UN "Caught Off
Guard" by Bombing of Gaza, Aware of Sewage Dangers, Council's Basement
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
January 5, updated -- With
the Gaza Strip
cut in two, and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad meeting with Arab
ministers in New York, the UN's John Ging told the Press on Monday, "We
were all caught off guard by this operation." Ging was in fact on
the UN word for vacation, when the Israeli air strikes began. He
returned to Gaza City on January 5, after being held up at the crossing
with a group of Red Cross surgeons.
Press asked Ging, what did the
UN anticipate or plan for when Hamas called of
its unilateral ceasefire? We believed that this would not happen, Ging
said. Video here,
from Minute 36:35.
that it is the conventional wisdom of senior political figures that
there will be no solution of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict by
means. That's not the same thing as not planning for for the
military action. One wonders what the UN's or UNRWA's contingency plans
and where those plans and planners are now.
Press asked UN humanitarian coordinator John Holmes about the danger of
sewage lake by Beit Lahiya getting hit or targeted by Israeli bombs.
from Minute 32:33. Holmes
rushed to point out that "it is not so much that it would be targeted
if hit by accident" the wall would send a flood of sewage onto the
population. And would the UN then say, "we were caught off guard"?
In UN briefing room, talking heads by video, foreknowledge not shown
evening, Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office sent out three Press
first on elections in Ghana, the second about Gaza, with the Ghana in
headline. One recipient mused, had Israel invaded Ghana? Then came the
basement of the UN, the Arab League ministers' meeting was postponed
from 10 am
to 11 am, then to 12:30. As the clock passed 5:30, a procession of
Five Ambassadors went in to Conference Room 5: France's Jean-Maurice
who told the Press he didn't want to comment while his President
Sarkozy is in the region, US Ambassador Khalilzad, a delegation of
then John Sawers of the UK. Egypt's
Ambassador criticized Sawers on Saturday for his allegation of arms
from Egypt into Gaza. It was a question to be asked.
Update of 6:10 pm
-- UK Amb. Sawers came out, made a brief statement at the stakeout
microphone, then turned away. He stopped to churn out a few more pearls
of wisdom, then headed up the stairs. His spokesman promised to return
with an answer to the question, did Egypt complain? And lo and behold,
he did, reporting that as of Monday morning, no letter or "demarche"
had been received by the UK mission, but that the two Ambassadors have
been repeatedly in touch, and are -- in Inner City Press' phrase --
still on speaking terms. And there you have it.
Update of 7:53 pm
-- while the Arab League ministers continue to meet in Conference Room
5, with non-permanent Security Council members, the UN has decided to
terminate UN Television coverage, taking down not only the camera and
speakers, but also the lights and UN logo background screen. Only after
the U.S. and Japan speakers had finished did the cost savings begin. At
the UN it's pay to play, even in the basement theater.
Update of 8:10 pm
-- in a final lull, Inner City Press asked how owns the blue UN
backdrop. UN TV, the answer came. But UNTV staffers are "affiliates,"
not UN employees. So is the backdrop with the UN logo owned by an
outside contractor? No, it was reiterates, UN TV is part of the UN,
only its employees aren't. But where did the backdrop go?
Update of 8:20 pm
-- When the meeting broke up, what interviews there were, in the
half-light, were entirely in Arabic. Inner City Press ran after the
Egyptian Ambassador to ask if he had spoken with the UK counterpart,
and what was said. Yes, he answered, we spoke, and the UK withdrew its
accusation, and said there is smuggling from everywhere. And then he
was gone. The Arab Group moves in world parallel to others, often by
their choice, but this time at least in part by UN (TV's) choice.
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Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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