David Bedein is an American oleh who has lived in Israel since the 1970s. I know him very slightly, having once shared a Shabbat lunch with him at the home of a mutual friend in New York, and having visited an Israeli community center he ran back in 1982, when I was on an Americans for Progressive Israel young people’s tour. According to his website, he was a social worker for 15 years, and has been an investigative journalist for 25. Unfortunately, he has what we would see as right-wing views on the Palestinians, including the notion that there is a secret alliance between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and in therefore implying that a negotiated peace is not possible. This is how he responded to my inquiry on his views:
The PA joined forces with Hamas back in December 1995, except that in the era after the Rabin assassination, this news item was lost. In Jan 2006, Hamas formally took over the PA legislature and PA education. Please take a moment to peruse this subject on my website.
This last point is apparently frozen in time within Mr. Bedein’s mind. In Jan. 2006, Hamas won a plurality of the vote and a majority of seats, in a democratic election for the legislature. So, yes, Hamas formally led the legislature and took over the PA education ministry. But in June 2007, Hamas and Fatah fought each other in a short civil war, with Hamas winning in Gaza and Fatah expelling Hamas from power in the more populous West Bank.
It’s not that I fully believe the charge, but I was taken aback by UNRWA’s reluctance to provide a fuller explanation. The following is my verbatim exchange with Christopher Gunness, the English-language press officer for UNRWA:
Dear Mr. Gunness:
I’m a writer on Israel/Palestine issues and a long-time activist for a two-state solution to the problem of refugees and related issues. I’ve just viewed this disturbing video that implicates UNWRA in funding activities for Palestinian youth that propagandize children to work/fight for a “return” to what became Israel in 1948. This kind of material works against our efforts for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, but it seems authentic. Can you please provide me with a reaction to this video (accessible via this link)?
Unfortunately this film is a catalogue of lies and I send our official rejection of it in the two links below. Essentially Mr Bedein, the film maker has gone into non UNRWA events and claimed that they belong to us.
He has a long history of misinformation. If you go to www.unrwa.org and type “Bedein” into the search engine, you will see countless official UN rejections of what he claims to be journalism.
You should also know that in his latest article, to explain why the Hamas Education Minister publicly attacked UNRWA last week, Mr Bedein says that we deliberately started a debate about trying to introduce Holocause teaching in all our schools in Gaza to fabricate a row with Hamas as a front for our support for global Jihadism. Please also see the article below that.
If after reading that you still think Mr Bedein has any credibility, please let me inform you that Mr Bedein has in the past shared a byline (and may do for all I know) with a man called Samuel Sokol, who has appeared on the internet espousing Kahanism.
Thanks for responding. What seemed most disturbing, perhaps, about the “Camp Jihad” film were the statements by adult staffers thanking UNWRA for its support. Your rebuttal statement of August 2013, “UNRWA Rejects Allegations of Incitement as Baseless: Statement …” is helpful, but I could use a little more detail.
The film has apparently led your agency to make some changes. Can you please name the “third party organization” that you suspended your relationship with, “pending a review”? Has your review concluded and will you share its findings? Are there any other changes prompted by or under consideration because of this film?
Dear Mr Seliger,
Thanks for your mail. I have nothing more to add to the mail I sent, except we have briefed all of UNRWA’s major stakeholders, we have taken the necessary actions we need to take and we consider the matter closed. I have nothing more to say and no more details to give out.
Dear Mr Seliger,
As I explained, I have no more to add to the large amount of information I have already sent you.
With very best wishes,