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In mind-boggling contradiction, UNICEF Ambassador Robbie Williams books gig in Tel Aviv

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British mega pop star Robbie Williams, a UK Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) since 2001 , signed on last month to front a new campaign launched by UNICEF UK Children in Danger, which “aims to protect children from violence, disease, hunger and the chaos of war and disaster.”

Less than a week later Williams announced on his website he’s booked a gig at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv on May 2, 2015, as part of his Let Me Entertain You Tour.

Cover of the UNICEF report “Children in Israeli Military Detention, Observations and Recommendations”

Cover of the UNICEF report “Children in Israeli Military Detention, Observations and Recommendations”

As documented in UNICEF’s report titled Children in Israeli Military Detention, Observations and Recommendations (pdf) Israel engages in “widespread, systematic and institutionalized” abuse of Palestinian children held in Israeli military custody. UNICEF’s report came out before Israel was busted for torturing Palestinian children by caging them in outdoor holding pens during a freezing snowstorm last winter or the slaughter in Gaza last summer commonly referenced as a genocide against Palestinians living in Gaza.

It seems strange that Williams, while fronting a campaign to end violence against children, could even entertain the idea of performing for a society whose government slaughters, abducts and tortures children.

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales interview Pernille Ironside, chief of UNICEF’s Gaza field office for A War on Gaza’s Future? Israeli Assault Leaves 500 Kids Dead, 3,000 Injured, 373,000 Traumatized.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the situation there. You were there through the entire assault until now.

PERNILLE IRONSIDE: Yes. Today, the future of Palestinian children in Gaza is extraordinarily bleak. The entire population has experienced a deep form of trauma, and there isn’t a single family in Gaza who hasn’t experienced personally death, injury, the loss of their home, extensive damage, displacement. The psychological toll that has on a people, it just cannot be overestimated, and especially on children. I’ve met children who have experienced extraordinary wounds, who have watched as family members were dismembered before their eyes, obliterated. You know, shortly after that terrible incident on the beach, the following day I met with the surviving three—

AMY GOODMAN: The beach being?

PERNILLE IRONSIDE: The Gaza City beach in Gaza.


PERNILLE IRONSIDE: Across from the al-Deira Hotel and where four children were killed. And I met with the surviving three boys, who had watched and who had just barely escaped with their lives. They were in a deep state of trauma. I mean, the impact and the type of weaponry that’s being used is literally shredding and obliterating people, and particularly children, who are so small and vulnerable. You know, and all of this is coming on top of an already deep—deep wounds from two previous conflicts. So, a seven-year-old child has already had to live through that and is now exposed to having all of these fears and frustrations and anger and emotions and reliving loss, on top of what’s happening now.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this sense that in Gaza there is no place that is safe anymore, not even under the auspices of the United Nations? Could you talk about some of the attacks that have come on schools or shelters that are being run by the United Nations?

PERNILLE IRONSIDE: You know, there appears to be a rollback in terms of the compliance with the norms of international humanitarian law that dictate civilians and civilian objects, including shelters that are run for relief purposes, are protected spaces at all times. There have been six attacks and strikes on U.N. facilities to which people have sought safety. And these are people who received notifications to clear out of their neighborhoods because they were going to become military zones of operation. They fled, seeking safety, believing that the United Nations and these designated shelters, that had been fully coordinated with the Israeli officials, would provide them that safety—and instead, multiple cases of fatalities and injuries, including entire families in the middle of the night were impacted. So not even the sanctity of the U.N. flag right now is being respected in Gaza.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And how many United Nations personnel died in these attacks?

PERNILLE IRONSIDE: There have been 11 United Nations colleagues who have been killed, tragically, in the last few weeks.

AMY GOODMAN: There are 1.8 residents, something like that—1.8 million residents of Gaza. Again, how many of them are children?

PERNILLE IRONSIDE: Over half of the population of Gaza is in fact children. It’s a million children. And that’s children below the age of 18. When you look at individuals who are below 30, the youth, that is the majority of Gaza. So the conditions right now that are being allowed to perpetuate in Gaza, and are in fact being gravely exacerbated, really are dictating the future for these children. And it’s extraordinarily bleak. How is a child going to cope with and have any kind of sense of optimism or sense of a future possibility and the value of continuing with their studies under the conditions of the occupation and with this third cycle of violence? It’s our duty as the international community to put an end to this and to provide a reason to live for these children.

