Wednesday, February 25, 2009

UNRWA providing political cover for Hamas

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Feb. 25, 2009, by HERB KEINON and TOVAH LAZAROFF:

The UN Relief and Works Agency is systematically providing political cover to Hamas, a senior government official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, lashing out at the agency for passing a Hamas letter to US Sen. John Kerry when he visited Gaza last week.

UNRWA head Karen AbuZayd gave the letter to Kerry, along with other material, during his brief visit Thursday to the Gaza Strip. The letter, written by a Hamas Foreign Ministry adviser and later disavowed by the Islamist group, was addressed to US President Barack Obama.

Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, handed the unopened letter to the US Consulate in Jerusalem. Kerry told Fox News that he never read the letter because it was sandwiched among other promotional papers the UN had given him.

"Unfortunately, there is a pattern here," the senior Israeli official said.

"That no one finds it strange that UNRWA, whose mandate is humanitarian, is the vehicle through which Hamas passes messages on to the US, just shows where UNRWA is at."

Furthermore, the official said, UNRWA was lobbying around the world for governments to drop the international community's three preconditions to talking with Hamas - that it recognize Israel, disavow terrorism and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements.

It is not clear how this, or calls by UNRWA for an "independent international investigation" into alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza, fell within the organization's mandate, the official added....

...UNRWA has also come under criticism from Israeli officials who say it is parroting the Hamas line.

The senior Israeli official said that during Operation Cast Lead, UNRWA adopted Hamas's position of calling for a cease-fire without any preconditions, such as an end to the weapons smuggling and the missile fire on Israel.

"They just echoed Hamas's positions," the official said.

Likewise, the official said that the organization was very critical of Israel's actions during the war. At one point, UNRWA spokesmen indicated that at least 40 refuge-seeking civilians were killed on January 6 in a UNRWA school facility in Jabalya. ... this was an example of how UNRWA routinely and uncritically adopted Hamas' narrative and claims of casualties.

According to the IDF, only three civilians and eight to 10 Hamas gunmen were killed near the school. The IDF said that an IDF unit that came under fire from a Hamas cell near the school returned fire. No shell hit the school.

The UN issued a revised report earlier this month admitting that as the result of a "clerical error," it was mistaken when it reported that the compound itself was shelled....
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