Thursday, July 31, 2014

14 Questions that UNRWA should answer in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

I have watched and heard a lot of reports coming from both sides during the Israel-Gaza conflict. Sincerely, violations have taken place from both sides but the one-sided mounting death toll has given almost all sympathetic inclination to the suffering civilians in Gaza.
UNRWA has been releasing their own statements but more recently I am getting confused as to their role. Press releases, official statements and expressions have come from them and rightfully so because they have their staff on ground and we should expect first hand report from them. But a critical analysis of their questions and statements leaves me more questions than answers.
I have expected most broadcasting houses to ask tougher questions on reports, intentions, statements and facts but they appear diplomatic with UN officials and real with Israelis.
So below are 14 questions on my mind. Answers to them could help me (and many more around the world) picture the role of UNRWA in the Israeli-Gaza conflict that has taken at least 1400 lives with billion of dollars in damages.

UNRWA has release a number of statements insisting that the IDF is directly responsible for the numerous shelling incidents which include a UN school, hospitals, civilian and refugee facilities.
Question 1: Why hasn't UNRWA release any statement or report concerning the activities of Hamas within civilians population?

No journalist has so far reported on the activities of Hamas within Gaza except one - Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati. He did an easy-to-under report on the other side of Gaza. And of course, he did the reporting after leaving Gaza. 
Question 2: Why does the UNRWA complains and accusations only reveal Israeli shootings but not Hamas'?
Question 3: It would be nice to hear UNRWA reaction to that statement and if or how Hamas' censure might have effects on their reporting.
Question 4: Do UNRWA staff know about the fighting going on around them or do they just pick up the dead and wounded? UNRWA reports suggest IDF troops shooting at schools and homes and do not paint a combat scenario. Most of UNRWA reports agree with Hamas' submission of Israeli indiscriminate shooting at civilians population.

A UN official (Deputy secretary general in New York) confirmed to Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room that they had experts in Gaza who unequivocal confirmed after their findings that Israel is responsible for the shells that killed the civilians in the UN School. He added  that experts were on ground in Gaza who investigated and confirmed from the shrapnel gotten from the site that Israel did the shooting.
Question 5: If UNRWA had such experts in Gaza, why weren't they consulted to inspect and report on the rockets found in UN schools on 3 different occasions? The world deserves to know the kind of rockets, their range and possibly who used the UN schools as rocket warehouse.

UN spokesman Chris Gunness, categorically said that the rockets were found in Abandoned UN schools.
Question 6: Can UNRWA tell the world how many such schools in Gaza are abandoned and which are occupied? The world deserves to know how many schools they are, how many are used as shelters, how many are abandoned and have been inspected.
Opinion: It seems to me that Chris is saying that Jihadist rockets are only in Abandoned schools and Israel only shoots at UN schools used for shelter purposes.
Question 7: Why are there abandoned UN facilities when Pierre Krahenbuhl's claimed just yesterday in AC360 that there are no more places to go or that they have been stretched in ability to shelter more displaced persons. Would it be that the abandoned schools are not conducive or have been occupied by some militants or something else? The world deserves to the truth on ground.
Question 8: Given that UNRWA turned over the discovered rockets to the local authorities. Who can they say today is responsible for the discovered rockets? Who has custody of them? And who is their spokesperson?

Pierre Krahenbuhl said in Anderson Coopers' AC360, that they had communicated to Israel the coordinates of their facilities 17 times prior to the school bombing.
Question 9: how many times was the same communicated to Hamas or Islamic Jihad?
Question 10: And what will he report as the adherence level of these militant groups to shoot near or across such coordinates?

From all indications and/or reports, UNRWA appears not to have made contacts to Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other militant groups in Gaza. They only state they are in contacts with local authorities.
Opinion: I knows that since 2006/2007 Hamas has been the defacto ruling party in Gaza.
Question 11: who then are the local authorities that UNRWA have been working with? What is the name of their leader? Who is their spokesperson? To what party are they loyal (certainly not the PLO)?

