Nov 20, 2010

#BDS: UNRWA Head: Don’t Boycott Israel

John Ging is no stranger to conflict. As director of the Gaza-based United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) since 2006, the former officer in the Irish army has drawn frequent criticism from Israel and its advocates, and has also been the target of assassination attempts by Islamic militants.
So he wasn’t particularly fazed this week, when Columbia University’s J Street-affiliated student group, under pressure from Barnard-Columbia Hillel, abruptly withdrew sponsorship of his Sunday night appearance on the campus. Hillel, of which the group is a member organization, insisted the event include a moderator, but a mutually agreeable one could not be found in time.
Ging, in New York as part of a national campus tour sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based J Street Education Fund, spoke anyway, sponsored by six non-Jewish student organizations; an estimated 150 people attended.
On a break from his tour, which included an invitation-only event at New York University’s Hillel, and speeches in Chicago and Washington, Ging spoke with The Jewish Week about his efforts to “reach out” and “correct misunderstandings” about UNRWA.

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 …

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