International Seminar Provided Small but Genuine Contribution to Pursuit of Peace in Middle East, Says Under-Secretary-General as Event Concludes

PAL/2228-PI/2237
6 September 2018
International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East, AM & PM Meetings

International Seminar Provided Small but Genuine Contribution to Pursuit of Peace in Middle East, Says Under-Secretary-General as Event Concludes

MOSCOW, 6 September — The 2018 International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East concluded today with two panel discussions, one exploring media coverage of the Palestinian refugee story 70 years after the Nakba, and the other focused on the protection of journalists covering the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.

In closing remarks, Alison Smale, United Nations Under‑Secretary‑General for Global Communications, thanked participants for an enriching journey, noting that the Seminar’s thought‑provoking discussions provided a small but genuine contribution to the pursuit of peace in the Middle East.

The morning panel — “70 years after the Nakba:  Telling Palestine refugees’ story” — was enlivened by last week’s decision by the United States to cut funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and to challenge the very definition of a Palestinian refugee.  Moderator Chris Gunness, the Agency’s Spokesperson and Director of Advocacy and Communications, described today’s panel discussion as an opportunity to inject humanity into the discourse.

With that in mind, panellist Omar Baddar, Deputy Director at the Arab American Institute, described the polarized political climate in the United States, challenging the idea gaining traction among decision‑makers:  that providing funding to UNRWA has not moved the region closer to peace.  United States policy has shifted from a bias towards Israel to actual participation in its war against Palestinians, he said, noting that Israel itself has long denied refugees their rights on the grounds that UNRWA perpetuates a victim complex, a notion that the rest of the world has dismissed.

Panellist Abby Sewell, staff reporter at The Daily Star, said the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is perhaps the most complicated because they are not granted citizenship — originally on the grounds that it would impede their right of return.  Noting that Palestinians — who are primarily Sunni — are perceived as a threat by Christians as well as Shia Muslims, she said they do not have the right to work as lawyers, doctors or engineers, and cannot own property.  Their lives will be even more difficult if UNRWA funding continues to dwindle, she warned.

Allison Kaplan Sommer, Journalist at Haaretz, pointed out that the process by which Palestinians left in 1948 is not taught openly in Israeli schools.  By contrast, as a child in Rhode Island, she participated in school trips to see where Native Americans had lived.  In Israel, however, not much is left of villages existing before 1967.  “To develop sympathy, you have to see and you have to know,” she emphasized.

Moderating the day’s second panel — “Protecting journalists covering conflict” — was Nanette Braun, Chief of the Communications Campaigns Service at the United Nations Department of Public Information, who said the safety of journalists is a growing concern.  In gaining access to areas where others cannot, they provide a crucial public service, she said, pointing out, however, that their watch‑dog role means they are also targeted.

Addressing that point, panellist Sherine Tadros, Head of the New York (United Nations) Office at Amnesty International, said the dangers for journalists increased over the 15 years she covered the Middle East and North Africa.  “You feel as if you have a target on your back”, a risk heightened by disregard for the rules of conflict and the outsourcing of such attacks by Governments.  She described her experience, as an Al Jazeera reporter, of masking her face, voice and location during coverage of the Arab uprising as a way to protect herself.

Maria Zakharova, Director of the Information and Press Department in the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said many national and international laws regulate the protection of journalists, notably the 1977 Geneva Convention and its additional protocols, by which media workers, journalists and related personnel in dangerous zones are regarded as civilians requiring protection, provided they do not act out of line with their status.

She said the rivalry between traditional journalists and bloggers is another issue requiring a common understanding within the international community.  Responding to questions, she emphasized the importance of transparency for the Russian Federation in covering everything it does in Syria.  Coverage of its airspace activities has “reached top transparency”, while its cooperation with the media is as at “100 per cent”, she said, adding:  “You can send questions and we will always answer them.”

Panel I

The Seminar began the day with a panel discussion titled “70 years after the Nakba:  Telling Palestine refugees’ story”.  Moderated by Chris Gunness, Spokesperson and Director of Advocacy and Strategic Communications, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), it featured presentations by Khalid al‑Roushd, Author and Presenter, RT Arabic; Omar Baddar, Journalist and Deputy Director, Arab American Institute; Abby Sewell, Staff Reporter, The Daily Star; Allison Kaplan Sommer, Journalist, Haaretz; and Abdel Razzaq Takriti, Associate Professor and Arab‑American Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Arab History, University of Houston.

