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The United Nations and Israel

UN Should Also Blame Itself for Aide's Death

By Bruce S. Ticker - November 27, 2002

The United Nations might get more than it expected when it investigates the death of a senior UN aide at the Jenin refugee camp on Friday, November 22.

Blame can probably be spread around - the Palestinian terrorist action which precipitated the Israeli incursion; errors of judgment on the Israelis' part; and, especially, the UN's negligence in allowing a militant presence to fester in a camp that it is charged with administering.

If the United Nations' bosses want to point fingers over Iain John Hook's death, they should turn first to the mirror.

Since last April, there has been sporadic reporting that Palestinians at Jenin turned the refugee camp into an armed fortress right under the noses of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency which administers Jenin. Many of the suicide bombers who crossed the border to kill Jews in Netanya reportedly came from Jenin. It is too incredible to believe that UNRWA workers were unaware of the militant activities going on there.

Israeli authorities have not held UNRWA workers responsible for stopping these activities, but prior to the first Jenin incursion last spring they had not even reported these developments to the United Nations, which should have taken firm action to stop them. In addition, one UNRWA official was caught in a public lie about the previous Jenin incident.

The Boston Globe, one of the few media outlets to shed light on this situation, reported in a story by Charles Radin last July 8 that UN Security Council resolutions forbid the use of refugee camps for military training and the manufacture and storage of weapons. Secretary General Kofi Annan has referred to such camps as protected areas that should not be used for any purpose that could put the refugees at risk.

The negligence of the United Nations is far more scandalous than any transgressions of the Israelis or the Palestinians. The UN's inherent role is to try to quell tensions and UNRWA's specific job is to provide social services to the camp's residents.

UNRWA cannot be expected to eliminate military activities in its camps, but UNRWA officials sure have a responsibility to report this to their bosses so they can act on it. Their failure to do so makes them complicit in every Israeli's death as a result of terrorist attacks which originated in Jenin.

In fact, this also put the lives of innocent Arabs at risk.

Peter Hansen, commissioner general of UNRWA, told the Globe's Radin that "where we found gunmen have gained access we protested strenuously to the Palestinian Authority and demanded that they do their job."

As if that's good enough. If UNRWA was genuinely concerned about the problem, they would notify not only the UN but any party which could take responsible action to nip it in the bud. That includes the Israeli and American governments.

Though military action might have been necessary early on, the UN and interested governments could have pressured Palestinian leaders to stop it cold. If only they knew.

And wouldn't you think that the UN would direct UNRWA to report all significant problems which the agency can't resolve on its own?

Even this past Friday, more than seven months after the initial incursion at Jenin, IDF troops fought Palestinians in gun battles. Hook was fatally shot in the middle of a gun battle.

At least 100 Palestinian children tossed rocks at the soldiers, according to news accounts. How were these kids organized so well right under the noses of UNWRA officials?

There are other issues involving both the UN and UNWRA, but their joint neglect in staunching deadly terrorist activities is far more serious than the UN's one-sided resolutions against Israel and concerns about UNWRA's food-distribution system and the Israel-bashing education system at the camps.

The Jerusalem Report magazine recently recounted that U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor who represents a district near San Francisco, is planning hearings about UNWRA in Congress.

The UN should not need to wait on congressional hearings to clean up its act. The lives of not only Jews but also Arabs depend on it.

Bruce S. Ticker is a former journalist who now works as a municipal employee in Philadelphia and writes freelance. Brucetic@aol.com

©2002 - Israelinsider.com

See also Government questions UNRWA neutrality

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