Monday, October 04, 2004


UNRWA in trouble

It seems that Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, seriously put his foot in his mouth. He is quoted on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website as saying:
Oh I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime.

Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another.

We demand of our staff, whatever their political persuasion is, that they behave in accordance with UN standards and norms for neutrality.
Even though I tend to agree with Hansen that one's political persuasion should not be a determining factor in whether or not one gets a job, he should know (and, who knows, maybe he did) that this is going to be a political firestorm. Israel and its supporters worldwide have long held that the UN has it out for them, and this is not going to help. Moreover, Hamas has become so synonymous with "terror" in the lexicon of today's world, that very few are going to take the time to understand the difference between one's political affiliation and one's membership in a terrorist organization. It's one thing for Pat Robertson to say that UNRWA is a problem, it's quite another for countries who donate large amounts of money to UNRWA (Canada's $10 million a year were mentioned in the article) to find it politically disastrous to continue this support.

Interestingly (and probably not positively for UNRWA), this coincides with accusations leveled against UNRWA by Israel regarding the use of UNRWA vehicles to transport weapons and Palestinian fighters which included "Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gilerman has sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan demanding the dismissal of Peter Hansen from his post." Although the claims seem to be false based on the evidence, the implication combined with Hansen's comments will certainly be bad news for UNRWA.

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