Mr. GUNNESS noted that today’s panel discussion is taking place in the context of the United States’ decision to cut funding for UNRWA, thereby challenging the very definition of a Palestine refugee and the number of refugees the Agency should serve.  The discussion provides an opportunity to get back to principles and inject humanity into the discourse, he said, expressing hope that it will also inform journalism around the issue.  He pointed out that General Assembly resolution 194 of 11 December 1948 delineates ways to solve the question of Palestine, stating that those wishing to return should be able to do so and that compensation should be provided for those choosing not to do so.

Mr. TAKRITI, asked to explain what happened after 11 December 1948, said that over three decades, “settler colonists” moved into Palestine and in 1948, expelled the majority of “native inhabitants”.  At the time, the United Nations had agreed to a partition plan by which 55 per cent of the land would be given to the “colonists” and 45 per cent to the “native population”.  It was the first and only time in history when the United Nations accorded “settler colonists” the lands of a “native population”, he emphasized.

“It is important for us to have a very clear understanding of the evolution of the United Nations,” he continued, adding that the Organization transformed its position on Palestine while changing its policies on other parts of the world.  The United Nations realized the disastrous consequences of partition with the beginning of a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” in which “settlers” moved beyond the areas accorded to them, eventually controlling 78 per cent of the territory while uprooting Palestinians from their homeland.  Most were internal refugees in Palestine, and others went to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.  At the time, the United Nations recognized that it must address their humanitarian needs, he said.

Mr. AL‑ROUSHD said it is important to overcome the emotional perception of the conflict, recalling that when Israel was created in 1948, Joseph Stalin was among the first to support it.  Without the Soviet Union’s support, both political and military, the State of Israel would not have existed, he stressed.  The United Kingdom provoked the 1948 war, not wishing to leave the region.  At the same time, Stalin wanted the United Kingdom to withdraw.  Now, the United States wants the Russian Federation to leave the region, he said, adding:  “We should perceive the history geopolitically, as a game of power.”

He went on to describe the Palestinian tragedy and displacement as a natural result of redrawing the map of the Middle East following the Second World War.  The lack of understanding of those lessons led to a new tragedy, this time with the Syrian refugees, including the Palestinians in Syria.  With the advent of “the Greater Middle East” — the redrawing of the regional map in the post‑cold war era — and the fall of bipolarism, history repeats itself, as does the tragedy of refugees, he said.

Ms. SOMMER rejected the “settler colonialist” label in discussing the Nakba, underlining, however, that she did not wish to engage in the discussion of history since she is neither an academic nor a politician.  She noted nevertheless that that the process by which the Palestinians left in 1948 is not taught openly in Israeli schools.  Recalling that, as a child in Rhode Island, she went on school trips to see where Native Americans lived, which gave students a historical perspective, there is not much left of pre‑1967 villages, and thus not much to see.  “To develop sympathy, you have to see and you have to know,” she said, noting that many diaspora Jews do not know the history either.  She said that, in Israel, the events of 1948 are discussed around Nakba Day celebrations.  When an organization was formed to promote knowledge about those events, awareness grew.  The Nakba law forced Israel to reduce State funding to institutions that commemorate Independence Day as a day of mourning, she said, recalling reporting by Haaretz last week that none of the 98 requests to enforce the Nakba law have been adopted.

Ms. SEWELL said the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is perhaps the most complicated.  In both Lebanon and Syria, refugees are not granted citizenship, originally because it would impede their right of return.  However, the Palestinians — primarily Sunni — were perceived as a threat by Christians and Shia alike.  They have no right to become professionals like lawyers, doctors and engineers, and cannot own property.  In Lebanon, the situation of refugees is difficult and will remain so if UNRWA funding continues to dwindle, she said, adding that she has met many Palestinian refugees arriving from Syria, where they felt more integrated into society and had the same right to work as Syrians.  They saw themselves first as Syrians then as Palestinians, she said, adding that now they are double refugees.

