UNRWA Gaza Director Matthias Schmale has, essentially, been expelled from Gaza.
During a May 22, 2021 interview on Israeli Channel 12, UNRWA Gaza Director Matthias Schmale was asked about claims that Israeli military strikes were precise. He responded: “I’m not a military expert but I would not dispute that. I also have the impression that there is a huge sophistication in the way the Israeli military struck over the last 11 days.”
Schmale’s remarks drew outrage from Hamas, labeling him a “military analyst for the occupation army.” Similarly, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) called for Schmale’s immediate dismissal. The PFLP also called for the Commissioner-General of UNRWA and the UN to “apologize immediately to the Palestinian people for the legislation of the Zionist aggression against the Strip.”
These terror groups were soon joined by Palestinian political advocacy NGOs. On May 25, Palestinian Network of Non-Governmental Organisations (PNGO) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations’ Council (PHROC) also condemned Schmale. PHROC members include Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Al-Mezan, and Al-Haq – all members of the PFLP’s NGO network and among the NGOs whose claims about the fighting in Gaza are echoed by UN officials and many journalists. According to these organizations, Schmale’s statements were “…misleading and dangerous, and provides cover and legitimacy to serious violations committed by the Israeli occupation forces.” PNGO and PHROC demanded UNRWA clarify its position and that Schmale publicly apologize to Palestinians.
Following this campaign, Schmale issued an apology, saying that ”recent remarks I made on Israeli TV have offended & hurt those who had family members & friends killed & injured during the war that has just ended…” According to Schmale, “No one has forced me into an apology.”
Schmale’s apology highlights the expectation within Palestinian society that supposedly-independent UN officials will participate in demonizing Israel, including by hiding information that portrays Israel in a positive light, as well as the capitulation by such officials to the Palestinian narrative. Such bullying is hardly surprising when dealing with terror groups. However, it further undermines the credibility of the NGOs that typically serve as sources for allegations against Israel, and yet again calls into question the justification for funding of these organizations by the EU, European governments, and other funders.