On Sunday November 14th, John Ging, Director of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) programs in the Gaza Strip, spoke at Columbia University. This speech was one in a recent series of campus speeches by Mr. Ging that was sponsored by the left leaning pro-Israel advocacy organization, J Street and its national campus group, J Street U.
During Mr. Ging’s visit to New York City last week, he, unfortunately, did find a way to alienate many people who are supportive of him and his heroic efforts for Palestinian Gazans. He gave interviews to Julie Weiner of the New York Jewish Week and Josh Nathan-Kanis of The Forward.
From the New York Jewish Week:
Do you support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and how do you feel about the boycott/divestment/sanctions movement?
The last time I was in the States I attended a celebration for Israel’s independence day with the Israelis at the UN. They know I’m pro-Israel. I celebrate Israel’s independence … It’s a concern that those representing themselves as pro-Palestinian are now linking that to anti-Israel sentiment and policies like divestment and boycott. I oppose that … The people of Israel need efforts to rebuild confidence that peace can be brought about. Talking about sanctions and boycotts is not going to bring about anything positive …
From The Forward:
In an interview with the Forward, Ging denied supporting the May flotilla. “I am opposed to illegal actions, however justified the cause might be,” Ging said. He continued: “I don’t support divestment, I don’t support boycotting, I don’t support an anti-Israel approach.”
Many people supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement do so because of a lack of faith in the political process to end the Israel-Palestine Conflict. The Israeli Government does not appear to sincerely want to create a just resolution to the conflict. Leaders of the countries, federations, and international organizations in the Quartet have been unable, individually and collectively, to create a true, just, and equal peace agreement between these two nations. Since these groups are incapable or unwilling to resolve this problem, individuals and organizations realize that they must find a way to put pressure on these groups to do the right thing. The BDS Movement is a non-violent form of this type of grassroots activism.
Ging is certainly entitled to his opinion and does not have to approve of the BDS Movement. However, it is important for Ging to realize that he should not anger the people and groups who support his important work by trying to please people who have very little potential to view him and UNRWA in a positive light. (The same could be said of J Street and J Street U, as well)
It would be in Ging’s best interest, as well as the best interest of his allies and the true “pro-peace” Movement, to sidestep these BDS question and focus the interviews on his work and the people of Gaza. For someone who is a high level official of one of the world’s most political organizations, it would seem that Ging is fully capable of this.
If he cannot do this, then it will be very hard for supporters of BDS to come to his defense in the future.