Forced to Apologise for Speaking the Truth

On Sunday 23rd May, UNRWA’s Gaza director, Matthias Schmale, gave an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 in which he was asked for his impression of claims by Israeli officials that IDF strikes on Gaza were very precise. He replied:

“I’m not a military expert but I would not dispute that.
I also have the impression that there is a huge sophistication
in the way the Israeli military struck over the last 11 days.”

He went on to say that his issue was that in contrast to 2014:

“This time the strikes felt much more vicious in terms of their impact.
Yes, they didn’t hit, with some exceptions, civilian targets,
but the viciousness, the ferocity of the strikes was heavily felt.”


Screenshot of Tweet with video

But on Tuesday he was forced to apologise for those comments because they prompted outrage from Hamas (which rules Gaza) as well as other Palestinian organisations.

The Middle East Monitor reported Hamas as saying it was, “Shocked by Schmale`s statements to Israeli Channel 12 about the recent aggression on Gaza.” They claimed his remarks:

“Justified the targeting of civilians and their homes,
and sought to downplay the size of the losses.”

They even accused him of “praising the ability of the occupation army,” calling on him to stick to his humanitarian mandate, and also calling on UNRWA to “officially apologise to the Palestinian people” as well as taking legal and administrative measures against him.

The Palestine News Network wrote that:

‘The Non-Governmental Palestinian Organisations Network and the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations’ Council condemn the recent media statements made by Mr Matthias Schmale, Gaza Director of the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), regarding the latest Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.


In providing this kind of testimony, Mr Schmale completely ignored the crimes committed during the latest Israeli offensive against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, including Palestinian refugees, who make up around 70% of the population.’

Those extreme reactions clearly made it impossible for him to continue in his role without apologising. Even that apology might not save him.

But they also reveal the worrying truth – that people are not allowed to work in Gaza without agreeing to Hamas’ version of events.

Matthias Schmale has been forced to apologise for telling the truth.

What does this tell us about the news reports put out by the media organisations who operate within Gaza? Are they allowed to speak the truth?