NGO Monitor has documented numerous concerns regarding UNICEF-oPt (UNICEF’s branch in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza), stemming primarily from its relationship with highly partisan non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Problems include funding for and projects with NGOs that violate the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality; failure to monitor and report on the recruitment and use of children by Palestinian armed groups; an overall bias against Israel;1 and partnership with NGOs that have close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group.2

Discussions in parliaments in Europe and Canada, as well as critical press, have further highlighted these flaws. Nevertheless, UNICEF-oPt’s partnership with terror-tied groups appears to continue.

Continued Partnership with Terror-Tied Groups

In 2018, UNICEF-oPt requested funds for at least two projects on which Addameer and Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P) served as implementing partners. Both DCI-P and Addameer have close ties to the PFLP.3 In one project, Addameer, DCI-P, and two other NGOs will be “Reaching out to the most vulnerable children exposed to conflict related violence with protection and prevention services in East Jerusalem and Hebron.”4 The other project purports to focus on “Informing humanitarian programmatic and advocacy response through documentation of grave violations against children affected by armed conflict,” with NGO implementing partners including Addameer, DCI-P, B’Tselem, Wadi Hilweh Information Centre, and War Child Holland. Addameer and DCI-P’s close connections with the PFLP terror group make them completely inappropriate partners for these (and any) projects. These associations raise the specter that Palestinian children will be placed at risk of being exposed to violent incitement and hatred as well as recruitment for armed groups. There is also concern that these NGOs are utilizing children to carry out “documentation and monitoring” exposing them to dangerous situations and exploiting them for propaganda purposes.

UNICEF-oPt’s Situation Reports, under the “child protection” section, also refer to partnership with the Palestinian NGO Ma’an. In May 2018, Ma’an Development Center employee Ahmad Abdallah Aladini was killed in the violence on the Gaza border. Aladini was a PFLP “comrade.” According to the PFLP, Aladini was active against the “Zionist aggression on the Gaza Strip.” On his Facebook page, Aladini posted images that glorify violence and terrorists, including PFLP propaganda. On May 7, 2018, Aladini posted a PFLP memorial notice for the death of six members of Hamas who were killed during the “crimes of the Zionist enemy.” On May 15, 2018, Ma’an Development Center posted on Facebook a memorial notice for Aladini, referring to him as a “colleague and martyr.” (Ma’an has since removed the post.)

Partnership with Advocacy NGOs

In UNICEF-oPt’s year end situation report (January – December 2018), the group states that its “monitoring and reporting on child rights and other assessments inform evidence-based advocacy for improved child protection.” Given the group’s partnership with the above mentioned terror-tied NGOs, as well as other organizations that promote BDS campaigns against Israel under the façade of human rights, it is difficult to ascertain how UNICEF ensures that its NGO partners are providing factual and accurate assessments that are not politically motivated. Furthermore, UNICEF’s emphasis on “advocacy” and not humanitarian action in this context is telling.

UNICEF also explains that it “supports children crossing checkpoints in the West Bank with accompaniment to ensure safer access to schools.” NGO Monitor research shows that the NGO partner responsible for this activity is EAPPI – the World Council of Churches’ flagship project that singles out Israel in a context of demonization. EAPPI has brought 1,800 individuals to the West Bank to “witness life under occupation.” By singling out Israel, EAPPI activity is consistent with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition antisemitism. When “volunteers” return to their home countries and churches, they engage in anti-Israel and antisemitic advocacy, such as BDS campaigns and comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany. (See NGO Monitor’s report “EAPPI: The World Council of Churches’ Training Camp for Anti-Israel Advocacy” for details).

Use of “Grave Violations” Language in Project Descriptions

UNICEF-oPt and its NGO partners regularly utilize the language of “grave violations” in order to push the UN Secretary General to include the IDF in its annex of the worst abusers of children’s rights. UNICEF-oPT project descriptions refer to NGOs “documenting” these “grave violations.”

For example, a 2018 project description states that “activities or outputs” will include “documentation of grave violations against children, led by UNICEF through the Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) working group, will inform the provision of child protection, prevention and rehabilitation services to victims of grave violations and their families.” A 2019 project description similarly states that “The project will also support incident monitoring, data analysis and reporting on grave violations trends related to child protection concerns in Israel/State of Palestine (both Gaza and the WB) to provide evidence and inform advocacy. Data collection and monitoring will be enhanced through documentation of testimonies of children in military detention.”

In this way, UNICEF-oPt assumes the existence of “grave violations” a priori, and incentivizes the publication of allegations, regardless of any evidence. Moreover, detention of child criminal offenders, regardless of military or civil, is not a grave violation under UNICEF’s own framework.

While this particular grant does not list the NGO implementing partners, the NGOs commonly involved in these sorts of “protection” projects in the region often include the PFLP-tied NGOs Addameer, DCI-P, and PCHR, as well as the political advocacy groups B’Tselem, Al Mezan, and EAPPI. NGO Monitor has documented, in detail, the various shortcomings of these partnerships, particularly how this violates UNICEF’s neutrality and impartiality guidelines.

