UN official: UNRWA staff sanctioned for inciting violence against Jews


(JTA) — Several employees of the United Nations agency handling Palestinian refugees were punished for disseminating content that promoted violence or anti-Semitism, a U.N. official said.

The punishments, which included suspension and loss of pay “in a number of cases so far,” were made public on Oct. 20 on the website of the office of the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The announcement followed the recent publication of two reports by the Geneva-based group UN Watch, which alleged that at least 12 officials from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, were engaged in incitement to violence online and on social networks against Jewish Israelis, and in some cases against Jews in general.

“UNRWA condemns and will not tolerate anti-Semitism or racism in any form,” read the statement, which followed a news conference in which Farhan Haq, Ban’s deputy spokesman, was asked about the report.

While noting that “some allegations have been found to be authentic, others not,” the statement also said that “very regrettably, in a number of cases so far, the Agency has found staff Facebook postings to be in violation of its social media rules. These postings have been removed and the staff have been subject to both remedial and disciplinary action, including suspension and loss of pay.”

The remaining allegations, the statement read, “are under assessment.”

UN Watch’s September report featured material from the Facebook page of a user named Ahmed Fathi Bader. Identifying himself as a deputy principal at an UNRWA school, he praised the murder of “a group of collaborators with the Jews” by Hamas last year, an incident Amnesty International harshly condemned.

Mohammed Abu Staita, who also identified himself on Facebook as working for UNRWA, posted a cartoon last year depicting a hook-nosed Orthodox Jew with long ear locks and a black hat stamped with a Star of David cowering behind a tree as the tree alerts a gun-wielding man to the Jew’s presence.

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