October 30, 2003
On Halloween, children across North America will collect millions of dollars for UNICEF. That money, in turn, will do diverse deeds around the developing world, everything from feeding malnourished infants to teaching that free enterprise kills children to inspiring teens in the Middle East to become suicide bombers.
UNICEF, like the little tykes that collect pennies for it each Halloween, is growing up. Once an apolitical do-gooder that shied away from controversy, UNICEF has matured to become a canny propagandist on hot-button issues. Parents who embrace UNICEF’s political agenda can send their kids door-to-door this Halloween as little ambassadors for causes they hold dear.
One such cause might be proselytizing the evils of globalization. Earlier this month saw the release in London of “Child Poverty in the Developing World,” a UNICEF-sponsored report that found over one billion children suffer from severe deprivation. The cause of this suffering in poor countries, the press discovered upon the study’s release: Too much trust in profits and privatization and too little in foreign aid and public services. The headline from The Independent, a London daily that neglected to ask the press conference participants why only undemocratic countries without free markets remain poor: “Global Trade Keeps a Billion Children in Poverty, Says UNICEF.”
Another cause, which reflects UNICEF’s coming of age as a full-fledged UN agency, is anti-Americanism. In 1999, with Iraq under economic sanctions, UNICEF released a report attributing one million Iraqi deaths to the embargo. The report, which would often be cited by journalists and activists, fanned anti-American sentiment around the world. Yet the UNICEF report was, in fact, co-authored with the Iraqi government’s health ministry, as it stated on its own front cover, and it relied on Iraqi government statistics. One sign of UNICEF’s allegiance to Saddam’s cause: A map on the first page of the first chapter portrays Kuwait as part of Iraq.
The Mother-of-All-Kids’ causes, however, must be UNICEF’s summer camps for suicide bombers. UNICEF supports more than 200 camps for Palestinian kids, most of them administered by Palestinian Authority bodies – such as the Ministry of Youth and Education – that are responsible for indoctrinating Palestinian youth into the culture of martyrdom. In the town of Kalkilya, one UNICEF-funded camp is named after Wafa Idris, the first female suicide bomber and a heroine to Palestinian children. Her Jerusalem suicide killed one person and wounded more than 150. In Nablus, another UNICEF-funded summer camp, Shahids of Chattin, honours suicide bombers and other martyrs. As reported in the Palestinian press and translated by organizations such as Palestinian Media Watch, these one and two-week camps have martyrdom themes: Campers visit the families of suicide bombers, hear lectures and sing songs that glorify suicide bombers, and participate in discussions about the bombers. UNICEF’s generosity in making the camps possible is typically acknowledged at the camps’ closing ceremonies and also reported in the Palestinian press. Four-colour camp posters, coupling UNICEF with messages of militarism, are commonplace.
By rights, UNICEF should have a large role to play in the Palestinian territories. The world expects UNICEF to protect innocent children from manipulation by those who hold power over them. In other countries, UNICEF fights courageously against local prejudices that, for example, perpetuates female circumcision or enlists child soldiers. In the Palestinian territories – the only society in the world that dresses its toddlers as suicide bombers, glories in the deaths of its children and formally begins the indoctrination of its children in kindergarten – UNICEF feeds the local prejudice and facilitates a greater victimization of children.
Some parents doubtless agree with UNICEF’s programs and knowingly have their children go trick or treating on UNICEF’s behalf. Others might object to conscripting their children in hateful acts, but rationalize that UNICEF does much good work along with the bad. Others, however, might like free enterprise, might like Americans and might want to leave the funding of summer camps for suicide bombers to Hamas.
UNICEF’s response to this article:
National Post, October 31, 2003
Letter to the Editor:
It’s difficult to know where to begin to respond to the inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the article “UNICEF’s ghoulish tricks” (Oct. 30, 2003).
Mr. Solomon’s excessive and intemperate rhetoric – at one point in his article accusing us of “hateful acts” – is shameful. I am surprised and disappointed that the National Post is party to reproducing such blatantly false information.
Just some examples of where the column gets it wrong:
- We are labelled anti-American. This claim is nothing short of absurd. Last year the American congress and government voluntarily provided nearly US$250 million to support UNICEF’s work. The level of US government support has increased under the leadership of President Bush, a vocal supporter of our work. UNICEF’s present international executive director is American, as was her predecessor.
- A recent report we sponsored about levels of poverty in the developing world was portrayed as being anti-globalization, among other things. Wrong again. The report says nothing about global trade being responsible for child poverty. Rather, it concludes that greater public investment in basic social infrastructure is needed, especially in water, sanitation, health and education. The purpose of the report is simply to identify and highlight the extent of extreme deprivation among children and call for more global action to address it. We invite your readers to view the report for themselves at www.unicef.org to make up their own minds.