I’m sensing some disconnect here. Unicef UK’s press release announcing Williams, along with soccer legend David Beckham, fronting their new campaign to protect children, in part, from “violence and chaos of war” also announced their “ground-breaking” new report was also released that week; “Children in Danger: Act to End Violence against Children”(pdf). Interestingly, Israel was only mentioned once in the report:

Screen Shot: UNICEF UK report : children in danger: Act to end violence  against children

Screen Shot: UNICEF UK report : Children in Danger:
Act to end violence against children

Maybe Robbie Williams doesn’t know Israel slaughters and tortures children because UK UNICEF didn’t tell him? Maybe he’d think twice about playing Sun City Tel Aviv if his fans informed him of the violent acts committed by Israel against Palestinian children.

(Newry for Palestine contributed to this report)

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is a mom, a human rights activist, and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area and likes to garden. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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22 Responses

  1. Horizontal on November 13, 2014, 10:16 am

    I have no idea what sort of person Mr. Williams is, so I can’t begin to understand what’s going on in his head.

    I’m certain that some celebrities become UN Ambassadors due to some deeply held beliefs, while others may only see it more as a career move. Is it possible for any entertainer booking a gig in Israel not to know the situation there and Israel’s part in it? I have to answer, “Yes,” but only if you’re actually a supporter of Israel in the first place or live in a bubble and only come to your knowledge of Israel casually through mainstream news sources.

    If this is the case, then Mr. Williams would hardly be the first person able to walk around with two seemingly contradictory views rolling around in his head. But as I said, I don’t know the man.

    I would hope that Williams wouldn’t appear in Israel just as a matter of principle; regardless, someone from the UN should inform their ambassador of the findings of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

    Today, the situation of children’s rights in Israel remains problematic. If some progress had been observed since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Committee on the Rights of the Child estimates that “there is a lot left to do”, mostly regarding migrant children and those of minority groups in Israeli society.

    The persistent conflict between Israel and Palestine has undeniable consequences on children’s rights in Israel (right to life, right to protection, etc.), but also in Palestine where the Israeli occupation regime has some dramatic repercussions. The rights of Palestinian children are violated on a daily basis, mostly by the Israeli armed forces and colonels. (Also see: Children of Palestine).

    The State of Israel is responsible for the proper application of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in Israel and in the Palestinian territories that it has occupied since 1967 (occupied Palestinian territories, OPT). In fact, according to the International Court of Justice, as the occupying power, Israel is responsible for human rights in Palestine. Even though, it refuses to recognize this obligation.”

    So not only is Israel not such a great place for kids, but they’re not so hot on the UN, either. This, from 2006, long before the recent school bombings:

    Israelis ignored repeated warnings before killing UN observers

    Israel came under mounting pressure last night to explain why its military ignored repeated warnings and bombed a prominent UN post in southern Lebanon, killing four unarmed international observers.

    The four UN soldiers, from China, Austria, Finland and Canada, were taking shelter in a bunker at the white, three-story building in Khiyam on Tuesday after at least six hours of Israeli bombing and shelling, when it was destroyed by what UN sources say was a precision-guided aerial bomb.

    Full story here

    This actually gives Mr. Williams two excellent reasons for cancelling his Tel Aviv gig.

    For what it’s worth. From the same site as above:

    The United States is the only country in the world, besides Somalia, that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Generally speaking, American children’s rights are adequately protected, but considerable problems still exist regarding health care, child abuse, juvenile law, etc.

  2. HarryLaw on November 13, 2014, 11:04 am

    Is Williams aware of the situation, if no, his public relations team/Agents surely are, and don’t care, so should be fired. But we must wait for an explanation/ excuse. In view of the facts set out by Horizontal above, such an excuse would be wholly untenable.

    • Horizontal on November 13, 2014, 7:56 pm

      Agreed. Annie’s article raises excellent questions. I’m sure we’re all interested in what the answers from Mr. Williams might be.

  3. Maximus Decimus Meridius on November 13, 2014, 11:17 am

    Williams is a narcissistic hasbeen, a throwback to the last century. His most high-profile achievement in the last several years has been making videos of himself acting the idiot while his wife was giving birth to their son.

    Israel is welcome to him.

    • bintbiba on November 13, 2014, 12:14 pm

      MDM you took the words out of my brain… Excessive narcissism . What an idiot! The papers were plastered with the ridiculous story about him twittering all over her while she gave birth ! Disgusting.
      The UN should scrutinise their Ambassadors a little more keenly.

  4. Marnie on November 13, 2014, 11:37 am

    Maybe he has the same disease afflicting Miz Scarlett? He doesn’t look well. It’d be interesting to find out how much israelis have to pay to be entertained (i hope its billions). I’m even more curious as to what is the cost to the rest of the world for israelis to have “quiet”.

