Israel rejects UN official’s explanation for leaving Hamas’s use of human shields out of report
Virginia Gamba, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for children and armed conflict, briefs reporters at U.N. headquarters on June 13, 2024. Credit: Mark Garten/U.N. photo. | Mark Garten/U.N. photo

Virginia Gamba, special representative to the U.N. secretary-general, told JNS that word count limits left no space to mention that the terror organization embeds deliberately among civilians.

By Mike Wegenheim
June 18, 2024

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Jewish state’s mission to the United Nations reacted harshly to a U.N. official’s claim that a limited word count was responsible for the exclusion of Hamas’s usage of human shields from a controversial blacklist that included Israel.

Virginia Gamba, special representative to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres for children and armed conflict, briefed reporters last Thursday about the annual Children and Armed Conflict report, which is also known as the “list of shame.”

JNS asked Gamba why the report she compiled contained only one sentence on Hamas’s use of human shields, which is central to the terrorist group’s military strategy and to understanding the casualty toll of Gazan children in Israel’s war against Hamas.

“If we put everything in the annual report on every situation, it will have at least 1,000 pages,” Gamba told JNS. “We have to choose very carefully what makes it to the report or not, if the figures must go there, as much context as possible.”

“But we have always been deterred from putting into context each one of these paragraphs because of word count,” the U.N. official added. “Perhaps by saying it here, I will be heard.”

Gamba said that she asked for waivers on the word count for her annual report, which is dictated by U.N. Security Council resolutions and other restrictions, and which she called “inappropriate.”

“It is mostly a financial issue and an issue of a standard across the U.N. system,” she said. “I’m not saying that if I had more room, you would have more answers.”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t buy that explanation. 

“As was evident in the press conference and as was stated by Israel time and again, the CAAC report is riddled with methodological problems, double standards and inaccuracies,” the ministry stated. 

“Limited word count and budget restrictions are a pale excuse for the U.N.’s basic failure, of making a grotesque and false moral equivalency between Hamas and the IDF,” the ministry stated. “This is yet another glaring example of the moral bankruptcy the U.N. has reached under Secretary-General Guterres’s leadership.”

‘Hamas has been exploiting Palestinian children’

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s U.N. ambassador, stated that “the fact that the secretary-general doesn’t care that Hamas uses children as human shields and wants them to be killed and ignores that Hamas has been exploiting Palestinian children for terror attacks says everything one needs to know about his bias and hatred of Israel.”

“The secretary-general’s illegitimate report, which doesn’t focus on Hamas’s use of children as human shields, is fundamentally distorted,” Erdan added. “All the secretary-general has done is incentivize terrorists around the world to involve children in their terror attacks.”

“Sadly, more children will be killed because of the secretary-general’s distorted and immoral approach,” the Israeli diplomat said.

JNS also asked Gamba about part of the report on children maimed by tear gas inhalation, which appeared to apply only to the Jewish state. Such inhalation appeared to account for the majority of the alleged Israeli maiming violations, but, JNS noted in its question, does not seem to fit the report’s definition of maiming. JNS also asked about other alleged violations related to access to medical care, which the report seemed to leave unexplained.

Gamba did not address reporting of tear gas violations directly. She told JNS that there are co-chairs of the working group, or task force, assigned to each country on matters related to the Children and Armed Conflict report, and it is up to them to report violations to her. Those reports use what she admitted are outdated guidelines.

“The monitoring and reporting methodology is unique in that it is a standard, it is old,” she said. “It is from 2005, but it has to be kept very strictly, and it is very strictly done.”

Regarding the reporting of denial of medical care, Gamba told JNS that she ordered clearer technical reporting guidelines to be used in the future and that Israel had been cooperative with her in improving the process throughout last year.

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