The Rosett Report

A New Low? UN Report Suggests Israel Caused Gaza's Rising Infant Death Rate, Doesn't Mention Hamas

File this one under “UN Sleaze,” or perhaps under “UNRWA’s Use of Dead Infants to Defend and Abet Terrorists.” Though even that may be putting it too mildly.

In the run-up to next month’s annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the latest Israel-trashing report from the propaganda mills of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been released. This one’s a doozy, summed up by an UNRWA press release dated August 8 with the headline: “INFANT MORTALITY RATE RISES IN GAZA FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FIFTY YEARS.”

This is the finding of an UNRWA-conducted study. In the opening sentence, the press release points a finger at — where else? — Israel, saying “the Agency’s Health Director says the blockade may be contributing to the trend.”

The UNRWA press release says that UNRWA carries out a survey of infant mortality rates across the region every five years. The most recent results, for 2013, were released last week. For decades, according to UNRWA’s surveys, the infant mortality rates in Gaza had been declining, but that has now reversed.

Since the last survey in 2008, the number of babies dying before the age of one has risen to 22.4 per 1,000 live births in 2013 from 20.2 in 2008. The UNRWA survey found an even worse trend for neonatal mortality — the number of babies dying before the age of four weeks. This rate, by UNRWA’s estimate, has risen to 20.3 per 1,000 live births from 12. According to the director of the UNRWA health program, Dr. Akihiro Seita, such a rise is “unprecedented.”

So, why might this be happening? The UNRWA press release quotes Dr. Seita musing:

It is hard to know the exact cause.

However, that does not stop Dr. Seita from speculating:

We are very concerned about the impact of the long-term blockade on health facilities, supplies of medicine and bringing equipment into Gaza.

The same message, complete with that same quote, is repeated in a press release put out on August 15 by the UN headquarters in New York.

What’s wrong with this picture? Was there, perhaps, some over-arching development, unmentioned by UNRWA, that shaped events in Gaza during the interval in question, 2008-2013?

Here’s a one-word answer, which does not appear anywhere in either the UN press releases or in the underlying UNRWA report: “Hamas.” Or, to put it in the all-caps style of the UNRWA press release, where it should have figured in the headline, but did not: “HAMAS.”

Yes, the Palestinian terrorist organization which since 2007 has ruled Gaza.

Assume that UNRWA’s infant mortality statistics for Gaza are remotely reliable: for decades — while UNRWA deplored Israel’s presence in Gaza — infant mortality rates in the enclave were declining. Then, in 2005, Israel withdrew.

In Gaza’s elections in 2006, Hamas won a legislative majority. In June 2007 in a bloody coup, Hamas evicted the rival Fatah forces of the Palestinian Authority. Since then, Gaza has been under the boot of Hamas.

Shortly after Hamas took complete control in Gaza, UNRWA conducted its 2008 survey.

At that stage, compared to surveys done some years earlier, the long-term trend was a significant decline in infant mortality. According to UNRWA’s numbers, infant mortality in the Gaza Strip had declined from 127 deaths per live births in 1960 to 82 in 1967, then to 33 in 1995, and to 20.2 in 2008. But after five years of Hamas control, UNRWA found that infant mortality rates were rising for the first time in a half-century.

Again, UNRWA made no mention at all of Hamas.

Surely, if UNRWA is genuinely concerned about infant mortality in Gaza, then honesty is needed in considering the real causes of these infant deaths, and in mentioning that the uptick has occurred under Hamas. But UNRWA appears less interested in the lives of these babies than in stitching together a report that is willfully oblivious to the derelictions and depravities of Hamas, and is instead larded with insinuations that can be used to damage Israel.

In the matter of bringing supplies into Gaza, Hamas clearly prioritizes amassing guns, rockets, mortars, and other materials more germane to terrorizing and killing Israelis ahead of tending to Palestinian newborns. Recall, tons of cement and other resources were brought into Gaza (under the nose of UNRWA) and were poured not into hospital construction, but into bombarding Israel and digging miles of attack tunnels into Israel.

There’s also the question of whether UNRWA’s survey is accurate in the first place. The UNRWA report, “Increasing Neonatal Mortality among Palestine Refugees in the Gaza Strip,” notes that the numbers are estimates relying on proxy data:

Currently no appropriate registration exists for infant deaths among Palestine refugees in Gaza.

That observation in itself ought to raise the question of just how indifferent Hamas might be to infant deaths — apart from their potential propaganda value.

Hamas runs Gaza, but apparently can’t be bothered to provide decent care for infants or to set up a system to record their deaths (unless they happen to die while being used as human shields for rocket launchers).

UNRWA, for its part, uses this kind of report as leverage to collect hundreds of millions in donations every year for its welfare operations in Gaza. The biggest contributor is the United States. This further frees Hamas to devote its resources not to decent governance, but to terrorism.

For the UN to behave this way is nothing new, but it is nonetheless dangerous, deceptive, and — in its cynical use of infant death statistics to score propaganda points against Israel for Hamas — utterly disgusting.

If UNRWA is genuinely convinced that infant mortality rates are rising in Gaza and truly wants to address the problem, here’s what the headline should have said: “Under Hamas, Infant Mortality Rising in the Gaza Strip.”

Given UNRWA’s role in Gaza as handmaiden to Hamas, there’s no chance of that.

But if anyone at the UN tries to attack Israel based on this infant-mortality report, it would behoove U.S. diplomats to point out that, according to UNRWA’s own statistics, infant mortality trends in Gaza were looking a lot healthier before the Israelis pulled out and Hamas took over.