The United Nations’ relief agency for Palestinian refugees, lashed out Tuesday at the Israel Broadcasting Authority for airing what it called a a dishonest portrayal of the organization on Saturday in “Ro’im Olam” on Channel 1 television.

The news magazine’s anchor and the journalist behind the segment have fired back.

Journalist David Bedein’s “For the Nakba”, UNRWA said, contains numerous inaccuracies about its operations in Palestinian refugee camps and educational institutions. It depicts large graffiti that lionize Palestinian suicide bombers and includes an interview with Palestinian children who profess a desire to become “martyrs.”

“Ro’im Olam” presenter Yaakov Ahimeir sought comment from UNRWA’s Christopher Gunness, who watched the segment before it aired. Gunness said he warned of numerous inaccuracies, which were never corrected.

In a letter written prior to the airing, Gunness said UNRWA schools do not contain murals of suicide bombers, and that the textbooks shown are for use by 12th graders, while UNRWA schools do not go beyond ninth grade.

Gunness said students making derogatory statements about Israel are not enrolled at UNRWA schools, whose pupils are identifiable by their school uniforms. The spokesperson added that UNRWA does not sanction events that officially mark the Nakba, as the segment suggested. Gunness denied the film’s assertion that a student in an agency-run school was an 18-year-old suicide bomber.

Gunness accused Channel 1 of airing “a stack of lies,” and said editing the errors was “a matter of integrity.”

In response, Ahimeir said: “Chris Gunness viewed the film before the broadcast, and his response was broadcast in full.” After he sent me additional material, Ahimeir said, “This was also read on the air by me as UNRWA’s response.”

Bedein denied Gunness’ claims. Palestinian kids, he said, study the materials from the textbooks at a young age, and the mural of the suicide bomber was seen at the entrance of the UNRWA school at the Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem.


DAVID BEDEIN responds:

There were three criticisms mentioned herein by HaAretz, each of which is easily refutable.

1. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness claims that the books only show 12th grade texts and that UNRWA does not teach 12th grade, UNRWA makes no comment on the 5th grade text quoted in the film, while claiming that UNRWA schools would never promote Jihadiasm, Here is the text from the fifth grade book that was taken from the film:

Palestinian fifth graders are taught this poem entitled: We Shall Return.

“We Shall Return By Harun Hashem Rashid

We shall return

[We] shall return to the homes, to the valleys, to the mountains

Under the flags of glory, Jihad and struggle

With blood, sacrifice [fida’ ], fraternity and loyalty”

2. The film clearly shows the portrait of a female suicide bomber on the wall of a school in the UNRWA Deheishe refugee facility near Bethlehem.

3. The suicide bomber is clearly identified as a former UNRWA student. The fact that she is glorfied in her UNRWA “alma mater” is the problem.