john ging 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
John Ging survived Israeli military strikes against Gaza and two assassination
attempts by Islamic extremists. During his five years as the head of the Gaza
United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Ging was a sharp critic of both Israel
and Hamas and a strong advocate for the Palestinian population he
On Monday, UNRWA announced that at the request of the United
Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Ging was being promoted to the
third-highest position in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
It also announced that UNRWA head in the West Bank, Barbara
Shenstone, was returning to Canada after four years on the job.
Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi said of the two top officials, “Barbara and
John have made exceptional contributions to UNRWA’s work under the most
difficult circumstances: their commitment to ensuring the quality of UNRWA
services has been extraordinary; their advocacy in support of rights has been
outstanding – be it amidst heavy bombardment in Gaza during armed conflict or in
responding to the abysmal rights abuses in the occupied West Bank.
salute the courage, strength and determination of their innovative leadership. I
– and all of us – will miss them both as colleagues and for their extraordinary
contributions to UNRWA and the refugees we serve,” Grandi said.
expected to leave in a few weeks and Shenstone in a few months. Their
replacements have not been announced.
The departure of two senior UNRWA
officials leaves a vacuum in the organization, which provides at least 1.8
million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza with education, health care, and
basic food supplies.
Ging, in particular, argued during his five years
that UNRWA’s work was a strong force in preventing the radicalization of
Palestinian society, particularly through its work in education, which focuses
on human rights and non-violence.
He took Israel to task for its military
strikes against Gaza and the economic restrictions it leveled on the area and he
attacked Hamas for its rocket attacks against Israel, including attacks against
the Gaza crossings.
In December Ging traveled to England to address the
annual Limmud Jewish education conference.
Here he described UNRWA’s work
in education and relief and denounced the allegations often leveled against
UNRWA that it has links to terrorists.
Ging said that during his time in
Gaza, his life had been threatened twice by extremist groups in Gaza,
particularly because of his support of human rights and his stance against
“There are extremists groups in Gaza who are very vocal in
criticizing the approach we take in human rights and gender [equality],” said
There are thousands of Palestinians working for UNRWA in Gaza, said
Ging, and any of them could betray the values of the organization.
said that UNRWA has a zero-tolerance policy on terrorism, fires those who it
suspects has terror links and publishes its staff list so that there is
One of UNRWA’s missions, he told Limmud, was to teach
Palestinian children that the path of democracy and human rights was preferable
to that of violence and extremism.
What should concern people more than
the physical hunger in Gaza, is the psychological welfare of the children, said
“They are going to hear when they leave our schools another
narrative,” said Ging. UNRWA wants to ensure that the children are convinced
that that the way to live their life is through universal values of human
“For too many years in Gaza, every day was worse than yesterday,”
Ging said. Since Israel relaxed its restrictions on goods entering Gaza, “every
day is better than yesterday. The frustration is that it is not as better as it
But the positive developments are not the totality of what
will make a difference, he said. The challenge is to wrest power from
“I want to see effective action taken to counter extremism,
terrorism and violence,” Ging said.