Palestinian Poster Calling for Israel Boycott Includes Logo of U.N. Agency
“Neither the poster nor the television program it advertises reflect UNICEF’s policies or its views,” spokesman Christopher de Bono said in a statement Tuesday, sent in response to emailed queries.
He said UNICEF had not been consulted about nor given approval for the use of its logo, and that when it came to its attention it had contacted the NGO to demand an explanation and rectification.
The poster depicts an ax bearing the label “Boycott!” splitting open a Star of David, which is decorated with stars and stripes, presumably suggesting an Israel-U.S. link. UNICEF’s logo appears prominently at the bottom.
The poster advertises a program on Palestinian Authority (P.A.) Television, aimed at young Palestinians, calling for a boycott of Israel.
Since 2000, the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA) has produced a weekly, two-hour program for P.A.TV, with UNICEF funding. The group says an average of 300,000 Palestinian children and teenagers watch Alli Sowtak (“Speak Up”) each week.
Sunday’s show was dedicated to “a theme which is a national obligation upon each of us – the topic of boycotting Israel in all ways,” according to the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an independent Israeli monitor of Arab media.
PMW said the program host declared, “We know that the Palestinian Authority is tied to a number of agreements that prohibit it from completely boycotting Israel ... we call upon all the youth, to all the residents, to all businesses and stores, to completely boycott the Israeli goods in their stores.”
PYALARA on its Web site says it had been identified by UNICEF as “a major strategic partner in Palestine.”
According to De Bono, that partnership came to an end in January.
“Prior to this, UNICEF had worked with PYALARA from 2000 to provide children and young people with a forum to voice their ideas and reach out to their peers,” he said. “UNICEF’s support was for media training, video documentation and peer-to-peer counseling, both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.”
In light of the logo incident, he added, “UNICEF will be carefully reviewing any proposed future partnerships with PYALARA.”
In an earlier letter to UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman, Simon Wiesenthal Center director for international relations Shimon Samuels voiced concern about “potential violence inspired by the ad’s threatening sub text.”
He urged the agency to stop funding PYALARA and to dissociate itself “from a campaign designed to inculcate hatred among children.”
“It can, arguably, be construed that UNICEF is in violation of the United Nations Charter and provisions of the World Trade Organization by endorsing and facilitating a discriminatory boycott against a United Nations member-state,” he said.
UNICEF gets more than half its funding from governments and the rest comes from national committees and philanthropic foundations. U.S. funding for the fiscal year 2010 stands at $132.25 million, the largest ever by the U.S. for the agency.
Since the Oslo peace accords were reached in the early 1990s, Israeli governments have called on P.A. leaders to stop the promotion of incitement in media and school materials, arguing that feeding anti-Israeli sentiment among the next generation of Palestinians would bode ill for hopes of a peaceful settlement.
The Oslo and subsequent accords (including the Hebron Protocol, Wye River Memorandum and the Roadmap) made halting incitement an obligation.
Former U.S. Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross, in a later book on the Oslo process, wrote that “no negotiation is likely to succeed if there is one environment at the negotiating table and another on the street. Negotiations do not take place in a vacuum.”
Israeli watchdog organizations say foreign-funded Palestinian NGOs have frequently been part of the problem.
“Donor organizations to the Palestinian Authority have been challenged for years to prevent their well-intentioned contributions from being directed towards hate promotion by the P.A., its institutions and its NGOs,” PMW said.
This is not the first time PYALARA has come to critics’ attention.
In 2003, the Israeli group NGO Monitor drew attention to PYALARA’s publication of two articles aimed at its young Palestinian target audience.
The first was an article on the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Abu Ali Mustafa, who had been killed in a helicopter airstrike in 2001. Israel said at the time he had helped to organize a series of car bombings for which the PFLP had claimed responsibility.
In the article, PYALARA called Mustafa “a political leader ... whose history prides his nationalistic activism.” It said Palestinians “view his death as yet another attempt on the part of Israel to try to convince the world that their leaders are nothing but ‘terrorists’ who deserve to be exterminated.” It made no mention of a campaign of violence by the Marxist PFLP that went back three decades.
The second article referred to “young Palestinians who have willingly sacrificed their lives in the name of their homeland,” and implied that Israel was responsible for their actions. In the opinion of NGO Monitor the article contained “a covert justification for suicide bombing.”
NGO Monitor said PYALARA was undermining positive aspects of its work, using funds “donated explicitly for non-political and non-violent projects in order to promote blatantly political objectives, including the indirect support for terror attacks on civilians.”
PYALARA and its director, Hania Bitar, did not respond Tuesday to emailed queries.