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Investigate UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness for violating UNRWA's Mandate

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THE RESPONSIBILITY OF UNRWA

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is one of the first agencies established by the United Nations to administer refugees, preceding even the creation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The long history of UNRWA has long been built around its original mandate. The mandate, initially given by UN General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV), has been updated over the years. Today, UNRWA promises to deliver services as a "neutral human development agency", according to Chris Gunness, a spokesperson at UNRWA [1].

Unfortunately, UNRWA has fallen prey to increasingly polarized and biased rhetoric, pushed more and more often by its own spokespersons. While Israel has raised concerns about Mr. Gunness in the past [2], there has been no action taken to ensure that Mr. Gunness is returned to the realm of unbiased behavior befitting a human development agency whose mandate, he admits, must include neutrality.

FAILURE TO ADHERE TO THE MANDATE

As the Israeli letter to the UN Commissioner-General of UNRWA (Pierre Krähenbühl) details, Mr. Gunness has promoted and praised individuals who buy into the ideology of Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Mr. Gunness has discussed the suffering of Palestinian refugees, but conveniently leaves out responsibility for their suffering, going so far as to omit the responsibility of Hamas in disrupting power to 70,000 Gazans by firing a rocket (a by-definition indiscriminate weapon) at Israel.

However, Mr. Gunness has not only escaped investigation, he has persisted in his continued violations of the neutrality principle that underlines UNRWA's mandate. His prolific posts on Twitter are indication of this trend. On August 28, 2015, at 12:21AM (GMT-7), Mr. Gunness tweeted:

"Thx @levy_haaretz 4 exposing the pitilessness of the "bureaucrats" of #IsraeliOccupation". They r many & varied http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/twilight-zone/.premium-1.673301 … RT" [3]

The "bureaucrats", unnamed figures in the article, are doubtless officials of the Israeli government. Rather than maintain an unbiased and neutral view of Israel, Mr. Gunness has both praised and taken immediate sides on an issue related to human interests without investigation of his own. He further accuses Israeli officials of "pitilessness", yet another insult towards the Israeli officials his organization is meant to cooperate with in an unbiased fashion. This conduct is unbecoming for any UNRWA official, let alone a spokesperson.

CLEARLY CROSSING THE LINE

Another obvious example of Mr. Gunness' failures to remain unbiased can be found mere days before. On August 26, 2015, at 4:17PM (GMT-7), Mr. Gunness tweeted the following:

"Interested to find out more about UN Watch's political & financial affiliations since its establishment. Can anyone advise? RT" [4]

His tweet was not a legitimate and neutral attempt to investigate an organization, of course. Just a few days earlier, on August 23, 2015, UN Watch informed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that an UNRWA school had posted violence-inciting cartoons on its Facebook page [5].

Mr. Gunness' tweet thus reeks of attempted retaliation, and he solicited information from the social media world in his attempt to find information which he might, presumably, be able to smear UN Watch with. UN Watch, which is a Geneva-based non-governmental organization acting as a watchdog for the United Nations, has been praised by former UN Secretary Generals and other high-ranking officials for their work, and is an accredited NGO assisting numerous UN bodies. Rather than acknowledge the criticism of this UNRWA school and thank UN Watch for their work in keeping UNRWA accountable and neutral, Mr. Gunness decided to block and ignore UN Watch on Twitter [6].

HOW TO ADDRESS THESE VIOLATIONS

In light of this, and numerous other documented examples of Chris Gunness' failure to be both accountable and neutral (examples from Elder of Ziyon, blogger, [7] [8] [9], further examples [10] [11] [12]), it is up to the United Nations to take action. Clearly the long history of bias and violations of UNRWA policy have failed to inspire the United Nations to take action, and it is time that the world called on the United Nations to appoint neutral, unbiased spokespersons for an agency crucial to the administering of aid for Palestinians. Only with a more neutral and diplomatic individual speaking on behalf of UNRWA can the organization continue to properly function and mediate between the parties of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and ensure that it is seen as a credible UN agency.

We, the signers of this petition, call on the UN Secretary General, UN Commissioner-General of UNRWA, and deputy UN Commissioner-General of UNRWA, to address, investigate, and replace Mr. Chris Gunness, who has time and again proven his inability to uphold UNRWA's mandate of neutrality. We call on these individuals to use their authority to undertake these actions immediately and seriously, to ensure that Palestinian refugees are treated by a credible agency, one which can guarantee adherence to its original mandate. And finally, we call on nations interested in ensuring that Palestinian refugees are assisted by a credible agency to advocate on behalf of this petition and ask that Mr. Gunness be investigated to the fullest extent possible, fairly, and removed if it is found that he (as argued above) is not a neutral actor adhering to UNRWA's founding and continuing principles and mandate.

CITATIONS

[1] Chris Gunness, "UNRWA – a different perspective", December 18, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/UNRWA-a-different-perspective-385150

[2] Israel's Permanent Mission to the United Nations, "Prosor Calls to Suspend UNRWA's Spokesperson", July 15, 2014, http://embassies.gov.il/un/statements/letters/Pages/UNRWA-Spokesperson-is-Biased.aspx

[3] Chris Gunness, Tweet, August 28, 2015, https://twitter.com/ChrisGunness/status/637163117051518976

[4] Chris Gunness, Tweet, August 26, 2015, https://twitter.com/ChrisGunness/status/636678966414213120

[5] UN Watch, "UNRWA posts anti-Semitic cartoons inciting murder of Jews", August 23, 2015, http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/2015/08/23/unrwa-posts-anti-semitic-cartoons-inciting-murder-of-jews/#.Vdn77bb5Wrk.twitter

[6] Hillel Neuer, Tweet, August 25, 2015, https://twitter.com/HillelNeuer/status/636255708158169088

[7] Elder of Ziyon, "Chris Gunness' lies on Voice of Israel (part 3)", Elder of Ziyon, December 8, 2014, http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2014/12/chris-gunness-lies-on-voice-of-israel_46.html#.VeDdkGRVikp

[8] Elder of Ziyon, "Chris Gunness lies again - UNRWA schools are anything but liberal", Elder of Ziyon, August 5, 2014, http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2014/08/chris-gunness-lies-again-unrwa-schools.html#.VeDdsGRVikp

[9] Elder of Ziyon, "Fisking Chris Gunness' latest deceptions and lies", Elder of Ziyon, December 18, 2014, http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2014/12/fisking-chris-gunness-latest-deceptions.html#.Vd0eV_lVhBc@UNRWA

[10] Mirabelle, "Chris Gunness Has Clearly Lost His Mind, But So Far, Not His Job", Israelly Cool, April 28, 2015, http://www.israellycool.com/2015/04/28/chris-gunness-has-clearly-lost-his-mind-but-so-far-not-his-job/

[11] Arlene Kushner, "UNRWA's Anti-Israel Bias", Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2011, http://www.meforum.org/2996/unrwa-anti-israel-bias

[12] Michael Wilner, "US calls on UNRWA to ‘uphold neutrality’ after call to boycott ‘Post’", Jerusalem Post,December 8, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/International/US-calls-on-UNRWA-to-uphold-neutrality-after-call-to-boycott-Post-384042



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