 288 7531
Frederick SwinnenSpecial Assistant to the Commissioner-GeneralUNRWA Executive Office+972 2 589 0775 (office)+972 54 240 2734 (mobile)+962 77 676 0082 (mobile)
There are certainly some neutrality issues arising from the videos that UNRWA needs to examine, including access to its facilities. This is a difficult challenge, however, since the Agency understandably wants its facilities to be of community service, and monitoring everything that everyone ever says inside an UN building is clearly impossible. UNRWA staff may also need to be more aware of the risks of having their statements or social media use distorted by those seeking to harm the Agency or the refugees it serves.
Interestingly, when FOX News covered the story (somehow missing UNRWA’s disavowal), the Israeli government offered an indirect defence of the Agency (emphasis added):
“UNRWA is not perfect, but the truth of the matter is we don’t have a conflict with UNRWA; we have a conflict with the Arab world,” Paul Hirschson, of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told FoxNews.com…
This almost certainly won’t be the first time Bedein distorts the facts as part of his crusade against UNRWA. Such efforts certainly resonate among those predisposed to dislike Palestinians, refugees, or the UN. They have rather less effect on most international donors, however—while none welcome the adverse publicity (donors are nothing if not negative-publicity-shy), they have come to know his mendacious track record only too well.