In recent days, UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) has been attacked after an Israeli film-maker released a film called “Camp Jihad”. This alleges that the agency promoted anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in its “summer camps”. The accusations, which are entirely false according to an UNRWA spokesman, have been repeated in various media outlets.
Chris Gunness said that UNRWA has conducted a lengthy and detailed investigation into the film. “As a result,” he stressed, “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, claimed Gunness, has a history of making “baseless claims” about UNRWA, all of which have been 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 camp shown in the film is in the West Bank but was not affiliated with or organised by UNRWA. The only UNRWA summer activities actually depicted are those shot in Gaza. “However,” continued the UNRWA spokesman, “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, insisted Gunness, those interviewed in the film are presented with captions that identify them as UNRWA staff members but only one of those interviewed is actually a member of the agency’s staff. “The comment she makes does not violate UNRWA’s neutrality policy,” he pointed out.
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 organise or manage these activities and none of the interviewees were UNRWA staff members. “In addition, the interviews were organised by the film-maker and conducted with children, without parental consent, in an unethical, highly ‘leading’ manner, by a media organisation he contracted.”
UNRWA condemns firmly the anti-Semitic and inflammatory statements made during some of the interviews filmed in the West Bank. The agency has suspended its relationship with the third-party organisation, pending a review. “The allegations that UNRWA promotes incitement and the notion that the agency is responsible for the views expressed in the film are rejected in no uncertain terms,” said Gunness.
The main UN agency for Palestinian refugees insists that it is committed to fostering human rights and tolerance, and that it teaches these values through the curriculum in its schools. It is proud to be one of the few organisations to have 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.
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.
(Source / 29.08.2013)