- But the most outrageous set of accusations – that we fund summer camps for Palestinian suicide bombers – is not just baseless, but also reckless. Anyone who has visited our work in nearly 160 countries and territories around the world understands that we have always deplored the use of children as weapons of war. UNICEF has consistently called on all sides in the Middle East to spare children the horrors of violence and conflict, and our programmes focus on conflict resolution and peace. Far from “feeding the local prejudice” in the Palestinian region, UNICEF has ceaselessly advocated for the protection of children and non-involvement of children in violence. UNICEF supports summer camps to keep children away from conflict zones and promotes child-friendly principles. UNICEF sends unannounced monitors to the camps to ensure they are free of violence and hatred and are places where children learn peaceful habits and are safe from ongoing conflict.
- Finally, as for free enterprise, UNICEF is all for it. UNICEF’s work relies on contributions from individuals, foundations and businesses, and hundreds of private businesses worldwide support our work to create a world fit for children.Your readers may be interested in some factual information about UNICEF:
- Today UNICEF is working in 158 countries and territories in the world – on the ground with children who need food, clean water, medicine, education, protection from harm and in humanitarian emergencies.
- As a non-political agency, we have the support of virtually every government in the world and millions of individuals, large and small corporations, community groups and service clubs in dozens of countries. All contributions to UNICEF are voluntary.
- Since 1946 UNICEF has saved the lives of millions of children. We are one of the world’s largest purchasers of vaccines, providing millions of doses each year to the developing world. Polio is almost eradicated, and nearly 80 per cent of the world’s children are immunized. We’re helping provide care for AIDS orphans in Africa. We’re training teachers for girls and boys returning to school in Afghanistan and in Iraq. We’re working with former child soldiers in Sierra Leone so they can return to their childhoods. In short, UNICEF is working to create a better world for millions more children who continue to live under the shadow of hunger, disease and exploitation.In Canada, we draw support from millions of Canadians through our Halloween box collection, card sales, fundraising events and donations. Canadians of all ages support our work because they want to make a positive difference in the lives of children less fortunate than themselves.
The article is an unworthy distortion of both our mission and our work. It is also an insult to thousands of dedicated volunteers and staff here and around the world whose efforts are diminished and ridiculed. It undermines the millions of Canadian children who, through their Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF collections, are helping kids around the world.
President and CEO, UNICEF Canada
Readers’ responses to “UNICEF’s Ghoulish Tricks”:
National Post, November 10, 2003
I applaud Lawrence Solomon for his column discussing some of the nefarious uses of UNICEF donations collected by unsuspecting school children every Halloween (UNICEF’s Ghoulish Tricks, Oct. 30). I was told about the money being channelled into the Palestinian Authority’s children’s camps, which celebrate suicide bombers, last year and stopped my Halloween donations at that time. I even contacted UNICEF to establish the veracity of the charges, and they did not deny anything. Their response was just to repeat that they “support all children everywhere.”
Thank you for bringing this hidden agenda to light; at the very least, it may encourage further introspection and debate regarding the widespread distribution of UNICEF collection boxes at Halloween.
H. Turner, Toronto.
I am saddened that a news source as credible as the Financial Post could run this ridiculous column the day before a significant UNICEF fundraising event. This abuse of the printed page will take medicine out of the mouths of sick children, it will lead to more people becoming infected with HIV, it will allow other children to be forced into prostitution.
I have volunteered hundreds of hours to UNICEF over the past eight years. I have also visited UNICEF field projects in Cambodia and Lebanon. I have witnessed the work that UNICEF does. It is an organization that is profoundly committed to saving lives and making the world a better place for children and their families. It struggles daily to counter the harsh effects of conflict and poverty on children. UNICEF is firmly against the use of children as soldiers or as weapons, and it is beyond ridiculous to suggest that it is in any way associated with the business of training terrorists.
The children that I had the enormous privilege of meeting in southern Lebanon were concerned with how to rebuild their lives after losing limbs to land mines left behind by the occupying Israelis. These are the children that UNICEF helps. It helps them to rebuild their lives and to learn how to deal with what conflict has stolen from them, so that they may have a better chance to reach their full potential.
Grant Innes, Toronto.
There are many Canadian taxpayers who are concerned that their money is being used to support summer camps for Palestinian children to learn self-sacrifice, partly through our government’s support of UNICEF. Our organization funds these camps that have martyrdom as their themes. Add to this anti-globalization and anti-Americanism and, sorry, no UNICEF cards for me this Christmas.
Frances Hellen, Toronto.
Next year on Halloween night, a sign on my door will read, “We say NO to UNICEF.” How about you?
Louise Charlebois, Port Colborne, Ont.