Challenged on Gaza School Bombing
Story, UN Attacks the Press, Confirms Staff Strike
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, February 5 -- Despite
a widespread perception, created in part by the UN, that the civilians
by a June 6 shelling by the Israeli Defense Forces in Jabaliya were
school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency, the UN has since had to
"clarification" that the shelling was entirely outside of the school.
Inner City Press on Thursday asked UNRWA's John Ging if he has
of his public statements in the bombing's wake, for example that "those
in the school were all families seeking refuge." Video here,
Ging responded that he wouldn't change a word he'd
said, and instead
blamed the Globe and Mail newspaper for a "sensationalist headline."
Ging said that "all reputable media" -- he listed the New York Times,
the Jerusalem Post, the Guardian -- had "gotten it right."
But the Jerusalem Post article, for example,
"noted that in two previous reports, the UN had stated that the IDF
had been against the school and not outside the school." Ging's UN
colleague Chris Gunness has accused the Jerusalem Post of misquoting
During the hot-phase of the conflict, Ging and the
UN bemoaned the
absence of international media from the conflict zone. As one wag put
Thursday, be careful what you wish for. Beyond the mis-statement in the
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs January 7 report,
said nothing as the incident was widely described as a bombing of a UN
In fact, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on January 17
another United Nations school was hit by Israeli Defense Forces. I
the strongest terms this outrageous attack which is the third time this
happened." This quote is on the UN's own ReliefWeb, here.
Then a quiet "clarification"
in a UN Field Report:
UN's John Ging on the screen, John Holmes in
the seat, reputable media not shown
While correctly reported on 6 January that Israeli shells landed
UNRWA school in Jabalia, resulting in an initial estimate of 30
Situation Report of 7 January referred to ‘the shelling of the UNRWA
Jabalia.’ The Humanitarian Coordinator would like to clarify that the
and all of the fatalities, took place outside rather than inside the
One might have thought, given the controversy,
that Ging would address it in his opening statement to the UN press
corps on Thursday. He did not. Upon questioning, he acknowledged that
the school was not hit, except by
shrapnel, and that the school was not damaged. That was not the
from this perspective the Globe and Mail is to be congratulated for
not denounced as "unreputable" by the UN. Click here
for a more
recent Globe and Mail story quoting the UN on the disappearance of its
envoy to Niger, the Canadian Robert Fowler.
In fairness, the UN also mis-lead the press, or
stories to stand uncorrected, earlier in the conflict when the UN's John
equated civilian casualties with only those who were children and women
latter group, he said that they too might be with Hamas). How ever
begrudgingly, Holmes acknowledged the controversy and amended his
without denouncing the media which called him on it. Ging has been
hard, but attacking the press, or particular reporters, for zeroing in
inconsistencies would put Ging more squarely in the UN spin mold than
the case so far.
Inner City Press also asked Ging about reports of a
strike by UNRWA workers
in the West Bank. Ging confirmed the "industrial action," but denied
that money was shifted to Gaza from the UNRWA West Bank budget, calling
staff union leadership ill-informed on this point. He said that now
the Red Cross can get cash into Gaza, but no one else, including it
Palestinian Authority. Reportedly, Hamas brings in cash through tunnels
Egypt. Ging emphasized the blockade of
"plastic pellets to make plastic bags," and of paper to print UNRWA's
human rights curriculum. The blocking of construction materials,
plastic PVC pipes, seems equally serious. We'll have more on this.
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
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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