UNICEF using biased information to blacklist Israel military, critics say

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is being accused of allowing biased information, supplied by radical anti-Israeli groups, to include Israel’s military in a report by the U.N. secretary-general on children and armed conflict. Being placed in that report could lead to tough Security Council sanctions.

According to critics of the upcoming U.N. report, the purpose is to include the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on a blacklist of “grave violators of children’s rights.” The critique is authored by NGO Monitor, an Israel-based research institute analyzing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) claiming to advance humanitarian agendas.

Titled “UNICEF and its NGO Working Group: The Campaign to Blacklist the IDF,” it explains that since 2007, UNICEF has led the “Working Group on Grave Violations against Children,” that monitors and reports grave violations against children in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as 19 other conflict zones.

The UNICEF working group is expected to share its data with the U.N.’s special representative for children and armed conflict soon. This information then will be passed onto the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. NGO Monitor states that, “UNICEF’s role in this process includes giving legitimacy to false and distorted claims made by the NGOs, which are fed through a UNICEF database to a variety of U.N. publications.”

NGO Monitor accuses UNICEF’s office in the Palestinian Territories for being politically motivated and, “completely inconsistent with its mandate of child protection and from its guidelines for neutrality and impartiality.” That office works with NGOs, many of which it says are radically anti-Israel.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Fox News that Israel is a “staunch defender of human rights,” and warned of financial consequences if there was ever to be a blacklist. “For the United Nations to even consider such action following their condemnation of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is further proof of the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias.”

DeSantis continued, “The United States should take any punitive action against Israel into consideration when determining who is deserving of foreign assistance.”

NGO Monitor stated, “These publications do not note that the accusations originate with unqualified and partial activists, some from groups with alleged ties to terror organizations, or that they were not verified by credible independent bodies.” NGO Monitor pointed to a branch of the agency, known as UNICEF OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territory), as being “instrumental in this campaign.”

In response to the criticism, a spokesperson for UNICEF took issue with NGO Monitor’s findings, and said that UNICEF is not involved in the listing process.

UNICEF said that it does not make recommendations on countries and entities to be listed in the secretary-general’s report and it’s the secretary-general alone that makes that decision.

The UNICEF spokesperson defended the group’s impartial reporting to Fox News: “The monitoring and reporting process is led by a working group, which brings together U.N. agencies and international, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs. These organizations are selected based on their ability to regularly provide accurate, reliable, impartial and objective data on children affected by armed conflict.”

The spokesperson claims that the information they receive and utilize, “follows a stringent verification process whereby data collected and shared by members is triangulated.” According to the UNICEF spokesperson, all information is verified, “information which is judged inaccurate or biased is not accepted.”

“Our work on children and armed conflict is known to member states, many of which are also UNICEF donors, and we provide them with regular reports on how we use their respective contributions.”

But, NGO Monitor does believe the information is biased; in fact, it claims three of those groups who supply information to the working group have troubling links to a terrorist group, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). PFLP is on the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations as well as the European Union’s, but not the United Nations list.

NGO Monitor’s analysis states that Addameer is an example of one such group that gives information to UNICEF’s working group, calling it an affiliate of the PFLP, which has seen senior members convicted of crimes including its chairperson and co-founder. One of its field workers was imprisoned for trying to assassinate a former chief rabbi of Israel in 2005.

NGO Monitor contends that the Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) had one board member who was imprisoned by Israel for 17 years for carrying out grenade attacks against Israeli civilians in 1968.

It also claims that the founder and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights was imprisoned by Israel for membership in the PFLP, and in 2012 also was denied a visa to the U.S.

Some of the other NGOs listed in the report have links to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign that has been accused of being anti-Semitic. Others have likened Israel to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa.

NGO Monitor is especially concerned with UNICEF’s inability to protect children. It quotes one of UNICEF’s Children in Armed Conflict bulletins as admitting that the situation in Gaza interferes with UNICEF’s ability to document “cases of child recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.” Something which Hamas and other Gaza based terrorist groups have been shown to do.

If Israel were to be put on the blacklist, they would join ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. While diplomats at the U.N. believe that is highly unlikely to happen, NGO Monitor wants countries to better understand who they are funding and recommends that UNICEF end cooperation with NGOs with suspected ties to terrorist organization, and publicly retract false information on Israel.

Ben Evansky reports for Fox News on the United Nations and international affairs.

He can be followed @BenEvansky