Despite growing examples of United Nations employees posting anti-Israel and antisemitic comments on social media, the global body insists the prejudice is not pervasive.
A UN Watch report this week detailed examples from an UNRWA teachers’ Telegram channel in which several educators glorified Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, called for the execution of Israeli hostages and posted pictures of murdered and captured Israelis. UNRWA, which serves as the U.N.’s Palestinian-exclusive agency for refugees and their descendants in perpetuity, has long used its schools to indoctrinate hate.
Other examples have emerged as of late, including a U.N.-Geneva content writer who likened Israelis to Nazis. The agency initially claimed the account publishing the content didn’t belong to the staffer, but when pressed with evidence, told a media outlet that the staffer’s account was hacked. The evidence largely refutes that claim as well.
Recently, the UN Women agency opened a disciplinary process into a high-ranking official who posted or endorsed some 150 pieces of anti-Israel content, admitting the official had violated the body’s code of conduct.
On Wednesday, JNS pressed a U.N. spokesman as to why it’s taking media exposés on these staffers’ actions to produce any response, rather than a staffer’s supervisor spotting inappropriate content and dealing with it directly.
“That does not mean that administrative action isn’t taken internally on other posts,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “I’m not kept aware of every staff member that is sanctioned for misusing social media on this issue or any other issue. It happens.”
Dujarric continued, “When things come to light through the media, we address them here, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other times where action is taken and it’s just not published because we don’t publicize every human resources action that people may be sanctioned by.”
Asked how pervasive antisemitic and anti-Israel postings are, considering there may be even more that are being dealt with, as Dujarric suggests, he said, “I don’t think it’s prevalent or at all.”
Dujarric told reporters in a Wednesday briefing that UNRWA officials have seen the evidence in the U.N. Watch report and take it “very seriously, and they’re looking into the allegations raised.”
The United Nations confirmed on Wednesday that Guterres’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict will be visiting Israel towards the end of January, at the invitation of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Pramila Patten, a Mauritian barrister, will “gather information on sexual violence, reportedly committed in the context of the attacks of Oct. 7 and its aftermath,” according to the United Nations.
Dujarric said her mission will be conducted “in accordance with her standard U.N. methodology.”
She is expected to meet with survivors, witnesses and others affected by sexual violence “to identify avenues of support.”
She also proposes to meet with released hostages and will be joined by experts in “safe and ethical interviewing, forensic evidence, digital analysis and accountability.”
However, the mandate of Patten’s office does not allow her to conduct an official investigation. When asked by JNS what Patten will do with the information she collects, Dujarric said Patten will “report back on what she has seen or what she has heard,” and that her mission is part of Patten’s advocacy.
However, he clarified that the much-derided U.N. Commission of Inquiry, which purports to investigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is the only U.N. body with investigative powers over Oct. 7. The commission has been assailed by several countries, including some not typically aligned with Israel, for the documented anti-Israel and antisemitic comments of its members and the unprecedented and perpetual scope of its mandate.
The Israeli government refuses to work with the commission as a result.
Special coordinator for Gaza
Elsewhere at the United Nations, Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan held his first meeting on Wednesday with Sigrid Kaag, the newly-appointed special coordinator for Gaza.
A Dutch politician and diplomat, Kaag also has a history of anti-Israel rhetoric. Her husband, Anis al-Qaq, is a Palestinian from Jerusalem who was a deputy minister under Yasser Arafat from 1994 to 2003 and the PLO “ambassador” to Switzerland from 2003 to 2009.
Erdan, According to a readout from the Israeli mission to the United Nations, “expressed to Kaag his criticisms of the U.N. agencies’ conduct in Gaza and their frequent public statements specifically against Israel, while the IDF allows the introduction of extensive humanitarian aid into Gaza, and while Hamas is the one that is thwarting its transfer to the population of Gaza.”
Erdan complained to Kaag that nothing has been done by the United Nations to stop Hamas from using U.N. facilities for military purposes, despite years of warning from him and others.
A mission spokesman said the meeting was “not adversarial,” but wouldn’t term it as cordial, either. Dujarric said the meeting was “friendly” and that “I think the cooperation will be good.”
According to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a plan was agreed upon with Kaag for the United Nations to carry out an assessment mission to determine how and when Gazans can return to their homes in the northern part of the territory.
Dujarric said at the briefing, “We hope that such an assessment mission can be carried out as quickly as possible shortly. But this is obviously contingent on security guarantees and assurances we can receive from Israel.
“What I’m told is that a rapid multi-sectoral assessment mission is critical to plan the scale-up of the assistance in the north [of Gaza]. Such a scale-up could happen once we have a better understanding of the security situation, assurances from the IDF that we can safely operate, especially given the presence of unexploded ordnance in the area, and after having delivered emergency food, medical, water and sanitation supplies,” Dujarric said.
Kaag heads to Washington later this week for unspecified meetings before traveling to Amman, where she will base herself for an undetermined period of time.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry would not comment on Wednesday on whether Kaag has applied for a visa to enter Gaza. Last week, the ministry told JNS that she had not yet sent in visa paperwork.
The Israeli government has increasingly denied visas and refused to renew others for U.N, employees in the wake of rampant bias against Israel in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre and Israel’s military reaction.