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UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs apparently has decided to ignore concerns raised by Israel after a public affairs officer in Jerusalem Tweeted an anti-Israel hoax.
Israel had demanded the staff member be dismissed, but the U.N.’s apparent rejection sets up what could become a major flashpoint between U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The news also could complicate the atmosphere in New York when Barack Obama visits the annual U.N. General Assembly next month.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to resume his drive toward statehood when he visits New York. It is a move both Washington and Jerusalem strongly oppose.
The staffer, Kulhood Badawi, was found to be using Twitter to incite local disturbances, according to Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor, who wrote a letter to the U.N.’s humanitarian affairs coordinator Valerie Amos last March.
Amos is the highest ranking U.K. national and African female in the U.N. system. She also was the first African woman in a British Cabinet when she was appointed by Tony Blair.
In an incident March 10, Badawi tweeted what was alleged to be a photo of a Palestinian girl killed in Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces.
The photo was accompanied by the comment: “Palestine is bleeding. Another child killed by Israel. Another father carrying a child into a grave in Gaza.”
The Israeli foreign ministry hotly denied the allegation and claimed the photo posted was from an archived Reuters report in 2006.
Reuters confirmed the Israeli account and also explained that the dead girl was apparently killed by a local gang and not the Israeli military.
In response, OCHA chief Amos admitted that the U.N. did not condone such actions but hastened to add that her office did not consider Twitter posts to be “official.”
Israel’s U.N. mission rejected the U.N. explanation and revealed the same staffer had been involved in several other incidents dating back to 2008.
In one incident, video released by Israel showed Badawi in a Jerusalem demonstration in which she emphatically labeled Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak a “child murderer.”
Israel’s Prosor insisted that the U.N. “take action to immediately terminate” Badawi due to a history of incidents that he claimed violated U.N. ethics.
Amos, through U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky, said her office would launch an investigation to address the Israeli demands.
Why Amos would be allowed to investigate her own staff, rather than allow the U.N. internal affairs unit, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, to conduct the inquiry was never explained.
Since the announcement, Amos and the U.N. have remained silent.
Repeated requests to U.N. officials and Amos for an update on the investigation have been responded to with “no comment.”
Last week, the investigation entered its sixth month with no word, no results, no conclusion and no apparent end in sight. The U.N. would not even clarify whether any temporary action had been taken with regard to Badawi pending resolution of the Israeli demands.
According to diplomatic sources, earlier this month a frustrated Prosor sent Amos a letter requesting an update on the investigation and to clarify OCHA’s activities and goals in the West Bank and Gaza.
The response from Amos did little to resolve outstanding concerns, explained Israeli diplomats.
In a letter from the Israeli mission to Amos, Prosor complained: “One does not need the detective skills of the gifted Sherlock Holmes to know that your investigation into Ms. Badawi’s case has lingered for too long. Continued inaction in her case is tantamount to implicit support of her type of misguided and politically motivated advocacy.”
Amos has yet to reply to the latest Israeli letter, though diplomatic sources say they know of no action being contemplated against Badawi.
An outright public rejection of the Israeli demands could become a symbolic political minefield, say diplomatic sources.
Israeli sources say the government could resort to a unilateral expulsion, if need be.
That decision has not been made, but could come soon, depending on how Amos responds to the latest Israeli letter.
Ban spokesman Martin Nesirky would not comment on the recent developments.
As WND reported, Israeli officials say the falsely captioned photo has gone viral and is posing a serious security threat to civilians in the region because it could incite violence. Israeli sources confirmed they believe the goal of the posting was to create a dangerous situation for their citizens.
Anti-Israel sentiment at the U.N., however, is far from startling.
The UN Watch website notes an “alien observing the United Nations’ debates, reading its resolutions, and walking its halls could well conclude that a principal purpose of the world body is to censure a tiny country called Israel.”
“The U.N.’s discrimination against Israel is not a minor infraction, nor a parochial nuisance of interest solely to those concerned with equal rights of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Instead, the world body’s obsession with censuring Israel at every turn directly affects all citizens of the world, for it constitutes (a) a severe violation of the equality principles guaranteed by the U.N. Charter and underlying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and (b) a significant obstacle to the U.N.’s ability to carry out its property mandate.”
The website pointed out that during one year, when Sudan was running a campaign of genocide in Darfur, there was not a single resolution on the subject. At the same time, there were 22 anti-Israel resolutions condemning the leading democracy in the Middle East.
Another site, Honest Reporting, said earlier this year that it had delivered 15,000 signatures on a petition to the U.N. calling for “appropriate action” against “false photo tweeter Khulood Badawi.”
The site has documented numerous incidents of false information being propagated about Israel.
In a high-profile case reported by WND, a widely exploited Palestinian claim that Israeli soldiers killed a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed al-Dura, was exposed as a fraud.