How a UN agency puts unfiltered Hamas propaganda on the record

OCHA and Euro-Med reports on the Middle East paint a picture of alleged war crimes committed by Israel.

By Sveta Listratov, TPS

A little-known United Nations agency is republishing reports about Gaza’s humanitarian situation based on unfiltered reports produced by a human rights group with links to Hamas, resulting in the terror group’s propaganda being placed on the record in UN documents widely shared with humanitarian relief groups.

The Press Service of Israel has learned that the agency in question, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is republishing reports produced by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization.

OCHA is responsible for the Relief Web, an information portal widely used by the international humanitarian community that hosts more than one million reports, evaluations and guidelines on humanitarian situations around the world.

A TPS-IL review found 114 Euro-Med reports published on the Relief Web since October 7, an average of one report every two days.

Data published on Relief Web often makes its way into UN documents.

However, the OCHA and Euro-Med reports on the Middle East paint a picture of alleged war crimes committed by Israel that are not supported by facts and have not been independently verified.

Since October 7, the Euro-Med reports disseminated on Relief Web accuse Israel of “genocide,” organ theft, using banned thermal weapons, buring Palestinians in mass graves, massacring Palestinians in Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, deliberately using Palestinians as human shields, and sexually assualting Palestinian women.

The reports provided no evidence, and either downplayed or disregarded evidence of Hamas abuses and war crimes — including readily available information about murder, torture, rape and kidnapping.

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“Any organization, even such as the one related to Hamas, a terrorist organization that is outlawed in several countries in the world, including the Gulf countries, can come and take control of the information that passes within the UN organization, disseminating lies, like these,” Yifa Segal, an international law expert from Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told TPS-IL.

“It happens because the UN’s immunity is absolute. There is no administrative petition or the legal route that can be taken to challenge this. The UN system is open to such significant exploitation, and there is no way for the truth to come out,” Segal explained.

“The chance that anything will change is zero. This is mainly because there is no one except Israel in this case to intervene and stop it. And Israel stands alone.”

A 2020 Defense Ministry document in English, Arabic and Hebrew with then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s determination that Euro-Med founder and chairman Ramy Abdu is a Hamas operative, authorizing the seizure of his assets.

Euro-Med’s ‘Info-Washing’

In delving deeper into OCHA’s web of information dissemination, a troubling revelation emerges: the influence of Euro-Med, a Hamas-affiliated organization, in shaping propaganda vilifying Israel.

“For years, Euro-Med’s current and former directors, Ramy Abdu and Mazen Kahel, have both been identified by Israel as Hamas operatives operating through NGOs,” Vincent Chebat explained to TPS-IL.

Chebat is the senior researcher at NGO-Monitor, a Jerusalem-based organization that monitors the activities of non-governmental organizations.

The chairman of Euro-Med’s board of trustees is Professor Richard Falk, who served as the UN’s “Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories” from 2008-2014.

During his time in that position, Falk unsuccessfully sought to have the International Criminal Court investigate Israel for what he called acts of “colonialism, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing inconsistent with international humanitarian law.”

“Since the beginning of the war, Euro-Med published several reports accusing Israeli soldiers of sexual violence and children’s executions. These accusations are all based mainly on anonymous testimonies collected by the NGO itself, making it hard to independently verify them,” Chebat said.

Euro-Med was registered with the European Union Parliament’s transparency register, indicating active involvement in influencing European Union policy.

However, TPS-IL learned that this registration was terminated as of March 2024. The European Parliament’s spokesperson’s office did not respond to TPS-IL’s query about the reason for the termination.

Editor’s note: Shortly after this report was published, TPS-IL learned that Euro-Med was reinstated into the register.

Euro-Med said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the suspension was due to a “domain hack preventing us from receiving emails & conducting updates.”

OCHA ‘Incorrect and Unchecked’

In the over 100 Euro-Med reports since October 7 available on Relief Web are accusations that the Israel military deliberately targets homes, mosques and schools in Gaza without mentioning Hamas’s well-documented practice of placing weapons caches, tunnel shafts, rocket launchers and command and control centers in and near civilian areas and humanitarian aid zones. At the same time, Israeli military operations are routinely described as “massacres.”

OCHA did not respond to requests by TPS-IL to comment about the Euro-Med material it publishes on Relief Web.

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Shai Glick, CEO of the Btsalmo organization for human rights, told TPS-IL that OCHA omits non-Israeli casualties from data about Palestinian terror attacks, which undercounts the number of victims.

He also said the agency misuses legal definitions regarding the terror victims, including a biased category of “settlers,” which is not legally recognized.

And he accused OCHA of deliberately blurring the distinction between civilians and combatants to inflate the number of Palestinian civilian victims.

“OCHA is not really engaging in humanitarian efforts in Israel. They operate deceitfully, and their interpretations in the reports they release enable harm to Israeli citizens,” Glick said.

“The reports they issue on the situation in Gaza now during the war provide incorrect and unchecked data in the same style it has been done for years,” Glick said. “Not only this is a glaring double standard but also a clear intent to tarnish Israel’s image.”

A screenshot from a Euro-Med report published on Relief Web on April 30, 2024 accusing Israel of using banned weapons in Gaza. Screenshot by TPS-IL

Anne Herzberg, NGO-Monitor’s legal advisor, characterized OCHA as “a very hostile agency.”

The trouble, she explained, is that “Many news agencies and governments are relying on the data they publish, which is usually problematic.” Moreover, she stressed, Relief Web, “lacks transparency regarding its membership process and the criteria for organizations’ reports to be republished.”

Asked what might change the situation, Herzberg told TPS-IL, “Probably, investigations on behalf of donor states that fund UN could foster transparency and accountability, provided taxpayers care where their money goes.”

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, around 30 are believed dead.

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