UNICEF Not “Anti-Israel”

There is a persistent, yet unfounded, rumor in the Jewish community that United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is “anti-Israel.”

In reality, UNICEF and Israel have a long history of working together.  In 1948, following the establishment of the state, UNICEF came to Israel’s aid, providing food for 200,000 children orphaned by the Holocaust. 

In 1965, it was determined that Israel’s infrastructure was strong enough to support relief programs for children and Israel switched from being a recipient of UNICEF aid to a donor to UNICEF assistance programs.  Indeed, when UNICEF received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965, Zena Harman, who had been Israel’s representative to UNICEF and at the time was UNICEF’s chairperson, received the award on behalf of the organization.

Since that time, UNICEF has provided assistance and aid to Israeli children in emergency situations.  For example, in 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, the Canadian and the U.S. Committees for UNICEF donated $200,000 to a program created to assist children deal with the psychological trauma they endured from the war.  Today, UNICEF has a program to help children in Sderot deal with their psychological suffering due to the barrage of rocket attacks on that town.

One basis for the persistent rumors regarding UNICEF appears to be common confusion with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) which has become infamous for its anti-Israel policies in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the misperception that UNICEF assists Palestinian children while ignoring Israeli children.

UNICEF does have extensive programming in the Palestinian Authority to help children in need. Due to Israel’s development of effective social services for children and its status as a “donor” to UNICEF, the organization does not regulary operate programs in Israel.

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