Mr. BADDAR said it is undisputed that 1948 was a campaign of “ethnic cleansing”, noting that if 700,000‑800,000 Palestinians took a trip to Disneyland, that would not change their right to return home.  “Someone is denying them the right to return,” he emphasized.  On the defunding of UNRWA by the United States, he recalled that David Friedman, that country’s Ambassador to Israel, explained that Washington had “given Palestinians $10 billion and it got us no closer to peace”.  Such a statement was disingenuous coming from a person who has combated any peace efforts over the course of his career, he said, adding that the political climate in the United States is such that someone that extreme can become an ambassador.

He went on to state that Israel has long attempted to absolve itself of its denial of rights to refugees by saying that UNRWA perpetuates the victimhood complex — a claim that the rest of the world has dismissed.  There has been a broad shift in United States policy from a bias towards Israel to actual participation in the Israeli war against Palestinians.  The adoption of an extremist mentality in the United States, which holds that the Palestinians are imposters, and the shift in definitions as a way to create the “deal of the century”, constitute attempts to impose Israel’s will on the Palestinians, he emphasized, recalling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge that there will never be a Palestinian State on his watch.  “It’s basically that you’re not allowed to return and you can’t have a State of your own,” he said.  “You have to live subserviently under our control for an undetermined period of time.”

The panellists then took questions.

Mr. TAKRITI, asked about the defunding of UNRWA, said it is important that the Agency continue its services, adding that the political perspective is also important.  The descendants of refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda or Afghanistan are not told they will be deprived of the right to return.  He outlined attempts to depoliticize a category of refugeehood, stressing that citizenship does not preclude the right to return.  For example, Greek refugees in Cyprus are citizens and members of the middle class who have not given up their right of return.  Underlining that Palestinians are demanding that international law be applied, he said that treating them as an obstacle to peace is an assault on refugees.

Ms. SOMMER, asked about calls by Israeli officials to dismantle UNRWA, said Israelis often point fingers at Lebanon and other countries that do not integrate Palestinian refugees into their populations.  Pointing out that Israel is populated by refugees from Morocco, Poland, Yemen and elsewhere who have the right to return, she said:  “There is no one narrative for Palestinian refugees,” nor only one for Jews who came to Israel.  UNRWA has a branding problem, she said, explaining that the average Israeli would say that if one applies the UNRWA definition of refugeehood — whereby hundreds of thousands of refugees have swelled into millions — defending the right of return is the equivalent to the destruction of Israel.  There is a perception of a double standard and people ask why Palestinian refugees are treated differently from others.  If UNRWA was taken apart, and its budget and functions given to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), its mandate would be more defensible, she said, adding that establishing the Agency for its unique purpose makes it vulnerable to the Israeli case against it.

Mr. GUNNESS added that UNRWA has a mandate from the General Assembly, and no single Member State can change it.

Mr. AL-ROUSHD said the right of return should be respected as a moral principle, stressing that when a super‑Power imposes conditions on everyone, international law does not exist and tragedy repeats itself.  For 70 years, discussion has centred on consequences, rather than causes, he said, calling attention to Israel’s strong Zionist lobby in the United States.

Mr. BADDAR said UNRWA does not have a branding problem, but rather, a smear campaign being waged against it.  Noting its status as a humanitarian organization, he said the critique that the Agency has not resolved the refugee crisis is misplaced, because it is not mandated to do so.  Such expectations are not raised in any other context, he noted.  If there is frustration over the persistence of the refugee crisis, the perpetrators should be held accountable, he recommended.  As for the portrayal of the refugee issue by the United States as a financial one, he pointed out that “we’re not closer to peace with $100 billion in military assistance to Israel”.  Fears that the return of refugees will mean that Israel will no longer exist are being used to endorse the expansion of settlements, he said, emphasizing that Palestinians are not viewed as equal human beings.

Participants then raised a range of questions and comments, requesting that panellist give their perspectives on why the Palestinian refugee issue has been so difficult to resolve when the question refugees was addressed effectively, for example, during the India-Pakistan conflict.  One speaker said the core issue is that an entire people was sent into exile, treated as subhuman and had their narrative suppressed.  “Palestinians feel resentful when you tell us we have to recognize the Jewish trauma,” she said.  “We did not cause it.  It is not our responsibility.  But we do understand that it exists.”