  5. Kay24 on November 13, 2014, 11:41 am

    The lure of money supersedes any principals, compassion, understanding, and doing the right thing for people who are being killed easily, and robbed of their resources. He is unable to comprehend that today, there are millions of human beings who live under a brutal occupation, refugee camps, and imprisoned in their own lands, by those he is going to sing his songs of love to.

    • Kay24 on November 13, 2014, 11:49 am

      That UNICEF report did not make a mistake, Israel does treat it’s kids so well, and they are privileged. It simply does NOT mention the horrible way it treats the Palestinian kids, kidnapping them, imprisoning them (over 700 kids), and killing them, like we saw on that Nakba Anniversary video. That ugly statistic has been buried by UNICEF.
      Celebrities who keep going to that evil nation, is either ignorant, or thinks like these zionists.

      • Horizontal on November 13, 2014, 7:49 pm

        Or, like the Rolling Stones, just want a paycheck.

        I wish I were a celebrity so I could have the satisfaction of making a very loud statement expressly NOT performing in Israel due to their numerous war crimes. I would aim for maximum coverage, including refuting the anti-Semitism charges that would inevitably follow.

        But, too bad, I’m just a guy in the desert with no star appeal.

  6. amigo on November 13, 2014, 1:23 pm

    Do these so called ambassadors go through an interview process before being appointed to such an illustrious position.Surely some in depth questioning would weed out the fake applicants.

    Groups like UNESCO should adopt a form of “Advise and consent” process but obviously not along the lines the US follows.That would not be conducive to appointing genuine applicants.

    Hopefully UNESCO will give him his walking papers and send a message to others seeking such honour.

    • Horizontal on November 13, 2014, 7:50 pm

      That’s a great question. I was wondering that myself. The whole process might be surprisingly loose and unregulated.

  7. MRW on November 13, 2014, 3:39 pm

    At least his makeup is appropriate for the venue.

  8. Xpat on November 13, 2014, 4:17 pm

    Here is Mr. Williams acting out.
    Couldn’t have put it better than his wife did.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on November 13, 2014, 4:49 pm

      Even when his wife is giving birth to their son, it’s all about him.

      Actually, he’d be well suited to Israel when you think about it. They share the same pathological narcissism. Even when Israel is bombing the children of Gaza to bits, it’s all about them and the fact that they had to cancel their beach barbeque due to rocket sirens.

    • annie on November 13, 2014, 5:31 pm

      i died laughing when i saw this yesterday while researching. in all honesty, i had never heard of mr williams or his rock band (that’s all, or some name with ‘that’ in it) but he is very popular in the UK. it was the contradiction that i found news worthy, otherwise i would not have bothered with him, at least so early on (he is not performing until may). but wtf is someone doing fronting a campaign about protecting children when israel just slaughtered hundreds of them and created thousands of orphans. it’s mindboggling.

      • Horizontal on November 13, 2014, 7:52 pm

        Annie ~

        Do you know anything about this guy aside from his performances or music? Has he made any statements one way or the other regarding Israel? I know zero about the guy.

      • Bornajoo on November 14, 2014, 7:00 am

        he is very known here in the UK but he’s definitely a has-been.

        when they interviewed him for the role they forgot to check for 2 minor attributes; the existence of brain cells and the ability to think. He obviously doesn’t understand or even care about the role he has as his very limited attention span is completely focused on just one thing which is extremely important to him; himself

        I think he should have stayed in rehab., the git

      • amigo on November 14, 2014, 10:21 am

        Annie, OT but you might enjoy this tidbit .

        “Security situation hits Jerusalem business hard: ‘Mahane Yehuda market is half empty’
        Business owners in the capital tell of a steep drop in sales, which started back in the summer during the war in Gaza. Malls relatively stable.

        Elkana Wissenshtern sold only 4,000 shekels-worth ($1,050) of fish on Tuesday – about half what he sells on an average day at his stall in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market. A second-generation stallholder, Wissenshtern is just one of many Jerusalem business owners worried about their drop in sales in recent weeks.”haaretz

  9. Kay24 on November 14, 2014, 11:16 am

    Well, it seems American comedian, Sarah Silverman is the next celebrity to visit the mothership:

  10. Belligerent Rabbit on November 14, 2014, 12:51 pm

    If one knows anything about UNICEF I don’t think it’s mind boggling or a contradiction. And looking at this man’s ‘face paint’ to promote his ‘tour’, it makes it all the more obvious why he’s an ambassador for UNICEF

  11. Moto on November 15, 2014, 4:55 pm

    Israel deserves him.

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