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Updated Jun 14, 2024, 5:14am EDT
mediaNorth America

Biden’s UN ambassador defends United Nations, criticizes the media

Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike. Abed Khaled/File Photo/Reuters
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The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, defended the credibility of United Nations casualty figures in Gaza amid a rolling dispute over the international body’s efforts to track deaths and provide aid in the conflict.

“I think the UN as a system, as an organization, makes every attempt to be reliable. They make every attempt to be credible, to be fair, to get out information that will help people who they have been charged to help on the ground,” she said in an interview released Friday on Semafor’s Mixed Signals podcast. “So I do think the UN gets a bad rap.”

“The fact that over 200 [United Nations staff] have been killed in the line of duty, they deserve our support, they deserve our credit, and they deserve our appreciation,” she said. “And they have been caught up in a political narrative that does not give them the full recognition that they deserve.”

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Thomas-Greenfield spoke in the context of an interview about the media’s role in conflicts, and her view that the global media has badly neglected the toll of the civil war in Sudan.

“There’s a war raging now in which there are predictions and reports. That genocide is happening. And yet this does not get the front page attention of the international press,” she said. ”I’m not saying Gaza is not important. It is. Very important. The fact [is] that we hardly see what is happening in Sudan with a death toll that is five times what is happening in Gaza.”

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The United Nations came under intense criticism from supporters of Israel last month after shifting the way it counted deaths and revising downward the share of the more than 35,000 killed in Gaza that it could identify as women and children. The shift led supporters of Israel to accuse the body of relying on unconfirmed figures from a Hamas-controlled ministry, while a UN spokesman said the revision was aimed merely at greater precision, and did not reflect a shift in estimates of the conflict’s toll.

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An Israeli government report this year claiming staff at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, known as UNRWA, were linked to Hamas also prompted the United States to stop funding the organization. A review by a former French government official found that the Israelis did not have evidence of “significant” numbers of members of terrorist organizations at the agency.

“Our aid is already flowing into Gaza. It’s not flowing directly through UNRWA anymore,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

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