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Amid Gaza Blackout, UNRWA's Lights On, Canada Earmarks, Cast Lead's Shadow

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 22 -- As Hamas and Fatah have bickered over electricity payments, many in Gaza have gone without lights. Not among these are the UN Relief and Works Agency, which has its own generators. Inner City Press asked UNRWA's John Ging about the power plant shutdown, who's to blame and what can be done. Video here, from Minute 36:15.

  Ging acknowledged that the dispute is between the "de facto government of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah," with the former recently agreeing to make payments to the latter. Fatah, as it happens, is accusing Hamas officials themselves of not paying their power bills. Truly, it is a power game.

  Inner City Press also asked Ging about on the one hand, executions carried out by Hamas, and on the other deaths killed by bombings by the Israel Defense Forces. Ging was cautious, referring to statistics on UN web sites and Hamas' rocket killing "a migrant worker on an Israeli kibbutz." He said that condemning executions is not within UNRWA's mandate, but that the wider UN system has condemned.

UN's Ban in Gaza, Ging at center, power plays not shown

  It was at the end of Ging's press conference that spokesman Martin Nesirky called on Inner City Press, when Ging was going to leave. Inner City Press asked Ging about Canada's funding decision on UNRWA. "You ask the big questions right at the end," Ging said.

  He went out of his way to express appreciation to Canada, saying it has not decreased but only ear-marked its funding. But in the U.S. House of Representatives, an "UNRWA Humanitarian Accountability Act" has been introduced. Watch this site.

Footnote: Recently the author Normal Finkelstein was invited by the UN Correspondents Association to give a talk at the UN. Inner City Press attended, and asked for Finkelstein's assessment of Ban Ki-moon's performance during Operation Cast Lead. The review was not positive.

  After the talk, the New Republic ran a review of not only Finkelstein but UNCA. [Ok, full disclosure of membership in UNCA and appearance in the New Republic piece.] The byline included that the author was an intern at the Inter Press Service, a media closely aligned with the generally pro Palestinian Group of 77 bloc. The affiliation led to some agita. Only at the UN.

* * *
As Egypt Walls Off Gaza, UN's Position Shifts, Still Silent on Cairo Protests

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 30 -- With hundreds of protesters outside the UN's building in Cairo, in New York the spin of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's position(s) on the Egypt's construction of an underground wall to seal off Gaza gathered force.

  The Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, headlined an article on December 29, "Ban supports Egypt's decision to build steel wall along border with Gaza." Since the UN has repeatedly dodged questions about the wall, which Inner City Press asked in connection with the now-stalled Gaza Freedom March, this seemed surprising.

  The KUNA article, further down, said that Ban's support for the wall is "implicit," and quoted his Deputy Spokesperson:

"UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon implicitly supports Egypt's decision to build a steel wall along its border with Egypt, meant to curb weapons smuggling into the Strip. 'We are aware of the media reports over recent days. It is our understanding that Egyptian efforts to counter illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into the Gaza Strip, as all states are called upon to do by UN Security Council Resolution 1860, are ongoing,' his deputy spokesperson Marie Okabe told KUNA."

  Given the UN's refusal to answer Inner City Press' December 28 request for comment on Egyptian authorities' blocking press access to the protesters in front of the UN building in Cairo, on December 30 Inner City Press asked a narrower, more targeted question, "In light of the public report that Ban "supports Egypt's decision to build steel wall along border with Gaza," please clarify whether Ban in fact supports, implicitly or otherwise, the construction of this wall."

  The response repeats the quote used by KUNA, but amplifies it with an additional paragraph expressing concern for potential humanitarian consequences, see below.

UN's Ban and Egypt's Mubarak, sealing of Gaza with wall not shown

Subj: Your question on Egypt/Gaza
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 12/30/2009 1:42:28 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Regarding the reports about Egypt's construction activity, we would reiterate that it is our understanding that Egyptian efforts to counter illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into the Gaza Strip, as all states are called upon to do by UN Security Council Resolution 1860, are ongoing.

As for any potential humanitarian consequences, we continue to be gravely concerned about socio-economic conditions in Gaza. The key to a sustainable solution to the crisis in Gaza is for resolution 1860 to be implemented in full, including an end to the Israeli blockade and the reopening of all legitimate crossings between Gaza and Israel and Gaza and Egypt, as prescribed in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.

  So does UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon support Egypt's construction of the wall? Watch this site.

