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UNRWA's oversimplification of Israel's colonial massacre

Using the hashtag #Gaza1YearOn, Palestinians in Gaza have once again been subjected to exploitative oversimplification. In keeping with its neutral agenda, UNRWA has embarked upon another propaganda spectacle under the heading, "Fifty voices for fifty days of conflict: Gaza in its own words". In its introduction, UNRWA summarises colonial aggression as "conflict" and its repercussions as a mere "shattering of dreams".

UNRWA informs us that it has "collected the voices" of Palestinians throughout the year, now presented gracefully in a series of detached recollections that, according to the agency, allows readers to "get a sense of Gaza described in the words of its people". While Palestinians in Gaza definitely need more spaces for their narratives, UN-affiliated organisations stifle, rather than disseminate, Gaza's reality.

Primarily, the ostentatious declaration that the initiative provides the means to impart knowledge about Palestinians in Gaza constitutes a deprivation of authentic narrations. As with all other UN projects, the success of such exposure depends upon the fragmenting of Palestine and its history into isolated incidents, as well as the perpetual, intentional mangling of blatant colonialism into a quasi-acceptable "conflict".

A more subtle, yet conditioning, manipulation of language lies within the description of Palestinians as "displaced mothers, frightened children, frustrated fathers", and the juxtaposition of hope with struggle. The adornment of bravery, however, is reserved exclusively for the organisation's staff – "brave UNRWA staff members". The underlying message provides a false image of Gaza's resilient population, and notably reinforces the notion of dependency upon the UN agency, despite the fact that self-defence is incumbent upon Palestinians and embraced valiantly. By focusing upon selective statements accompanied by photographs, UNRWA has obliterated not only the severity of Israel's "Operation Protective Edge" military offensive last summer, but also the necessary understanding of its latest example of a massacre as part of a process which the settler-colonial state is rushing to complete.

Beyond Israel's excessive use of force in Gaza, which every international organisation failed to classify specifically as a war crime of genocidal intent, UNRWA's fifty quotes for fifty days distorts Palestine's history in several ways. Describing Palestinians solely within the context of Operation Protective Edge provides the international community with impunity in safeguarding colonialism; in the process, it upholds the framework upon which international law was founded. It also defines the hypocritical imperialist interpretation of their own legal conjectures.

Additionally, the presentation of quotes and pictures detracts from UNRWA's role in furthering the colonial agenda. While clearly the intention is not to reminisce about the organisation's shortcomings, such patronising initiatives serve to promote oblivion at a global level. In February 2014, Hamas criticised the UNRWA curriculum for Palestinian students, deeming it irrelevant to Palestinian reality and burgeoning with external examples of alleged human rights, while negating Palestine's history and memory.

The purported universality of human rights is a Western concept and, hence, excludes automatically nations that refuse to be subjugated. Such duplicitous agendas are clearly visible in many UNRWA projects, where manipulation in the name of neutrality and the appeasement of its benefactors takes precedence over the brave, resilient people defying Israel and the international community in their struggle to defend their land.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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