John Ging has been serving since 2006 as Director of Operations in Gaza for UNRWA, the agency responsible for the Palestinian refugees. He will move shortly to New York, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has tapped him for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
It is instructive at this point to examine some key Ging statements from 2010, which are often marked by distortions and a bias against Israel. UNRWA’s mandate, it must be noted, is purely humanitarian, rendering political pronouncements by a top staff member inappropriate.
The year began auspiciously with a video filmed in Gaza, and uploaded to YouTube on January 4. It included a Sky1 News interview of Ging.
They are standing, he says during that interview, in what was once Gaza’s industrial area. Here, the biscuit factory once stood, etc.
Elaborating, Ging explains:
The announcement [regarding Israeli intentions in its last Gaza operation] was that this whole war was about demolishing the infrastructure of terrorism. But we look around and see that this was not the case.
The infrastructures of the economy and education were destroyed, he says. And the infrastructure of the government – ministries and the president’s compound. “These are not the infrastructures of terror, these are the infrastructures of peace – the infrastructures of a state…the parliament building, the infrastructure of democracy.”
But this is disingenuous: it is inconceivable that he was unaware of the Hamas propensity for operating within civilian infrastructure, impossible that he did not realize that structures with the appearance of being civilian may well have housed terrorists or weapons, or been employed as launching sites.
In 2009, the International Institute for Counterterrorism issued a report documenting Hamas use of heavily populated civilian areas, and subsequently the IDF documented evidence that Hamas had utilized almost 100 mosques in Gaza for storing and launching weapons during the war.
And yet, Ging told his interviewer that standing in Gaza he was able to “see the truth.”
In alluding to the parliament building utilized by a terrorist Hamas, the governing entity of Gaza, as “infrastructure of democracy,” he seriously distorted reality.
In early April, Ging laid the blame for all problems with Gaza youngsters at the feet of Israel:
[I]f you have no reason to live, you will seek a glorious death. It’s worse now than it ever was before…Their violent behavior…is symptomatic of the desperation they are growing up in.
What he blithely ignored, however, are the years of radicalization of the population of Gaza under the influence of UNRWA schools controlled by Hamas.
For over 15 years, Hamas has dominated UNRWA’s teachers’ union in Gaza. Since 2006, Hamas representatives have controlled the executive council of this union sector.
The report “UNRWA: Its Role in Gaza” speaks about Hamas entrée into the schools:
The Hamas-affiliated Islamic Bloc…maintains broad programs in UNRWA schools; these…promote incitement for jihad…
Less than three weeks later, during a major press conference at the UN, while depicting the struggles of the people of Gaza, Ging said:
There is a distance between the mischaracterization of Gaza, as a so-called ‘hostile entity,’ and the scale of the civility of the people who populate the Gaza Strip in these very uncivilized circumstances. They are very civilized people who manifest very clearly interact with visitors.
“The mischaracterization of Gaza, as a…‘hostile entity,’”?
When rockets are fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians, and the governing party of Gaza, Hamas, is sworn to Israel’s destruction, it indeed does mark Gaza as a hostile entity. Ging would have it understood that the people inside of Gaza are devoid of associations with Hamas – which he never mentions – and totally innocent by-standers.
Additionally, he insisted that:
[A]ll [UNRWA] teaching staff is closely vetted by the UN in order to provide a non-political education. (Emphasis added)
This is perhaps Ging’s most blatant misrepresentation of the facts during this press conference. For the reality, described above, is that Hamas enormously influences the education in the classroom.
On May 3, 2010, in an interview in his Gaza office with the Norwegian paper Aftenposten – cited in English on May 5th by Al-Jazeera and other sources – Ging suggested that the international community had a responsibility to act with regard to Gaza. “Israel,” he declared, “refuses to act reasonably.”
Therefore we ask the international community: Bring us the supplies we need to rebuild schools and run them, bring us the equipment we need to hospitals and health centers. Everybody knows how desperate the situation is…We need action now… (Emphasis added)
We believe that Israel will not intercept these vessels because the sea is open…
“Where there is a political will,” he declared, “there is always a way.”