* * *

Unauthorized Entry into Ban's Home and Party Dodged by UN, Disputing Obama Analogy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 24 -- At UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's official residence on December 22, an individual with no invitation and no UN pass crashed Mr. Ban's holiday party, multiple sources tell Inner City Press.

  They describe Mr. Ban's personal secretary Ms. Kim stopping the individual and being told -- falsely as it turns out -- that the individual works for the UN Department of Political Affairs but for some reason had no pass or identification, and being let in.

  Ms. Kim asked, "What section?" and was told, "Elections" -- the unit embroiled in controversy following its role in the flawed Afghan election. 

  But despite reason to believe the person was not even from the UN, he passed security into Mr. Ban's residence. The individual even received a gift from Mr. Ban, before proceeding to enter without authorization other UN premises.

  On December 23, Inner City Press approached Mr. Ban's new spokesman Martin Nesirky on his way to the day's noon briefing, and asked about the incident, even suggesting he ask Ban's secretary Ms. Kim. Nesirky returned to his office and put in an inquiry. Inner City Press put the question on the record during the noon briefing and was promised an answer.

  Later on December 23, Nesirky tersely e-mailed Inner City Press that "there was no security breach."

  On December 24, Inner City Press sought and receive additional information, including the identity of the person -- also not invited, but having a UN pass -- who brought the party crasher, and other identifying details.

  After that day's noon briefing, Inner City Press went to Nesirky's river view office and asked what he had meant, that there had been no security breach. Nesirky said that the UN doesn't discuss security arrangements.

  When Inner City Press noted that in Washington in the wake of gate crashing at President Obama's state dinner with India a whole Congressional hearing on the topic of security was held, Nesirky said the situations were not at all analogous.

  Why, Inner City Press asked, because Obama is so much higher profile than Ban? Nesirky said that wasn't it -- without specifying what he meant -- and insisted "there is no story."

UN's Ban, center, and Nicolas Cage, security and candor not shown

  Nesirky chided Inner City Press for pursuing the issue, and even said he would only ask Ban's office a second time if Inner City Press returned with not only the first but also the last name of the gate crasher. This is pointless, since by two witnesses' account, Ban's secretary did not even write down the person's name.

  While Mr. Nesirky's deputy reportedly made belated telephone calls Thursday afternoon, seemingly to quiet possible witnesses, Inner City Press called Mr. Ban's office and asked to speak with Ms. Kim, on deadline.

  After the first transfer, a female voice began and then hung up. When Inner City Press called back, the response was that Ms. Kim was no longer available. Inner City Press left a cell phone number stating it was for a story being written that day, on deadline. The deadline has passed.

  What Inner City Press finds troubling is that the UN would reflexively claim that "there was no security breach," then would refuse to confirm or deny specific facts about unauthorized entry into the Secretary General's official residence.

  Relatedly, if these are the UN's answers on an incident at the Secretary General's residence, how are the answers on human rights, peace and security and even environmental issues more credible?

  Whereas governments and legislatures make for at least some accountability, often in the UN there is no accountability, and it starts at the top. Watch this site.

From the December 23, 2009 transcript

Spokesperson Nesirky: I think you have another question, I’m pretty sure you do.

Inner City Press: Okay, I do. No, actually, then I will if I get your drift. It’s… I wanted to… I guess, and it’s something that maybe you’ll have an answer on later today, but some are saying that in yesterday’s reception at the Secretary-General’s residence that there was an unauthorized attendee, and that the personal secretary to the Secretary-General, you know, was aware of this and for some reason it was waived. I wanted to know both what the procedures are, given, in light of the event at the White House at the State dinner for India, what are the relevant procedures at the UN for such things, and is it in fact the case that an unauthorized attendee attended, and what will be done about it?

Spokesperson: Yes, you mentioned this as we were passing in the corridor just now. I don’t have an immediate answer for you on this specific incident. And also, in more general terms, I would not wish to go into details about security arrangements. That’s clearly not appropriate, but I can just assure you that the security detail for the Secretary-General is extremely rigorous and they work extremely hard for the Secretary-General’s safety. That’s put in a general context, and the more specific question you’ve raised, I’ll see what I can find out. It’s not something that I was aware of.

[The Spokesperson later confirmed that there was no security breach at the Secretary-General’s residence.]

Subsequent e-mail:

Subj: your question about SG residence last night
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: matthew.lee [at]
Sent: 12/23/2009 12:33:05 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Further to the Spokesman's response at the briefing to the above, there was no security breach at the SG residence last night.

   A question is, what does the UN mean by "security breach"? Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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