A UN agency that runs schools and social services for Palestinians is facing calls to sack employees using social media to celebrate attacks on Israelis.
Facebook posts by UN staff have included photographs showing blood- drenched knives held by Palestinian men and women in keffiyeh scarves, throwing stones at Israel’s defence forces.
Almost two dozen UN employees have been exposed for publishing their support for a recent bout of stabbing attacks by Palestinians that targeted Israelis.
Hillel Neuer, the director of UN Watch, said incitement to hatred, particularly by teachers, would only contribute to violence in the Middle East. He called on the UN to demonstrate that it would not turn a blind eye to racism among its staff.
The UN conceded last week that some of those on its payroll had faced disciplinary action for violating the organisation’s rules on social media.
There are no figures for the number of staff involved in disciplinary action or the type of punishments meted out.
Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for Unwra, said one account identified by Neuer was attributed to a school in Syria that no longer existed and the former staff were no longer on the UN payroll.
“The school in question, because of the war, had long ceased to be an UNRWA school. It was that specific story that I called out as false,” Gunness told The Sunday Times.
In today’s Sunday Times, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness tries to explain away his embarrassing and unprofessional tweets above. Gunness’ attempts to bury the incitement story and to intimidate UN Watch have both failed.
70th ANNIVERSARY OF UN: DEUTSCHE WELLE INTERVIEWS
UN WATCH EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HILLEL NEUER
Skepticism in Israel as world celebrates 70 years of UN
The UN matters
…Despite all the criticism, one cannot overstate the UN’s importance. Resolutions are circulated around the globe and can be found on bookshelves of foreign ministries, law libraries, academics, human rights groups and journalists.
“Whether we like it or not, the UN shapes the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people,” says Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a human rights NGO and pro-Israel lobby based in Geneva.
Hillel Neuer, Executive director of UN Watch
“What is said and done in the UN eventually matters,” Neuer says, “so we need to care for victims of regimes that are elected and that are glorified by UN bodies that give strength to these regimes.”
This is exactly why many Israelis see the United Nations as incompetent at the very least. A Security Council veto held by the United States has saved Israel’s government a lot of hassle. However, vetos held by Russia and China have given the regime in Syria a free pass to wage war on its own people – and even allowed Russia to join the fight.
The conflict in Syria is just one example, though. “Saudi Arabia has killed in the past few months more than 2,300 civilians in Yemen,” Neuer says. “There is not a single resolution of the human rights council, no emergency session, no inquiry, no investigation.”
Many other moves over the decades have contributed to the formation of doubts regarding the UN’s actual capability to solve major disputes. One of these moves is the creation of UNRWA in 1949 – the UN agency for Palestine refugees.
Who will guard the guards?
Some critics see the United Nations as obsolete. Like the UN aims to watch over governments, they say, someone needs to watch over the UN.
“The more removed you are from the citizens, the less accountable you are going to be,” UN Watch’s Neuer says. “Sadly, the UN is already so remote from the citizens and there are no meaningful institutions that hold its decisions to account.”
Preet Bharara, the US attorney in charge of the case, said in a statement that the investigation was still in its early stages. “We will be asking: Is bribery business as usual at the UN?” Bharara said.
“It’s a constant challenge,” Neuer says. “Over the past 70 years, there have been major accomplishments, too, but one cannot ignore the problems and the corruption. Too many people and governments are silent about it.”
As far as Israel is concerned, the United Nations has given its citizens plenty of reasons to be suspicious – and not so many to be optimistic.