Some Israeli officials are weighing punitive measures against a local UN office
for allegedly supporting and building illegal structures for Palestinians in
Area C of the West Bank, as well as publishing reports that they believe
disseminate faulty data, according to diplomatic sources.
considering confiscating equipment as well as restricting the movement of
Palestinian employees of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Although OCHA in the occupied Palestinian territories' activities
have angered a number of diplomatic and security officials in Israel, at present
there does not appear to be a coordinated response against the
The coordinator of government activities in the
territories, Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, has called on Israeli officials to act as
harshly as they can against OCHA’s illegal activity, during conversations he has
held on the matter with the Foreign Ministry.
Another diplomatic source
said that on a global level, OCHA is an important organization whose role is to
coordinate international responses to emergencies and disasters.
are the first on the ground in a time of crisis,” the second diplomatic source
But OCHA’s local Israeli office, which began as a small operation
in 2000 and has since grown significantly, deals with Palestinian issues rather
than disaster relief, the second source said.
The Foreign Ministry said
in response, “There are many UN organizations that work in the territories and
in Gaza. One of them is OCHA. We have a dialogue that continues with this
OCHA’s Israeli office told The Jerusalem Post that it
could not respond at this time.
There was no answer at its New York
Last week Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor wrote a letter
to Valerie Amos, OCHA under-secretary-general and emergency relief coordinator.
In it he expressed Israel’s concern over OCHA’s activities, as well as its
confusion over both the agency’s role and how differs from other UN
organizations that also provide relief to the Palestinians.
“I would like
to express our concerns over the operations of OCHA in the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip,” Prosor said.“Recent years have experienced a major growth in UN
presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which now includes thousands of
employees – both locals and foreigners – scattered throughout a wide range of
bodies and agencies.”
The difference between the agency’s
responsibilities and mandates is often unclear, he wrote. “In light of the above
– since from the beginning of OCHA’s operations in the PA, 12 years ago, its
presence was never officially established – Israel would like to start an open
dialogue with OCHA in regard to its status and activities in the West Bank and
OCHA’s personnel are registered as part of the UN
Development Program, even though the two organizations are separate entities,
Prosor wrote. Israel, he said, insists that OCHA be treated as a separate
Prosor asked OCHA to provide Israel with list of its staff and
local employees, as well as their locations and job descriptions.
that the state wants to see a review of the agency’s main activities in the past
two years and its prediction for future activities.
Proso also asked for
clarification in regard to the difference between OCHA’s role and that of the UN
humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard, as well as that of other UN bodies
which provide assistance to the Palestinians.
The first diplomatic source
said that Israel had initially viewed OCHA as an investigatory body that
It now sees that it is an operative body that supports
unauthorized construction projects for Palestinians and provides aid to
Palestinians who build illegal homes.
“They advance projects with
international funds that lack permits,” the source said.
they provide modular illegal housing, the first source said.
added that OCHA also failed to seek information from the Defense Ministry for
reports that it issues on Area C and has refused in some instances to provide
specific details relating to allegations in the reports.
are then used to mislead the international community as to Israel’s actions in
the West Bank, which helps those who seek to delegitimize Israel, the source
According to the first source, when highlevel international
officials such as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton meet with Israeli leaders, they reference these faulty
“This action damages the good coordination and open
dialogue we have with other UN agencies such as the UN Development Program and
the office of the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process,
Robert Serry,” the source said.
But there is some speculation that the
trigger for the tension between Israel and the agency lies with an incident that
occurred in March, in which OCHA information officer Kuhlood Badawi tweeted a
picture of a Palestinian child covered in blood and falsely claimed she was
killed by an IDF strike. Badawi also tweeted the following text along with the
photo: “Palestine is bleeding. Another child killed by Israel... Another father
carrying his child to a grave in Gaza.”
The picture, it emerged, was
published in 2006 by Reuters and was of a Palestinian girl who died in an
accident unrelated to Israel.
On July 11 Prosor sent a separate letter to
Amos about Badawi, who remains on OCHA’s payroll.
In it, he said that
Badawi, both in this incident and others, had “advanced a radical and hateful
agenda against the State of Israel, which is complete incongruent with the
conduct required for an apolitical UN employee.”
“If your organization
wants Israelis to take its assertions of objectivity with any shred of
seriousness, it should expedite the investigation and take immediate actions to
end Ms. Badawi’s employment with the United Nations,” Prosor wrote.