Hamas lashes out against the UNRWA chief in the Gaza Strip

Issued on: 28/04/2009 Type: Article

John Ging, the UNRWA chief in the Gaza Strip
John Ging, the UNRWA chief in the Gaza Strip (UNRWA website, April 23).
Ging is accused by Hamas of "acting to defile a conservative, clean society”


1. The Hamas daily Felesteen has recently published an editorial by Mustafa Sawaf, its editor-in-chief, railing against the UNRWA chief in the Gaza Strip, John Ging. Titled "John Ging and the Destruction of the Aid Agency [UNRWA]”, the article argues that the UNRWA chief follows his own political agenda, and that his agenda is opposed to that of the "resistance” (i.e., Hamas and the other terrorist organizations). Mustafa Sawaf accuses the UNRWA chief of collaborating with Israel and the US , and of corrupting the morals of the Palestinian people by teaching Western values in UNRWA schools (such values include mixed gender education, for example). Even worse, according to the article, is the threat to lay off UNRWA officials on grounds of belonging to Hamas or other terrorist organizations (even though that threat is not carried into effect). 1 The article calls on John Ging to resign and contains threatening overtones (see Appendix for the article and its translation).

2. The harsh article which appeared in the Hamas organ followed on the heels of a long period of tension between the two sides, mainly triggered by the differences over the distribution of aid to the Palestinian population during and after Operation Cast Lead. The lashing out originates in the Hamas policy, which strives for total control of the Gaza Strip and would like to see Islamic religious codes imposed on the civilian population there. It therefore considers UNRWA to be a Western style source of power which hinders its objectives. Hamas, therefore, strives to make UNRWA's role devoid of any actual meaning and control its educational, social, and humanitarian activities in order to make political and financial profit, reducing UNRWA'S role to technical execution.

3. During Operation Cast Lead, Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip had no qualms about taking advantage of UNRWA's educational and social institutions for military needs, even though UNRWA did not directly address the issue nor accuse Hamas. Terrorist organizations often set up military positions, training camps, and rocket and mortar launchers near buildings which belonged to UNRWA, mainly schools. In addition, during and after Operation Cast Lead Hamas and UNRWA had strong disagreements over the distribution of food to Gaza Strip residents, which was reflected in Hamas's stealing of food and property from UNRWA warehouses and mutual accusations between the two sides (see Appendix B for details).

Appendix A

John Ging and the Destruction of the [UN] Aid Agency [UNRWA]

(by Mustafa al-Sawaf, Felesteen, April 16, 2009 )

It appears that John Ging, the Irishman in charge of the international relief agency [UNRWA] and the military man who served as an officer in Afghanistan —which alone is enough to raise dozens of questions about him— has a political agenda with him. He started to implement that agenda, forgetting that he was in a Palestine that resists, a Palestine belonging to the [various] forces and parties, a Palestine of political affiliation.

It is small wonder that the position he fulfills is manned only after American and Israeli elements conduct an inspection [about the candidate]. It appears that he passed that inspection and was charged with the political agenda which he set out to implement. That man meddles in affairs in which he has no expertise, attempting to gain control of many issues which fall outside of the agency's responsibility and the goal for which it was founded.

It is [particularly] curious that this man wants to corrupt the values of this institution. By promoting that corruption, he is defiling a conservative, clean society. A testimony to that effect is his rushed efforts to introduce the culture of mixed gender education in schools. His most dangerous philosophy is the one pertaining to mixed gender summer camps, on which he has made numerous comments, as well as entertainment and music parties [which he promotes] in an occupied society which is under attack, as part of what is known as "Family Day”. On that day, UNRWA's officials are supposed to come with their families and throw mixed gender wild parties, which is not fit for a conservative, Oriental, Muslim society living in an atmosphere of war and destruction.

This is not the place to discuss his educational philosophy and the curricula he has introduced and the implementation of testing [in UNRWA schools] which he has started, without taking into consideration the character of the society and without coordinating with the responsible authorities in the Gaza Strip Ministry of Culture and Education [i.e., with the Hamas officials]. What drew particular attention was the threat of layoffs on grounds of political affiliation which he made against the agency's employees following the recent elections held in it, [which took place] as they had for decades—a highly unusual thing which must be deeply examined.

This official of the aid agency [John Ging] should know that laying off the agency employees because of their political affiliation means laying off all the employees of the aid agency, because they are all affiliated [with some political organization]. If they are not members of parties and organizations, they belong to this resisting homeland, i.e., they are all members of the "resistance”, in its various forms [i.e., terrorist organizations]. Not only the officials, Ging, belong [to organizations and parties], but also school children. If you asked or polled them, you would see that the vast majority belong to political organizations and parties of [political] affiliation. Will you fire them too, [denying] their right to receive education in the agency's schools? You must act within the confines [of your authority]. You know that you are just an official in an agency belonging to the United Nations. You came here to serve the refugees, who were expelled [from their homeland] and who immigrated here due to political reasons, and political reasons alone. How can you prevent them from engaging in politics? Politics is the first and last thing [on their minds] as long as they are refugees expelled from their homes and their homeland. They all act in order to return to them [that is, to implement the so-called "right of return”] and there is no return without "resistance” [i.e., terrorism] and there is no return without politics.