Other participants supported the right to return, with one describing attempts to distort that narrative as “a bad precedent”.  Another pointed out that Palestinian refugees should be allowed to tell their stories, with Israelis able to listen, regardless of how they feel.  “You cannot tell our story on our behalf,” he emphasized.  Yet another participant recalled that John Foster Dulles, a former Secretary of State of the United States, said that he saw no reason why the refugees could not return.  The United States then imposed sanctions on Israel for six months over its refusal to accept their right of return, he said, noting: “The United States position can change.”

Ms. SOMMER, asked how far Israel would go to ensure a Jewish demographic majority, replied that some politicians want to apply Israeli law to Jews living in the West Bank.  Legislatively, such efforts can go “very far” if current political trends continue, she said.  What has not been addressed are Gaza and Hamas, and how many Israeli positions attributed to chauvinism and racism are born of a genuine fear for Israel’s security.  Emphasizing that the first priority is self-preservation, she said that relates to how threatened Israelis feel.  She went on to disagree that Israel is an apartheid State now that it has its Nation State law, noting that officially, the law applies to Israel only and does not change anything on the ground.  However, if the courts recognize it as a basic law, it could be used “as a weapon” to perpetuate an apartheid system, she said, stressing that she does not support the Nation State law, the reach of which will be tested in the courts.

Ms. SEWELL, asked how UNRWA’s dismantling and disempowerment would affect internal dynamics in Lebanon, said Lebanese officials are concerned about the security situation.  Recalling that there have been several funding cuts in recent years, she said refugees rely most on the Agency’s health-care and education systems.  She added that she has been impressed with the importance that refugees place on those systems in hopes that their children can work elsewhere if barred from doing so in Lebanon.  The Government has stated that it will not take over those programmes, should they disappear because it simply would not have the capacity because it currently hosts more than 1 million refugees from Syria, she said.

Mr. BADDAR, asked about United States public opinion, described a town in Texas where citizens applying for hurricane relief must show that they do not boycott Israel.  “That is an overreach by the Israel lobby,” he said.  He cited another example, whereby Kenneth Marcus, formerly of the Brandeis Center, brought cases against universities hosting Palestinian events on campus.  While he did not win, he said he was pleased with the atmosphere created on campuses.  Today, Mr. Marcus is in the Department of Education Civil Rights Office.  “There is an assault on free speech, especially on the question of Palestine,” he said.  “This really is unique in United States public discourse.”

Panel II

Moderating the day’s second panel — “Protecting journalists covering conflict” — was Nanette Braun, Chief, Communications Campaigns Service, United Nations Department of Public Information.  It featured presentations by Wessam Hammad, News Producer, Al Jazeera; Ma’aly Hazzaz, Programme Specialist in Communication, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Sherif Mansour, Programme Coordinator, Middle East and North Africa, Committee to Protect Journalists; Gil Somekh, Videographer, CGTN; Sherine Tadros, Head of the New York (United Nations) Office, Amnesty International; and Maria Zakharova, Director, Information and Press Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation.

Ms. BRAUN said the safety of journalists is a growing concern.  Journalists gain access to areas to which others cannot and provide a crucial public service in so doing.  Their watch‑dog role means they are also targeted, and many have been imprisoned or even killed, she said, noting that a journalist dies every five days while on the job, according to UNESCO.  In the Israel‑Palestine conflict, 23 media workers have been killed since 2000, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 2 of them while covering the recent protests in Gaza, despite wearing press vests.  That has led to new protection measures by major news organizations, she said, adding that it is a different story for local journalists and freelancers working in conflict zones.

Ms. TADROS said that dangers to journalists increased over the 15 years in which she has covered the Middle East and North Africa, with access extremely limited over the last 5 years alone.  The targeting of journalists was so disturbing it prompted her to make a career change.  “You feel as if you have a target on your back,” she said, noting that the heightened risk was related to the changing nature of war, the arming and organizing of militia and other paramilitary groups, their disregard for the rules of conflict, and the absence of accountability.  The rise of social media created enormous pressure for journalists to be on the front lines, if only to compete, she said, adding that the exhaustion they endure is another risk, especially when making decisions.  Some die because they are asked to remain in a conflict zone longer than necessary, she said, noting that press jackets are not useful.  “It’s like having a target on your back.”

