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UNRWA Official Calls for Boycott of Israeli Paper

December 9, 2014

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  (Psalm 56:3)

Chris Gunness, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) official spokesperson in Gaza known for his unflinching support of Hamas during Operation Protective Edge, returning missiles stored in their schools to the terrorist organization and hiring teachers associated with the organization, has reached a new low.

He is currently urging a boycott of the English language Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post.

UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness-Gaza

Chris Gunness, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) official spokesperson in Gaza

His call for the boycott was in response to an opinion piece in the Post that called for a reform of the UNRWA, which has for 65 years operated refugee camps for Palestinians, rather than help them settle and build proper cities.  UNRWA operates 245 schools serving 232,000 students, as well as several medical clinics and distributes food to the estimated 1.7 million refugees.  

The op-ed was written by Palestinian Human Rights activist Bassam Eid, a product of a UNRWA-administered refugee camp and founder of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.  In his mission to improve the lives of all Palestinians, he has become an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority and the UNRWA.

“For 26 years I have been devoting my life to the mission of defending human rights.  I have seen wars and terror.  I live in Jerusalem and was brought up in an United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) refugee camp in Shuafat, a refugee camp like 58 other UNRWA refugee camps created for the sole purpose of keep Palestinian Arab people in ‘temporary’ conditions, for 65 years, under the false pretense and specious promise of the ‘right of return’ to pre-1948 villages that do not exist,” he wrote in his opinion piece entitled “Proud Palestinians must lead the fight to reform UNRWA.”

Eid said that UNRWA does not want to help Palestinians improve their lives.

“The more Palestinians suffer, the more power goes to UNRWA, which allows it to raise unchecked humanitarian funds and purchase munitions,” he wrote.

The US alone gave the agency $294 million in 2013 and a total of $5 billion since 1950.  (JPost)

Palestinian Human Rights activist Bassam Eid

Palestinian Human Rights activist Bassam Eid (YouTube capture)

In response to Gunness’ call for boycotting the Jerusalem Post, a Post editorial stated in rebuttal, “We are open to publishing op-eds in our pages by Palestinians and Israelis from across the political spectrum.”

The Jerusalem Post also noted that Gunness has failed to speak out against Hamas and its violations of human rights.  While assuming that he is doing the best he can under the circumstances, he continues, “What Gunness should not be doing, however, is launching an attack on a media outlet that supports free and open debate as well as a diversity of expression.”

Charging Gunness with betraying his neutrality as a spokesman for a United Nations organization, Post editor-in-chief Steve Linde said, “The call to boycott our newspaper by a senior staff member of a UN body is unbecoming.  It is an unacceptable breach of protocol and neutrality he is supposed to uphold.”

UN-Ban Ki-moon-Jabalia-children-Gaza

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses for a group photo with children at the UN school in the Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. (Photo: United Nations)

In his twitter feed, Gunness suggested that the Post had boycotted him by not getting a quote for the Eid opinion piece.  (JPost)

Opinion pieces do not require quotes, however.

Still, as a Jewish Press article suggested, Gunness could have submitted his own op-ed article for consideration rather that attacking the Post, a long-established, respected free press.

An online petition addressed to Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, urges the US to condemn Gunness’ boycott.

“I urge you to condemn UNRWA’s shocking call to boycott the Jerusalem Post, which is a breach of the organization’s just-signed agreement with the U.S. State Department to respect the principle of neutrality.  The U.S. should call for Ban Ki-moon to investigate this pattern of repeated breaches, and demand that spokesman Chris Gunness apologize,” the petition states.   (Change)

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