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UN Palestine Agency rejects Israel smear campaign on Google

June 14, 2024 at 2:04 pm

A view of Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California, United States on April 16, 2024. [Tayfun Coşkun – Anadolu Agency]

The UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), on Friday, dismissed as “unrealistic” the claims made against it in Israeli advertisements appearing on Google, Anadolu Agency reports.

UNRWA spokesman, Jonathan Fowler, confirmed to Anadolu on Thursday that allegations of Hamas’s infiltration of the UN Agency are unfounded.

The Israeli government’s claims appear as “sponsored links” at the top of Google search results for UNRWA, according to Anadolu.

These links on the Tel Aviv administration’s website include unsubstantiated allegations, such as UNRWA employees’ involvement in the 7 October, 2023 attack and assertions that the UN Agency has been infiltrated by Hamas and other groups.

Fowler stated that they conducted repeated investigations and took corrective action when allegations of neutrality violations arose, both during and before the war in Gaza.

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He pointed out that there is no evidence of the involvement of any of the Agency’s employees in the 7 October attack on settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

He added that investigations are ongoing into the allegations against about a dozen employees, emphasising that these remain allegations, regardless of how they are portrayed.

Israel has repeatedly equated UNRWA staff with Hamas members in efforts to discredit them, providing no proof of the claims, while lobbying hard to have UNRWA closed as it is the only UN agency to have a specific mandate to look after the basic needs of Palestinian refugees. If the agency no longer exists, argues Israel, then the refugee issue must no longer exist, and the legitimate right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land will be unnecessary. Israel has denied that right of return since the late 1940s, even though its own membership of the UN was made conditional upon Palestinian refugees being allowed to return to their homes and land.

In another investigation conducted by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services on 26 April, one of the 19 UNRWA employees accused by Israel of involvement in the 7 October attack was cleared of charges.

The office suspended investigations into four employees due to insufficient evidence provided by Israel.

Independent investigations are ongoing for the remaining 14 employees and, thus far, no evidence of misconduct has been uncovered.

Meanwhile, Google did not respond to Anadolu’s inquiry about whether the ads targeting UNRWA were restricted to searches within the United States.

Google simply stated that it reviewed the advertisements and found no violations of its advertising policies.

Israel has faced international condemnation amid its continued brutal offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7 despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire.

More than 37,200 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, most of them women and children, and over 85,000 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Eight months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered Tel Aviv to immediately halt its operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.

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