UN fires senior official for publicly criticizing lethal Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket barrage on Israel
The former OCHA head is not the first U.N. employee to lose her job for stating factual observations of the Israel-Gaza conflict
A senior United Nations official lost her job after condemning the Palestinian Islamic Jihad for “indiscriminate rocket fire” against Israel in the recent flareup between Israel and the Gaza-based terrorist group.
Sarah Muscroft served as the head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory before losing her position.
Muscroft’s public rebuke of the PIJ rocket fire had noted that the safety of all civilians is “paramount.”
“Relieved to see a ceasefire agreed [upon], ending hostilities impacting both Palestinians and Israeli civilians. Such indiscriminate rocket fire of Islamic Jihad provoking Israeli retaliation is condemned. The safety of all civilians is paramount – the ceasefire must be upheld,” Muscroft had tweeted.
Muscroft’s condemnation was met with a backlash from pro-Palestinian social media activists.
Yara Hawari, a self-described “Palestinian academic, writer and senior policy analyst,” called Muscroft’s comment a “disgusting distortion of reality from the head of OCHA in Palestine. The Israeli regime admits to conducting what it calls pre-emptive attacks which started with firing a missile at a residential building. Well done, Sarah, you've managed to be more Israeli than the Israelis.”
Following the backlash, Muscroft issued an apology.
“One of my previous tweets was ill-informed and I have deleted it. I sincerely apologize for my poor judgment. All civilians – everywhere – must be able to live in peace,” she tweeted.
Despite her apology and the erasure of her earlier tweet, Muscroft was fired and her Twitter account was closed down.
Hillel Neuer, executive director for UN Watch, a human rights NGO and a U.N. watchdog that reports on the absurdities of the international body, observed that nothing appeases the angry Twitter mob.
@muscroftsarah's groveling apology—for having rightly condemned the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization firing 1,100 rockets aimed at Israelis, of which 200 misfired into Gaza killing their own people—failed to appease the angry mob. They never do. Now she deleted her account. pic.twitter.com/BPJQX0irw8— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) August 13, 2022
Neuer noted that a similar incident took place last year, when an official of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, made a factual point about the precision strikes of the Israel Defense Forces on Hamas.
“Likewise, last year, UNRWA’s Matthias Schmale said IDF strikes on Hamas were precise. Hamas protested, so UNRWA fired him. UNRWA Deputy Chief Leni Stenseth met with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, ‘affirmed her solidarity’ [and] called Schmale’s words ‘indefensible,’” Neuer tweeted.
“The U.N.’s policy is crystal clear: any official who dares to publicly defy the false narrative of Hamas and Islamic Jihad will be removed,” he said.
Schmale’s employees and the Gaza-based Hamas terror group perceived his comments after last May's conflict as praise for the IDF. After being fired, he was reassigned to work for the U.N. in Nigeria. NPR asked Schmale later whether he regretted his comments, and even after being fired, Schmale appeared apologetic about what he had said.
“Yes and no. The controversial interview you are referring to on Israeli television happened a day after the war stopped. So I was tired, you know; I had given, I think, 70 interviews by then, and I wish I had put the points I was trying to make more clearly. I don’t think the substance of what I said was wrong, but I should have articulated it more clearly,” he said.
“What I had in mind was one image,” he said. “There was one house leveled to the ground in a sea of houses. You can hardly put a millimeter between the houses. The remaining houses around this one that was bombed were more or less intact.”
“It's incredible how they could take down a house in a sea of houses with such precision,” Schmale told NPR. “But in that house were 10 civilians, eight children and two women, including five children who went to one of our schools. So how could anyone think that I was justifying that by calling that a precise strike?”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres protesting Muscroft's dismissal and referred to Schmale's case as well.
“This norm effectively grants the Palestinian players and the local U.N. staff an 'unwritten veto' over U.N. statements, and stands in clear contradiction with the basic principles of objectivity and neutrality that the UN claims to hold,” Erdan said.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.