Israel’s Channel Two publishes correction
24 October 2012
Israel’s highest-rating news programme, Channel Two News, has published a statement correcting false claims that rockets were fired from schools operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) during the Gaza war in 2008-2009. The statement makes clear that Israeli officials themselves acknowledged that such claims were false and that there was no evidence to support them.
“We heard this misinformation during the war when there was shelling on and around the Agency’s schools and our main warehouse in Gaza”, said UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness, “but Israeli officials made it clear to the UN during the war itself that they knew claims about militants in UNRWA installations were completely false. Constant, unchecked repetition of this misinformation has been very damaging to the Agency and has produced some very poor and biased journalism, which I will continue to confront. This is the third time in just a few months that a major news organisation has issued a public retraction because of false information about UNRWA.”
The shelling in and around UNRWA installations, such as schools and the Agency’s warehouse in Gaza, were condemned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders. In a statement issued on 15 January 2009, Mr. Ban expressed “outrage”, saying he had protested to Israel’s defence and foreign ministers. The defence minister had told Mr. Ban that the shelling of the UNRWA warehouse was a “grave mistake”.
After the warehouse was destroyed along with all material and equipment within it, the Israeli government paid over USD 10 million to the United Nations. “Would all this really have happened? Would all this really have been said by such senior officials if there were militants firing rockets from our installations?” asked Gunness.
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 5 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, microfinance and emergency assistance.
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, supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the budget deficit stands at USD 37 million.
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