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UNRWA denies hosting a tournament named after terrorist

Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |

A recent Palestinian Media Watch bulletin cited a report in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida about a football tournament named after the terrorist Abu Jihad, held at an UNRWA educational institution. In response, UNRWA has contacted both the PA daily, asking it to issue a correction, and PMW, asking us to publicize UNRWA's denial.

The following is the response in the PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, citing UNRWA's denial:

Headline: "UNRWA denies holding any sports tournament"
"An item was published in the Feb. 17th edition of our esteemed newspaper, according to which UNRWA extended its patronage to a soccer tournament under the name The Abu Jihad Tournament. This item created confusion and commotion, since UNRWA has held no sports tournaments recently. We hope that the Al-Hayat Al-Jadida newspaper will publish UNRWA's clarification, stating that no sports tournament was held, and that the student body and the students' unions at UNRWA institutions are not represented by factions, but function as representatives of the student body and deal with general matters pertaining to the students at these institutions. We hope that our journalist colleague will obtain verification from the [UNRWA] Agency's official sources in all matters pertaining to UNRWA notices."


[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 23, 2010]

The following is the request PMW received from UNRWA:

Dear Palestinian Media Watch,
You recently circulated an item concerning a football tournament at an UNRWA facility which it was claimed supported extremism. UNRWA has looked into this allegation and has found it to be completely false. There was no such tournament.
The sole source of information about the alleged tournament is the Palestinian newspaper Al Hayat Al-Jadidah. After a complaint from UNRWA, the paper checked its report and issued a full retraction acknowledging the mistake.
I would be grateful if you would circulate this to all of those who received your account of the Al Hayat allegations which gave them unjustified credence. These reports and their repetition are extremely damaging to a United Nations organization that has a zero tolerance policy towards political or militant activities in its installations and which always takes action, both pro-active and reactive to enforce this policy.
Yours sincerely,
Christopher Gunness,
UNRWA Spokesperson