BY JACOB GERSHMAN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
August 17, 2005
The United Nations bankrolled the production of thousands of banners, bumper stickers, mugs, and T-shirts bearing the slogan "Today Gaza and Tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem," which have been widely distributed to Palestinian Arabs in the Gaza Strip, according to a U.N. official.
The U.N. support of the Palestinian Authority's propaganda operation in the midst of the Israeli evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip has provoked outrage from Israeli and Jewish leaders, who are blaming Turtle Bay for propagating an inflammatory message that they say encourages Palestinian Arab violence.
"The intifada worked. That's contextually what this message is saying," the director of U.N. affairs for the Washington-based Jewish organization B'nai Brith, Amy Goldstein, said.
The Arabic slogan, which refers to disputed territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, has become ubiquitous in Gaza, where Israeli soldiers this week are evacuating 21 settlements. It's served as the central message of a Palestinian Arab effort to spin the withdrawal as a victory.
A special representative of the United Nations Development Program in the Gaza Strip, Timothy Rothermel, told Fox News that his office provided financial support for the production of materials that make up the Palestinian Authority's propaganda campaign, timed to coincide with the Gaza pullout. The Palestinian Authority's withdrawal committee developed and produced the posters and other items using U.N. money, Mr. Rothermel said.
In addition to the slogan "Today Gaza and Tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem," many of the materials displayed the logo of the United Nations Development Program, which operates in 166 countries and spends about half a billion dollars a year.
Asked by a Fox News correspondent about one of the banners bearing the words implying an impending Palestinian Arab takeover of the disputed areas, Mr. Rothermel, said, "That particular poster was prepared by the disengagement office with financial support from the United Nations Development Program."
UNDP officials at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, however, denied that money from the program went directly to the propaganda campaign.
A UNDP spokesman, William Orme, said his office gave money to the Palestinian Withdrawal Committee to "help the Palestinian Authority communicate to the populace about the withdrawal and its economic and social impact."
The money was funneled to the committee through a subagency called Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People. U.N. officials were not told about the propaganda campaign or about the slogan, he said.
The director of international affairs for the American Jewish Congress and a Sun op-ed columnist, David Twersky, criticized the UNDP for failing to better track their funds.
"How come they don't know what's happening to their money?" he said. "Where's the audit? Where's the transparency? How could responsible U.N. officials living off of tax dollars have the chutzpah to say I don't know what they're spending their money on?"
New York-based U.N. officials learned of the slogan, Mr. Twesky said, when they received a letter of complaint on Monday from the American Jewish Congress. The letter, signed by the chairman of the American Jewish Congress, Jack Rose, said the United Nations "has no business paying the costs of this propaganda." The letter was addressed to the development program's new administrator, Kemal Dervis.
Mr. Orme, who said his office was investigating the details of the letter, refused to say whether the United Nations stands behind the slogan printed on the propaganda materials.
He said: "We are emphatically neutral ...We do not lend ourselves to political messaging in favor of any particular faction or ideology."
Mr. Rothermel, in the Fox News interview, argued that the slogan, which predicts an Israeli disengagement from the West Bank and, presumably, East Jerusalem, is a message that is "consistent with the relevant U.N. resolutions and Security Council resolutions about the status of Palestine."
A former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Dore Gold, said the funding of the propaganda campaign is "simply outrageous."
"The West Bank is disputed territory under U.N. Security Council Resolution 242. The U.N. has no business getting involved in sloganeering to call on the Palestinians to also take tomorrow the West Bank and East Jerusalem," Mr. Gold told Fox News.
The Palestinian Authority's top leaders have echoed the slogan in recent public comments. "The process of national struggle will continue until we reach Jerusalem and celebrate there and in the West Bank," its prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, said. according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.
Correction from August 18, 2005
David Twersky is the correct spelling of the name of the director of international affairs for the American Jewish Congress and Jack Rosen is the correct spelling of the name of the chairman of the American Jewish Congress.The names were misspelled in a story on page 1 of yesterday's Sun.