She went on to cite Government outsourcing of targeting as a new development, noting that some mount campaigns to delegitimize the work of journalists.  “It’s no longer a red line to attack a journalist” or even kill them.  During the 2008 “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza, Israel did not allow journalists to enter the area and faced such a backlash that in two subsequent wars, it allowed them into the zones of conflict.  The phrase “false news” also delegitimizes journalism, she said, pointing out that Arab Governments bought into it during the Arab uprising.  She said Egypt labelled her public enemy number one, recalling that she could not broadcast under her own name, show her face or use her own voice.  She was not allowed to stay in her own home for most of the 18 days of the uprising.  “That is how effectively Egypt’s propaganda machine works,” she said.  “All they needed to do was to say Al Jazeera is going to ruin the country as a Qatari agent orchestrated the uprising,” she said, emphasizing that the United Nations must address the dangerous increase in such campaigns.

Mr. HAMMAD said that Al Jazeera journalists have been targeted in the broadcaster’s Gaza, Ramallah and Jerusalem offices.  Press jackets and helmets do not identify them to the Israel Defense Forces, and in 2018 alone, Israeli occupying forces carried out 208 violations in the West Bank and Gaza.  Noting that Al Jazeera must deal with three different Governments — Israel’s in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and Hamas in Gaza — he said that of the network’s 32 journalists, only 8 have access to Jerusalem, with the rest only able to work in the West Bank.  Palestinian journalists have no such access, he noted.  Journalists themselves often become a story, he added, noting that in the West Bank, they have been arrested and had their equipment confiscated.

Mr. SOMEKH agreed that the “red line” has indeed disappeared, recalling the lost romantic notion that the press are accepted by everyone as people who can tell the story of what is happening on the ground.  There is a changed political atmosphere in Israel, where “the press is no longer something popular”, he said.  “We’re no longer welcome in the field.  We are as bad as the story we are telling,” targeted as much as those whom they are covering.  Israelis are also much less liberal than in the past, he added.

Ms. ZAKHAROVA, asked whether she has observed increased risks for journalists, said she represents the Government.  Noting that many national and international laws regulate the protection of journalists, she said they notably include the 1977 Geneva Convention and its additional protocols, under which media workers, journalists and related personnel in dangerous zones are regarded as civilians requiring protection, provided they do not act out of line with their status.  The international community should challenge Governments to develop methods for better identifying and protecting the press, she said, noting that journalists are sometimes regarded as targets, an issue requiring discussion among the global professional community.

She said journalists also compete, recalling an instance in which Russian journalists entered the Central African Republic without notifying that country’s Government, Russian authorities or the United Nations.  They had no press identification and were killed in a zone outside Government control, she said, adding that, had they followed protocol, they might have lived.  Russian journalists are also being killed in Ukraine, she said, pointing out that the Russian media are losing their colleagues and do not enjoy the moral support of the global journalism community.  The rivalry between traditional journalists and new social media and bloggers is also growing, she said, adding that there is little common understanding of that issue in the international community.

Mr. MANSOUR said the Middle East is among the most dangerous places for journalists.  Accountability in Iraq is the worst, where 200 journalists have been killed since 2003, followed by Syria.  He asked how the Russian Federation is working to avoid casualties among journalists in Syria, noting that there are dozens in Idlib, an area currently under bombardment.  Journalists are civilians, he said, emphasizing that as the first distinction people make.  That distinction also covers other professionals covering conflict — doctors, as well as medical and humanitarian personnel — who are granted protection.  The civilian distinction that journalists have enjoyed since the Geneva Conventions is accompanied by the principle of proportionality, he said, adding that Governments are responsible for ensuring that the use of force is proportional to the civilian casualties resulting from the confrontation.

He said journalists covering the Israel‑Palestine conflict face attack by the Israel Defense Forces, as well as arrest, intimidation and censorship by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.  “Now, even Palestinian factions are going after journalists whose coverage they don’t like,” he said, citing 70 casualties inflicted by Israeli forces during the most recent protests in Gaza.  The most important questions centre on whether journalists are being targeted and whether Israel is violating international standards, he said.  With its open fire policy, Israel uses lethal means to go after civilians, which has resulted in some of the highest numbers of injuries in the Israel‑Palestine conflict over the last 25 years.  “We have been trying to challenge the Israeli Government on this,” he said.  “We have never heard anything from them, which makes the point more clear in my mind about the targeting of journalists.”  There is also a distinction between State and non‑State actors, the latter of whom make the most threats against journalists in the Middle East.  “This is an area in which you can’t get much accountability,” he said. “Our advice to them is not to get captured.”

