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COVID-19 in Gaza: The Guardian Parrots UNRWA Chief While Ignoring Hamas


On October 12, The Guardian published a story about life in the Gaza Strip during the coronavirus pandemic under this headline:

Written by Oliver Holmes, the Britain-based newspaper’s Jerusalem Correspondent, the article laments the inability of The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to alleviate “unprecedented levels of poverty” in the coastal enclave.

Holmes also assigns blame for the current situation:

Then there is the breakdown in the relationship with its [UNRWA’s] former largest donor, the US, which claims – in line with long-running Israeli attacks on the agency – that it is “irredeemably flawed”.

While Israel is mentioned several times in relation to Gaza’s predicament, nowhere in the piece does the author see fit to note who rules the territory – and is therefore ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of its residents.

Related Reading: Palestinian Poverty: Who Isn’t Sharing the Wealth?

No Health Crisis in Israel?

Holmes’ report includes the following from UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini:

Across Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and elsewhere, Palestinian refugees are suffering at new depths because of the pandemic….There is despair and hopelessness.

The quote Holmes uses lists several places that neighbor Israel. Yet he completely omits the fact that the Jewish state – portrayed in the piece along with the United States as a primary cause of the Palestinians’ COVID-related problems – is experiencing its own ongoing battle with the pandemic.

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This kind of background information is crucial to providing the coronavirus crisis as it is playing out in the Middle East with a semblance of context and perspective.

Israelis have been living under an unprecedented second national lockdown, which was imposed after the country’s per capita infection rate grew to exceed that of every other place in the world. The tough restrictions that Jerusalem has imposed have caused nearly one million Israelis to become unemployed, but this is apparently not newsworthy.

COVID-19: A Global Pandemic or Not?

More broadly, COVID-19 has had a dramatic global impact:

Yet, readers of The Guardian are led to believe that only Gazans are “going through the garbage” — and that this is somehow attributable to Jerusalem’s now-shelved plan to apply sovereignty to parts of…the West Bank:

Meanwhile, Israel’s possible annexation of the occupied West Bank looms, threatening to stifle UNRWA’s work there.

The Palestinians’ fight against COVID-19 is real. But to imply that a suspended initiative, coupled with the Jewish state’s criticism of UNRWA, is the cause of Gaza’s coronavirus-related plight is to apply a double standard to Israel. Worse than shoddy journalism, the singling out of Israel this way is antisemitic, according to the widely accepted definition of the phenomenon developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

UNRWA and Gaza’s Invisible Rulers

Perhaps the most overt example of Holmes’ bias is that his article at no point notes that Gaza is ruled with an iron fist by Hamas, a terror organization that routinely arrests and tortures critics. Gazans have been rounded up and detained without trial for demonstrating against a lack of job opportunities and corruption.

Related Reading: Coronavirus Exposes Hamas Disregard for Gaza Human Rights

The omission is especially egregious since Holmes focuses specifically on UNRWA, which employs Hamas members who have used the organization’s buildings as weapons storage facilities. UNRWA has also been accused by Israel and independent researchers of using antisemitic textbooks, while Hamas terror tunnels were previously discovered under UNRWA-run schools.

But Holmes makes no mention of the problematic ties with Hamas, focusing only briefly on the fact that UNRWA has recently been embroiled  in controversy:

Finally, comes the scandal. The former head of UNRWA resigned last year after an investigation involving accusations of widespread nepotism in the organization, including allegations he hired a lover.


Overall, The Guardian article ignores inconvenient facts in order to accord with, if not promote, the longstanding false narrative that Israel is responsible for Gaza’s hardships.

Beyond this agenda-driven piece there is the truth. Case in point: Jerusalem has reportedly agreed to a six-month cease-fire with Hamas that will see $100 million in Qatari funds transferred into the terrorist group’s coffers. Why didn’t Holmes include this development?

By twisting reality, readers are kept in the dark about the true nature of life in the enclave, which does no justice to Gazans and simply serves to perpetuate the faulty notion of Palestinian victimhood.

Related Reading: The UNRWA Refugee Controversy Explained


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Feature image: Via Wikimedia Commons



Gidon Ben-Zvi

Gidon Ben-Zvi, former Jerusalem Correspondent for The Algemeiner newspaper, is an accomplished writer who left Hollywood for Jerusalem in 2009. He and his wife are raising their four children to speak fluent English – with an Israeli accent. Ben-Zvi's work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, The Algemeiner, American Thinker, The Jewish Journal, Israel Hayom, and United with Israel. Ben-Zvi blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind (jsmstateofmind.com).