Role of UNRWA & its Director, John Ging, in Gaza Strip
By: Omar Shaban
The talk might be argumentative about an extraordinary man manages a huge institution established during the Palestinian migration in 1949. Mr. John Ging an Irish born in 1965 and he started administrating United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza Strip in February 2006. He is married and bearer of a PhD in Political Sciences and Law. Before coming to Palestine, Mr. Ging worked in various conflict places as, Africa, Europe, Kosovo and Ireland.
He came in a critical transitional period the Strip witnessed in particular and the Palestinian territories in general. This period marked by abusive siege, security chaos, internal conflict, abduction of foreigners, weakness of the Palestinian Authority, emergence of Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) on the political scene and the boycott of the international society suspension of aid to PA, This society followed a double standard policy with the Palestinians. At first, it called upon conducting democratic elections, and thousands of international supervisors admitted the impartiality of the elections. Then, it imposed siege and boycott because the results of the elections were unsatisfactory for it. In fact, the crisis kept going by imposing a cruel siege on the strip by Israel sine June 2007. After that, the Israeli government launched a brutal war called “Cast Lead” on the besieged strip, where it used its entire military arsenal causing damage for man and land. The war witnessed throwing millions of kgs of bombs on an area does not exceed 400 km2, and it includes the most densely populated area in the world.
These circumstances represented a unprecedented challenges, for UNRWA and Mr. John Ging. How do we work in such situations? From where shall we start? What are the priorities for us? And how shall we be neutral as an international organization in such conditions. From the beginning, Mr. Ging realized the enormity of the tragedy in the Gaza strip. In a word, he described the circumstances in Gaza saying “the condition of prisoners all over the world is better than here in Gaza. If we are talking about services and living situations Gaza strip suffers a lot, and any prisoner in any European jail receives better medical care than Gazans do”
Despite the almost impossible circumstances of work, Mr. Ging, with a unique determination, made UNRWA capable to carry out its duties and responsibilities. He made fundamental changes on this bureaucratic edifice that Palestinians in general and refugees in particular consider it as a shelter from poverty and hunger. Mr. Ging made essential improvements in fields of education, health and social affairs. No doubt that these changes faced criticism, and even some people found that these changes were deviation of traditional methods of UNRWA. Moreover, they considered it as an attempt to westernize the oriental Palestinian society. These feuds led to an attempt of assassination in March 2007, but Mr. Ging survived by Miracle.
Mr. Ging reckoned that the responsibility of UNRWA is not limited to offer minimum food, medication and education; it must developed to include promotion of man himself. Therefore, instead of decreasing services provided to Palestinians as former administrations did, UNRWA started to provide advanced developmental services target new classes of the community. Mr. John executed set of programs concentrate on children “Summer Games” to serve 250,000 children per year. He also launched programs to vocationally rehabilitate graduates to be positive element in the society. It is worth mentioning that, UNRWA held summer camps for the first time inside targeting patient children hospitals.
During the Israeli aggression on the strip on 27th December, Mr. Ging was spending his Christmas holiday in his homeland. Nonetheless, he decided to return to Gaza to assume his task and responsibilities in such arduous circumstances. He worked day and night to alleviate suffers of the Palestinians. Mr. Ging ordered to equip tens of schools to receive homeless people who compelled to vacate their houses under the Israeli brutal shelling. Furthermore, Mr. John exposed the Palestinian suffering to the whole world before the international media, and he courageously called upon urgent interference against the barbaric Israeli attacks. These honorific acts led many Palestinians to describe Mr. Ging as “the formal spokesman of the Palestinian people”. He assured that UNRWA will not leave the Palestinians alone, and despite limited resources, it will do its best to serve this community.
Mr. Ging continued his sincere efforts by calling the international society to interfere to cease fire, and he described the scene in Gaza as insane that never took place in history. He also addressed leaders of the international community saying “You must not sleep, eat or drink before helping stop killing of children and innocents. There are no international journalists in Gaza to report what is really happening” In spite of all Ging`s calls, the Israeli response was shelling UNRWA schools and violating international laws related to protecting civilians during wars. In those air raids, tens of Palestinians were killed as an indication that the Israeli shelling did not exclude any place in Gaza. In addition to that, the bombing targeted UNRWA installations and that crime led Mr. Ging to call upon official investigation.
Recently, UNRWA organized a festival enabled Gaza to record its name in Guinness World Records. In the festival, 4000 hand-made kites were flown from a limited geographic area (700 m²) to carry the dreams and hopes of Palestinian children to end the siege and live in dignity and peace. This creative idea occupied titles of famous news channel as BBC and CNN. Indeed, Mr. Ging believes that Palestinian people need justice of the international society more than its moneys. With justice everything can be achieved, as he said. Upon ending the siege and opening crossing points, Palestinians will not be in need for food because they will secure it by themselves.
Three weeks ago, Israeli newspaper, Maareef, published a fake news item says that Mr. John Ging escaped from Gaza. As a matter of fact, this rumor tired to underestimate Ging`s respect in Palestinians` minds, but quickly he disclaimed that by presenting himself before Al Jazeera and BBC news channels to say ” I am here in Gaza assuming my responsibilities”
By his charismatic character, pure human soul and hard work, Mr. Ging managed to create active movement toward the Palestinian cause. He always speaks about Palestine in the international conferences, besides meeting formal figures whom visiting Gaza to focus on the significance of such cause and highlight on the Israeli crimes against armless Palestinians. Over and above, he calls upon these figures to commit themselves to carry out their moral and legal duties and responsibilities to stop the Israeli aggression. He also invites formal figures to visit Gaza to be familiar with conditions there in order to change their stereotyping image. Under the internal division, which destructively affect the Palestinian cause, and the hegemony of the Israeli media, Mr. Ging`s role appears clearly to correct the situation to be as it should be, a cause of a nation succumbs under occupation and struggles for its political rights of prosperity and development. Truly, the Palestinian society is gratitude to all those people who support its right.