Ms. HAZZAZ said that, while the United Nations has a role to play, everyone a has responsibility.  Without media freedom, pluralism and safety, people would not have access to information.  “People are risking their own lives to get the information out.”  Calling attention to the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity — the first such system‑wide plan — she said it is led by UNESCO and aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers.  The first priority is to improve the normative work of the United Nations on the safety of journalists, notably by producing safety indicators.  The Group of Friends on the Safety of Journalists was created by States committed to strengthening the Plan of Action, as well as other States that have started looking into national mechanisms to protect journalists, she said, stressing that the media must also instil a culture of safety, notably by creating newsroom safety protocols.

The Moderator then opened the floor for questions and comments.

Ms. ZAKHAROVA, in answer to a question about how the Russian Federation protects journalists in Idlib, called attention to other Syrian towns, such as Raqqa, cautioning against singling out a single region.  Emphasizing that the Russian Federation is carrying out a counter‑terrorism operation in Syria, she said that without its airspace operation, there would be no discussion of journalist protection in that country.  Had the Russian Federation not decided to support Syria two years ago, only Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) would be there now, she said, adding that it would have created a “a real terrorist State, not only in Syria, but in neighbouring States”.

She went on to underline the importance of transparency for the Russian Federation in covering everything it does in Syria.  Media coverage of its airspace activities had “reached top transparency” ever, she said, stressing, “we have been maximum open and cooperated with mass media 100 per cent”.  That is also how the Russian Federation protects journalists, she said, adding that all attacks and movements, even by drones and technical operations, are reported.  “You can send questions and we will always answer them,” she said, noting that the Government organizes press tours for Russian and international journalists.

Several participants described their personal experiences in the field, with one recalling that he was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, and that Israeli forces broke his expensive equipment.  Since 2016, Israeli forces have increased their targeting of Palestinian journalists with bullets and tear gas, while Israeli authorities closed two media networks in the West Bank, he said, asking how the Committee to Protect Journalists can protect freelance journalists.

Mr. MANSOUR replied that the Committee to Protect Journalists can provide assistance when equipment is destroyed, especially if the network for which the journalist works does not help.  The targeting of freelancers and those using cameras has indeed increased since 2016, he said, linking that rise to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Mr. Trump dehumanizes press freedom by giving away the moral authority of the United States, he said, emphasizing:  “We’re still looking for a champion of press freedom who can make a difference on the ground.”

Another participant agreed that “we are living in dangerous times”.  On the issue of fake news, she said that Israel has followed the United States, adding that it is dangerous that Shin Bet now interrogates journalists entering and leaving the country.  Some are verbally and physically threatened, she said, recalling that Israeli forces shot her in the head.  She added that, having covered conflict around the world, Israel is the only place in which she has been injured.  Post‑traumatic stress disorder is also real and must be addressed more seriously, she said, a call echoed by other participants.

Mr. MANSOUR replied that post‑traumatic stress disorder should be routinely addressed, notably by news outlets and professional unions, which should provide ongoing assistance.  The Committee to Protect Journalists offers such training for its staff, he added

Closing Remarks

ALEXEY BORISOV, Secretary-General of the United Nations Association (UNA) in Russia and Chairman of the Executive Committee, World Federation of United Nations Associations, welcomed the Seminar’s important contribution to the search for solutions to the Israel‑Palestine conflict.  Recalling that UNA Russia’s vast cooperation has existed for 70 years, he said today’s meeting demonstrates the importance of that collaboration in providing information to the public on the most pressing issues, including the Middle East question, a complex subject, especially when dialogue among the parties “is not there”.  Such conditions make the work of journalists all the more important, he said.

ALISON SMALE, United Nations Under‑Secretary‑General for Global Communications, thanked participants for an enriching journey, saying that throughout the thought‑provoking discussions she, as a former journalist, was particularly sensitive to the points raised about the media in the Israel‑Palestine conflict, the story of Palestinian refugees, and the panel on protection of journalists.  The Seminar had indeed provided a small but genuine contribution to achieving peace in the region, she added.

For information media. Not an official record.