Failure to Address Palestinian Abuse of Children

In a 2019 project outline, UNICEF explains that it will focus on “putting in place protection response mechanisms to prevent and mitigate the effects of occupation and conflict related violence.” However, the majority of the activities described, such as “legal aid” and “counselling,” occur after Palestinian children have been radicalized. The indicators used by UNICEF, including “# of children affected by conflict related violate benefiting from structured psychosocial services and child protection interventions” and “# of children affected by conflict related violence benefiting from specialized individual case management,” are similarly responsive in nature and fail to address the systematic program of incitement to violence and antisemitic hatred targeting Palestinian children from infancy that is endemic throughout the Palestinian media and education system (see below for an egregious example). This programming is particularly disturbing given that many of UNICEF’s partners involved in these activities are tied to terror groups. It also does not appear that UNICEF does any programming aimed at promoting normalization, co-existence, or peace with Israelis and Jews.

Furthermore, despite the fact that UNICEF explains that there is an “urgent need” for aid in Gaza, UNICEF’s budgetary allocations appear to focus more on political advocacy.  Specifically, UNICEF states it will provide 55% of its project resources to Area C of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Hebron H2 and just 25% to Gaza. UNICEF also dedicates just 10% of its resources to areas under Palestinian control.

Top UNICEF Official Attends Antisemitic “Artwork” Display in Khan al-Ahmar

UNICEF-oPt’s Special Representative Genevieve Boutin was among the attendees of an event that included a virulently antisemitic artwork display in the encampment of Khan al-Ahmar.5

On September 7, 2018, Makor Rishon published an article exposing the event and its attendees. The article includes the following statement from UNICEF:

“Ms. Boutin visited Khan al-Ahmar many times and expressed her concern about the right to security and equality in education for 170 children aged 6-15 from this village and the environment in which they study. Ms. Boutin was invited to a concert held by children from the village at the invitation of the Minister of Education. However, before entering the concert in the village, Ms. Boutin was asked instead to accompany the inauguration of an art exhibition which she was not aware of before her arrival. Ms. Boutin’s impression was that the art exhibition was shocking and very inappropriate, especially because this exhibition was presented in close proximity to the school, and children should be protected from violence and not exposed to violent representatives or messages that promote hatred and intolerance” (emphasis added).

The failure of the UNICEF official to vigorously and publically condemn this incident stands in sharp contrast to claimed human rights agendas.  It also raises the question as to why UNICEF has utterly failed to address Palestinian incitement of children at schools, camps, youth centers, and sporting events despite the considerable documentation of this phenomenon and UNICEF-oPt’s personal experience of it.

Condemnation of Israeli Defensive Actions

In its January-June 2018 Humanitarian Situation Report, UNICEF states:

“Additionally, the risk of escalation in military confrontations with Israel remains high. While the ceasefire from 2014 remains in place, it is regularly tested by systematic and hostile activities between Palestinian armed groups (rocket and mortar fire, IED explosions, incendiary kites and balloons and targeting of patrols along the fence) and Israeli forces (missile strikes, incursions, tunnel destruction)” (emphasis added).

Notably, UNICEF categorizes Israel’s destruction of Hamas’ terror tunnels as a “hostile activity.” UNICEF also fails to condemn Hamas’ tunnels, intended for attacks against Israeli civilians and kidnappings, which are constructed under the cover of civilian infrastructure thereby endangering civilians in Gaza, as well.

UNICEF similarly does not detail how incendiary kites and balloons have landed in Israeli kindergartens and violate the rights of Israeli children.

Ignoring Palestinian Terrorism

In UNICEF-oPt’s January – June 2018 situation report, the organization states it considers the violence along the Israel-Gaza border that has taken place since March 2018 to be “largely peaceful demonstrations.” UNICEF-oPt further states that “On 14th May 2018, the highest casualty toll in a single day since the 2014 hostilities was recorded in the Gaza Strip. A death toll of 60 Palestinians was recorded and another 2,770 were injured, nearly half by live ammunition.” However, according to Hamas, 50 of the 62 Palestinians killed on May 14 were members of the terror group. Another three were identified members of the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Saraya al-Quds military wing.

UNICEF-oPt further does not attribute blame for child casualties to Hamas and other terror groups’ recruitment and use of children as participants in the conflict. This is a complete failure by UNICEF in carrying out its mandate of monitoring and reporting on this grave violation of children.

Additionally, UNICEF-oPt states that “In the West Bank, children continued to be arrested and detained by Israeli forces. UNICEF, through a local partner, provided legal support to 115 children arrested and detained in East Jerusalem who required legal assistance, out of the 134 (86%) documented cases.” However, without any information relating to the involvement of Palestinian minors in criminal and terrorist activity, no informed conclusion can be made about this statistic. Clearly, if minors are committing violent crimes, there would be a corresponding number of minors arrested. Claims of this nature often stem from UNICEF-oPt’s NGO partner, DCI-P, a group with ties to the PFLP (see above).