Chris Gunness claimed on Al Jazeera in a telephone interview that nowhere is safe in Gaza because of the constant shelling of Israeli soldiers on civilian areas.
Reports: Israel reported 3 of its soldiers where killed in a civilian house that according to it, housed a tunnel shaft. Hamas confirmed that attack saying they lured the soldiers to the building and killed them with booby traps.
Question 12: why isn't UNRWA also reporting the presence of Hamas-planted booby traps in civilian houses which makes civilian population unsafe as well?
Opinion: I think this is the first hint at Hamas operational activity that the world shouldn't let slip. It only made news because it resulted in the death of the IDF soldiers. If it resulted in the death of the house occupants, I bet that the news houses and particularly UNRWA would have placed the blame on Israel as well.

Question 13: Does UNRWA have an operational center in Israel? We will also like to have a report on the Israeli side of things? They too should let the world and particularly the UN know about life under rockets and constant siren.

Question 14: What reaction does UNRWA have to the operational report the IDF released on Hamas shootings or rocket firing from areas close to schools, religious places and market?

Final Submission: UNRWA is the united nations relief and works agency. It is unprofessional to take sides in a conflict like this as this only stokes the hatred rather than soothe it.
Both sides of the conflict has committed questionable acts in the war so far but the reporting especially from UNRWA has been appalling. They leave us with more questions than answers in making us not believe that they have joined the war on a diplomatic front.
Whatever happens today is a precedent for tomorrow. Nations are watching and their perception will determine if UNRWA will be welcomed in other states in any time of conflicts.

Chris Gunness is the UNRWA Spokesperson in Gaza.
Pierre Krahenbuhl is the UNRWA Commissioner General 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Isolated State

The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has entered its 23rd day and while the death toll is fast rising, it is becoming obvious that Israel is suffering not just the death of 53 soldiers but a diplomatic hit. Just recently the states of El Salvador, Peru and Chile recalled their envoy to protest the Hamas operation tagged "Protective Edge".

Despite claims of restraint from the Israeli Defense Force and strong diplomacy from the Israeli foreign ministry, a huge majority of the world's view about the conflict has not and most probably will not changed. They basically see Israel as the aggressor against unarmed civilians. Sadly Israel is becoming increasing isolated.

But wait, has Israel ever being not isolated? My answer is No. Any discussion on Israel in UN and her numerous agencies seems to be the best time for free speech. Everyone comes to the party and ignores calamities and gross human right violations in other parts of the world. Most ironic was a condemnation of Israel from the Syrian foreign ministry.

Before the state of Israel was born, Jews were isolated. After the birth in 1948, they have fought off existential threats without a single foreign boot on ground and even right now seem alone in the global fight against terrorism. When the former Egyptian President, Abdel Nasser stated the single objective of the Arab allied forces' invasion of the nascent state in 1948 as "driving them to the sea", all the UN offered was a statement. Notable however, It most not be forgotten that the most ardent Israel defender in the UN security council - US even distance itself from Israel on threats of oil embargo in 1973.

Today, Israel fights an enemy sworn to her destruction and while the world ignores the Hamas charter, they remember their children. The world looks at the other way in Syria, but reacts to every details in Gaza. The world claims Gaza is full of innocent civilians and ignores the 2600+ rockets into Israel. The world ignores the reports of rockets found in UN compounds but is upbeat when such compounds take a hit. The world sympathizes with pictures of Gaza children truly suffering but don't ask about the underground structures that exposes the children.

Certainly when it comes to Israel, expect the world to ask the wrong questions.

The only country whose existence is constantly threatened by fellow UN member states is truly isolated. When the chips are down, Israel is all Israel has and most begin to prepare for more to come. Whether it be destiny, by accident or some prophecies at work, Israel is not going off this hook so soon unless they accept a military defeat in which case would mean the end of the Jewish state.