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Sunday, July 24, 2011

UNRWA plays the media; the media happily plays its role: Blame Israel!

Last week, I reported that UNRWA threatened to shut down its operations in Gaza in the face of protests.

This story was fairly widespread in the Arabic media, but it was covered in only two English-language media outlets that I could find.

China Radio International and RIA Novosti (Russia.)

Why did the Western media ignore a story that was mentioned by Russian and Chinese English-language media?

The reason is that the Western media is emotionally invested in the meme of Palestiniian Arab victimhood. Showing the PalArabs protesting against another darling of the media - the UN - cannot easily be reconciled with that narrative. That, plus the fact that it is obvious that a protest to stop services because they had been slightly curtailed is so incredibly shortsighted.

The Chinese and Russian media, however, while they are no fans of Israel, do not have the same love of Palestinian Arabs and are not as emotionally invested in them as the mainstream Western media. So, ironically, the media of the Communists and former Communists are more fair in this case than that of the enlightened West!

The rallies are organized and supported by Hamas. Hamas has even said that it will create an agency to oversee UNRWA operations in Gaza - because Hamas has never been happy with UNRWA's supposedly liberal, "Zionist" curriculum and it is using these protests as a means to pressure the agency. Again, this fact is practically unreported in the Western media, as it does not fit nicely into the meme of Israelis oppressing Palestinian Arabs.

UNRWA is not above using these facts to its own political advantage. They refuse to issue press releases about these protests, just as they always have except in extreme cases where it could not be ignored. And when Ma'an called their spokesperson about the demonstrations, they do not say a word about Hamas and place the blame squarely on - Israel. UNRWA's Chris Gunness says:
Make no mistake, the lack of donor funds to UNRWA is now directly affecting the stability of the Middle East with anti-UN protests threatening to shut down UNRWA on the doorstep of Israel at a time of already heightened instability in the region....The real problem is that we are asking our donors to fund emergency programs which aim to mitigate the effects of Israel’s illegal collective punishment of 1.5 million people. The International Committee of the Red Cross has called the blockade a "clear breach of international law" in the face of which there has to be transparency and accountability. From UNRWA's point of view, it would be better for those states and organizations with the power to bring the necessary pressures to bear to end the collective punishment rather than pay UNRWA to deal with its disastrous impact.
So it is not because of Hamas creating an artificial crisis by orchestrating protests, it is not the (mostly Arab) donors who refuse to pay their pledges to UNRWA. No, the problem is, of course, Israel!

And now that UNRWA has made a statement on the issue that fits with the western media narrative - now that Gunness has identified the bad guy - we can expect them to finally shine a spotlight on the issue. Of course, it is a spotlight expertly misdirected by the UNRWA spokesperson, who plays the Western media like puppets.