This blatantly inciteful statement made news internationally. In fact, there is full reason to believe that the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” that was launched in May of 2010, with disastrous results, was inspired by Ging’s words. A May 6, 2010 Flotilla video from the “Free Gaza Movement” – which begins by citing John Ging – provides prima facie documentation of this.
(The “Freedom Flotilla” – ostensibly seeking to break the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza by bringing humanitarian supplies – included the ship Mavi Marmari, which carried members of a Turkish terrorist organization who planned and executed violence against Israeli soldiers.)
On October 16, welcoming a group that calls itself “the Elders, Ging said:
I am delighted that the Elders come again to Gaza to witness…simple and obvious truths that go untold. The truth that…that we are in the fourth year of an illegal, inhumane and counterproductive blockade on 1.5 million innocent civilians.
In point of fact, Israel is not contravening international law, and is actually exceeding legal requirements with regard to the extent of humanitarian assistance permitted into Gaza.
What is more, Ging never mentioned the Israeli Security Cabinet decision of June 20, 2010, which advanced new, more expansive regulations with regard to what would be permitted into Gaza.
While Ging uses the term “blockade” broadly, in actuality the only blockade is at sea: As hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian and commercial goods are allowed into Gaza weekly via crossings from Israel, there is no land “blockade.”
On November 11, Ging told BBC that Israel ignores demands from the international community to lift the “blockade”:
There’s been no material change for the people on the ground here in terms of their status, the aid dependency, the absence of any recovery or reconstruction, no economy…The easing, as it was described, has been nothing more than a political easing of the pressure on Israel and Egypt. (Emphasis added)
And, as we shall see, by late December, Ging had contradicted his own statement.
In a November 30 UN press briefing, Ging persisted in his demand for normalization of the Gaza economy:
While acknowledging that sufficient goods were coming in to stock the shelves of stores, he lamented the continued dependence of much of the population on welfare assistance and spoke of the need for “economic activity.”
Missing from his statement was any recognition that Israel does not wish to foster economic normalization in Gaza because that would be to strengthen Hamas.
In fact, he referred neither to “Hamas” nor to “terrorist” groups more broadly when reporting the “good news” that “rocket fire has not been directed against the crossings” in the last six months. Rocket fired is “directed,” but he fails to mention who directs it.
Ging’s description of the plight of the Gaza population as still “desperate” in spite of available consumer goods was repeated in a host of reports over a period of days.
On December 8, Ging gave an interview to Ma’an News; which included this:
The first issue for Palestinians is the issue of justice…the restoration of Palestinians’ fundamental human rights, all of them.
Our position has been crystal clear. The blockade is illegal. It’s a contravention of international law. And on top of that it’s inhumane and counterproductive.
On December 27, Ging gave a talk at the Limmud Conference in Great Britain, which was captured on video. At about nine minutes into that video, he speaks about how matters are not dire – for example, there are hungry children, but “they’re not emaciated.” But, he warned, we should not wait until they are emaciated. The situation is deteriorating. While markers – e.g., for infant mortality – are those of the first world, there is now regression, what he called “de-development.”
This was a markedly strange comment, lacking in consistency or logic, because less than two minutes further into his talk, he says:
[W]e’ve now turned the corner…since the new Israeli government decision on adjusting the blockade [of June 20], every day is better than yesterday. (Emphasis added)
In spite of this, he lamented, there is frustration because the situation is “not as better as it could be.”
A slower rate of improvement than might be desired (realistically or not) is most decidedly not “regression” or “de-development.” If every day has been better than the previous one since the Israelis loosened the parameters for what is permitted into Gaza, then Ging was looking at six months of incremental improvement.
John Ging ended his year as auspiciously as he had begun it.
This material was extracted from a major report on key UNRWA personnel, written by the author and commissioned by the Center for Near East Policy Research, for submission to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.
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