A United Nations monitoring group said on Thursday that several employees of the UN’s aid agency for Palestinian refugees have been disciplined, including “suspension and loss of pay,” over expressions of sympathy for attacks against Israelis.
The UN Watch organization, which first raised the concerns about United Nations Relief and Works Agency workers’ comments posted to social media, welcomed the development while accusing the UN of trying to gloss over the firings.
UN Watch said in a statement that the information about the employment terminations was “buried deep in a UN transcript” published on Tuesday, rather than publicly announced in a separate document.
In a daily briefing, the UN secretary general deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq explained the action against the workers.
“Already, working closely with Facebook’s legal team, UNRWA has brought about the removal of more than 90 impostor or unauthorized Facebook pages,” Haq said. “In some cases, it has determined the alleged ‘UNRWA staff’ are not in fact UNRWA employees or are no longer UNRWA employees.
“However, and very regrettably, in a number of cases so far, the agency has found staff Facebook postings to be in violation of its social media rules,” Haq continued. “These postings have been removed and the staff have been subject to both remedial and disciplinary action, including suspension and loss of pay. The remaining allegations are under assessment.”
Last week UN Watch published a report claiming that UNRWA employees were inciting Palestinians to commit terror attacks against Israelis from social media accounts on which they explicitly identify as UN workers.
“We need to know, first, which of the UNRWA teachers identified in our reports were suspended, what were the findings, and whether the UN investigations found any additional incitement to anti-Semitic violence,” UN Watch director Hillel Neuer said of the suspensions.
“Second,” Neuer continued, “In light of the above, UN Watch is demanding a full apology from UNRWA spokeswoman Chris Gunness for his McCarthyite tirade against what he called UN Watch’s ‘baseless allegations about antisemitism’.”
Neuer claimed Gunness had made an appeal to journalists to ignore the story and launched a verbal assault on UN Watch to discredit it.
In the report, Neuer cited nine UNRWA employees and presented screenshots of what the group said were inciting posts from their Facebook pages that call for the murder of Jews, or promote conspiracy theories claiming terrorists killed by Israeli security forces were innocent.
Neuer last week submitted the report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to UNRWA chief Pierre Krähenbühl and to US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. The US, according to the United Nations monitoring group, is the largest funder of UNRWA with $400 million annually.