Felesteen, April 16, 2009
The editorial (Felesteen, April 16, 2009 )

You should know, and I think you do, because you are neither ignorant nor fool. You are in the occupied, stolen land of Palestine , which resists the occupation. That is the fundamental characteristic of the Palestinian people. If you don't like it, or if that does not sit well with your superiors, who appointed you, we in Palestine have no interest in your cause or your agenda, because we have an agenda of our own. We advise you not to gamble on this international institution. You must act within the confines of your authority, you have no political role. If that is what you are, this is not the place for you. Go look for another place for yourself. You are playing with fire and risking your future [i.e., a threatening tone]. Either you deal with what [actually] exists and what is dictated by geography and politics, or go back to your country, and you may be persecuted as an officer like the mercenary officers who take part in the crimes in Afghanistan , Darfur, and Iraq .

You should understand that you—through your agenda—are wrong, because we are a people who seek liberation. If you don't want that, that's your business. Leave us alone. If you are determined to pursue your agenda, you are asking for more than you can handle, no matter what tools or positions you equip yourself with. We advise you to act in the interests of the Palestinian people and according to the agenda of the Palestinian people. If you can't, take leave of us, and there shall remain peace between us and you.

Appendix B

Firing from close proximity to UNRWA institutions during Operation Cast Lead

4. During Operation Cast Lead, Hamas and other terrorist organizations used the UNRWA institutions in the Gaza Strip for military purposes. They frequently positioned military posts, training camps, and rocket and mortar launchers in the vicinity of buildings belonging to UNRWA, mainly schools.

Rocket launch sites near UNRWA schools
Rocket launch sites near UNRWA schools in the northern Gaza Strip region of Jebaliya

5. Rockets were launched near UNRWA schools before Operation Cast Lead as well. For example, photographs taken by the Israeli Air Force on the morning of October 29, 2007, show a three-man terrorist squad firing mortar shells from the yard of the central building of an educational complex in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip (a region which is often used by terrorists to launch rockets and mortar shells at communities in southern Israel). The photographs show how the squad prepared the firing position and launched the mortar shells in close proximity to the building. After the launch the terrorists can be seen taking cover inside the building. 2

IDF Spokesman, October 31, 2007
Rocket launching squad positioned near the main building of
an UNRWA educational complex in Beit Hanoun
(Photographed by the Israeli Air Force and issued by the IDF Spokesman, October 31, 2007).

Hamas's takeover of UNRWA food and supplies storehouses

6. During and after Operation Cast Lead, there were several incidents in which Hamas operatives took over UNRWA storehouses containing food and supplies that were meant to be distributed to the Gaza Strip population. For example, in two incidents on February 3 and 5, Hamas operatives stole aid supplies (for Gaza Strip) from a convoy and a warehouse belonging to UNRWA. The UN Secretary General and UNRWA strongly condemned the theft of the humanitarian aid, demanding from Hamas to return it immediately and not to interfere with its distribution. In response, UNRWA suspended delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. On February 9, Hamas returned to UNRWA the stolen aid supplies and UNRWA resumed its routine activities.

UNRWA supply trucks in the Gaza Strip
UNRWA supply trucks in the Gaza Strip (UNRWA website, January 17)

7. Hamas's theft of the aid supplies created tensions between it and UNRWA, which were reflected in mutual public accusations:

a. Hamas Welfare Minister Hashem Ahmed al-Kurd accused UNRWA of taking over all of the humanitarian aid for the war victims and of distributing it in an unfair manner. He said that large-scale humanitarian aid sent to the Hamas administration was still in Egypt and not being brought into the Gaza Strip (Pal-Media, February 4, 2009 ).

b. John Ging, UNRWA's chief of operation in the Gaza Strip, said that the situation was becoming unbearable. He added that the Hamas administration was running a negative propaganda campaign against the agency's work in the Gaza Strip . He called on the Hamas leadership to regain control over its operatives on the ground, as they jeopardized UNRWA's activities. He also said that UNRWA would not take seriously any promises made by Hamas unless accompanied by a guarantee that incidents such as the confiscation of the supply trucks do not happen again and until the stolen humanitarian aid is returned (Relief Web, February 6, 2009 ).

1 On March 25, 2009 , elections were held to the UNRWA workers' union in the Gaza Strip. Even though UNRWA regulations prohibit individuals affiliated with organizations from taking part in the elections, Hamas managed to market its Islamic ideas and, according to Palestinian sources, won 17 out of the 27 union seats ( Al-Bayan Center website, March 25). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the Hamas victory was a sign that "all the Palestinian people follow the resistance and its successful way, and that is a testament to Hamas's popularity” (Al-Bayan, March 25).

2 For further information see our November 4, 2007 bulletin titled "A terrorist squad fired a mortar shell from within an educational complex in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip” .

Additional Bulletins