New York Post’s lies about UN and Palestinians in Yarmouk camp

The New York Post tabloid is notorious for its virulent anti-Palestinian editorializing.

Part of its regular schtick is also bashing the UN, claiming that the world body is biased against Israel.

The simple, undeniable reality is this: dozens of countries have faced UN sanctions, or even UN-approved invasions for one transgression or another.

But never once in its history has the UN imposed sanctions on Israel, despite decades of unchecked violations of UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and other well-documented crimes against the people of Palestine and other countries.

Don’t let facts get in the way

Still, the Post never lets the facts get in the way of a good story. In an 18 January editorial headlined “UN ignores starvation of Palestinians by Syrian regime,” the newspaper claims:

Palestinian refugees are being systematically starved to death and denied medical care and humanitarian relief. And yet the United Nations is totally silent: no protests, no condemnations, no resolutions.

The Post doesn’t really care about the Palestinians besieged in Yarmouk camp near Damascus.

This is just concern-trolling and whining as a pretext to once again paint Israel as the victim of double standards:

Selective outrage at the United Nations is nothing new, of course. But this example is especially ironic. For Thursday marked the kickoff by the world body of events launching the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”

Not least of the Palestinian tragedy is that when there’s no Israel that can be blamed for it, the world is all too happy to turn a blind eye to the savagery directed at Palestinian men, women and children.

Completely false

Of course the premise of the Post editorial is a lie. The UN has, in fact, been extremely vocal about the situation in Yarmouk camp.

On 20 December, Filippo Grandi, commissioner-general of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, issued an urgent warning that “humanitarian conditions in the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk are worsening dramatically and that we are currently unable to help those trapped inside. If this situation is not addressed urgently, it may be too late to save the lives of thousands of people including children.”

This statement came after months of regular warnings from UNRWA about the growing crisis.

A simple Google news search reveals that UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness has taken every possible opportunity to appear in the media to raise the alarm about the situation.

There are hundreds of results – too many to reproduce here.

And as I reported yesterday, several major UN agencies have joined with UNRWA in a social media campaign attempting to bring attention to the situation in Yarmouk.

Who brought the aid?

Then there is this claim in the Post editorial: “This week, a PLO convoy loaded with food and medicine was fired on by pro-Assad forces, preventing them from delivering relief to the camps.”

In fact, on 13 January, an UNRWA aid convoy tried to enter the camp with a security escort provided by the Syrian government. As Gunness explained in a statement, the convoy turned back amid fierce gunfire.

UNRWA noted that the Syrian government required the convoy to go via a route not under its own control, but did not attribute blame for the gunfire to any group.

Then, this weekend, the first food parcels since July entered the camp – a drop in the ocean of desperate need.

The entry of the parcels was coordinated by a Palestinian group loyal to the Syrian government and the local camp governance committees.

The food parcels were also donated by UNRWA, a fact too inconvenient for the Post to mention.

No resolution

The reason there has been no UN resolution requiring humanitarian access to Yarmouk has nothing to do with the mythical anti-Israel bias that obsesses the New York Post’s editorialists.

“A binding Security Council resolution could formally oblige the authorities to let aid agencies into areas like the Damascus suburbs and the old city of Homs, where local doctors say children are dying of malnutrition,” Reuters reported last month.

“But divisions between Western powers, backing the rebels, and Russia, have paralyzed the world body over Syria since the conflict began in 2011.”

And it is not just people in Yarmouk suffering because of the situation. All over Syria, civilians are besieged, starving and displaced.

People may love or hate the UN, or approve or disapprove of its actions in Syria or elsewhere. But surely any analysis should begin from a basic knowledge of the facts.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.