THIS IMAGE on an UNRWA school’s Facebook page has aroused outrage..
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
UNRWA dismissed charges that one of its schools in Syria owned a Facebook page that promoted vehicular terrorist attacks against Israel and used anti-Semitic imagery on Thursday.
“Our position on racism is clear. We condemn racism in all its forms and consider the posts on the impostor Facebook page claiming to represent the UNRWA Rameh School in Syria as unacceptable,” said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in Jerusalem.
“We complained to Facebook about the impostor page and the concerned page has been taken down,” he said.
Gunness issued a statement on the matter after NGO UN Watch complained about the Facebook page to Gunness as well as to US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and the Anti-Defamation League.
In his letter of complaint, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer explained that the Facebook page with anti-Semitic posts stated that it belonged to “Rameh Unrwa school” located near Damascus.
That facility in the Jaramaneh camp, which houses Palestinian refugees, was the focus of an UNRWA fund-raising drive last winter.
One of the posts on the “Rameh Unrwa school” Facebook page showed a car hitting three people, with an Arabic caption that included a play on the word for “run over” (daes) and Daesh, the Arabic acronym for Islamic State, Neuer said.
The second showed a child wearing a black and white keffiyeh playing with an electric car, which he sends to chase after a Jew, who is depicted in classical anti-Semitic imagery as an ultra-Orthodox Jew with a black hat, a Star of David, a beard and a hooked nose.
On Thursday, Gunness said UNRWA had “looked into a recent accusation related to offensive posts on a Facebook page claiming to represent the UNRWA Rameh School in Syria and has concluded that the Facebook page in question is an impostor page.
“The Rameh School in Syria has been closed since 2012 and has been used as a shelter for people displaced by the conflict,” he added.
“There is no evidence that the impostor Facebook page, which uses UNRWA’s name without UNRWA’s permission, or the postings on it, are in any way linked to UNRWA or to UNRWA staff members,” Gunness said.
He also dismissed claims that a staff member in the Palestinian territories had posted anti-Semitic material on a Facebook page.
“The posting on Facebook appears to have been designed to look as if it was posted by an UNRWA staff member but there is no evidence that any UNRWA staff member was involved,” Gunness said.
Gunness added UNRWA had written to Facebook about another imposted account, which has since been removed.
“In the last year, upon UNRWA’s request, Facebook has removed or disabled access to over 90 pages and groups using UNRWA’s name and/or our logo without authorization,” he said.
Gunness added that his organization took the issue of staff neutrality very seriously and always investigated credible reports of such violations.
He had initially taken to Twitter on Tuesday night to dismiss Neuer’s charges. At that time, Neuer tried to engage with him, but found that Gunness had blocked him.
Neuer tweeted his disbelief of the UNRWA denial particularly given how much the Rameh facility is mentioned in its literature.
“Why have Gunness and UNRWA failed to say or do anything whatsoever about the page over the past few years of its posts?” he asked.
“If Gunness believes in the UN’s stated principles of accountability, why on his official UNRWA Twitter account has he become the only United Nations official to block UN Watch, a UN-accredited NGO that is precisely mandated to monitor agencies such as his?” Neuer asked.