On Gaza, New Year's Eve Council Meeting, Missiles and
Protests on 42nd Street, Casualty Confusion
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
December 31 -- As a Security Council meeting on Gaza was scheduled for
6 p.m. on New Years Eve, the UN's
humanitarian coordinator John Holmes revised his way of presenting the
of civilians killed. He put the total dead in Gaza at 320 to 390, and
distinction he made on December 29, that the 62 women
and children killed were a proxy for
the spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Administration, Chris
Gunness, had since said that 25% of those killed have been civilians,
would put the figure at 80 to 97. Inner City Press asked UNRWA head
AbuZayd to explain the steps taken to move the analysis from Monday's
62, to the current UN reported tally.
said that 62 had been an UNRWA figure, albeit one which on Monday she
characterized as not credible. She then said that UNRWA is now
saying 20 to 25% of fatalities have been civilians, and again equated
women and children. Video here,
from Minute 36:28.
was surprising that even with two days to eliminate
their double standard, the UN system was still floundering on this
its other reporting on conflicts, the UN does not equate civilians with
Press asked John Holmes about the Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs report, apparently sent by e-mail to some but not all
cover the UN, of over 150 civilians fatalities in the Congo, in
Province -- did that number include all of the men who were killed,
the UN system's involvement in the underlying offensive against the
Army and what is the UN doing now to try to protect civilians going
forward? Video here,
from Minute 36:40.
Holmes began by saying that those killed in the Congo were just
"villagers," and therefore presumed to be civilians. But is Gaza not
something of a village, albeit densely populated? The UN had been the
note the prevalence of militias among the population in the Eastern
why equate men with combatants in Gaza but not the Congo? Is it only
the LRA's Joseph Kony, even more than Sudan's Omar Al-Bashir, has few
defenders, or none so persistent as the U.S. and Israel?
In Gaza, flour delivered in earlier days
Press also asked Ms. AbuZayd about which UN premises in Gaza have been
-- she focused on the UNSCO compound next to the presidential guest
which as "collateral damage," she said, all vehicles had been
destroyed -- and about OCHA's
own report that for maintenance workers from the
Gaza Coastal Management Water Utility, "the
use of water piping
greatly increases the risk of CMWU employees mistakenly identified by
aircraft as militants transporting rockets." Video here,
from Minute 18:17.
Ms. AbuZayd said she
aware of CWMU workers being targeted, as they wear "bright orange vests
that are carefully guarded." Some
First-hand footnotes: Inner
City Press witnessed two men in dark overcoats loading the two foot
long rear portion of a missile into a 4 by 4 on 43rd Street and Second
The license plate was diplomatic, and one of the two men had a security
officer's ear piece and held a letter on UN stationary. An inference:
Israeli mission has an exhibit, or prop, to play show and tell with.
front of the Israeli mission on Second Avenue and 42nd Street there
competing protests. North of 42nd Street the signs read, Free
Palestine. To the
south were Israeli flags. An e-mail encouraging participation in the
not mention that the goal was to shout over the Free Palestine crowd.
were not on First Avenue where the UN is, one wag opined, is just
symbol of the UN's lack of centrality and influence on unfolding events
Middle East. Reference was made to Ban Ki-moon's "extensive"
telephone log, no copy of which has been provided. Wednesday's
announced calls were to ministers of Brazil and Canada. Courtesy calls,
reported, Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev on December 23 met
with Ban Ki-moon. Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson
at that day's noon briefing, what the meeting had been about. That the expiration of the cease fire in Gaza
would have been discussed seemed obvious. The question was intended to
whether any statement as to timing had been made by the Israeli
"We'll get you a readout," Ms. Okabe said. Video here.
December 23, Ban's Spokesperson's Office sent Inner City Press the
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 12/23/2008 3:31:10 P.M.
Eastern Standard Time
Subj: Your question at noon
Regarding the Secretary-General's
meeting with the Israeli Permanent Representative today, it was purely
"Purely a courtesy call"? That is the phrase used
diplomats who are leaving the UN visit the 38th floor for a final photo
opportunity with the Secretary-General. We'll see.
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.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
Reporter's mobile (and
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]