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Saturday, August 02, 2003

Exploring the UN's web-coverage of the "Question of Palestine"

It's a swamp of bureaucracy, verbiage, extraordinary amounts of money . . . and antisemitism
“The Talmud says that if a Jew does not drink every year the blood of a non-Jewish man, he will be damned for eternity.”

—Saudi Arabian delegate Marouf al-Dawalibi before the 1984 UN Human Rights Commission conference on religious tolerance; [source]
Search Google for "United Nations" in conjunction with "Palestine," and it will fetch you up some 337,000 hits. I knew the Palestinians were entrenched at the UN, but I had no idea of the extent and complexity of their anti-Israel efforts there.

I encourage readers to browse some of the links that follow, to gain some firsthand knowledge of the situation. Keep in mind that the UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for "occupied Palestinian territory" amounts to a grand total of US$294 million for the year 2003.

There are more than a dozen UN links under the heading "Question of Palestine." I started with the United Nations System". Should you get confused, as invariably you will, you can always refer to this UN System organization chart.

Search UNISPAL sources for "Israel" and you get 1,000 different documents, almost all critical of Israel. UNISPAL, the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine was established and is being developed by the Division for Palestinian Rights.

The Division for Palestinian Rights was established in the UN Department of Political Affairs in the 1970s for the purpose of "creating an informed public opinion in all countries in support of the achievement of those rights." It is mandated to organize meetings, conferences, seminars and symposia to "promote a constructive analysis for discussion of the various aspects of the question of Palestine and mobilize international assistance to the Palestinian people." It also provides "substantive support and secretariat services" for the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and organizes the annual commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People is composed of 24 Member States, dedicated to promoting international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people and "heightened international awareness of the question of Palestine." Its documents are available in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish (needless to say, no Hebrew).

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is "by far the largest UN operation in the Middle East, with over 24,000 staff, almost all of them refugees themselves." This organization is unique in that the UN provides no other such efforts for any other group of refugees anywhere, at any time in history. The UNRWA is said to "provide education, health, and relief and social services to [almost 4 million] Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."

Their website map of Areas of Operations previously did not show Israel as a country; this has since been corrected.

The UNRWA's budget in 2002 was US$326.2 million.
UNRWA maintains close cooperation with the host governments and Palestinian Authority and liaises with their relevant authorities on matters concerning UNRWA’s operations and the provision of services to the Palestine refugees.
Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator (UNSCO) in the Occupied Territories: The Special Coordinator represents the Secretary-General in discussions with the parties and the international community in all matters related to continuing United Nations support to the peace process. The UNSCO offices are located in Gaza. The UNSCO website is financially supported by the Canadian International Development Agency.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP) "has gained considerable experience through its two decades of efforts to assist the Palestinian people." Since its inception, the total funding "mobilized" by the PAPP has been US$440 million.
UNDP/PAPP has a close working relationship with virtually all institutions of the Palestinian Authority, including the Ministries of Planning and International Cooperation, Agriculture, Education, and Local Government, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and the Palestinian Water Authority. UNDP/PAPP also carries out development efforts with Palestinian institutions on an inter-ministerial and cross-sectoral basis.
From UNDP/PAPP Facts about the Palestinian People: "The Palestinian people trace their ancestry to the Canaanites and other Semitic peoples who moved into ancient Palestine some 2000 years ago."
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNESCO/PAPP) is focused on education, science, culture and communication. UNESCO/PAPP was sponsoring 12 new projects "in the run-up to the year 2000, including a Palestinian museum and Palestinian conservatoire of music.

The World Bank provides financing for development projects, insurance for private investment, and plays a key role in donor coordination. See their newly released report: "27 months of Intifada, closures and Palestinian economic crisis - An Assessment," available in English and or Arabic, no Hebrew.

ReliefWeb, "serving the information needs of the humanitarian relief community," is a project of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia(ESCWA), inter alia, publishes reports on the economic and social impact of the Israeli occupation and settlements on the Palestinian people.

From their 7/30/03 press release: "ESCWA Consultative Meeting on Palestine Rehabilitation Concludes; Decides to Hold Arab-International Forum Eying a Palestinian State" --
Beirut, 30 July 2003 (United Nations Information Service)--UN agencies, Arab and international experts gathered in a consultative meeting aimed to prepare for the Arab-International Forum on Palestine Rehabilitation and Development to be hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) early next year, ended their discussions today at the UN House in Beirut.

Cosponsored by ESCWA, the League of Arab States (LAS) and the Palestinian Authority, the two-day meeting was organized in cooperation with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), aiming at keeping the social and economic issues and needs in the occupied Palestinian territories on the agenda of the international community, in-spite of the lack of stability in the region. Its main task was to define the objectives of the Forum; to identify its specific themes for deliberations; and to widen the preparatory process as much as possible.

Participants in the Meeting agreed that the Forum would aim to develop a Palestinian vision for reconstruction and development; intensify Arab efforts in support of reconstruction and development; integrate the efforts of regional and international organizations in reconstruction and development; and call for the contribution of donors to achieve reconstruction and development.

At a press conference following the Meeting, ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy told reporters that due to the circumstances witnessed by the Palestinian Authority since the beginning of the "intifada" there has been a lot of destruction as stated in the annual report prepared by ESCWA on the "Economic and Social Repercussions of the Israeli Occupation on the Living Conditions of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including Jerusalem and of the Arab Population in the Occupied Syrian Golan." "700,000 olive trees were eradicated and lots of prisoners and disabled have been reported," she pointed.

Tallawy added that due to the fact that two thirds of the Palestinian people live under the poverty line, an ESCWA mission was delegated to Palestine to explore the needs of the people, and that the Israeli occupation was the major reason for the bad living conditions of Palestinians.

Asked about the outcomes of the Meeting, Tallawy said that the most important benefit was the remarkable presence of the invitees and the support of the Palestinian Authority as well as the LAS. "The presentation of the Palestinian plan in the economic and social sectors; the role of civil society organizations and the private sector; the link between the Palestinian economy and that of the Arab States; and the role of regional-international organizations in the reconstruction process, will be the main agenda items of the upcoming Forum," she said.

Participating to the press conference were Mr. Said Kamal, Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League for Palestinian Affairs and Mr. Mohammad Ghadieh Director-General of the Palestinian Ministry of Planning.

In his statement, Kamal expressed his full support to the call of the United Nations Secretary-General for sending peacekeepers to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. "The Palestinian people were committed to implementing the "Road Map", and they achieved 90 percent of security in the West Bank as recognized by the Israelis," he added.

On his part, Ghadieh said that the Palestinian people were convinced with the peace process and with the establishment of two states but the Israeli leaderships were evading the implementation of agreements.
For further information, see "Antisemitism at the UN" by Mitchell Bard, and the Jewish Virtual Library's index of articles on the United Nations.