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Inter Press Service

Palestine Protests Biased UN Reporting

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS - The Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations has lodged a formal protest against the continued "misrepresentation" of facts in recent U.N. reports on the Israeli-occupied territories.1121 01

"There has been a tendency in several reports to portray the prevailing situation (in the occupied territories) as more of a conflict between two equal sides -- the Israeli and Palestinian -- rather than actually one of occupation," says Ambassador Riyad Mansour, in a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The "skewed" reporting, including "certain language usage that overlooks the existence of this occupation, is unacceptable," he says, virtually accusing the U.N. Secretariat of trying to undermine the Palestinians by its misreporting.

Mansour's letter to the secretary-general also says: "For sometime now, the delegation of Palestine has been troubled by misrepresentations in several U.N. reports in the recent period, including some issued by the secretary-general, that have had the effect of skewing the context of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

He points out that Palestinian territories are under an "occupying power", namely Israel, which is bound by clear obligations under international law, including humanitarian and human rights law.

The Palestinians, he points out, are an occupied people, "whose most basic and inalienable rights are being systematically and gravely violated and who are entitled to protection under international law."

The charges against the U.N. Secretariat follow an accusation by the U.N.'s former Middle East envoy, Under-Secretary-General Alvaro de Soto, who said the world body, including the U.N. Secretariat, was, wittingly or unwittingly, undermining the goal of a Palestinian state.

In a 52-page confidential report to the secretary-general last June, de Soto accused former Secretary-General Kofi Annan of "hampering" de Soto's efforts to maintain regular political contacts with Hamas leaders.

De Soto said he has little or no faith in the Middle East Quartet -- a group comprising the United States, European Union, the U.N. and Russia -- which is said to provide a political "shield" for the United States and the EU to bankrupt the Palestinian government.

"Even-handedness has been pummeled into submission," said de Soto, whose official title was U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

He also said that Ban and Annan provided political cover to the United States and the European Union in their efforts to marginalise Hamas despite its electoral victories in the occupied territories.

In his letter to Ban Tuesday, Mansour also challenges the "misleading information" in a report by the Secretariat to the Security Council.

The report says that "a particularly worrying trend is the increasing resort to suicide attacks in places, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Somalia."

But according to statistics provided by several agencies and international organisations, including the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem, he said, Israeli civilian deaths from suicide attacks have steadily decreased: from 24 in 2005, to 10 in 2006 and 5 in 2007.

"We are troubled by statements that are totally false," the letter notes.

Asked for an official response, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS that Under-Secretary-General John Holmes, U.N. emergency coordinator, in his presentation to the Security Council Tuesday, corrected any misleading impression that could be given by a sentence in a report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Haq said the report was intended to say that suicide attacks are a feature in an increasing number of countries.

"The point that the report wishes to make is that such attacks are being carried out in an increasing number of countries (including Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Somalia)".

"It was not the U.N.'s intention to assert that there has been an increase in the actual number of suicide attacks in the countries mentioned," he added.

Addressing the Security Council Tuesday on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in conflict zones, Holmes told delegates that "the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Gaza, is reaching the limits of what is bearable for any community."

"The combination of access restrictions, even for humanitarian deliveries, economic deprivation, Israeli military incursions and aerial attacks, and intra-Palestinian violence, is driving the civilian population into a situation where the risk of provoking even more violence and tragedy is only too evident," Holmes warned.

© 2007 Inter Press Service

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