The guidelines for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "state that human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found." That is why their silence in response to Hamas' devastating attack on Israel is so concerning.
The OCHA's office for the "Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA-OPT)" claims to provide "information management services to the humanitarian community." What the international community doesn't know is that the OCHA-OPT continually underreports and ignores Palestinian violence against Israelis. They refuse to hold Hamas accountable for violence against Israelis. The OCHA-OPT's record is even more concerning because of the volume of reports they produce.
A brief glance at the front page of the OCHA-OPT website makes their bias obvious. The source that OCHA-OPT uses for Palestinians' deaths is Gaza's Ministry of Health, which is controlled by Hamas and historically unreliable. Even more egregious, they include the barbaric terrorists that committed pogroms on Israeli soil among the Palestinian casualties, briefly referring to the terrorists, in small text, as "people involved in the 7 October attack."
These are not isolated occurrences. UN reports in recent years showed that violent attacks by Palestinian civilians against Israelis in the West Bank were consistently higher than attacks by Israeli civilians against Palestinians. Perhaps that is why the UN stopped including attacks against Israeli civilians in their reports to the security council after June 2022, while continuing to present the number of attacks against Palestinians. It is likely not a coincidence that a wave of terrorist attacks against Israelis began in March 2022.
After Israel was attacked on October 7, it rightfully decided that Hamas' rule must come to an end. Since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, Israel has been subjected to repeated attacks, which have been ignored or downplayed by the OCHA-OPT. When Israel responded with aerial bombardment and limited ground invasions, all aimed at Hamas targets, the OCHA-OPT was quick to supply reports without context, and containing blatant misinformation. They have continued to do so since October 7. It is clear that the OCHA-OPT has no interest in preventing Hamas from taking lives.
Since the massacre on October 7, OCHA-OPT has not published a single report or statement detailing the horrors perpetrated against Israelis. They have instead launched a misguided and harmful campaign detailing the war in Gaza without any context. Israel's pleas for Palestinians to leave the conflict zone have been condemned, while reports that Hamas has prevented civilians who want to leave from doing so have been ignored.
One of Hamas' favorite tactics is to use civilians as part of their terrorist operation. They regularly use schools and hospitals to provide human shields for their bases. By omitting the context for Israel's military actions, namely Hamas terrorism and willingness to sacrifice their own people, the OCHA-OPT are guilty of preventing any objective analysis from the international community. They also effectively encourage Hamas to use civilians as human shields by protecting them from scrutiny.
Many of the numerous people, organizations, and governments who regularly rely on the OCHA-OPT are unaware of how much misinformation they report.
The OCHA-OPT's biases and omissions are causing incalculable damage to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
By cooperating with Hamas, the OCHA-OPT helps perpetuate the rule of a terrorist state, the oppression of Palestinians, and the murder of Israelis. It is time for the OCHA to reassess their reporting on Israel and Gaza in order to ensure the safety and rights of all people affected by this conflict.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum.